Irrigation System Features
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This is a true story about what goes on behind the scenes at one of the most successful firms in our area. I'm sure it is not unusual, but I hope it leads you to learn about irrigation system features and make sure you get a good system.
It is also our sincere hope that by the time you finish reading this page, you'll think to yourself "Boy, I sure did learn some helpful things here", that you write down or print out these questions so you can ask your various bidders whether they are going to include these features or not, AND, that you can't wait to donate a few bucks to show your gratitude for this free advice.
On with the horror story....
I once interviewed an irrigator working for the largest and most successful irrigation firm in the area where I live. The sales people made all the customer calls. They were all attractive people, smooth talkers, made appointments promptly, made customers feel at ease, as if they were in good hands. One of their responsibilities was to sketch the yard and prepare the bid on the spot, and it was always the lowest bid around. These folks are the picture of courteousness and efficiency, so there appeared to be no reason to go with any of the other guys who had more expensive bids. The sales guy always asked for the sale on the spot, before the customer had a chance to look over anything, and offered to schedule the job at a time that was convenient for the customer. The bid was so low the customer often accepted the bid on the spot. If the customer accepted the bid, the job was scheduled.
On the scheduled day the crew showed up promptly. The irrigator back at the firm has designed the system based on the drawing the sales guy prepared. They all dive into their jobs, at which they have very much experience, and work progresses quickly.
Meanwhile, and this is the scary part that the customer knows nothing about, the field irrigator- who is supposed to be overseeing all aspects of the installation, is dashing around trying to stay on top of several simultaneous jobs. The firm saves money by keeping the number of more highly paid Irrigators to a minimum. The sales guy has never designed a system before, so he often overlooks some important information when he is preparing the site drawing. The irrigator back at the firm has no idea that there might be some special situation to work around. The crew consists of several laborers who have poor communication skills, and are also incapable of recognizing an issue with the design. The supervisor is a Licensed Installer, not a full Licensed Irrigator, and also cannot see design problems.
The crew installs the system quickly and efficiently, as it is designed for fast installation, not for efficient coverage. This irrigator- the guy I was interviewing- often did not even get to visit the job site until the work was essentially complete. By then, he coud see that some serious issues were present, but he did not have the authority to pull the crew back to fix it because more time and parts would be required, and often a portion of the system would need to go back to the firm for redesign. If any of this happens, subsequent customer's schedules would be compromised, future customers would be impacted before they paid for their work to be completed, and installation labor and parts costs would be higher- all big negative factors for the firm. So no action was ever taken to resolve these problems. The bad installation stayed the way it was, and everyone crossed their fingers and hoped the customer did not recognize the problem. Almost always the customer did not understand enough to know anything was wrong.
A dry spot caused by cutting back on only one or two heads can force the customer to water nearly twice as often as would otherwise be needed, more than doubling water costs because of the typical escalating price structure for water. The customers were spending hundreds of dollars a year in water costs unnecessarily. A poorly sited rain switch can make the switch almost totally ineffective. Inappropriate selection of equipment would cause uneven coverage in the wrong situation.
The customers, in the meantime, were very impressed. This firm is the picture of efficiency. They get tons of word-of-mouth referrals. It all comes from how they handle the customer and despite the poor quality of nearly every job they complete.
(Don't mistake where I am coming from here. I do not compete with this firm. I have never lost a job to this firm, and I wouldn't know the firm owner if I bumped into him on the street. All this information comes from a former employee who had no personal grudge against the owner, and from speaking to a number of this firm's customers.)
This irrigator felt trapped in a bad situation, where everyone else who was involved thought they were doing a good job. The firm looks to the customers like the sharpest outfit around, but because irrigation customers do not know what questions to ask, they make decisions based on the wrong factors, and get an inferior system. Make sure to read our irrigation features page to learn what questions to ask so you can be sure to get a quality design an installation.