Monday, December 03, 2007

Boom Goes The Dynamite, Part Trois

It’s good to have this blog. It helps me stay centered. You see, I subscribe to the usual industry magazines, and every time I read one, I set it down feeling like I haven’t lived up to all I could have done to be successful in the pool business.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not crying. I’m very happy with all that I have. It’s exactly what I always wanted; enough pools to keep me busy but not too busy and just enough money to let me and my wife enjoy our lives without pinching pennies. But we’ll never be rich - unless our investment portfolio in lottery tickets finally pays off.

But when I read those magazines and see all those young, fresh scrubbed faces just tearing it up out there and getting promoted to this CEO position, or showcased as that Builder with Something Extra, I tend to kick at what I have and ask myself why my phone doesn’t ring with those kinds of offers.

And then in a blinding flash it comes to me: It’s because you’re such an ass, Pool Guy. Hell, even your wife says so. I mean, let’s face it, with a blog like this and the attitude of belligerence and irreverence from which it was born, what did you expect?

And then I grin and toss that industry magazine in the recycle bin and go back to being Critical Bill, in all the ways that Bill was Critical. (hint: Things to do in Denver when you’re Dead. Great movie. Dark and Brooding, yes, but Great, especially Bill.)

Because the truth is, in twenty-five years of doing pools, there’s nothing I have enjoyed more than tweaking the nose of the Powers That Be by pointing out that the Emperor of Salt Has No Clothes.

At first, I was nervous about it. I knew what I was seeing – ruined coping and decks, rusted diving boards and handrails, disintegrating heaters, odd discolorations in plaster – and everything I read and researched said it was salt and electrolysis and stray current corrosion and galvanic corrosion that was doing it. But every time I asked someone in the industry - some of those self same folks who get their pictures and bio’s in the industry magazines - they’d tell me I was crazy, or that I was seeing things, and they’d remind me of all that acid I did in the sixties, and… anyway. But I went ahead and posted everything I was seeing to this blog.

And, boy, did I hit a chord. Turns out the Good Guys in this industry – and there are some. Not as many as I had hoped, but some pretty Heavy Hitters, whose hearts, it turns out, are in the right place, even if they are muzzled somewhat by their success – these Good Guys started writing to me and encouraging me to keep it up, to keep the bastard’s Feet to the Fire. So I did.

I suppose that, after a fashion, it did get me into the trade magazines. Quoted as “an anonymous blogger”, the dust I kicked up and the pictures I sent in made grist for a few articles and got everybody talking a little more openly and honestly about the destruction of pools and decks and equipment by salt systems. But only after a fashion. Because for everybody who reached inside their jeans and rummaged around and found that they still had a pair and admitted that they were seeing the same problems I was seeing, there were legions of naysayers who called me a liar and a troublemaker and worse. Those were pretty much the salt manufacturers and their reps.

Imagine that.

And then there was that great, vast middle who said nothing. If you find yourself getting a little red in the face as you read that last line, then, yeah, I’m talking to you.

You sat there and you said nothing. You watched pools fall apart. You watched people get hyped and pressured into buying those hunk of junk salt systems. You listened to those people rant and rave about how soft their water felt when you knew that their pools were going to fall apart in a year or two.

And you said nothing.

Now, I’m not talking to those of you who were actually selling these systems to your customers after the truth started coming out. You guys are just crooks. You’re what gives our business its well earned Rep. The sooner you all find a new hustle and move on and out of the Pool Biz, the better. But, of course you won’t. I mean, you all obfuscated for all this time about salt systems, hid the truth and kept selling and selling and made piles of money doing it, and then pretty much walked away from all the liability. As easy as that was, you’ll probably all sign up to sell ionizers next. And get away with that, too, I suspect.

No, I’m talking to that vast middle right now. There’s an e-mail I got the other day that I want you to read:

“Pool Guy:

Just got finished reading your blog postings concerning SWG’s and wow, you the man! We switched to a salt system two years ago and have noticed corrosion of our Texas flagstone over the last year. I keep seeing light pink dust/sandy particles and blamed my sons for NOT cleaning the pool good enough. The tile line is also flagstone, and it is gritty/dusty. Our pool is ten years old, and am getting estimates to resurface. Wanna know something interesting, more pathetic now that I have read your blogs, only one acknowledge a problem w/SWG and flagstone and suggested I seal it before replastering. Can’t guarantee the sealer though and I wonder why!
Others are clueless. I still have the normal chlorinator intact, so will make a switch FAST.

So, Pool Guy, before I invest more $$ into this, can you advise me please on this remodel? I did not read anything on your blog about ‘what to do if you have corrosion’. Know any reputable pool renovators and pool service companies in the Houston area? Needless to say, I am frustrated with this whole issue and want to start from scratch. So for a $1500 salt water system, I am estimating am now going to have shell out close to $10,000 to renovate this 25,000 gallon pool! Maybe less if can get the flagstone back to normal. You are right, one born everyday; two years ago was my day, and don’t plan to have another one any time in the near future!

Thanks for your input and being so forthcoming. It was refreshing to read your articles.”

And this is exactly what I’ve been talking about for the last fourteen months. Here’s a pool owner who bought into THE INDUSTRY HYPE just two short years ago and went with salt. Now, she’s seeing her stone deteriorate and when she asks The Remodel Contractors Who Are Supposed To Know About These Things, Especially Since We As An Industry Have Been Talking About It In Earnest For The Last Year, all but one of them say they haven’t heard anything about it.

But it’s really not that they haven’t heard about it. The truth is that everybody’s still afraid to say, “Yeah, whoever sold you that salt system ought to be on the hook for all this salt damaged stone. And hey, didn’t the Owner’s Manual or the Installation Instructions have any warnings about salt maybe not being compatible with certain types of stone? Well, maybe you should talk to your salt system manufacturer about their liability in all of this. Of course, you’ll want to take a shower after you get off the phone…”

Now, if you turn about six pages into your most recent issue of Pool & Spa News, you’ll see that Deck O Seal, the name we’ve all known and trusted since we first started driving around with a pole sticking out of the back of our truck now has a product called Deck O Shield, and their ad asks, “Is your deck too salty for your taste?” Further down, they say, “protects against salt and stains by limiting salt penetration.”

Then, on page 140, there’s a big ad from SR Smith introducing their salt friendly rails and slides and diving boards, with a really cool “Salt Pool Approved” logo. Go to for more information.

So, if a guy who’s Remodeling Pools For A Living – you know, Feeding His Family With The Proceeds Of His Work In The Pool Industry – if he took, say, thirty minutes a month to thumb through a magazine, then he would know what we’re talking about… Wouldn’t You Say?

Otherwise, you’d just have to assume he knows about it and is such a gutless turd that he doesn’t want to “throw the other guy under the bus”, which as I’ve said before is the same as holding the door open for the bank robbers so that they’ll like you later.

And this customer in Houston is stuck with thousands of dollars of stone damage because we, as an industry, didn’t know enough about what we were selling to warn her that this would happen, and since we’ve all admitted that, hell, yes, this is happening, nobody-I-mean-nobody is stepping up and doing the John Wayne thing and saying, “Hu-yeah, that’s our fault. We’ll make good on that for ya, little lady.”

Multiply her damages times every pool with a salt system and any of the myriad items that it’s incompatible with and tell me how many million dollars this Industry Wide Black Eye is going to cost our customers.

Just ask yourself, how many thousand copper heaters are failing in silence?

So, how did we make the leap from rumblings out in the field about salt issues to a few articles about how bad salt was with certain types of stone to a shift in the industry where we openly sell products to prevent damage from salt and products guaranteed to be salt resistant? What happened to the Go Back And Clean Up The Mess We Made And Are Still Making On All Those Pools That Are Falling Apart Around Their Salt System?

I mean, how do you advertise cupro nickel heat exchangers as being the answer to the problem of salt eating up copper heat exchangers and not at least send a one paragraph letter to folks with copper heaters and salt systems and warn them that their heaters are at risk?

How do you talk about the benefits of cupro nickel, which implies the unsuitability of copper, and not at least put a note in your installation instructions not to install a salt system on copper plumbed pools?

Seriously, I want to know. How does a guy who’s rep’ing for one of the larger full line companies stand at a showbooth and talk about salt resistant materials in his heater and then deny that those same materials are necessary when he turns around and tries to talk someone into backfitting all of his service pools with salt?

Or, how, when more and more of The Entire World is concerned with the viability of our drinking water do you use the words “all natural and environmentally friendly” when you’re talking about adding a pollutant to water?

The EPA’s Drinking Water Candidate Contaminant List.

Or, has anybody read the recent articles that now have a second federal agency, the FDA, gunning for salt?

Business Week's Take On It

The NY Times Take On It

Or, how about the fact that salt systems still explode. Like this:

This is from a recent explosion in France. It’s documented on a POOL FORUM HERE

Unless you speak French, you’ll need to cut and paste the text HERE (Google Translate) to get an approximate translation. What I find just hilarious in this whole thread about the exploding chlorinator is that everybody in the thread seems quite content because the E Bay seller stood good on the warranty for a new salt cell. Think about it. These folks probably had a hydrogen gas explosion in their back yard, scattering shards of plastic everywhere, like shrapnel from a grenade, and everybody’s happy because they have a new salt cell for free that, hopefully, won’t blow up like the last one.


But the funniest part of these last fourteen months to me, and what should be the most instructive to you, is that nobody’s ever done anything to try to make me Cease and Desist. And while I blog anonymously as The Pool Guy, it’s pretty much an open secret who I am to those who took the time to find out. And yet, nothing earth shattering has happened to me. And believe it or not, none of my customers have held it against me for telling them the truth. Which is exactly why no one’s done anything to stop me; because I’m not lying

So, the next time you’re faced with some new bullshit gadget that Our Industry wants you to ram down the throats of your customers, Just Say No.

Then go blog about it.


Also a Pool Guy said...

I haven't been around in a while, I got trashed in my last post because I incorrectly assumed we as pool guys could communicate and not argue the semantics of questionable statements. Just to clear it up, I said the pH is "considered" neutral at 7.6 in a pool. Homeowners are trained by us that the ideal pH is 7.4-7.6 for the pool and they consider that neutral because they are used to seeing a test kit scale which goes from 7.0-8.2.

Anyway, I guess I am not pissed that you trash salt, people have a disdain for things that others don't and that is ok. it's just that you put out your opinion as though it is solely the big 3's fault that all of this supposed damage was actually caused by the chlorinator jumping off the wall, running over to the stone, taking out its built in chisel and hammer and tearing it up, The problems you describe and I agree with you that they exist, exist mostly in Texas where you have soft limestone that for some reason you feel doesn't need to be sealed to protect it. Would you buy a car and never wax it to protect the finish. Does the manufacturer really have to tell you that you need to take care of the products that you purchase. I run a business too and I purchase items to make my life more comfortable and I don't need anyone to tell me that I need to take care of it. I do it inherently because as you know things you work your but off for you want them to be around in their original condition for as long as possible, so you research and find out the best ways to take care of you things.

You strike me as one of those guys who even though they know that they are wrong about random topic, can't just say "got it, I made a mistake, I'll move on from it, and not do it again". You dwell on it and turn into a vendetta because it's easier to do that than move on. Now, I know that you aren't a pool builder who installs the soft Texas limestone without sealing it, but you are echoing the complaints and taking up the cause of installers that didn't install a prduct correctly (not sealing it), didn't educate the receivors of those products on how to take care of it (you have to seal it).
The problems really seem isolated to Texas because here in Florida, the complaints are few and far between. I read you post where you described pools that exist in Florida. You are wrong about your assumption that we have mostly pool onlys here. I would argue that there are an equal number pool/spa combos. In the last 5 years or so, natural stone has become a very popular pool building material in all of its various forms. Your corrosion issues that you describe are also few and far between here probably because we are one of the toughest states with California and Maryland (of all places)to build a pool from the standpoint of inspections and enforcement of proper building practices. Metal connections corrode when current flows over them. Current can't flow over them if the electrical potential is the same between them. There has to a difference in potential for current to flow. How do you know that of all the corrosion issues you have seen, all of them had intact bonding grids with properly made connections to the steel, in the light niches, to the handrails, etc. Salt doesn't create stray current in a pool, it magnifies the problem which is that you have stray current in the pool. As you may know, it provides a more conductive solution for it to move around in. But, in a pool that is PROPERLY bonded, and according to the principle of the Farraday cage, that current won't flow in the cage only out to the ground.
No amount of writing will convince you to change the pesimistic, negative view that you have of a lot of things I guess, but for some reason, it is kind of addicting to read your words and argue with you. By the way, all of the pictures of the cleaners, heaters, etc you posted could have easily been a week or so of low pH pool water not a mild saline solution. I've been taking apart cleaners and heaters for years too and you can't prove that salt is what caused that damage.

Lastly, and I hate to ask because I'm holding out hope that your next post will be something positive. Why not just use Potassium chloride instead. Would that please you since it isn't salt. You can make chlorine just the same and it is a doctor recommended alternative for people who use water softeners and also have hypertension. I use it in my pool because I have no deck just artificial rock with grass planted right up to the edge. I didn't need a manufacturer's rep to tell me that salt is no good for the grass when water splashes out. Jeez, I figured that out from Sunday school when i was a kid. It's been a while but aren't there references to salting the soil. Maybe not, who cares, it's common sense anyway.

Let her rip, I'm ready!!!

The Pool Guy said...

Ding,ding,ding,ding,ding... We have a Winner! Also A Pool Guy is back.

Some suggestions:

Work on your repartee. Your insults are a little weak. They could use some punching up.

Your grammer was passable, and much better than last time. Though you missed a couple of question marks and there should have been two t's in "worked my but off..."

Did you finally get that GED?

Also, you seemed to have misplaced your carriage return key about halfway down your rant.

You see, spacing between thoughts, and even within thoughts, is important. It can convey what you're saying more forcefully. Often, I use paragraph spacing to punctuate a particularly sharp barb in what would otherwise be the middle of the paragraph. You know, sorta driving the old stake through the heart of someone I think is totally full of shit.

Like now.

See how well that works?

Maybe it's those kinds of things about my writing that you find addicting. Perhaps as much how I say it as what I'm saying?

And just one question, if-ya-dont-mind-me-askin... Whatever happened to that blog of yours, "Another View Of THEPOOLBUSINESS"?

You know, that one where you were going to respond to all of my hooey and prove to the Pool World that "I'm right and The Pool Guy's wrong"?

Here we are a whole year after you started your blog and you haven't posted a single thing to it. Yet you take the time to come to my blog and submit your rants for me to publish for you. What's up with that?

Is it just easier to sit in the cheap seats and take potshots than to do any research of your own and post your own findings and photos to refute what I'm saying?

Is it?

Do you see how I used spacing again there?

It really can be an effective tool. You know, it kind of implies a foot stamping pause of me pretending to wait here in cyberspace for an answer we all know you're not going to give.

Don't we?


Also a Pool Guy said...

Sorry if my repatee isn't up to your a@%holeish standards. I was trying to be direct without being a complete d@ck such that you wouldn't edit out my comments and not post them.

Another View is a work in progress. I haven't yet figured out how to manage a blog as well as a service business, kids, etc. Maybe you have, oh wait, maybe you haven't because by your own words in your own post, your wife thinks you're an ass. Does creating another blog mean I can't talk to you anymore?

Maybe next time, you could defend your position and answer the question I posed to you at the end instead of attacking my gramatical errors. Don't you have anything to say, oh wait again, we've already established that you are one of those guys who calls names and attacks gramatical mistakes when you know you are full of sh@t.

Look at that King A@@hole I properly spaced everything and used question marks. Good Day!

The Pool Guy said...

Gosh. I've hurt your feelings. Haven't I? I feel just terrible. I guess you told me, huh?

Just one thing...

Where do you Wingnuts get off sending me these snarky comments and then act so offended when I get snarky back at ya? I'm sorry that I'm light years better at it than you are. Not my fault. You should have paid more attention during Composition.

What snarky comments, you may ask? Why, these:

"'s just that you put out your opinion as though it is solely the big 3's fault that all of this supposed damage was actually caused by the chlorinator jumping off the wall, running over to the stone, taking out its built in chisel and hammer and tearing it up."

and, "You strike me as one of those guys who even though they know that they are wrong about random topic, can't just say "got it, I made a mistake, I'll move on from it, and not do it again". You dwell on it and turn into a vendetta because it's easier to do that than move on."

I mean, really. Who do you think you are to pretend to know me or to know what I'm like?

Then, there's this: "No amount of writing will convince you to change the pesimistic [sic], negative view that you have of a lot of things..."

Oh-Dear-God-in-Heaven-Please... You work in the pool industry, and you see the junk that passes for pool equipment being pawned off on our customers year in and year out - filter tanks that crack because they chose the wrong material to mold them from, entire model runs of heaters that won't fire with any reliability and eventually have to be replaced without ever giving a single day of reliable service, pumps that gobble up and disintegrate their impellers and diffusers, valves that weep and leak the first time they're exposed to the least amount of heat and end up taking down a pump or two because a double O-ringed diverter shaft is sucking air (and by the way, double o-rings are the hallmark of shoddy engineering and poor design practices), temp sensors that fail over and over and over and over again, circuit boards that catch on fire if you add salt to the pool while they're running... I could go on and on, but anyway... - and you call me a pessimist because I choose to write and expose a scam that's not only screwing people out of the money they spent to buy the damn salt box, but is costing them thousands more by ruining their pool through all the mechanisms that I've documented in this blog and that you half heartedly admit I'm right about.

YOU KNOW why these things are happening because this is what you do for a living, and yet you expect pool owners to know it, too, even though the manufacturer of the equipment, who knows even more about these issues than you or me, says not a word in any documentation about compatibility of materials - stone, cementious or metal - the possibilities of galvanic or stray current corrosion, or any of the other maladies common to salt pools. I'm not talking about in their sales brochures. I'm talking about in the owner's and installation manuals where you're supposed to stop selling and start instructing.

Who do you think came up with the idea to change the oil in internal combustion engines? Do you think that people who bought Henry Ford's first Flivvers just knew, through osmosis, that they were supposed to change the oil every so often? It was because THE MANUFACTURER told them to.

When timing belts first came on the scene, do you think that a bunch of guys were shooting the bull in the garage and decided that since timing belts are different than timing chains, they ought to replace them every so often? It was THE MANUFACTURER.

And why did they do it? Because they wanted their customers to have a rewarding experience with their product, and not have to rebuild their engine when the belt flipped. Nor did they want to have the liability for not telling them.

You will make a fine Sales Rep some day.

But getting back to your post from Thursday night. You start off by saying, "I haven't been around in a while, I got trashed in my last post because I incorrectly assumed we as pool guys could communicate and not argue the semantics of questionable statements."


The last thing I said to you in comments was, "I hope you'll continue to contribute. I don't think we are that far apart, really. I especially felt that when I read, 'granted, some of the reps in our industry have less than 100% integrity' ".

Remember? And it wasn't just me that was taking issue with your playing fast and loose with the facts in your comments. It was Baboosa, who has put me on to more good information and spurred more research with his insightful comments than anybody else who's posted here, and Another Pool Guy, who took exception to your redefining "neutral pH".

But more than anything, it was the pretensions of your blog, Another View. Which, by the way, is SO NOT a "work in progress", pal. You have to have worked on it for it to be a work in progress. All you did was register it OVER A YEAR AGO. That wasn't any harder than getting your logon name, Also a Pool Guy.

Which reminds me to say that everything about you is a hollow copy of me. I'm The Pool Guy. You're Also a Pool Guy. My blog is The Pool Biz. Your blog is Another Look At The POOLBUSINESS. Yeah, yeah. I know. If only you could find the time, you'd write that blog, you'd make a difference in our industry, you'd tell me, by golly...

Come on, dude. Get a life of your own and quit trying to borrow mine.

You got questions? Ask them and keep the sarcasm to yourself. Maybe then we can have a discussion. Because if you look at the comments of any blog piece - and I post them all, except the spam - you'll see that the only ones that get filleted around here are the ones that think it would be a good idea to toddle over to the old Pool Biz Blog and insult the Pool Guy. I get e-mails from homeowners with questions all the time, and I do my best to answer them. They ask simple, straightforward questions AND THEY DON'T INSULT ME and they get answers.

Try it.

As Ever,