I did it.

Tad Troilo Don't get me wrong, I've done it before. Really, I have. But never this fast.

The phone conversation started nicely.

"Are you capable of designing kitchens?" she asked. When I answered in the affirmative, she continued. "I'm looking to completely remodel my kitchen. I need to start from scratch. I need new everything."

Certainly sounded promising. I took out a fresh lead sheet and tried to introduce myself.

"I'm Ta–" was as far as I got.

"And countertops, I need all new countertops," she interrupted. "And windows. Do you sell windows?"

"We sell a variety of?"

"Do you sell flooring?"

"What kind of?"

"Because I need new flooring."

"We sell?"

"You know, this house isn't very old, but the décor is completely wrong, utterly awful," she told me. "I'll need new everything, really."

At this point, I had a suspicion that I would be doing it. I couldn't tell you exactly why. Call it instinct.

"Let me tell you some of the products we?" I started, intending to tell her about what we offer.

"And about the cabinets," she broke in. "I want to paint them."

"You want a painted finish," I confirmed. "All of our custom manufacturers offer painted finishes."

"And so they'll paint mine."

"Your what?"

"My cabinets, of course," she said with a snort.

"Which cabinets?"

"For my kitchen. I told you, I need a brand-new kitchen."

"Right," I agreed, thinking we were back on track. "The cabinets you order for your kitchen."

"Why would I order cabinets for my kitchen?" she asked incredulously.

"You said you wanted?"

"I said this house isn't very old," she told me. "I said that very clearly. The cabinets are in fine shape. They must be painted. Simply must be. They are awful."

I almost did it right then and there, but she still seemed to have a lot of work on the table. Windows, flooring, countertops...I decided to wait before I did it.

After trying rather unsuccessfully to explain that we sell new cabinets with factory-applied finish, I broke the news that we do not deface or paint existing cabinets.

"You said you do kitchens," she gasped.

"I said we design and sell?" I tried.

"Well, anyway, still, everything has to go here. Let's talk about the floor. It has to go."

"Let's schedule an appointment so I can show you?"

"You show me?" she asked. "I would think that I should show you."

"Show me what?"

"The floor! The floor! We were talking about my floor!" she exclaimed. "I want it refinished in a much lighter shade."

So the floor that had to go really just had to be sanded and stained. And the windows? She didn't want windows. She wanted treatments.

When all was said and done, she was looking for a few plumbing fixtures, new counters, and a lot of miscellaneous carpentry. It's all work and material that we are happy to provide and sell.

Nevertheless, I knew I was going to do it.

This is something you always talk about doing. You even tell others they should do it more often. But when it comes right down to it, it is a very difficult thing to do. She made it easy for me, though, and I thank her for that. (You know, I don't think I even got her name.) Something about her tone, her attitude, the way she thought about her home and the project really made it the easiest thing to do.

I turned her business down.

I politely told her we'd pass on the opportunity to quote the material and work. We could have used a few more sales that month, but no one wants to bring in problem clients. Rarely are they worth the aggravation.

"Well, I wished you'd have told me that sooner, I don't like my time wasted," she hissed and hung up.

The call had lasted all of six minutes.

–Tad Troilo is a manager for Cranmer's Kitchens by Design in Yardley, Pa.
E-mail: tadtroilo@mac.com