Sunday, January 28, 2007
A Long Post, But Worth the Read
A few weeks ago, I opened an e-mail to find this:
I have read you blog and it is very interesting to say the least. I have been in the pool industry since 1976 and have been through the Lectronator, Uniclor, Kreepy Kleer and all the other type of salt units. I have probably remove [sic] over 250 salt units in all my service years in consumers backyards. In the earlier years of salt units we saw the same issues with corrosion of hand rails, diving board stands/jigs and even hard scapes like cool deck and cantilever decks. The difference between than and now is the majority of pools are done with stone coping (which have iron in them) and stone everywhere else around the pool instead of the iron spot brick or precast coping that was so prevalent in the 70s and 80s.
Consumers are driving the current market trend unlike that of the 70's and 80's where salt was driven by the manufacturer. Del Ozone manufacturers a salt and ozone system but unlike numerous other manufacturers we have been upfront from the start and explained that SALT IS CORROSIVE! The best thing a homeowner or consumer can do is get their water hose and wash of all area of traffic that have residual salt on them, such as the caps of spas, entry areas and loveseats. As we know the corrosion issue isn't with what's in the pool body but the product that is left behind after the water evaporate which is 100% corrosive salt.
Jeffrey W Jones
The Complete Ozone Company
National Sales Director
Residential Pool Division
Now, I know this guy. I’ve seen him and talked to him at trade shows and association meetings back when he was reping Letro Legends. I never bought his Letro’s, but that’s just because I’d rather see my daughter in a... uh... never mind. Suffice it to say, my dislike of Letros has nothing to do with Jeff. He was always straight up when he talked about his product. And like all salesmen, he was convinced that his product was the absolute best product of it’s kind on planet earth and you had to be stupid not to buy it. But that’s how he’s supposed to act. That’s why they call it Sales & Marketing and not Truth & Full Disclosure.
The first thing I did after I read this e-mail - after I picked myself up off the floor, that is - was to shoot back an e-mail to him, just to find out if it was really from Jeff Jones and not someone spoofing me. So, I went to Del Ozone’s website and looked up his e-mail address there, and copied and pasted that e-mail address into the Send To part of my e-mail to him, instead of just hitting Respond and sending it back to who know’s who? And this is what I wrote:
Your e-mail is a breath of fresh air. So far, you're the only salt system manufacturer's representative that has allowed any opinion other than "salt is great" to cross their lips. Thank you for being candid. I'm writing for two reasons:
1. May I publish your e-mail in my blog? I'm not going to pitch your product. I'm not going to say that you make a better salt chlorinator. I'm going to say that there is at least one company who owns up to the fact that the system they sell uses a known corrosive; salt, just as your e-mail states. I'll do my best to withhold my usual sarcasm and doomsday tone and just present your e-mail as it is written.
2. I want to verify that the e-mail is from you. I would hate to publish it and then get a fiery response from Del Ozone that your e-mail account had been hijacked and I had been duped. Forgive me for being skeptical. I just don't get many e-mails from salt system manufacturer's rep's admitting that anything I say is right.
I have an observation. The few builders I have talked to who have given up on salt are looking for something to plug into that gap on their options list, and more than one of them is plugging in ozone. Looks like a right place, right time sort of thing for you. Good luck.
The Pool Guy
I didn’t have to wait long for an answer. I posted my e-mail at 9:50 am and had a response by 11:00 am the same day. And here it is:
I don't mind you publishing my e-mail but I do sell salt because of the consumer demand. It needs to be stated that there is a way to avoid the corrosion issue. I have had salt on my pool in Dallas, Texas for the past two years and my pool doesn't have any signs of these issues. The pool is surrounded by Oklahoma flagstone but I have taken the steps to prevent corrosion. Consumers drive this market because they love the way the water feels, their hair is softer and less irritation on the eyes and skin.
Salt is great product when we inform the consumers to maintain their pools just like we do our cars. Precautions must be taken with salt just like they have to be taken with muratic acid and chlorine. I have seen a car with corrosion on it because the consumer stored the acid in the garage next to the car. We don't stop selling acid because the homeowner wasn't informed that this could have happened. We must take precautions with salt and the best way is dilution. Homeowners must be informed to wash off all areas of their coping, decks, water features and traffic areas. Just like the water in the pool isn't corrosive, these "problem areas" should be diluted to avoid any types of erosion.
There has been a major lack of education toward the consumers with some industry professionals actually telling people that you don't have to shock a pool with a salt system and the pool is maintenance free. That's when homeowners shut their blinds and the pool became "out of sight, out of mind". That is where this "salt problem" popped up. Mainly a lack of education for the consumer and a lack of knowledge from some of the industry people. This could have been avoid [sic] by just looking through the window of the past 30 years and we could have seen that this isn't a new phenomenon. We have substantially more units in circulation now than we did in the 70s and 80s, that's why we see more issues but the issues were still there if a little research would have been done.
Del Ozone has and will continue to be up front and honest about the issues of salt and ozone. The pool industry can not afford to have another black eye but salt systems can be a viable alternative to chlorine erosion feeders. When we sell a salt system, education must be added to the sale.
Jeffrey W Jones
The Complete Ozone Company
National Sales Director
Residential Pool Division
I’m sitting there, reading this second e-mail and I’m trying really hard to buy into it. I’m trying really hard to take this guy at face value and believe that this is just an honest effort at - could it be? - Full Disclosure.
So, I wander over to the Del Ozone website to see how Del Ozone is taking the lead in informing consumers about the corrosive effects of salt, because “unlike numerous other manufacturers we [Del Ozone] have been upfront from the start and explained that SALT IS CORROSIVE!”
I looked and looked and looked. It’s not there. That information that salt is corrosive isn’t there.
Then, I downloaded their Owner’s Manual for their combo salt and ozone system and read it from cover to cover. The information is not there. There’s not a single word or idea about these maintenance actions that Jeff’s referring to - like hosing down all your hardscape each time after you take a swim - reflected anywhere in any Del Ozone literature that I could find on their website. Not anywhere.
So, this must be a silent campaign to inform the consumer that pssst...salt is corrosive.
I am so sorry, Jeff. I tried not to be snarky about this. But look on the bright side. You Sales & Marketing guys always say, “There’s no such thing as bad advertising”. Let’s see how well that theory holds up. Okay?
So, I wrote back:
Thank you. I will publish both of your e-mails together. I've got two pieces in the works, so it may be a week or two before they get in the blog. I agree with much of what you're saying, that there has been a huge disconnect between the sale of, and the education for, salt systems. But let's be frank. That goes back to each of the manufacturers. Everybody at that level of investment had the data. And they had a responsibility to share that data with the builders. It was written in Australia for the last twenty years or more. But it didn't make it across the pond. All that the builders were told was that "Salt's great! Sell lots! There is no down side!"
That may not sound fair, but it is the truth.
You have made some excellent points about how to minimize the impact of salt on a pool and the surrounding environment. Not one word of that kind of advice has ever made it into anyone's Owner's Manual.
Over the years, I've done a lot of start ups, and I've done hundreds of Pool Schools, and the thing that I've seen over and over again is that people really do want and read the Owner's Manuals. They skip over the installation instructions, because it's already installed, but they read the operations and maintenance sections. That's where that information needs to be. It also ought to be addressed, as part of full disclosure, at the point of sale. And let's be honest. It never is.
That is exactly why the tone of my blog is so contentious. I am the counterweight to that lack of education. I am the natural consequence to the kind of marketing that's been done for salt systems so far. We used to be just the cranky old men at the back of the room at the monthly trade group meetings, or the guy who would loud-talk you a bit when he passed your booth at the trade show.
The internet has changed all that. It has given us a voice to tell the consumer what we see out there at their pools after the sale.
My point being, guys like me aren't going away. We will just multiply. And the unfortunate thing for any industry that is criticized by a blog or a forum, even if they make a big push to address the issues, those blog entries and forum rants sit out there in cyberspace forever, waiting for the next Google search to turn them up along with the manufacturer's website. I believe it will make a big difference in the coming years in the care given to product bugs and shortcomings before product launch.
I'll publish your information in my blog. But how about beefing it up and posting it on Del Ozone's website and including it in your Owner's Manuals? The information is going to get out there and it just makes sense that you would want it to get out there couched in more temperate language than it is in places like my blog and the pool forums. Or, you could just post a link to my blog... Just kidding.
One last thing. You say you have Oklahoma flagstone. I have lots of pools on service with salt and Oklahoma, and most of those pools are very dusty, as the salt water penetrates the stone, evaporates, leaves the salt behind, the salt crystallizes and tends to turn the top layer of the Oklahoma to a fine dust. I went to a pool a few weeks ago, maintained for a couple of years by the homeowner, with lots and lots Oklahoma and the whole back of the pool was a rock waterfall (probably a $120,000 pool) and their pool was so thick with that dust that you couldn't see the pebbles in their pebbletec in large areas. Of course, they never suction vacuum, just relying on the Polaris to clean the pool. Do you see any dust in your pool? Have you sealed your stone? If so, what sealer do you recommend?
The Pool Guy
I haven’t heard from him since. Perhaps he’s still looking up that info on the stone sealer for me. Or perhaps he’s wishing he had never thrown his hat in this ring.
Because now he’s on record. He said it. Salt is corrosive. It damages hardscape and metal. The Pool Guy’s not seeing things. Jeff Jones, representing Del Ozone, admits that he’s seen all these problems, too. Further, he admits that his product, just like everybody else’s salt system, causes these problems.
And I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m throwing the guy under the bus for being honest. He sent his first e-mail to me on 1/13/07. That was fifteen days ago. Are you telling me that in 15 days an entire corporation couldn’t add a single page to their website about how to prevent damage from salt evaporation? I’m hear to tell you, it ain’t that hard. I add a page every weekend, in my spare time.
And, too, I feel a bit like Lewis Black must have felt when he was asked by the President’s staff to be the comedian/host for the White House Press Club dinner. Lewis had been none too kind to the President over the last six years, and so asked, “What’s wrong with your boss? Hasn’t he seen my act?”
What really got me was when Jeff said, “when we sell a salt system, education must be added to the sale”.
That is such an empty statement.
Let me explain why. I’m a pool guy. I have accounts at the local distributors. I can go down there right now, today, and buy one of Jeff’s salt/ozone systems. The distributor, who sells every manufacturer’s stuff, will set it on the loading dock without a single solitary word of explanation or education. Then, I take it to your house, open the box, read the installation instructions and install your salt/ozone system. Then I hand you the Owner’s Manual, the warranty card, pick up my check and we’re done.
There’s no Del Ozone University that I have to attend before I’m authorized to install their stuff. Anybody in the pool business can buy and sell their stuff. And even in states with more licensing than the Great State of Texas, I’m betting there’s not a single question on the contractor’s exams prompting the installers to make sure they tell the folks about the corrosive nature of salt on metals and hardscape.
So, where is all this education supposed to come from? From the installer to the pool owner? Where’s the installer’s training material so he knows what to teach them? It’s not in the box that the salt/ozone system came in. From the company? It’s not on their website or on any of their printed brochures. What should we use? Osmosis?
Jeff will probably respond with some yadayada about how the info is being passed on via their factory training seminars. Great. Then let’s only let people who have attended those seminars sell and install Del Ozone equipment. No? You say that would narrow the market? Exactly.
These days, probably more than half the visitors to this blog are pool owners. The rest, pool industry folks. So I have a question for you pool owners. Did anyone tell you at the point of sale that you would need to hose down your high traffic areas and all your water features and waterfalls on a regular basis and that if you didn’t your hardscpae would disintegrate? Second question: If they had told you that, would you still have bought your salt system?
Of course they didn’t, and of course you wouldn’t have bought it if they had. So, it’s easy to say, “we must educate the consumer”. But not too much. Because then they won’t buy.
But when it rains it pours around here. A month ago you couldn’t get a salt rep to say anything except “Salt’s great!” Now, they’re falling out of the trees. It turns out Jeff’s not the only salt system manufacturer’s rep who admits there’s issues with the salt systems they sell.
Sean Assam of AutoPilot recently posted a rant to a pool forum where he just got all up in everybody’s stuff about salt getting the blame for everything, culminating with;
Staining from salt, sure I would admit to that occuring (sic) with certain salts.
Corrosion from salt, sure I would admit to high chlorine or over salting a pool causing a certain level of corrosion damage.
Electrolysis? yeah, if the pool isn't bonded properly, installed correctly, or there's an electrical grid issue, there may be stray voltage introduced into the pool due to a salt system.
Sorry for being long in my response. I think I'll take this up in the China Shop.
Sean AssamCommercial Product Sales Manager
Aqua Cal Inc. / AutoPilot Systems Inc.
If you want to read the whole rant, you can find it here:
The title of the thread is, “Do salt chlorine generators damage limestone/masonry?” and, by the way, the short answer is “yes”.
If the pool isn’t bonded properly? Do you know what that is? There’s a single bare copper wire that’s supposed to run, unbroken, all the way around the pool, be tied to the pool shell via the rebar, run to all the pool and spa lights and then run over and tie to all the pool equipment. A single unbroken bare copper wire. So, make sure you dig that thing up and verify that your whole pool is bonded properly before you install that salt system. The manufacturer just said so. Said that if you didn’t you’d suffer the ravages of electrolysis.
And electrical grid issues? Does anybody even know what he’s talking about?
It’s amazing how many problems these guys are willing to admit to when you get them out of the trade show booth, isn’t it?
Now, in fairness, I ought to go look at AutoPilot’s website, like I did Del Ozone’s, so I can say unequivocally that staining, corrosion and stray currents from the electrolysis process aren’t addressed in any AutoPilot material. But I’m just going to make a wild assumption here and say they’re probably not.
What do you think?
The main issues here that they’ve admitted to - quite a while after the sale, I might add - are as follows:
1. Corrosion does occur with salt systems. Both Del Ozone and AutoPilot have made statements quoted here that clearly support that corrosion due to salt is not a “theory that needs investigation”, but a fact, a problem that is part and parcel of using salt.
2. There are unpredictable and damaging “stray currents” associated with the electrolysis process.
3. Salt water damages Oklahoma flagstone. Like Jeff said, his “pool is surrounded by Oklahoma flagstone but” he has “taken the steps to prevent corrosion.” Ergo, he knows that if he doesn’t take preventative steps, damage to the stone will occur. My opinion is he’s just slowing the damage by washing the stone down. The salty water that penetrates during the hours that the pool is being used isn’t completely flushed out from deep inside stone by surface washing with a garden hose. But that’s an argument for another day. Suffice it to say, he admits that it occurs.
4. Del Ozone now says, via their National Sales Director, that homeowners “must be informed to wash off all areas of their coping, decks, water features and traffic areas.” They admit that this is MUST HAVE information for salt system pool owners, yet except for that statement in these two e-mail, there’s no other evidence that they are disseminating that information to the public or even to the companies that install their system. Reality Check: Jeff Jones just spent this weekend at the Texas Pool & Spa Show. Did anyone who attended that show and looked at Del Ozone’s new ozone/salt system hear Jeff or his salesmen cautioning anyone about how important it is to be “up front and honest” about the potential ravages of salt systems? Did they hand out any information about how to properly care for hardscape and metals?
5. Del Ozone, via their National Sales Director, says that there “has been a major lack of education toward the consumers with some industry professionals actually telling people that you don't have to shock a pool with a salt system and the pool is maintenance free.” yet, there isn’t a single word spent in either the brochure or Owner’s Manual for their ozone/salt system to dispel this myth or in any way talks about the need to shock the pool. It’s just not there. The tone of that remark is that the folks at the point of sale, guys like me, are the ones responsible for that kind of misinformation.
Allow me to retort:
“No need to buy, transport and store expensive chlorine compounds” - Pentair Intellichlor chlorine generator marketing information.
“AquaPure™ and PureLink™ are self-contained, compact sanitizing systems that fulfill all of your pool's sanitizing needs” - Jandy chlorine generator marketing information.
“You only need to check the pH and total alkalinity periodically” - Zodiac Clearwater chlorine generator marketing information.
“No more mixing, measuring or messing with harsh chemicals. No more hassles buying, storing, measuring chlorine” - Hayward Goldline Aqua Rite chlorine generator marketing information
“No more hassles storing or handling packaged chlorine” - Ecomatic chlorine generator marketing information.
“No More Buying Chlorine” - AutoPilot chlorine generator marketing information.
So, maybe that’s where salt pool owner’s got the idea that they didn’t have to shock their pools any more. From the manufacturers.
And, finally, I want to report a story I heard from the just completed Texas Pool & Spa Show. The Jandy rep was pitching one of his new really splashy kind of water features to a crowd of pool men at his show booth. One of the pool guys asked, "what about using something like that with a salt pool?", and without batting an eye, the rep said, "It's okay because all of the water's going to fall back into the pool".
This pool guy had obviously seen deck damage due to salt water splash-out, subsequent evaporation and residue concentration (salt attack), but all the rep was interested in was not saying anything that might narrow his market for this new splashy thingy to only non-salt pools.
The photo at the top of this blog entry is of limestone coping above a standard sheer descent water feature on a salt pool. Can you see the significant deterioration just from the slight amount of aeration that occurs as that ribbon of water falls out of that sheer descent? See how the damage is localized to those first few inches at the edge of the stone, and as you go further back, away from the source of the aeration, we're back to smooth stone again? Well, this new splashy thingy of Jandy’s causes ten times that much aeration. But like I said, that’s why they call it Sales & Marketing, and not Truth & Full Disclosure.
Say it Loud, Say it Proud; These Sales Reps Are Not Your Friends.
I think, though, that the old adage, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” holds true. Be honest. How many of you had ever even heard of Del Ozone or AutoPilot before you read this blog? I’m nothing but an unwitting pawn in their word-of-mouth marketing campaign.
So, to all you Salt Reps out there. Keep them cards and letters coming. I’ll post them all. With comments, of course.
Res Ipsa Loquitur.