Retarded storage and thin-skinned people

So this is kind of a long but funny story and a rant against oversensitive people at the same time.

About a year ago, this sales guy and I go to this architecture firm since they told us they are in dire need of a better storage solution.

We meet with their admin, real nice young guy, let’s call him Mike. He explains to me how they have this old <insert few-letter-company name> clustered NAS with some JBOD behind it. They’re having performance issues, it’s not scalable, they don’t replicate it or do snaps, the list goes on about how much he hates that box. It’s just not working out.

He then mentions he wasn’t part of the decision to buy the box and he just wants to get rid of it and get something much better.

So I start explaining to him the higher-end NAS solutions, I talk about the EMC Celerra, all the things it does etc. The whole explanation takes like 2 hours since he really was unfamiliar with a lot of the basics so I started from the ground up, explained the entire concept and architecture etc.

By the end of this we’re bonding with the guy, he’s throwing some F bombs in casual conversation, all in all we’re comfortable. He tells me he finally gets it, he realizes it took him a while to see the big picture but now he totally understands the value prop. He’s excited.

I feel stoked since I like the guy and it’s not often that you get to educate someone and make them that happy. Very rewarding. So we’re joking some more and I mention how the old box is pretty much retarded when compared to the EMC box, since the EMC box does so much more it’s ridiculous.

He laughs about that and agrees, we joke some more, I promise him I’ll send him a config to look over and we leave.

On the way out he tells me how great it all was, and cautions me jokingly that it’s probably not a good idea to mention to more conservative customers that their existing storage is retarded. We laugh and part ways in a very friendly fashion. Of course I don’t normally say something like that, I only did because we were joking around and bonding and, most importantly, he told me it wasn’t his baby and that he hates it. Usually the coast is clear after something like that 🙂

So I send him his config, he’s getting a great deal, all very well architected. No response. I call him, no response. Eventually the rep calls him, and Mike tells the rep how he was offended that I called his storage retarded and he doesn’t want to do business with us. I thought this was the weirdest thing ever. My initial reaction is that maybe someone close to him is mentally retarded – but if that were the case, he should have shown some kind of reaction when I first mentioned the dim-wittedness of his existing storage.

But wait, there’s more.

About a year later… different gig, different rep. I get the invite to go to this place and talk about storage. They’ve had problems for years and have a really old and bad system in place and really need a replacement. I walk in, and of course it’s the same exact architecture firm! I tell the rep that this is probably a bad idea and that I should leave. I don’t have time though because Mike comes to greet us.

The moment he sees me, he’s like “sorry guys, this is not gonna happen, you just leave now so we don’t waste each other’s time”. He says that he really respects my expertise but he won’t do business with a company I work at. He doesn’t want to speak to another engineer and pretty much kicks us out. I can’t shut up any more and I tell Mike that he has really, really thin skin.

Needless to say the new sales guy is dumbfounded.

The sales guy calls Mike a day or so later and gets an explanation out of him. Mike claims he doesn’t want to deal with engineers that belittle his equipment since how do I know in what financial dire straits they were? Maybe they were forced to buy the retarded storage.

Which is fine but shows that either Mike lied throughout our entire first meeting or has an amazingly bad short-term memory.

I wish Mike all the best in his future endeavors and still stand by my original assertion: get off your retarded storage if it’s causing you problems. Even if you don’t have money there are other appliance-type solutions to be had on the cheap (or free)!

Here are some easy-to-use appliances that are quite good:

You could try all of them as virtual machines if you don’t want to dedicate hardware to them to begin with. That way you can test all of them easily. You can also roll your own with Solaris 10 or Linux, of course it requires one to know what they’re doing but it’s amazing what can be accomplished for next to zero dollars nowadays.

And Mike, if you ever read this:

Get some thicker skin. And maybe some Gingko Biloba. Moreover, if the real reason I offended you was that someone close to you is retarded – get over it, it’s just an expression!

People are just too damn sensitive these days. Just get the job done.


7 Replies to “Retarded storage and thin-skinned people”

  1. That’s a tough situation — despite the fact that the customer seemed to be enjoying all the humor and easygoing feel of your conversation, he still ended up being offended. I find it interesting that YOU get defensive about the situation (to paraphrase, “it’s not MY fault, he should have a thicker skin!). Does the client need a thicker skin, or do you need to re-evaluate how you present yourself to clients, especially new or potential ones?

  2. You know what, I’m usually pretty good at reading people and I’ve never had that issue before. Which spurred this blog entry.

    It’s like you have a friend, he loves making horrendously crude, insensitive and offensive jokes constantly, he loves YOUR crude jokes, then you tell a joke and all of a sudden he’s grossly offended and never wants to see your ugly mug again. EVER. Doesn’t want to be in the same country as you. Same planet. Universe.

    A normal person just tells you “man, that’s not cool, I’d rather you didn’t say that, I’m sensitive about that subject”.

    Which is fine by me. I’d never do it again. Then we go back to being friends!

    Or, when you spill someone’s drink in a bar. The civilized response is for that person to say “hey dude ,watch it”, and you to say “sorry, I’ll buy you another one”. The uncivilized response is for that person to go out of his mind and physically start fighting you. I’ve actually seen that happen, BTW.

    If you read the entire thing carefully, he DID mention that maybe such a comment wouldn’t go well with less cool customers, and I of course agreed.

    What bothers me is his 180 degree change in stance, that’s all. Because “he thought about it”. THAT offends ME then. I feel I’ve been lied to and manipulated. Misunderstood. Injustly hated. Which is far more a personal attack on ME than saying that his HP box is retarded in relation to a high-end NAS device is a personal attack on HIM.

    In general I feel that altogether too many people nowadays can get almost too easily offended, are highly litigious and in general make a big deal out of things that are trivial.

    Everyone has to walk on eggs, in fear of offending someone.

    Zero tolerance.

    I call this extortion by oversensitivity.

    The reality is that he had a horrendous business problem, I proved I could fix it elegantly and thoroughly, he agreed, and he elected to damage the BUSINESS by being oversensitive to an innocent comment.

    To date he STILL has the crappy solution.

    He HATES it.

    He agrees that it’s stupid.

    He never wanted it.

    He didn’t buy it. His predecessor did.

    In my mind, he’s the unprofessional one. In a business environment your personal sensibilities should take second seat to the professional requirements. Otherwise, we’d only work for bosses we utterly adore. Think of the exchange between Vincent Vega and Mr. Wolf in Pulp Fiction 🙂 I’m thinking, dude, FIX YOUR PROBLEM, and hate me if you must. After all you’ll never see me again!

    A long time ago, a literature professor asked me to define what is an immoral act.

    Maybe his definition was simplistic but it was like: “if you’re actually causing someone a problem by acting a certain way, then you’re immoral. Anything else relies too heavily on societal values to be quantifiable”.

    Since we all come from different walks of life, we have different value systems.

    For some people, having multiple wives is fine. For others, drinking the blood of cows is the best thing ever. The list goes on.

    Some hyper-religious types are so strict that can barely function in the everyday world. Sinners everywhere! Corruption!

    Some strict vegans are utterly horrified at the mere thought of you eating a steak, and try to convert you. BTW there’s a reason you have canines and that your digestive system is just so.

    Some have, indeed, retarded children and are extremely sensitive if they hear any phrases like “this is stupid”, “this is silly”, “this is retarded”, “that system is brain-dead”, the list goes on. Mental illness is a serious matter but so is having crappy solutions that cause you horrendous business problems! A bad storage/software/diagnostic system in a hospital can cause a life/death situation!

    In the end, some things are nothing more than an expression used to convey something. A “stupid piece of software” is easier and quicker to say in friendly, casual conversation than “this software has an unusable interface, memory leaks, crashes constantly, loses data, and is causing my productivity to plummet”, once you have established the aforementioned points in discussion ad nauseum.

    If you want to change the timing of your ignition so it’s not retarded, are you offensive? It’s a totally valid automotive engineering term. I guess we can’t use that word any more, like we can’t use “gay” without referring to homosexuality. Or that we now have to be forced to use inelegant constructs like he/she so we don’t display any kind of discrimination.



  3. HYSTERICAL!!!! The best part is that “Mike” agrees that the sh*t’s retarded!! Well, if it ain’t broke… is broken dude, maybe it’s time to fix it rather than bring in system integrator after system integrator to complain to….and then do nothing about it.

    That was a once in a lifetime meeting D. You know, the guy still hasn’t returned my phone call 🙂

  4. Dimitris,

    You’re an idiot for several reasons.
    1. You never ever say something like that during a sales call. I expect that while you were laughing it up Mike and the sales person were wondering what the hell did he just say.
    2. You’re obviously not as good at reading people as you believe you are.
    3. You did something very stupid. Then to add to the stupidity of it you blog about it.
    4. Blaming the other person for not letting you know that you’re out of line.
    5. You’ve killed more business than you even know about. I expect that the IS guy has told many people about the “idiot tech”.

    Way to go ace.

  5. I do have to say thank you for the blog.

    I now have something to point out to junior sales rep.s and tech.s about what not to do.

  6. Thanks Joel. You are quite possibly right on all counts, good thing I’m not thin-skinned 🙂

    For what it’s worth, I was with a really experienced rep that’s never insulted anyone in his life and he didn’t see it coming either.

    It’s also never happened before or since.

    Maybe you just had to be there… 🙂


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