Saturday, October 11, 2008

Random Ramblings on "Projects"

Ya know - it may not *sound* like it - but I'm generally at my happiest when I'm working on "some" sorta project...

Yeah, I b*tch and moan a bit - but I consider that my birthright!

The Sailing Dink Restoration (Warning: It has sound!) was my last "Big" project and I had a total blast with it - Honestly! In fact, I enjoyed restoring the boat almost-more than I enjoy sailing in it!!! (How weird is that?!!)

The "Kitchen Update" Project seems to suit me now, since it doesn't really involve any physical labor on my part (mental aggravation is a different story)! But damned if these Salesdroids (excuse me "Kitchen Design Consultants" or what-EVAH) aren't going to be the death of me!!!

So, so far, I've had two No-Shows - right? And I keep getting the same ridiculous "Will your husband be there?" spiel as I generate new inquiries... Which I find almost-insulting, in a way. Does the fact that I have ovaries mean I am somehow unqualified to deal with "Construction Professionals?" (Or maybe I'm just being overly sensitive...)

Come to think of it - I got similar treatment at a Harley Dealership when I was shopping for new pipes for Phoenix, my shiny-new Heritage. I started out talking to their, ummm, "Chrome Consultant" (yes, that really was his title!) about the merits (Price-wise, Sound-wise, and Performance-wise) of Slip-ons vs. New Pipes - and the add'l Stage One modifications required: Power Commander vs. Race Tuners, Costs, yada yada (BTW, I *do* understand what all of this stuff *is!*). Rog wandered up about midway through the conversation and all of a sudden, said "Chrome Consultant" directed all of his answers to DH - even when it was ME asking the questions!

Like, somehow, I need a MAN to "translate" all of this technical stuff for me???

That just irked the hell out of me and - Needless to say - no purchases were made THAT day!

(Actually, I ended up leaving the exhaust system "stock" b/c I much prefer to listen to my after-market stereo! Rog's bike makes more than enough noise for both of us!)

Anyway, as is typical, I am digressing yet again!!!

Okay, back to the story at hand: After No-Show #2, I put in a few more online inquiries to some of the other Kitchen Refacers. I actually prefer to deal with those who offer online quotes - primarily because I do most of my web-research late at night. When I'm working from home during the day, I usually get too caught-up in whatever I'm doing to remember to call these places during normal business hours. It's just easier to fill-out the online form, provide the measurements, and wait for a call back...

<---My "Before "

Neighbor's "After"--->

So the latest place - I got an email response first thing the next morning. Complete with "Before and After" pictures of one of their jobs. Cool! And I wrote back, in kind, and included a couple of my "Before and After" pictures of My Kitchen vs. the Neighbors Kitchen. And included the particulars of what I was aiming for, and ALSO provided my availability for a meeting next week. "Will any of these times work for you?"

My email was then forwarded to "Hi, I'm so-and-so, I'll be your Design Consultant should you choose to go with us..." And I got the Ya-Ya we provide this (along with a suggestion of a very fine Laminated Cabinet product called LaLaLa), and we do this, and we offer that, and blah-blah-blah. And "Our biggest competitors in your area are XXX and YYY and we are generally ZZ% less than them and we do better work" Blah-Blah. And "What is your budget?"

I noted that I've already spoken to AAA, BBB and CCC, and I'm planning to speak to others, as well. And I don't want laminate, and I don't need Yada-Yada. This is what I want. And this is the number I'm shooting for, if not less. Closing with "Here is my availability for next week. Will any of these times work for you? Please let me know because I'd like to get the time blocked on my calendar (which tends to fill-up rather quickly)..."

The emails continued to fly - with no commitment for when our "Design Consultant" would be willing to grace me with his presence. The email part didn't bother me so much b/c it IS good to impart as much info, ahead-of-time, as possible - I'm sure... It was the "Failure to Commit" part that was starting to grate on my nerves. To say nothing of the ongoing Sales-Pitch he was throwing into every email (But I can get past that - it *is* his job, after all).

Well, the kicker came in one of his last emails. Here's an excerpt:

...based on the measurements you provided, I think we could come pretty close to your number. Here's the catch . . . like YYY we realize that a considerable amount of money is saved if you are able to commit on the first meeting. If we don't have to make a second trip to pick out styles, colors and fill out 20 minutes worth of paperwork we can do the job for less. Often this usually requires the presence of all decision makers. Would it be possible to schedule this at a time your husband could be there too? I could come on a Saturday if that would work for you.

Oh, crap. Here we go again!!!

Firstly, this guy is a Salesdroid, and I'd be willing to bet he works primarily on commission. So I don't believe, for one minute, that it costs The Company one red cent to have him come out a second time (it may cost him - but not the company!). But that's kinda beside the point. As for the "commit on the first meeting" part (Funny how he wants to push for commitment when he can't commit to a meeting time... Gotta love irony!!), well I'd already made it quite clear that I was in the process of gathering "multiple bids" so ain't nuthin' gonna get signed/agreed-to on the first meeting, regardless! I'd also mentioned (maybe my mistake, but whatever!) "My husband has charged me with the task of doing all the legwork and gathering all the bids" in a previous email...

Excerpt of my response:

As far as scheduling the appt/obtaining the bid goes, here's "My" Catch:

- The "Aesthetic" decision-making is 100% up to me - so whatever I decide, is what we'll get. There won't be a need for a second trip to review the cabinet-selection with my husband. He knows I'll make the appropriate choices.

- The "Financial" decision-making will be a joint effort. And that decision won't happen during the first visit because I am still in the process of obtaining (multiple) bids...

As I'd mentioned, my husband has assigned me with the task of gathering the bids and doing the "legwork" (Checking references, licensing board, BBB, etc.). The reasons for that are twofold: 1) I work in Project Management and do this sort of thing for a living and 2) Hubbie's job involves about 85%+ travel and he just-plain doesn't have the time to get involved (I think I've seen him maybe 4 days in the last 3 weeks!).
When he's at home, he just doesn't want to deal with this stuff - Especially on the weekends.

Trust me, he's made that
painfully clear!!!

So, pretty-much, I need to collect the bids (which should be "detailed" - Hubbie is an Engineer!), and you can do whatever measuring/note-taking/paperwork you need to do while you're here. Then hubbie and I will discuss and compare all of the bids, and all of my research, and then we'll make our selection...

When we're ready to proceed (which should be "very soon." I'm thinking "within weeks"), we'll present whatever $$ and sign whatever contractual paperwork is needed (even via fax), at that time... Hubbie won't be involved in it - at all (other than signing whatever needs to be signed)

Good Gawd! What's it gonna take to freakin' schedule an appointment?!! Seriously, the Economy positively sucks right now. Housing prices are dropping like flies. People AREN'T spending money on ANYTHING beyond the bare essentials right now. It seems to me that these guys oughtta be kissing my @$$ in gratitude over the possibility of getting some BUSINESS!

Or maybe I'm just delusional!

I stopped shy of mentioning the fact that I pretty-much Project-Managed the entire Pool Building Saga (which I never did capture on my webpage, unfortunately). I figured that'd be overkill! But it does make for another nice segue...

I'll admit, Rog was a bit more involved on the front-end of the Pool Project - but that was a MUCH bigger and FAR more expensive endeavor @ $50K+ (versus Under-$5k for a measly kitchen re-face.). Plus, there was "mechanical and electronic gee-gaw" selection involved. Again, I did all the pre-work and research: Bought a 3D landscaping program; designed the size/shape of the pool (and future-plantings) on my PC; Surfed the net extensively and bought several books on pool-building, maintenance, and design.

And even when it came to the "Equipment" part of it, I'd provided Rog with the "Cliff-Notes" ahead of time: A pool of AA length x BB width x C depth typically holds XX,XXX gallons, and needs a pump of at least YY horsepower and a filter of ZZ size, minimum. Rog *did* take care of the Solar Heating research (I had my plate full - with all of the other research).

At the time we went into the "gathering bids" stage, we did exercise full-on Teamwork during the Sales presentations. I probably knew at least as much about the Filter and Pump part of it - as Rog did. But it was easier to let him "Take the Lead" there. If the Salesguy ended up trying to sell us something under-powered, I'd hold my tongue until after the presentation and let Rog take it as an "Action Item" later.

The contractor who came in with the lowest bid made the Fatal Mistake of ignoring me (entirely) during our conversations in the Sales Office. So that one got Ix-Nayed in a hurry (in my book). Of course, he was also trying to push sub-standard equipment as well. We had no dificulty in selecting the bid that was pretty-much "in the middle" of all the bids we'd received.

And we're EXTREMELY happy with the final product.

But, even during the construction phase - I was home, most of the time. I was the one who went outside on the day the Bobcat showed up and the PM had drawn out the perimeter of the hole in neon-orange paint. I was the one who directed "No, let's widen it here, and this edge should be a little further from there..."

When we got hit with a rainstorm, and their blue-tarps and sump-pump weren't doing an adequate job of keeping the hole intact, I was the one who had to make the appropriate calls/raise the appropriate flags to indicate that we had a muddy swamp developing in our backyard ("and it looks like the walls are going to start caving in!")...

And, after the hole was dug and they were getting ready to pump the gunite and had marked out the location of the steps, *I* was the one who had to sign the "Change Control" document when I disagreed with the size/shape of the top step.

So the process wasn't entirely without hiccups - but I was "on the scene" and kept tabs on everything, every step of the way. And, like I say, we are EXTREMELY happy with the final product!

That's not to say that Roger wasn't involved at all. He definitely was. In fact, he made a very good "Bad Cop" to my (generally) "Good Cop" personna. One phase of the pool-project was the landscaping (actually Lawn- and Sprinkler-installation). This was scheduled to happen concurrent with the last week or two of pool construction - before the hardscape went in - because there was a planter-box that would be surrounded by a sea of concrete and we wanted all the sprinkler pipes laid before we lost access...

We'd hired a man we dubbed "Uncle Numbnuts" to handle the sprinklers and laying of sod. Uncle Numbnuts was an older man, of asian descent (Korean or Vietnamese - not exactly sure - but it's probably not relevent), and didn't speak English very well - if at all. His nephew showed up for the initial "bid" and handled all of the translations.

Now, I'd printed out my landscape plan and had marked where different things were going to go - in the yard (The new shed, which hadn't arrived yet - and the mid-height lattice fence which would be the future "Secret Garden." But it, too, wasn't set-up yet). My Landscape Plan clearly showed where the various planter-areas were going to be (versus lawn). And I'd drawn in where we wanted the drip systems to be, etc. Rog gave him carte blanche on the lawn-sprinkler system - just as long as there was sufficient coverage (a serious problem with the previous sprinkler system).

Uncle Numbnuts got to keep the printout and we basically turned him loose in the yard...

To be fair, he did do an awesome job on the lawn and lawn-sprinklers. We have plenty of overlapping coverage on the sprinklers (very important since it gets so bloody hot and blazingly sunny in our backyard). And he did lay the drip system where I wanted it. He used very cheap emitters and sprinkler heads (that would break off if you *looked* at them!), but that was easily fixed, later...

But one afternoon, I wandered out and saw him laying benderboard - marking the boundaries of my planter-beds around the lawn. I wanted to make sure things were going where I wanted them - so I'm damned glad I did! Overall, he did fine, except he was putting one "run" of benderboard in the wrong place - up *against* where the fence was going to go - not 24" fwd of it (like I'd marked!). In other words, I wouldn't have had room for my planter-bed. I attempted to communicate with him. *I* thought, pretty clearly between "No. Here" and associated hand-gestures (and a smile, I might add), but he was clearly annoyed. And I think it was less of a language barrier than a cultural thing. He seemed particularly annoyed at having me tell him what to do and he waved me off, rather angrily.


I had no choice but to sic Rog on him. Of course, Rog was at work and Uncle Numbnuts' nephew was unreachable. So later that night, phone calls were made, words were exchanged, and the very next day Uncle Numbnuts had to come out and remove the benderboard, re-trench, and install it a second time... I'm sure he was none too pleased about THAT!

In the end, it all came together. Rog is very pleased with his lawn and, over time, I think I've done a pretty damned good job of putting together a rather lovely Tropical Resort. Yes, I am the "Gardener" of the house. Rog handles Mow 'N Blow and is The Pool Guy (although now that he travels so much, I am Parttime Pool Gal).

It was funny. After the pool and lawn went in, Rog proudly announced that "The yard is DONE!" I looked at him incredulously "Are you kidding me?! It's barely even STARTED!"

He just didn't "get" that the REAL landscaping was going to be the pièce de résistance to make the yard TRULY complete!

Of course, NOW he "gets it!" In fact, he's very proud to tell anyone, who "Ooohs and Ahhhhhs" over our yard, that *I* was the one who made it all happen (which is actually a very nice thing!).

In fact, several times after the pool went in, Lifetime Pools (Eh, I'll give 'em a plug!) sent other prospective customers over to see our finished pool and, more than once, the wives were all "This is GREAT! Who did your landscaping?" and Rog would proudly point to me.

So yeah, that was nice (I rarely get to hear kudos from Rog. I know he says good things about me - just not in my presence!!!).

Anyway... Of all the projects I've tackled - that was certainly one of the most gratifying! It was a ton of work, and had it's stressful moments, but I enjoyed it.

Wedding Planning was another BIG project, of course. But that's a story for another time, I think... (FWIW - I feel compelled to note that I was never was a Bridezilla!!!!)

Anyway... I like having some kinda "Project" going to keep me occupied. Certainly helps stave off the boredom! Especially during the dark months of winter!

I think I've yammered enough for one day!

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