Industry blog

You Get What You Pay For

Posted on: March 15, 2016

About four years ago I bought a hot tub.  I’d always wanted one and after three houses in 20 years that didn’t have a hot water spa in the back yard, I decided the time had come.  In the six months after I made that decision, I had received two wonderful things – a great hot tub and a valuable lesson.

I didn’t know a whole lot about hot tubs when I commenced my search.  ”What is there to know?”, I thought.  It’s a large fiberglass basin with a pump, some tubes, a few lights, a heater and a shroud around the outside.  So off I trotted to the nearest spa vendor thinking I knew all there was to know.

Confident that I’d be walking out with a glorious relaxation machine for a small amount of money, I strolled through the front door, stepping into a wonderland of spas of every shape and size.  It took me about five minutes of looking to realize that I was out of my element, and, more importantly, my budget.  Some tubs had one underwater light, others were replete with dozens of tiny LED markers that reminded me of runway lights at a large airport.  There were so many decisions to make.  One pump or two? How big?  Did that six seater really seat six or was it more like three?  Want a cool sound system with a floating remote?  Wood or synthetic skirting?  Hey, how about financing it over the next 12 years?  I found a seat and sat down, exhausted.  This was going to be a much bigger and more complex decision than I had anticipated.

After a few minutes a salesperson came by and asked me what I was looking for.  Somewhat dazed, I looked at him and said “I’m not sure.  I thought I had it all figured out when I walked into the store, but now I’m more confused than ever.  Who knew there were so many options?”  I was about to walk away when he said “I completely understand.  So, let’s not focus on the options, just tell me about how you envision your hot tub experience.”

Honestly, I hadn’t thought much about it from that perspective, but quickly said “After a long day I’m bathed in hot water, getting a nice neck massage and listening to the sounds of a rainforest evening.”  The salesperson responded “OK, no fancy stereo or lights, a deep tub, plenty of pumping power and something reliable.”  Within minutes we had picked out the right item and in a few days it was installed in my back yard.

Now I had the nice hot tub.  Next came the valuable lesson.  I had known all along that the water had to be chemically treated to make it hygienic and safe.  A starter kit was included with the new spa so after a quick read of the instructions I applied the proper amounts of the various powders and tablets and voila – bright yellow water.  What?  Back to the drawing board, also known as the instruction manual.  Aha, I thought as I read the troubleshooting entry on “what to do when the water turns yellow”.  I tossed in the requisite amount of powder that would turn the water as pristine as a mountain stream and…..it glowed a green that was brighter than a witch’s cauldron.  Disappointed and tired, I hit the sack swearing that I would figure it out the next day.

I now had a very nice hot tub that I couldn’t use.  Determined to reverse my fortunes and in need of more chemicals, I headed back to the local shop.    As I related my story of water balancing woes to the salesperson, I once again received some great insight.  “We have a service where a technician will professionally treat the water, change filters, and change the water as required.  No hassle on your part – you just climb in and enjoy”.  Wary of being upsold, I asked the inevitable question “What does that cost?”.

It turned out that the cost was much more reasonable than I thought, and to this day it was a fantastic decision to go that route.  Now, my job is to pay a small fee and simply do what I set out to do in the first place, which was to enjoy the experience.

Ok, you’re no doubt wondering what my hot tub history has to do with our high voltage industry.  Well, it turns out that there a few important parallels.  I went in looking for a low price but quickly realized that I wouldn’t get what I had been seeking.  Are you looking for a high quality product, built on schedule and with no hassles after the fact?  We all are, but there is a balance point.  If something seems too cheap to be true, it’s likely too cheap to deliver ultimately what you want.  Skilled labour, reliable equipment, promised schedules, and high quality all come at a price.  Granted, you may be able to get a commodity service for more or less depending on the robustness of the local economy.  But when you have a complex project that requires skill, focus, experience and a true understanding of your needs, salivating at a price merely because it seems too good to be true rarely ends well.  Our industry is fraught with examples of schedules that are blown apart, initial prices that end up being quite costly after all the bills come in, and finished product that requires constant re-work due to low quality.

The lesson was learned.  Be very clear on what it is you want, then build a plan to get it.  Having a facility that is unreliable or that requires more money to be poured into it after the contractor leaves town is likely not what you set out to get.

If I was to buy another hot tub,  I would have asked the right questions up front.  Green water belongs in a teapot.

Keith