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The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly... of antenna installers.

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Old 09-24-2009, 08:07 PM   #1
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Default The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly... of antenna installers.

Post your "professional" installation experiences here!

Be it a good experience, and this is someone you would recommend in a heartbeat... or if you're so pissed off you think the installer's right to own a screwdriver should be revoked - let everyone know!

It occurs to me, that since I've been here there has been tell of more than a few shoddy antenna installs. There have also been several requests for recommendations of installers...

Maybe there could be a thread where anyone can post the results they had with installers in their area.

I would think it may be advantageous to put the City & State you're located in the title, so it may be easier for others to scan thru the thread.

Someone may find this of help... If people contribute.
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Old 09-25-2009, 08:22 AM   #2
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Let's look at this from the other side.

Let's say that you went to college and got some sort of technical degree in electrical engineering. You have experience in telecommunications and years of experience installing television antenna's.

You open up a shop and you use your own money to advertise that you are in the business of installing television antenna's and accessories.

You are going to have to spend at least $5,000 of your own money, more than likely $10,000 to buy all your own tools, a truck, a ladder and a decent supply of antenna's and equipment.

You go to a customers house and they tell you that they do not want to spend $150 on a new antenna, they do not want to spend $80 on a pre amplifier, they do not want to spend $80 for a good antenna rotor, they do not want their new antenna mounted on the outside of their house. They do not want to pay you much to install their antenna, they do not want any holes drilled through the walls or floors. They do not want to pay to replace all the old wire in the house and they do not want to be fixed in one market for reception.

Even if you can explain to them in reasonable terms that the new digital television reception is different then the older analog television - they still do not understand. Even if you can explain to them the principals of communication, they still do not understand and they actually believe that the rules of reception only applies to everyone else and not to me. They do not understand that the cable wire that their dad put in the walls 30 + years ago is no good anymore and that the loss in the wire is higher than the signal at the antenna and even if I could get them decent reception at the antenna. If they refuse to buy a pre amp and refuse to replace the wire, they still are not going to have good reception.

To put the blame solely on the person that installed your antenna and group all installers solely on the basis of the actions of one installer - would be like lumping all colored people in one group and calling all colored people, ignorant, lazy, good for nothings.

At the same time, because people are broke, they want to do everything themselves. Even if they have no mechanical aptitude.

There are members of this forum that believes that they can talk anyone into doing anything, just by giving them some simple directions.

I wouldn't hire a plumber to remove my gall bladder and I wouldn't hire a neurosurgeon to cut down a tree in my front yard.

There are certain jobs in this world that are better left to a professional. That means that in order to get a good job done, you have to be willing to pay a going rate to have the work done.

At the same time, someone that works for the Dish Network, doesn't have to have any kind of degree at all and has no real world experience with television reception. But has some tools and a truck and a ladder - is usually mistaken for a television antenna installer.

Most times, he is not going to have a good antenna - because he would have to spend his own money to buy it and take the risk that you are going to pay him for it - if it works. If he does you the favor of putting up a television antenna, most times it will not work very well, unless you live very close to the transmitters and can receive all the signals well - with almost no antenna at all. Especially if you tell them - I bought this $10 antenna at a yard sale and I would like for you to put it up for me.

It would be like trying to compare your local mechanic - who works in a Jiffy Lube and changes oil for a living to someone that works at Joe Gibbs Racing. They both have some tools and equipment, but the one mechanic has a lot more real world experience with racing equipment than the other.

Anyone can put a television antenna together.
It's using the proper technique's and the proper antenna and the proper wire and the right connectors and some sort of corrosion inhibitor and good tape and the right mounts and rotor - (if there is more than one market in your area that you wish to receive) that makes or breaks a good install.

That is something that cannot be taught in a school and has to be learned by trial and error, after many years of experience.
In my opinion it is a lost art.

In my home town of over 100 houses, there is only 5 outdoors antenna's. I sold and installed 3 of them!
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Last edited by JB Antennaman; 09-25-2009 at 08:29 AM..
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Old 09-25-2009, 08:39 AM   #3
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JB, it is understandable that you would talk down your competition.

In my neighborhood of Idaho Falls, Merlin's tv has installed five antennas. Used appropriate antennas, tripod or chimney mounts, proper grounding of the mast, proper grounding of the rg-6 cable, used compression fittings rather than crimp fittings, properly prepared outdoor fittings, and strived to meet the customer's goals. I would recommend them to anyone without hesitation. BTW, they also install Dish Network and Directv. These are five happy customers.
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Old 09-25-2009, 09:05 AM   #4
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Since this thread wasn't started from the famous JB I will post this!! Fairfax Antenna in our area has been around for years!! I hear GREAT things about them!! I know of several people thru my work that have had great success using them!!
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Old 09-25-2009, 04:31 PM   #5
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Since I have two experiences with " professional antenna installers" , we have to ask really two separate questions about what is professional antenna installation work.

1. Do they know how to install the hardware, the mast, the antenna, the coax, secure all these components in a professional manner so they stand the test of time, do they make sure the antenna is grounded properly so your house does not burn to the ground if lightning hits, and then do they understand how to route
the resulting Coax cable to your televisions in your house, and do they the have the required knowledge of building construction so no matter what they do the job professionally???????? And maybe the JBantennaman point is valid, because what is outlined in point #1 if a fairly high hill to climb.

Then there is point #2. Which involves do they understand what an antenna is, how to point it, what is cost effective and what is not, do they listen and work with customers to explain the cost and results trade offs??????? And in both my two complaints, namely the "professional antenna installers" hired by my neighbor and TxZimmer, the fault was not in point one, but had everything to do with point two. When those idiots start out by knowing nothing about antenna aiming, THEY CANNOT CAN'T CALL THEMSELVES PROFESSIONALS. In the case of my neighbor, it was more of a no harm no foul, because the antenna was aimed right in the end because I was able to compensate for their ignorance. In the case of Txzimmer, they made every mistake in the book regarding aim, and now 80 % of the install costs have to be redone all over again because of installer ignorance of their own profession.

But I shudder to think of some antenna installer, who for the price of a listing in the yellow pages, can bill themselves as a professional while botching and butchering points #1 and #2.

Bottom line, should not there be licensing requirements so the consumer has some sort of assurance their "professional antenna installer" is competent in both points #1 and #2?

But there is one somewhat bright side for members of this fine forum, ask any potential installer you consider hiring, what do they know about TVfool, and if they know nothing, DO NOT HIRE THEM because you are going to get bad results 99% of the time.

Sadly point one is harder to determine in advance.
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Old 09-26-2009, 09:55 AM   #6
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Having operated a site that sells OTA supplies for 5+ years, I have encountered some of the best and worst in the industry. As many of the helpful posters in this forum have pointed out, every area and situation are different. This is why a keen knowledge of the area specifics are important. We always encourage our customers to seek out installers with experience in that particular area or someone who is equipped with the online tools to gain that knowledge.

Local satellite installers are always a good place to start, especially in rural areas that do not offer locals via satellite. These installers typically have a wealth of experience with off-air installations. Hope this helps...

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Old 09-27-2009, 08:55 AM   #7
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My new hobby is counting roof top antenna's.

Yesterday I was headed back to my Alma Mater for hear a lecture and watch a film on old coal mining communities.

Along the road, RT 199 from Punxsutawney to Indiana Pa, I counted some 200 television antenna's and several short wave antennas.

Most if not all of them were installed wrong for proper digital reception.

Out of the 200 antenna's, less then 5 were new installs.

The old saying, if it ain't broke, don't fix it came to mind.

Several locations were ideal for reception and were not being used and several other locations had more than one roof top antenna, in different locations. ie - one on the house and one on the garage.

The house had a clear field of view and the garage wasn't high enough and was behind a bunch of trees and the antenna was too close to the roof for good VHF reception.

So what the problem is - is that the people who wanted a outdoors antenna already has one. Even if it doesn't work, they hold it dear to their hearts and sentimental feelings plays a larger role than does reception. " It worked just fine when we had analog and I don't know what happened now, but I am not going to buy another one - just to find out that it won't work either!"

The people who do not have a outdoors antenna, isn't going to spend $400+ and not get the pay per view channels and have to mess around with a antenna rotor and amplifier. They want to walk into their house and turn on the television and watch the traditional channels they always watched with no aggravation other then the monthly bill.

If they mandated some sort of training and instituted a license for all installers - who would get the money and how would it help someone who isn't willing to pay someone else to properly install their antenna?

If a good antenna installer did 3 installs a year, he couldn't afford to pay for the license!

At the same time, do gooders on the computer, are here giving free advice away like purple micro dots at a Grateful Dead concert and when you can get something for free, you aren't going to be willing to pay for it. No matter what type of candy bar wrapper you put on it. Everybody wants something for nothing!

I have a neighbor with a 9/12 pitch roof that no one will climb to stand on the top of the roof and hold his antenna while I put 4 lag screws in the side of his house.

When you add to the cost of a install, a bucket truck and a chain saw and a operator for 8 or 10 hours of work, sooner or later, the cost exceeds what the customer is willing to spend to have the work done and you will be back to the cable company - to get the cable turned back on.
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Old 09-27-2009, 09:31 AM   #8
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Once upon a time, I had a VU 190 Radio Shack antenna that fell apart and was still under warranty.

Radio Shack insisted that I have the box to send it back. Silly me, I didn't keep the 10 foot long box and I could not get a replacement antenna until I had the original box.

There was a customer in the Radio Shack one day and I offered to go to their house for free, and install their antenna - just for the price of the empty box. I still didn't get a call to come over and put up their antenna.

Everybody wants to do it themselves.

Everybody thinks that they are some kind of professional antenna installer.

Everybody is worried that somebody is going to fall off their roof and sue them if they live in a crappy old house with a rotten roof.

The only thing I can say about that is that if you want to do it for a living, you have to have some sort of business insurance.

A carpenter who remodels houses for a living usually figures a job at time and materials. Most times if you are lucky, you can get away with about a 50/50 situation where the building materials costs $5,000 and the labor is about $5,000.

If the customer goes out and buys a $50 antenna and expects you to drive 20 miles one way to put it up and use your tools and equipment and work for 4 hours for $50, you are better off staying home, watching television.

That is where the Dish Installer makes his money.

My neighbors had a Dish on the front porch roof.

I offered to pay for 90% of the cost of materials and labor to get a new matching roof put on a duplex. They even got to pick the color of the shingles and the contractor to put them on. The house is 140 years old and the front of the house still had the original slate roof.

Several contractors refused to put on the new roof because they were afraid that there was asbestos in the old slate. So they got their brother in law's company to do it for them.

The brother in law, who's company agreed to put on the new roof, left before the job was done - because the roof had all copper flashing and ridge caps and his workers grabbed the copper and ran to the scrap yard and pocketed the money and bought beer and did not return to the job that day, once the roof was tore off.

They were paid to do the job and they made $300 extra, in one day - just for the copper. The main boss left two helpers to finish the job, and they left the plank on the pump jacks. I told them that they either had to tie off the pick board - plank, or they had to take it down for the night because the weatherman said that we were expecting a bad storm that night.

The sky was blue and they laughed and went home without properly tying down the scaffolding.

The storm came that night and picked the pick board up off the pump jack scaffolding and the 100 lbs aluminum scaffold fell on top of the Dish antenna. The next day the neighbors freaked out because it was a Saturday and they had no television until Monday.

They got on the phone and called the Dish Network and told them to come out, no matter what it cost to replace the Dish antenna.

The installer came out and replaced the antenna and it cost $100!

The contractor came back to me when the job was done and asked me if I could give him another $100 - because the job cost more than he expected and he was loosing money.

I told him, if he would hire professional people who were responsible for their actions and do the job as promised and not steal the copper from the homeowners roof and be more worried about drinking beer then they were of putting a $7,000 roof on a house. Then he should be willing to pay for any damages that occurred because of their actions.

Needless to say, I did not invite them to come back to put a new roof on the kitchen addition of the house later that year.

If you are a Dish Network installer and you get a call from someone on a Saturday to come out and replace a damaged dish, you can charge what ever you wish to do 1/2 a hour of work and the people will be more than willing to pay for it - if it is not their money.

But if the homeowner was not able to charge someone else for the expense, they would not be so willing to call someone - say if a tree fell on their outdoors (OTA) antenna and nobody was going to pay to repair or replace their antenna for them. They would either buy a new antenna and get someone to put it up for them for a couple of beer's, or they would sit in the house with some kind of rabbit ears antenna that they got with the television and pray that something would come in - so they wouldn't have to sleep in a quiet house that night.
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Old 09-27-2009, 09:43 AM   #9
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JB, there are variations in job performance for all service industries. Your rant against satellite installers is rather self serving. Yes, there are excellent antenna installers who also install satellite systems. And yes, there are antenna installers that are poor at their job, as witnessed in two threads in this forum. It really is a buyer beware situation...
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Old 09-27-2009, 09:58 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IDRick View Post
JB, there are variations in job performance for all service industries. Your rant against satellite installers is rather self serving. Yes, there are excellent antenna installers who also install satellite systems. And yes, there are antenna installers that are poor at their job, as witnessed in two threads in this forum. It really is a buyer beware situation...
Correct. When I lived in a small town in rural northern Maine I had a devil of a time finding reputable contractors to do any work on my home. The best and most reputable were so busy with their regular customers that a new resident like me would have to wait months for them to have time to get around to me. Thus, I had to settle for the second tier guys and they were anything but satisfactory in most cases.

When I lived in a rural town near Buffalo, NY my experiences were the opposite. I had no trouble finding decent people to come in and do the work that I needed at a decent price and without fouling up the home.

In both cases I installed my own TV antennas because I knew what I was doing and had done it previously. Saved me a ton of money.
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Old 09-28-2009, 09:18 AM   #11
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I think JB brings up a lot of valid points. We obviously work hand in hand with our dealers/installers on a daily basis and many times the issue is the consumers demands. While most installers know the proper way to install that antenna, many times the consumer does not want the antenna mounted in that location, at that height, etc.

We spend a lot of time on the phone, answering emails and forum questions dealing with these limitations.
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Old 09-28-2009, 11:08 AM   #12
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Well put NMT, as usual!

I will say I think it's great this started off with the "good" as opposed to the bad, or downright ugly! Though I'm not quite sure what you mean by "the other side" JB, since I thought I started this with no particular slant. But let us consider the reality of the situation for a moment...

I can only speak for what I've seen, and maybe I don't have the best grasp on what's going on elsewhere in the country, but as I drive all over Long Island on a regular basis thru all sorts of neighborhoods I too have gotten into the habit of antenna counting. Well I can count on both hands how many roof antennas I've seen in the last 6 months! So I must ask...

1) What percentage of households are currently receiving their television programming OTA?
2) Of these, what percentage may need to upgrade their equipment to receive DTV properly?
3) And what percentage of households are adding OTA / converting from pay TV?

My point being, these numbers seem infinitesimally small, and I fear if you're an "antenna installer" and only an "antenna installer" then from what I can see, you're most likely going to starve! It seems perfectly reasonable to me that in this field one must diversify in order to prosper. And just because someone's proficient in one area doesn't necessarily make them any less so in another. As Rick said, I'm sure there's many a satellite installer that's also plenty competent at installing antennas.

However, it is appalling and there is simply no excuse whatsoever for someone that does this for a living to be so incompetent so as to completely miss-aim a customers antenna - that is just downright ugly! I'm sure there are instances where experience and expertise are called for that many a contemporary installer simply doesn't have - as you say JB, this may well be for a large part a "lost art" But that gives no excuse for not even bothering to try! How difficult is it to pull a TVFool report for the address in question and be prepared when you arrive on site to ascertain the best location and aim? Surely it doesn't take a brain surgeon's education to get this much right! If you had a satellite installer come to your home and aim your dish into a stand of sequoias instead of positioning it in the clear, because he was only doing a single TV install and it really didn't matter to him, how long do you think such an incompetent would be an authorized dish installer? NMT is right, the industry needs some standards! What's even scarier is that I think I recall tigerbangs warning against using the installers associated with Solid Signal in some area(s). And here one would presume these to be reputable, simply by association... Well, I suppose there's always the BBB & Consumer Affairs - it's always good to check out beforehand anyone coming at your house with power tools!

As far as getting people to part with their hard earned money - as you say everyone wants something for nothing, that's just human nature. And when you're in business you need to know how to massage the situation so everyone comes away happy. Being personable and winning over the customers confidence & trust often plays the biggest part.

Dealing with the public is not an easy thing, this I'm aware of as I am in business for myself. And when a potential customer calls me up to get a quote of what my services will cost they will be treated with the same decorum regardless if they are planning on ordering large or small. First because it's just plain ethical, and secondly 'cause it's good business practice to always give your all, for both the big & the small. Will I try and up-sell 'em? Of course. But it matters little when the small guy is a happy guy & recommends you to someone who turns out to be a whale!

That's my rant and I'm stick'n to it!
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Old 09-28-2009, 01:26 PM   #13
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You asked why a installer does not want to do a internet search to install a television antenna. The answer is pretty clear. The reason is because when I do a market report for a certain person, be it in person or on the internet, sometimes it takes a hour or more before I can get to the real reason why this person is or is not willing to spend money to put up the proper antenna and do a proper install.

Most times, people will not ask for help until they have exhausted all other possibilities. They tried the rabbit ears they used for years. They tried the little toy UHF antenna's that looks like something out of a Buck Rodgers catalog. They tried no spending any money, or they tried using a good antenna and all the right stuff and failed - because reception just wasn't a option in their neighborhood.

If the installer has to do a hours work, shouldn't he be able to recoup his loss in the price of the install? The answer is NO, due to the fact that once you step in the customers yard, that is when their clock starts to run. They did not see you use your computer and your internet service and your knowledge of reception and antenna design to research and develop a solution for their needs. All they see is you getting out of the truck, putting a antenna together in half a hour.

Putting it on their roof in a hour, wiring it to the home and handing them the bill. If it works or not is not up to the installer, it is up to the homeowner. If the Homeowner has several VHF stations in their market that is a major network like - ABC, NBC or CBS and the antenna is UHF only, and the homeowner bought the antenna and called someone to put it up. Once it is up, and you cannot get the stations you wished to get, it is not the installers fault. But automatically the installer is a no good SOB and you are going to insist that they are no good and should not be trusted to install your antenna.

At the same time, if the installer said - the only way you will get reception is if you use a Winegard 8200U antenna and a rotor and you felt that $500 was too much money for them to come and put up a antenna for you, even when they supplied the antenna, mast, rotor, wire, splitters, 7 hours of their time, their truck, tools, ladder, and expertise - then you would be inclined to tell people that they are a bunch of thief's and all they wanted to do is to sell you the most expensive antenna, "Spending large amounts of the customers money, with the hopes that some of it will stick to their hands" - as one forum member put it.

How much does it cost you to bring along a small portable television and a cheap Channel Master CM 7000 converter box with a signal strength meter - to point a antenna?

Then again, if there is more than one market present - and you need to turn the antenna to see the other market, then you need a antenna rotor and that is the end of the subject.

For somebody to say, all I want is these three channels, and once you get them those three channels and once in a while some other channels drifts in - then the next thing you know, you are going to get a telephone call, from the homeowner saying - hey I got a couple more channels coming in - but they aren't very good. what can I do to get them more often. You say - use a antenna rotor - like I told you when I put it up. The next thing they will say is - when can you come back and put it up? You come back and put it up and when you try to collect on the bill - they say, you didn't do the job the right way the first time and why should I pay you to come back a second time to do it the right way when you should have known that it was wrong the first time.

The answer is - because you were too cheap and too stubborn to listen and you refused to take my advice and now I have to charge you because I had to spend my money to do a job twice that should have been done right the first time.

Hard feeling erupt and the next thing you know, not only will you get more customers from the job you did, but the customer that you bent over backwards to try and help the first time is bad mouthing you for overcharging him for the work you did, because in their opinion - you should have done the job for the amount of money you originally quoted them.

That was the main objection that I had about this post, without going into this amount of detail.

My only complaint about Winegard antenna's is that they are placed in too small a box and they are shook all over when they are shipped and usually by the time they are delivered to me, they are damaged, either by way of things getting thrown on top of the box during delivery, or by the elements of the antenna being bent by putting them in a box with a bunch of other stuff and the antenna being manufactured to only be installed one time. You have a hard as heck time trying to spread out the elements of the VHF part of a 8200U antenna and usually they were bent when they were being shipped and the antenna looks like heck when you put it up and everything is bent or if pieces are missing.

When you get into buying mast pipes, you can almost spend as much as or more than what you spent for the antenna - if the antenna is large and has a lot of wind blowing on it and if you want to keep it attached to the side of the house for more than one season.

People do not take into account how much all the little things cost.

All they look at is the price of the antenna and they believe that all they need is the antenna to get good reception. So instead of spending money, they put it together up in their attic and they hope that it will pick up some stations and not make their house look like they are a bunch of low rents that cannot afford to pay the cable bill.

When you tell them that this is what you must do to get good reception, they balk and squawk and make a fuss and tell you all sorts of silly reasons why they cannot do it. When all the time - what it boils down to is dollars and cents.

At the same time, you cannot gain customers when the customer tells you that they are Tired of paying their Cable BILL and they want to drop the cable to go back to a antenna. When they do not understand how a antenna works and they refuse to spend money and they refuse to listen to what you told them to do. They think that OTA television reception is FREE and all you have to do is stick a wire and a coat hanger out the bedroom window to get it.

When it doesn't work - then they are on here asking what is the best antenna to get as many channels as possible. When their best is also - what is the cheapest way to get all the channels and not what is the most efficient way to get all the channels.
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Old 09-28-2009, 03:36 PM   #14
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Nothin' for nothin' JB but if your personality in person is anything like it seems to be on this forum I can see where your problems lie...

Whether or not you want to acknowledge it, the business you're in is sales. And sales takes a certain amount of, shall we say, tact. It's all in the presentation...

Secondly, let's not exaggerate how much time it takes to do a little research before the fact and be ready when you arrive at the customers home with a set of options - I've been watching the knowledgeable people on this forum do it in less than 15 minutes in most cases for quite a while now.

One of your biggest problems is that you're inflexible - you decide on ONE set-up that you think will do the best job, and that's it! Nothing less will do. And if they don't go for it they must be a penny pinching imbecile. I saw you recommend for instance, the 8200U & a rotor for pretty much any install, even though the application had no Low-VHF and nothing but a spattering of distant, duplicate stations in different directions - obviously a waste of money...

I would guess that the average install could easily call for several different levels of equipment, if you will, that will fill the needs of different types of people. The hour or so you spend in the customers' house is time well spent in both determining their needs and CLEARLY presenting them with the various options that can fill those needs. That means not talking over their head, and not giving them a 45 minute dissertation on the physics of RF transmission. As you say, most people don't understand all this in a technical sense, nor do they want to - they just want to watch TV.

So then you both agree on a level of reception that best satisfies both their programming desires and their pocketbook, and you spell it out clearly on the bill - or you present them with a quote of the various options listed in descending order showing them what can be expected to be achieved at each level.

And if the homeowner bought the wrong antenna for the job, the way I see it you have two options: 1. Buy the antenna back from them and give them a credit towards what you will install at their location. or 2. Install it as contracted and list the expected results clearly on the bill.

You're going up against cable and satellite, and if you present the bottom line cost weighed against a monthly bill, and that cost can be recouped in a few months, I fail to see the problem.

Like I said earlier, it's all in the presentation...
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Old 09-28-2009, 06:19 PM   #15
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Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Eastern Idaho
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JB,

Reread Hooper's post above. Very well stated. You are knowledgeable enough but your presentation is lacking. Hooper has given you some great advice. Follow it and you will notice a huge difference in how people respond to your posts on this forum and how they respond in real life sales situations.

Good luck!

Rick
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