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High-Tech Times Article 029

How Not to Do Business in Hawaii?

Welcome back to the High-Tech Times. Maybe I’m just having a bad morning. Or maybe my astrological forecast is really bad. Or something. But all of a sudden, I think I have the magical answer to why business isn’t so hot in Hawaii.

Let me start from the beginning. As you might expect for a company like mine that specializes in AutoCAD, multimedia, video, and other high-end technologies, my shop is highly networked, with all 22 of my computers busily chatting away on 100Base-T cable. One key part of this system is an 8-port network hub made by SOHOware/NDC. This hub is a rather small, innocuous box that happens to connect several of my important machines to the world.
On October 21, 1999, this small box started making a loud screeching noise, loud enough so that people on the telephone wondered if we’d started raising parrots or howler monkeys. As the hub has a SOHOware/NDC warranty of five years, I immediately called their technical support and requested a cross-ship replacement. The company sent me an e-mail in which I completed my address, phone, and the info on the hub. I returned the e-mail, and got a courtesy call that my new hub was en route. All looked fine.
Several weeks later, the hub (which we had wrapped in a thick blanket of noise insulation) began making an even more obnoxious warbling tone. Realizing  that SOHOware/NDC hadn’t sent me a replacement, I called them and asked what the status was, and when I could expect my new unit. Should I have been surprised that they had absolutely no record of me? And now, three months later, after sending the same return authorization request a total of 14 times, I’m still having the same problem!!
Now what makes this problem even worse for SOHOware/NDC is that my company is a reseller of their products! Or was. I have no intention of selling another piece of SOHOware/NDC hardware now that I know what my clients might go through. It doesn’t matter that SOHOware/NDC makes a low-cost, high-speed product -- it makes loud noises, and the company didn’t stand behind their promises, written or verbal!
And just in case I might have forgotten this incident, I placed copies of the entire episode in a special folder we’ve been keeping for over 20 years that we call the PITA File (PITA=Pain In The Okole). Which brings me back to my original comment on businesses in Hawaii, and why many are not doing very well. I noticed that I had a lot of PITA entries on Hawaii companies; here are just a few:
October 5 - My wife and I purchased a used commercial gas stove for our rental, which needed some new parts and a safety check. I called three repair companies. I left voice-mail twice at one, but never received a return call. I talked to the other two: one promised to send a repairman out the next morning, but never heard back from them. The second one said she would call back within an hour with a quote. Never heard back from her, either. Stove still needs $250 in repairs.


October 7 - Decided to order a new Pentium III-600 for Computer Expo 99 from a local firm. Couldn’t catch my salesperson by phone so went downtown to his office and placed the order. Checked back every few days, but didn’t get panicked until the 21st, when I was informed that the home office had “screwed up,” and that I wouldn’t be able to get the computer in time for Expo 99. Canceled $2,200 order.

October 8 - Decided to have my boat’s motor tuned up and the cabling replaced. Called three boat shops. One didn’t handle my motor. The second did, but was too busy, and nicely referred me to a third shop. That shop sent out a repairman the next morning (Saturday), and he went with me to my boat, took copious notes, and said he would call me back within an hour with a written quote ($235). Never heard from him again.

October 12 - Took my Honda CRX in for a tuneup and oil change. Shop called to tell me that I needed a radiator flush. The car was done on time and within $10 of the $85 budget. We were very pleased until the next morning when the radiator was cracked.

October 13 - Called Honda dealership and explained that I needed a new radiator. They were happy to provide me with a price quote of $785, but could not schedule my car for 12 days. At the suggestion of my neighbor, I called a local mobile repair shop that came to my house, replaced the radiator within three hours, and charged me only $330 - complete!

October 19 - Heavy rains in Kahaluu caused a bad leak in my roof. I called three roofing companies, and left voice-mail. Two never returned my call at all. The third called back and scheduled an appointment. They never showed up, called, or returned my voice-mails. Roof still leaks (estimated $750).

So over a period of just two weeks, I was ready to spend approximately $4,200, and did my best to find someone who would help me. Business owners, are you aware of how your employees treat potential customers? Do you care? Complacency is the number-one killer of businesses, both in Hawaii and on the mainland! Not lack of money, not bad management, and not poor planning (although all three of these may provide a rationale to become complacent).

Did I finally find someone who was competent, and who took my money? Sure. But there are a whole bunch of companies that I won’t do business with again. Is your company on people’s PITA list?

See you next month.