When you have bad news about a project issue, it’s sometimes better for the customer to hear it from someone besides you.
I appreciated David DeCristoforo’s latest blog on the customer always being right, as I’m facing the same thing right now. In my case, though, it’s a family member and not a customer.
My wife's sister wants me to laminate the top of a large, solid-pine table glued up of 2-by material. This table, by the way, is at her beach house at Cape Hatteras where humidity ranges from almost nothing in the winter to about a thousand percent in the summer.
You already know what’ll happen: The wood will move, the plastic laminate won't, and this project is doomed to fail. The tabletop will probably split when it shrinks. If not, it could cup significantly, probably one direction in the winter and the other in the summer. And depending on the strength of the glue bond, seasonal expansion/contraction could also cause the wood to pull back from the laminate edge in the winter, and stick out from the laminate edge in the summer. In a worst-case scenario, any combination of these could occur.
I've explained all of this, but her sister is insistent. Since I knew that no one will ultimately be happy with the outcome should I proceed, I decided my best course of action was to take my wife shopping for laminate matching the beach house décor. I did this with an ulterior motive, however.
See, I knew that as we compared laminate chips the sales guy would ask about the application the laminate was intended for. We described the project and his reaction was exactly what I had hoped for: His eyes widened in shock, and he told us it would never work for all the reasons I already knew.
But the thing of it is, is that this was someone else telling my wife why it wouldn’t work, not me, and I knew that would carry a lot more weight than just me poo-pooing the idea. Now, I can sit back and let my wife tell her sister that it won’t work, and I’m off the hook. Of course, you can’t do that with a customer.
Unless you’re married to the customer’s sister.