The Empty Booth
Bringing a smart home device into your life to help you is not just a time and money investment, it’s an emotional investment. Think about the emotional attachment people feel for a car or the expectations of longevity people have for the wallpaper they choose. The best companies understand this emotional connection, which is why Amazon’s Echo answers to Alexa.
We’ve had our own heartbreaks. In the early days of our smart home (back in 2014), we hunted all the Home Depots in the area and showed up on the day after Thanksgiving to pick up a Wink Relay for $299. We thought it was the greatest thing ever until it became a flakey eyesore we removed after more than a year of not using it. We brought home a Mother that stared at us from the closet and reminded us to take our vitamins until it finally stopped working without notice a year ago. We’ve tried smart home hubs from Lowe’s and Staples that we expected to have longevity and support as a retail brands, but both of those shut down long ago.
When these smart home devices don’t work, we don’t just feel silly, we feel betrayed – a device or a company we thought was going to be there for us didn’t fulfill their commitment. It’s worse when someone follows our advice – one of the earliest comments on our blog was – “I bought a Wink Relay because of you guys!” We are so sorry, whoever you are.
While we still try a lot of new things, we take our recommendations seriously. If we think a product sucks, we don’t review it. If it’s not perfect, but close, we will work with the company to help before we review. We understand how hard it is to get these products right, so we don’t want to tear the companies down, but we also don’t want people spending hundreds of bucks on something that doesn’t work.
We especially love working with startup companies. These founders have so much energy and are putting in many hours and their own money to get these new products out, and we find ourselves getting attached to the people and their stories. There are some products we have persisted with testing, maybe too long, just because we really like the people. Sometimes we need to stop and ask ourselves, if these people weren’t so nice, would we really buy their products? Most people who buy and install smart home gadgets will never talk to the CEO of the company.
Recently we heard about a smart home company – it wasn’t a new product but it was new to us. A friend reached out and suggested we take a look and have a chat with the CEO.
We looked at the website and thought it was interesting, but weren’t sure if it was for us. It is a lighting product that automatically adjusts to your needs, the time of day, or what you are doing in your home. It seemed expensive, and it would be complicated for us to fully test. But since our friend suggested it, we went ahead and talked to the CEO.
We really liked him and his story resonated with us – he had started buying some smart home products and installing them but didn’t like the harsh bright lighting, and based on extensive wellness research, decided to focus on this particular problem. He was smart and engaging and we decided we’d like to help, so we planned to get some of the products to test and review.
After a couple of months, we still hadn’t heard back from the CEO, but we knew he was scheduled to be at an upcoming trade show we were planning to attend. It took us a while to find the booth because it was in an obscure health and wellness section in the back of the show, in front of a big truck with a meditation room inside.
When we finally found the booth, all we saw was a paper sign taped to the top of the exhibit space, and two cords hanging out of a hole in the center of the kiosk. Two guys in fancy suits were hanging out at the desk working on their laptops, definitely not tech startup guys.
“Where is the company that is supposed to be here?” we asked.
“We don’t know,” the guys said. “They never showed up. Too bad because we were looking forward to meeting them!”
We don’t know what happened to the empty booth. It could be a sad story – maybe he ran out of cash, or it could be a happy story – maybe someone is planning to buy his company for millions and he had to stay home and work on the deal. We hope for the best – but we are glad we didn’t bring it into our home and get attached.