This true story started back in 1995. I was sitting at my front counter having lunch when he walked in. He was a big guy who kind of looked like Gary Busey. I picked up my lunch tray and set it in the back and asked him how I could help. He said his watch had stopped and he was hoping it was just a battery. We were chit chatting as I changed his watch battery and then it happened. He told me he owned an alarm company and the type of security system I had was very outdated and unreliable. I said that’s what was here when I bought the store and I wanted to upgrade. We did the deal and I loved my new alarm system and my alarm company. I’ve written about them many times throughout the years. And that was how our 21 year relationship started.
The New Store
In 2007, when I moved to my current location, I used the same alarm company. They came in and made recommendations about what I needed and how it should be installed. We discussed ‘entry corridors’ and how they should be set up. They got up in the attic and recommended that we put motion sensors up there to keep someone from breaking into my neighbor’s store and trying to enter my store from above.
They made recommendations about where I should place my safe for optimal protection from the alarm system and from an actual ‘torch and/or tool attack’. We added fire alarms, glass breaks, wired panic alarms, wireless panic alarms, and hostage codes. We put the alarm panel in a location not visible to the public so no one would know what kind of alarm system it was and could never see me enter my code. Sounds pretty professional doesn’t it?
After a few days of measuring everything, and pricing everything, we created a plan. Then, a few days later the installers showed up. It took a couple of days if I recall. They drilled holes in walls, holes in the ceiling, and holes in the attic as they ran the specialty CAT5e wiring for my new, state-of-the-art alarm system.
When the installation was complete, the owner of the company came by and ran through every alarm zone with me and checked to make sure that it was operating correctly, which it was. Then, he took the system ‘live’ and I was good to go… until last month.
Then, in 2010, the owner of the alarm company went to sleep one night and never woke up again. He died in his sleep at the age of 54.
It was a big blow. He was a good friend and business associate for 15 years. He had a good company with a lot of dedicated employees. After his death, the business continued on for a year or so before it started unravelling. In hindsight, this is where I should have cut and run, but I had a long history with this company and felt I owed it to his family and employees to stay with them through these trying times.
It’s Falling Apart
Fast forward to 2012 and I got a phone call from someone I’d never heard of, claiming to be from the alarm company’s accounting department wanting to talk about my past due invoices. I asked what happened to their long time bookkeeper I’d known for years? I was told that she had left the company. It was here that I learned that several months ago this new account manager had stopped ‘mailing’ monthly invoices and started e-mailing them instead. She was e-mailing them from an unknown e-mail account and they were going straight to my ‘junk’ folder. I didn’t see them, so the bills didn’t get paid.
We spent quite a bit of time straightening out my bill and we finally agreed on an amount to bring my account current. I told her to put it in writing, MAIL it to me, and make sure it stated that once paid, my account would be current and paid in full. Seems pretty legit right? Well, she quit before she sent it. This is another time where I should have quit too.
Fast forward another year or so and I get another phone call from another new account manager. We go through this whole thing again and I told her what was supposed to have happened on their end a year ago and to make it happen now. She told me to just write them a check for the agreed upon amount and she’d take care of it. I told her no. I told her to put it in writing first, mail it to me, and then I’d write the check which was only around $300. Well guess what? She quit too! I wish I would have quit here too.
The Bad Ending
So now, let’s fast forward all the way to last month. I get a phone call from yet another new account manager. He wanted to set up a meeting with me to go over all of these past due invoices, all of which still total around $300, and are several years old now. I told him the same thing I’d told the last several people in his position, which he’d had now for 4 whole months. Remember, I’ve been current with my account for years, and the invoices he was calling about were from 2012. I had customers at the time and told him I wasn’t in a position to deal with this at the moment and he’d have to call me back at another time. He didn’t like that one bit!
Our entire strange conversation lasted 3 minutes and it changed my world, and not for the better.
That weird phone call was the last straw and I finally decided to end it with this company. All of my sentiment regarding my friend and his company was over and I was finally ready to quit them. The next day I started making calls and getting quotes. I made my decision a few days later and signed the documents.
Nashville is going through an unprecedented building boom right now. Every single high rise apartment building being built has an alarm in every apartment – and every installer in the city is booked solid. The quickest I could get my system switched to the new company was 2 weeks. I agreed, and was looking forward to sending my soon-to-be former alarm company my written 30 day notice terminating our 21 year business relationship, as per our contract.
Then a few days later, my mail man delivered a certified letter from my alarm company. I wasn’t surprised because I was going to send one to them as soon as my switch over was complete. I opened the letter expecting to read that this was their 30 day written notice terminating our agreement. I was so wrong.
If you have one handy, look at a June, 2016 calendar so you can keep up. I had a 3 minute call on Thursday, June 16th. I received a certified letter on Thursday, June 23rd that was written on Monday, June 20th and mailed on Tuesday, June 21st informing me that my alarm monitoring had been terminated on Friday, June 17th. WHAT?
Think about that. Without my knowledge, my alarm service of over 21 years was cut off by an employee that had been with the company for 4 months over an event that occurred several years ago, and I was current with my bill!
In our industry, we take our security very serious. To have that safety net yanked out from under me on someone’s whim, and not giving me 30 days notice as per my contract, put myself, my customers, my employees, and all of my clients in danger. Imagine having to ‘push that button’ and no one was on the other end of the line.
I called my insurance company and explained the situation. We immediately packed up all of our merchandise and stored it in the vault of a friend’s jewelry store. My new alarm company said they’d try to work me in faster but couldn’t guarantee anything because they were slammed and were going to be shorthanded because several of their installers had taken time off for the 4th of July holiday. It was a scary time, but finally the new company came in, got everything installed and now we’re back to normal.
I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the whole concept that this one person could do what he did with no repercussions. That he could put so many people in danger due to his gross negligence and reckless behavior. And, most importantly, I’m still trying to decide now what I want to do about it. I don’t think I’m going to be able to let bygones be bygones on this one. But because I’m so mad about it right now I’m not thinking straight. So, help me out here. Should I pursue this or let it drop and be glad nothing worse happened? I just don’t know. But, word of caution; if you start seeing signs that your alarm company is struggling…GET OUT!
Chuck is the owner of Anthony Jewelers in Nashville, TN. Chuck also owns CMK Co., a wholesale trade shop that specializes in custom jewelry and repair services to the jewelry industry nationwide. If you would like to contact Chuck or need a speaker or instructor for your next conference/event he can be reached at 615-354-6361, www.CMKcompany.com or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.