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Pro needs help from D.I.Y.'rs 4 a change...

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
So, I want to make it much easier for folks who haven't a clue on what things should cost and take the guess-work out of much or even all the system design & selection.

To do this, instead of doing what all us idiots do in the industry; talk to other professionals and hear their thoughts; I figured I'd like to mix it up and ask... uh... I dunno... the people we build and sell systems to

1) Specific to DoItYourself crowd; do you do things yourself because:
a. You're scared that your being Sold what your local guy wants to sell... not what you actually need

b. You don't see the value professional designers/installers bring to your project

c. You don't like that the professionals always have to "get back to you in a week" with a spec & price

d. You're just a cheap-ass and will always buy things in pieces and parts if it means saving a buck... regardless of not having a professional you can talk to when there is a problem.

2) If you had the option to purchase a complete system, that you could do yourself which had excellent professional support you can call on/in if needed (so you don't necessarily have to run to AVS forum with questions) , do you see enough value in buying from a company to avoid piecing it together... even if it means your paying more than you would trying to piece it together from unauthorized internet sales companies?

3) If you had the option to purchase a complete system; that you could do yourself or have professionally installed; would you rather see it priced as installed with uninstalled as an option or have it priced as uninstalled with installation as the option?

4) If you could design your own systems with a professional (systems... not pick out a single component), do it on the fly, and make changes to the design on the fly and come to a solution which fits your needs as well as a budget you can live with, would you rather have the initial system design presented as:

a. The right solution (both in terms of performance & installation requirements) with the ability to easily make changes to options which will bring the cost down

b. A bare-bones; least expensive solution which meets your needs and then add on the options which will enhance performance and installation.

Here's an example...
At the end of the needs analysis, we determine you need a 5.1 surround sound system with better-than-average wall-mounted speakers and you have a cabinet which will be placed under your TV. Because of the room & requirements for the system good balance between performance and cosmetic appeal, we kinda of know you're going to want wall-mounted TV and decent performing in-wall speakers... So

Should I go with what I know you ultimately want (wall-mounted TV & in-wall speakers)... and then let you take the wall-mount out and go from in-wall to on-wall speakers as a way to bring the cost down?


Should I figure the TV will use it's included table-mount and the speakers should be the cheapest thing we offer... and then let you add in a wall mount and upgrade to more attractive/better performing speakers?

I greatly appreciate all of your feedback.

post #2 of 17

1. a.

2. yes

3. doesn't matter

4. a.
post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks a lot!
post #4 of 17
1. a.

Am highly educated consumer. I want it good and I want to hear "can-do" and a "will take care of customer" attitude. If I sense that you are not looking at the job from my point of view but from your "how much labor is this going to cost me" attitude you are out of the door. Remember, I rather you do it, to SAVE ME TIME, but if you do job in such a way that's gonna cost me time and worry over the long time, then I say forget it, I DIY.

I want contractors who are a little bit hungry. If you keep telling me you have been doing this for years, that's a signal to me you don't want to do the hard stuff, and if you do them, my wallet is gonna breed.

2. Doesn't Apply to me. 98% of the time I know more about the product than the people who want to sell me. Look, you are not doing this for fun and I have a budget. If you want sell me a care package, SPELL IT OUT, where I can immediately tell whether the cost justifies the TIME SAVING, again. This would be different for each client. Just be honest.

3. I want options. Options is good.

Recently I had to fix my bumper. 3 Guys gave a "good job" fixed price. 1 guy also gave me the "good job" price and also offered me a "good enough" price. I deemed the "good enough" job is the one I want based on my need and budget and thanked him for being helpful (don't have the chance to do that often these days) and obviously gave him the job.

4. Give me the right solution + the number$ and watch my face. Find out what my priorities are and where can things be left out now to fit budget. Just as #3, options - options. That's what I want to hear.
post #5 of 17
1) e. None of the above, I'm capable of doing the work myself. I'm capable of building the components I may need as well. Most installers are not.
post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thank all of you for your responses; please keep them coming as this is a great help in what I'm developing. I am very much looking forward to sharing what I'm working on once I have enough info to complete it.
post #7 of 17
While I'm only speaking for myself I'm sure others have a similar feeling that any company that has a product line that it refuses to provide meaningful information including rough component pricing that I can read on my own without being forced into speaking a VAR / integrator is a little off putting / insulting.

The majorty of the people posting here on a long term aren't 'average consumers' we are enthusiasts who really enjoy this stuff. In other words we want to have a truly active roll in engineering a system that works the way we want it to and would demand a good explanation as to why Solution X is clearly the way to go over Solution Y or Z.

Really (for me) it goes back to Solution Provider communication to the end user if the company insists on hiding behind its resellers it screams out that something isn't quite right.


Finally after reading a post from someone who purchased a home that had a crestron system installed by the previous owner only to find the system semi disconnected and in need of reinstallation and the troubles he'd likely run into due to nobody wanting to support a system they didn't sell... So when spending the kind of money you spend for these highend systems you better pray the guy you purchased it from stays in business otherwise you might be left out in the cold with a very expensive scrap of junk.
post #8 of 17
I like doing stuff myself, this is fun for me, no one has more interest in doing a good job in my house than I do.
post #9 of 17
Originally Posted by waynedb123 View Post

i like doing stuff myself, this is fun for me, no one has more interest in doing a good job in my house than i do.

post #10 of 17
I think that you left of a very crucial question.
I can slowly add more to the project a bit at a time instead of a lump payment upon completion of project. I also can conceal exactly how much im spending to the woman of the house whom would blow a gasket if she knew how much I spend on my hobby.
post #11 of 17

I like doing stuff myself, this is fun for me, no one has more interest in doing a good job in my house than I do.

I totally agree. It's not that I don't like installers, it's that I like doing the work. It's like asking why someone would buy a LEGO set in pieces when you could sell them the pre-built set.

2) I would find that valuable if I didn't know what I was doing.

3) The order wouldn't matter to me but I would like to see both prices listed.

4) I think I'd want to start with the optimal system and whittle things down if I needed to save money.
post #12 of 17
I am feeling particularly incoherent today but here goes:

1. I usually do things myself because: I want it carefully done my way. Not what is usually being proposed. In a few cases, e.g. heating system, remodeling, search and push came to shove and the pros did it my way or went back to their drawing board for better ideas.

2. I usually don't buy complete systems but a basis that I can live with for a while and think about extending, e.g. my z-wave misadventures, home theater. I prefer to do it myself so I can setup, configure, and maintain it myself. As needed, on my own schedule. And extend it with whatever is currently available, not the brand(s) a particular vendor supplies. This is a big point with me.

I do spend more for things from local sources who have knowledge and can support them. Otherwise I research internet sources. Price is rarely the most important factor.

4. My usual procedure with any significant purchase is to prepare a mission statement. Based on that I do a document with requirements, desires, and avoids. Followed by a search of the literature (including internet) resulting in a very short list that I will pursue in person. I want to understand as much as possible whether I do it myself or have someone do it.

If appropriate I would present a preliminary system design to a pro and request a proposal for his best solution. After review I might, but probably won't, inquire about changes which will bring the cost down. It is more of a go/no-go with me.
post #13 of 17
As has been pointed out by several previous posters, you left out a major reason why many, perhaps most, AVS members wouldn't hire a contractor to install their home theater system:

1. e. You enjoy putting together the system yourself. Having someone else do it for you takes all the fun out of it.

Sometimes there are pieces one does not know how or does not have the tools to do, at which point it becomes appropriate to get expert help.
post #14 of 17
+1 to all of the above and also I do it myself because I know what products I like and want to use. Most of the installers in my area sell only a select few "brands" and push those.
post #15 of 17
As per the other posters above, I too enjoy engineering my own systems. Since this post is in the Remote Control / Automation forum, I think you'll find the biggest push back from DIY'ers is not being able to make programming changes themselves on whatever control system is sold with the system. I know this is contentious, as from the CI's perspective there is a huge support headache waiting to happen if a DIY'er screws the system up. I think there can be a compromise here by simply showing the user how to restore the system to it's original installed state, and specifying in the contract that you're not responsible for any user changes breaking the system.

I have often purchased components from local semi-boutique shops over big box or the net because I do value the extra service that comes along with it, even if the cost is ( reasonably ) higher. The local shop I use has their own service department, and this has come in handy a few times over the years for warranty work. For projectors, I buy from a CI in Toronto ( a member here, spectre audio). Also because of the service, and he is very friendly and knowledgeable. Most of all is that if I have issues with the gear, I know I can deal with the person I purchased from, and not be left to deal directly with manufacturer service departments. Dealers often have more contact and more clout with manufacturers.

I would always like to see installation priced as an option.

If I did decide to go the CI route for a complete system, I would appreciate the CI's advice and expertise on what they thought would be the right solution that could be designed and installed within a stated budget. Just as important is that I'd want to know the reasons for the CI's choices. For example, Marantz xxx receiver's internal HDMI switcher is known to have problems with LG xxx displays, so, I recommend a Denon receiver if you want the LG, or a Samsung if you want the Marantz. That is the kind of valuable advice that I think DIY's would appreciate hearing from a pro.

post #16 of 17
Originally Posted by HCCDesignGuy View Post

...even if it means your paying more than you would trying to piece it together from unauthorized internet sales companies?

It's the attitude...the idea that 'authorization' originates from somewhere other than the guy plunking down the cash. I do business with companies like Amazon or Newegg or Monoprice because they have a track record of fixing my problems. When I give them my credit card, that's the only 'authorization' that's relevant. They are my authorized dealers.

Implementing all of this stuff isn't rocket science. It's just time consuming and requires attention to detail and grasp of e&m physics. It's not unlike plumbing...except when I hire a plumber, I never get any attitude about buying my toilets from Home Depot. I hire an installer for their labor and experience. The moment they start telling me where I can and can't spend my money? Bye-bye.

The rent-seeking business model you are accustomed to is from an age when distributors and installers could command a local monopoly and act as product information gatekeepers. Clinging to it just makes you a dinosaur. When you lose a customer, you think he's not seeing the positives you bring to the project, but the real problem is that you aren't seeing the negatives you are bringing with you.
post #17 of 17
First, I'll answer the OP's questions as an HT enthusiast and consumer...

1.) I'll be honest... D. That said, I'm part of the crowd that does indeed enjoy most aspects of HT as a hobby and I don't mind going it alone or relying on AVS as a source of help/troubleshooting/venting. There have been very few AV related issues I haven't been able to resolve without professional help, but those usually ended up being extremely quirky component interaction issues or just component failures. Also, there might be a more diplomatic way of saying "cheap-ass"... I didn't take offense by any means (probably because I am a cheap-ass) but "price-conscious" might be a less derisive term in general.

2.) It depends on the markup. Personally, anything beyond 10-15% and no, I wouldn't see the value. That said, I know plenty of folks who are less in-tune than me that would pay 20-25% more to know they were receiving guidance and personalized service based on their priorities and situation.

What would likely concern me more would be the inevitable brand choice restriction that would come along with such a solution. One of the best aspects of going piece-meal is your total system is not restricted to the brands carried by a particular retailer/installer.

3.) It probably depends more on your personal experience as a pro installer. If more people buy it installed at the end of the day, price it as installed. If more people buy it uninstalled, price it that way.

4.) From a consumer psychology standpoint, I'd probably feel better about upgrading the components I wanted than downgrading from the suggested. If the guidance is there, honest, non-judgmental, and non-hard-sell then the customer should end up with the balance between price, performance, and aesthetic they're looking for. Also, independent of the question and while it's usually not really the case, saying "this is our entry-level but we don't really recommend it and you should start here" has always seemed a bit disingenuous to me... if you don't recommend a product (at all, not just for a particular application), why sell it? Are you just preying on the price conscious and/or trying to hook a perspective future upgrade customer?

Now I'll editorialize as a former (briefly) industry insider with roots in DIY...

I have a love-hate relationship with custom installers... or better put, there are some I love and some I hate. Having some experience writing for a CEDIA-member publication, I've come across some great installers who offer high-end products to high-end clientele and specialize well in that niche. Some are even able to extend that expertise down into the entry level. That said, many who try to move from the high-end CI world into the entry level world where customers value savings over their own time and are generally far more price conscious, many installers quickly take the attitude that no one but them can do an install correctly any anyone who DIYs is bound for trouble... some even become quite snide and arrogant about it. Many feel that offering support for equipment they sell but don't install is an annoyance, an unpaid waste of their time, and marginalizes their CI work. They don't want to give away their expertise away, even if it's for equipment they sold in the first place and profited from. Any time an installer has disdain or loathing for their customers, they probably shouldn't be seeking out that type of customer to begin with.

First, to clarify, my use of "entry-level" is a bit different when applied to the custom-install world as compared purely to equipment selection. In this context, entry-level could be a $5k or $10k theater where a custom-installer's bread-and-butter lies in the $20-$50k and up jobs along with automation and whole-home integration.

It seems the OP's intentions are to specifically NOT become the type of installer I'm talking about above and truly offer value and balanced help to an entry-level and/or DIY customer. I commend that and there should be more custom installers that take this approach. I think you'll have better luck capturing entry-level customers that are less in-tune with the industry/hobby as a whole and really need that guidance than you will converting the hard-core DIY and AVS crowd. As you can see, many just love the hobby and don't want the hand-holding. Some are just complete cheap-asses. I happen to be both.
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