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.
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:
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 www.saltfriendly.com 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.