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Neat-O: Cable Guy Makes a Mess

The cable guy is out to get this CE pro and he has photos to prove it. Check out what happens to this wiring job after the cable guy shows up.

Geoffrey Oldmixon · October 2, 2009

Before and after photos don’t always show improvement. Sometimes they show devolution and destruction — and that destruction can come quickly when your clients welcome the cable guy into their homes.

“This is kind of backwards,” says Peter Marks, sales engineer with Jacksonville, Fla.-based First Coast Entertainment, about his “Neat-O!” submission. “The ‘Before’ is how we leave the panel; the ‘After’ is what happens when the cable guy comes.”

First Coast Entertainment is a low-voltage integrator that works with builders in new developments. In each home, First Coast prewires for home theater, multiroom audio, etc. It also installs a single structured wiring panel. All of this is done before the newly built home has its first homeowner.

From there, it can really go downhill. “I get phone calls from the builder or from the homeowner,” Marks says. “The cable guy’s been there, and nothing works. He’ll screw it up and start unplugging stuff. He might have shorted something out or only found one phone line.”

But it Gets Worse

“If it’s the wrong cable guy or phone guy, then he immediately throws me under the bus,” Marks explains. “The homeowner will call me and go, ‘I have no TV, no phone, and I have the cable guy right here telling me your stuff is useless.”

Neat-O Tips
“Document everything,” says Peter Marks, sales engineer with Jacksonville, Fla.-based First Coast Entertainment. “Always clearly label your wires, leave a schedule on the inside of panel cover and take pictures of the trimmed panel.”

If possible, advises Marks, find out which TV, Internet or phone provider the homeowner is planning to use. “Tell the homeowner what to expect from them,” he says. “Remember, even with the best planning, you can’t always be there the day the cable guy is — and believe me, those guys will blame you when they can’t get stuff working.”

Marks continues, “I understand the cable company is a service company, but they don’t respect us at all. He’ll sit in a $1 million-plus home with state-of-the-art structured wiring, and tell the homeowner that what we did sucks. It rolls downhill and hits us right between the eyes.”

Hence, the photos. “So, we started pictures of everything … of the prewire stage, of the panel,” Marks says. “We take pictures so we have a record, and we provide that to the homeowner.”

One minor detail: First Coast Entertainment provides these photos before any cable or phone company arrives to the new home.

“I told the builder, ‘Listen, I need to know when these people are moving in,’” Marks recalls. “So, now I have a small window of time between the sales close and when the homeowner moves in.”

In that small window of time, Marks tells the homeowner how to prepare for the cable company. “I say, ‘See that panel right there? Don’t let the cable guy touch it.’”

Marks provides the homeowner and the cable company with clear instructions: “Just pick a room, and then just put the modem in that room, right on the floor,” Marks says. “And then we’ll come in after the fact, put a router in there, put the modem in the panel.”

“So, now it’s a money-making thing,” Marks says. Instead of being called to fix what someone else broke, he says, “Now we can sell them something legitimately.”

Congratulations to Peter Marks for a Neat-O! installation. We’re looking for over-the-top projects. Cool, unique, tidy or meticulous, share your best work with our readers. E-mail your submissions, with high-resolution images, to managing editor Arlen Schweiger at

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