End User Has 'Lemon Of An Install' - Needs Advice

How would you handle a return or an "exchange" situation? For the sake of simplicity, let us assume that you leveraged existing architecture, no cable was pulled etc. The appliance, devices, licenses, etc. are all resalable.

The customer has requested a “return for credit” since the product does not function. (Assume nothing like a simple settings change is going to fix the problem.)

We currently have a lemon of an install that the integrator will replace with a lower cost (but reliable) system. The integrator has repeatedly stated that they are not being supported by the manufacturer of the product, and that they cannot bring our system up to a marginally functional state. (The system was functional for not more than a month after initial installation.) The integrator wants us to eat the cost difference…think double. So we would wind up paying $10k for a $5k system. The product is not video, but close enough that I feel comfortable in a comparison for my own education.

In my opinion, the relationship between the integrator and the manufacturer is not the customer’s problem.

How would you handle such a situation? Have you ever had a lemon, or had to drop a product line because of such a situation? Details left purposefully vague, I am trying to understand this integrator’s position. It hasn’t been long since I was on the other side of the fence, and I know that we would have simply removed the system then replaced it with a product of the customer’s choice, at our own cost if the product we originally installed failed within a month of install.


Who initially specified the non-functional system?

Why was the integrator chosen to install a system they were unable to be supported on?

Also, if I have three guesses of what type of system you're talking about:

1. Access Control

2. Access Control

3. Intrusion Alarm, or maybe Access Control

Brian, you are close!

Wait, an integrator installed something, it never worked right, and now they want you to pay for a replacement system? That don't sound right.

I'm happy someone else thinks so, too.

The customer had some wide specifications. (Meaning, not specified down to the model numbers, etc.) The customer trusted the integrator to design, build and install the system. The integrator was chosen since they have done similar work for the customer prior to this install. The customer did not realize the integrator would refuse to support the product. (Even though the contract calls for 1 year of service from date of install.)

This is a classic example of a bad deal. One other question: who purchased the equipment that was installed? Direct? Distribution?

The integrator did all the purchasing. From conversations with the integrator, it seems as if they purchased directly from the manufacturer. The integrator has told the customer they are having massive problems getting any support from the manufacturer...and that the manufacturer will not help them out on a project which is easily 100x the size of the customer’s installation. (Does not give me faith in the manufacturer, or the integrator.)

This leads me to believe there is a problem in the manufacturer/integrator relationship which the integrator is trying to make the customer pay for, if that makes sense.

As the end user, I would put a hold on any outstanding invoices to the integrator, and file a claim against the Errors and Omissions Policy they carry... unless they work out of the trunk of their car. Its a suit.

Not sure directly appealing to the manufacturer is possible or helpful, but perhaps they can put you in touch with another company who is supported to fix the problems.

This is very helpful, thank you.

When you say it doesn't function, do you mean it doesn't work at all, or it doesn't work as expected?

Does not work at all.

Sounds like the integrator didn't buy the product from an authorized source and that is why there is heartburn from the manufacturer. Just a hunch.

The integrator did all the purchasing. From conversations with the integrator, it seems as if they purchased directly from the manufacturer.

So the manufacturer sells direct to integrator and then claims no support because it didn't go thru distribution? If that ain't the kettle calling the pot!

So the manufacturer sells direct to integrator and then claims no support because it didn't go thru distribution? If that ain't the kettle calling the pot!

This sounds suspiciously like a common story I've seen in other forums, where someone buys offshore products "direct from manufacturer" via Alibaba/Aliexpress. Dahua is well-known for the practice, where all sales outside China are supposed to go through distributors, and they won't directly support anything to the end users outside of China.

If this is the case, there's no kettle - the policy is well-known in the industry and the integrator has very little room to claim ignorance.

That sounds very plausible, I never thought about that. Maybe that is why their bids are so low...On the other hand, their contract does call for them (the integrator) to support the product for 1 year.

I think most of the posters here are probably right on the money as to the 'why' this scenario happened. The only way it makes sense for the manufacturer to refuse to help is if the integrator purchased their stuff through unauthorized distribution.

The integrator is completely at fault here - and should eat it - but they apparently aren't going to.

They tossed the dice and bought outside the channel trying to get themselves a few more points on equipment. Now that the bet went south, they are trying to get out from under by maintaining - to the customer - that they never made the bet.

Even if the equipment has failed, the lemon here is the installer, imo.

Marty- In your opinion, what is the best course of action for the customer?

Loud and sustained yelling.

The integrator signed a contract that says they will support the system they sold the enduser for 1 year. They are clearly in breach of this contract if they are taking the position you've related. The only people I know who are allowed to charge money for things that don't work are doctors - everyone else has to 'make you whole'.

Personally, I would wear a sandwich board calling the owner a liar, and pace in front of his headquarters ringing a bell while loudly expressing my specific discontent with his company.

But that's me.

"Loud and sustained yelling."

- Works for me every time ;-)

Incidently, start the yelling in a non-public forum, ie direct, and ramp it up from there. Tell the Integrator if they value their reputation they'll fix the problem or face the consequences. If that doesn't work, go public - here, LinkedIn, etc. - just about anywhere the information will give the Integrator a black eye. Also try your local consumer advocate, TV reporter, etc.

As end users, we can have a lot of clout if we're not afraid to vocalize our problems publicly.

"As end users, we can have a lot of clout if we're not afraid to vocalize our problems publicly."

And that's why you are the second most hated man in the industry :)

I agree, though, if they don't do the right thing, one needs to go public. A lot of companies do not care about screwing over customers until they face the consequences of it being publicly revealed (this industry or any other).

Notoriety is also a form of fame ;-)

I doubt I'll ever be famous in the classic sense. It just doesn't happen in this industry. Someday, I'll die a happy man, knowing I was notorious, LOL.

But of course, make DAMN SURE you're right and they're wrong when you do this... steel-toed boots don't taste very good.

...steel-toed boots don't taste very good.

Nor does S.O.S from the prison caferteria...

The offense of blackmail is created by 18 U.S.C. § 873 which provides:
"Whoever, under a threat of informing, or as a consideration for not informing, against any violation of any law of the United States, demands or receives any money or other valuable thing, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both."

"If you do not live up to the terms of our contract, I am going to leave negative comments on the Internet."

You know that's not blackmail? Right?

"If you do not live up to the terms of our contract, I am going to leave negative comments on the Internet."

Where has the bluster and bravado gone all of a sudden? How was the menacing:

Loud and sustained yelling.. wear a sandwich board calling the owner a liar... pace in front of his headquarters ringing a bell... face the consequences... give the Integrator a black eye...

reduced to the pusillanimous, "I am going to leave negative comments on the Internet."?

In any event though I was only offering it up toungue and cheek, and thought it about as likely as eating a steel toed boot. Since you seem confident in your legal assessment, let me ask you: Suppose someone wasn't as reasonable as we are pursued such a cause of action. What part of the statute as written do you feel does not apply?

Do you a) feel the end user is not "threatening to inform", or b) feel the integrator is not in "violation of any law", or the resolution of the problem "is not a valuable thing".

I think that the best defense would be to argue that the resolution of the problem is not a "valuable thing" since it is something that the end user is entitled. But push either negative comments or the demands too far and it could be seen as extortion. For instance some statement like, "thats not good enough anymore, you dragged your feet fixing this thing, so I think it only right that my warranty should start as of x, and I'm not paying anything for the three times you came out here and didn't do squat!, or else..." These are all things you could legally say normally but when you add in the "or else" it changes things.

So like Matt said:

...make DAMN SURE you're right and they're wrong when you do this...

Right?

1. I admit to looking up pusillanimous on dictionary.com

2. Never threaten (we agree here) :)

Rukmini, can you find precedents where people were actually charged by the police for blackmail based on 'threatening' to protest publicly for a vendor failing to fulfill their service?

When you have that, let's talk more.

No luck finding any. :(

But after taking your default password poll, I was wondering what you would think if an intergrator failed to change the default password in production; the customer found out and said I'm not paying the balance of my bill because you were negligent and if you try to collect I'll go public with your incompetence? Blackmail Yes/No?

And actually, Rukmini, my "boot" comment refered to one putting one's own foot in one's mouth, not putting one's boot in someone else's teeth.

Oops! Looking back it did seem a tad extreme, I figured you had Mob connections or something.

I was imagining an offer that couldn't be refused from someone nicknamed "Angel" or even worse, "Tiny".

So I've seen a pair of Red Wings in my closet, I'll let you know how they taste.;)

I doubt that threating to expose or exposing a company publicly in order to obtain a resolution to a customer service issue would be considered as blackmail. If that was the case, I would have been (enjoying?) bread and water for most of my life.

The vendor would have to prove that there was no legitimate dispute whatsoever and that the person was simply trying to get something for free.

Blackmail seems a real stretch.

Maybe they could go for 'defamation of character' but that too is incredibly hard to prove. Worse, you really want to be pursuing legal action against your customers who claim you screwed up their project?

This is IPVM, not Yelp ;-)

This is getting seriously off topic now. Also, the 20% of all Yelp reviews are written by paid shills is completely distorted. The article that article references for validation of this 'statistic' notes, that they are "possibly fraudulent reviews" and that they are hidden / filtered from public view by default.

The net / net we agree is that Undisclosed End User has every right to publicly complain if the integrator does not fulfill the terms of their contract.

Well, my point about Yelp was more in reference to vendors suing over poor online reviews... which is SLIGHTLY more on topic, but not much :)

If I were the end user I'd ask the integrator to document their difficulties with the manufacturer. Suppose this is for real and it has to be dealt with. Claims like "the manufacturer refuses to support us" should be substiable e.g. show me the trouble ticket numbers they refuse to fix, or the emails they sent back discussing this with you, or somehow document the phone calls you've had with your representative at the manufacturer. It's not called "threatening" when you say things like "my boss wanted this documented clearly in case legal asks for a copy", it's just being a thorough troubleshooter.

Rodney,

Do you think the integrator in question would ever produce such a document?

If, by your suggestion, you are seeking to prove the integrator is a liar, then demanding proof of what the integrator claims (lack of support from the manufacturer) is sound advice. You are pressing them to prove their statements to the end user.

But, how come the end user hasn't asked the integrator why the manufacturer 'won't support them'? IMO, that is the key question here - and from what I've read above, it hasn't been answered.

As the end user, why not directly question the manufacturer about this issue?

As I mentioned above, there are very few scenarios that make sense for the manufacturer to refuse to help.

I agree with Rodney. Ask for documentation as if you planned to follow through with legal action. Which if the situation is as discribed you are entitled to pursue.

If I sell a product to a customer, unless I state explicitly that I won't or can't support it, then the onus is on me to make it work. My problems with the manufacturer should be irrelevant to the end user (customer). They did not contract with the manufacturer, they contracted with me for a product with the logical expectation that it would work properly. If that product does not work as advertised to the end user, then the end user is, at the very least entitled to their money back.

Most of us, for one reason or another have run into problems making something work properly at one time or another. I have always taken the position, sometimes at some cost to me, that I am the expert quoting a system, and that it is up to me to foresee problems, not the customer who is presumably not the expert. We are supposed to be offering solutions to customer's problems, not causing them.

Legal action aside, there is the concept of "doing the right thing". My position would be that your vendor took on the job promising a working system. He did not deliver. Any monies paid to him should revert to you, at the very least, if you allow him to take back his non-working solution to your problem.

As an integrator, I can relate with this discussion, and particularly Rodney, Marty, and Timothy's thoughts above.

There's a manufacturer we've been dealing with for well over a decade. Their support in the past was outstanding, and we were well recognized (by them) as being able to support their systems on-site as well as any of their techs, often making extensive field repairs ourselves, with their blessing. We love their systems, so we've speced them (and continue to spec them) for almost all of our customers over they years, and on the whole, those customers have been very happy with the systems as well.

In particular, one major customer of ours has deployed over two dozen of these systems in the six years they've been with us, with plans to continue using them for future sites (including two currently under construction). However, some of the newer systems have been having some related peculiar issues, and manufacturer support has been spotty at best, generally blaming our installation of the systems or specific setup options that in some cases have been working flawlessly for 5+ years. Where in the past, they would work extensively with us to actually find resolutions to these problems that didn't involve massive overhauls of the installations, they've recently taken to simply saying, "Nope, not our problem, here's your machine back."

Fortunately for us, this customer is also very tech-savvy and we've kept him completely in the loop as to our attempts to support them, and the manufacturer's stonewalling and run-arounds. He sees and appreciates the lengths we go to, as well, and realizes that we're doing everything WE can (and sometimes more) to keep them running, while the manufacturer continues to shoot themselves in both proverbial feet.

The customer HAS made it clear himself to the manufacturer that he's not pleased with this, and WE'VE made it clear to them that the customer has requested we start looking into other platforms for their future sites - he loves the product, but we're all fed up with the continually declining support.

So in answer to Rodney and Marty, if the integrator is being up-front and they are having a LEGITIMATE issue with the manufacturer, then they should have no problem producing some sort of paper trail documenting that they're holding up their end of things. And ultimately, if they can't make the system work, they should have no issue either refuning the end user, or replacing the system with something that DOES work.

Lemon Install Update: 2/24

Customer's project manager has been authorized to hit them with legal, if needed. All payment has been halted, as well. (Everything has to go through proper channels here.) We were speculating this morning that perhaps the integrator's salesman doesn't want to lose his commission...it just seems really stupid to sacrifice a $150k/ year customer for $4k.

At this point, we are waiting for their response to our email... stay tuned.

With all due respect to the End User, I don't think the people who post on this board are getting all the facts. The End User has stated up front he is being purposefully vauge with some details. Those details could be important. I have seen instances where a customer has asked for particular equipment, desiring a particular outcome, because he saw something at a show, or he talked to a manufacturer who promised the moon and the stars, when the equipment did not have a chance at a given site. It was never going to work.

Having said that, I am not defending the installer. All I am saying is that the possiblity exist that he was not being told all of the necessary facts when designing the system. He/she may not have designed the system. It may have been someone else. He may have had objections. I can absolutely say that the installer is, in my opinion, not certified to install the equipment. An end user is not legally required to have a certified installer, but they are asking for trouble if they don't ensure it.

I am joining the conversation late, but it feels to me that we are missing some facts here, and they are important facts. Why would an installer not return money (unless he has already spent it)? He has to know what the results are going to be unless he is a complete idiot or a thief (the do exist). All things being equal, this story does not make total sense. They have done work for you in the past. You like their work, but all of a sudden they can't find their rear end without a road map?. All of a sudden they are unreasonable? This does not feel right to me. Did they just get stupid overnight?

You say the relationship between the integrator and manufacturer is not your problem. It is now isn't it. Bids that are written and address only the equipment and do not concern themselves with training and certification are bids that are not well thought out or well written. My educated guess is that a Scope of Work document was never produced, by anyone. A Security Manager has a duty to his/her employer to hire a contractor that can produce the intended and desired results. That same integrator has a duty to tell you if the equipment you have asked for will not function in your environment. You don't have enough bandwidth, or your staff is not capable, so on and so forth. There are a multitude of reasons a given product is not suitable for a customer beyond his ability to "make it work". Your original statement is that your were trying to leverage existing infrastructure. Was that infrastructure ever capable of supporting the installation? What part are you playing in all of this?

Sorry, and with all due respect, I think you are leaving out some important facts.