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Cage-free eggs, free-range chicken, and “save the world” solar

by Greg Krehbiel on 8 February 2018

Some people I know are going on a diet that has some rather strange requirements. You’re allowed to eat cage-free eggs and free-range chicken, but not other eggs or chicken.

That sort of thing annoys me. I know there are claims that a cage-free egg is more nutritious than an evil corporate egg, but I doubt it’s all that significant. Same with the free-range chicken.

If somebody wants to make an ethical argument that birds shouldn’t be mistreated, fine. But I get annoyed when people try to slide their social views into other things. If I’m asking a question about nutrition, I don’t want it to be clouded with somebody’s agenda. And it seems like everything has some agenda attached to it these days.

Same with solar panels.

I had a rep from Tesla come by and talk about solar panels for our house. Despite telling him several times that I really don’t care about his save the world agenda, he kept on about it. All I wanted to know was whether solar had gotten to the point that they would save me money. (Answer: not quite.)

If the selling point for solar is that they’re cost efficient and can keep the lights on when there’s a power outage (in conjunction with a battery, of course), great. I’m all for that. But if the selling point is some meta story about destroying the planet, I don’t care.

2018-02-08  »  Greg Krehbiel

Talkback x 8

  1. Dave Krehbiel Dave Krehbiel
    8 February 2018 @ 9:14 am

    In both cases, the free range chicken and the solar panels, proponents are trying to lead you to make an emotional decision, rather than a logical decision.

    And that is smart, because research shows that people make decisions based on emotions, not logic.

    This creates a challenge for sales organizations. If they invest the time to try to develop rapport and trust and to truly understand what a person wants, it is unlikely the person’s heartfelt desires will match up with the company’s product and service offerings.

    And so most companies will continue to try to reach you on an emotional level, rather than a logical level.

  2. Robin R.
    8 February 2018 @ 9:44 am

    It seems to me that a kind of hyper-altruism has come to prevail in the public sphere. Back in the 60s and 70s I heard a lot about society becoming amoral. You’d have thought that by now we’d be into a phase of “everything is permitted”. But here we are biting our nails about the suffering of animals, future generations, and the planet as such. (Some people seem to be concerned about the planet regardless of its effects on human beings.)

    It all supports my thesis that the public sphere is intrinsically moralistic.

    I am looking forward to the next time someone tries to sell me a hyper-altruistic product. I’m going to say that I just don’t care because I am a total psychopath.

  3. pentamom
    8 February 2018 @ 12:31 pm

    Dave makes a good point. People like you (and me) who simply want to bypass the “save the world” stuff and know whether the product is useful and cost effective *for us* are probably the minority; most people are at least a bit susceptible to the “good feeling” of thinking they’re doing something “for the planet.”

    But once again, it comes down to salesman savvy. A good salesman will know both that most people will warm to a product if it makes the more moral, AND that when some people clearly signal they have no interest in that angle, they will appreciate you all the more if you focus on what they actually want to know. Salesmen are experts in getting you to think you want something, but they ought to realize the limitations of that and know when to go for giving you what you’ve already told them you want.

  4. Ken Crawford
    8 February 2018 @ 6:55 pm

    While I agree selling to emotions is a very good tactic (for sales), there’s possibly another thing going on as well. When a sales person knows their product doesn’t excel along one line of reasoning, they work very hard to find a different one to justify the purchase.

    Out here in California some of the power companies have *VERY* aggressive price tiers. So your 1st kWHs of energy is only $0.12, but if one is a power hog (or has a big family/house), they’ll pay $0.48 for most of their kWH.

    So for people in those power districts, it makes sense to get solar to cover about half their energy to cover the kWHs that are the high cost ones. And as a results, the ads on the TV and the in person sales people heavily push the cost savings angle.

    What’s interesting is that I’m not in one of those power districts and when they contact me, they’re so trained to go the cost savings route, they don’t even think to go the “save the world” route when the numbers pencil out poorly.

  5. William
    9 February 2018 @ 1:53 pm

    @Ken, interesting you should mention this. Just yesterday I received a sales call from a power company. It was a hard sell from the start, designed to get a potential customer to jump on the bandwagon quickly. The rep immediately and repeatedly focused on how I could save money. So, I asked a couple of simple questions like: “how much money would I save?” and “what are the terms and conditions?”. She was befuddled and didn’t have any clear responses. By her reaction, it seemed most potential customers hear “saving money” and don’t ask questions. They just provide the requested information and sign-up.

    I don’t believe in a “free lunch”. Companies typically don’t call to save you money out of the goodness of their hearts. The first question that comes to mind is…”what’s in it for them?”. After a brief inane discussion, I got the rep to give me the company name. Interestingly enough, she wanted me to sign up but was somewhat reluctant to provide information about the company. Although suspicious, I decided it was worth doing a little research to verify the rep’s claims. After all, who doesn’t want to save money, if all other things are equal?

    Well, wouldn’t you know, if I had signed-up, the kWH rate would have been “higher” than my current rate and there would have been a $100 termination fee if I cancelled prior to 6 months. I wonder how many people have been “duped” by their offer and not even realize it. It’s a familiar lesson but true…you always have to read the “fine print”.

  6. Ken Crawford
    12 February 2018 @ 9:48 am

    @William, sounds like that was a pitch for a solar lease, which are notoriously bad for the customer. With the worst of them, the customer still foots the bill even if the panels don’t produce as much power as expected, which theoretically is the one scenario a lease would be advantageous over just buying them yourself. But even if it’s a “good” lease where that one scenario is to the customer’s advantage, in just about every other scenario, the company gets all the upside and the customer gets all the downside.

    If you’re going to do solar, buy the panels yourself.

  7. William
    12 February 2018 @ 10:44 am

    @Ken, agreed! I’ve have more solar panel sales calls than should be allowed by the law. They seem “astonished” when I tell them I’m not interested and I’m waiting for the technology to evolve and market to mature. It’s almost as if they don’t have a good come back after they tout how all your neighbors are getting on board and you still refuse. I still marvel how some make significant investments without doing basic research. They just accept the sales person’s claims as fact.

    A newer sales technique is “let us do a FREE assessment”. So, it appears the company is giving you something and showing you how you could save money. There’s a whole lot to “ifs” in their report and they can’t give the consumer any assurance that they fit within their modeling. Yet, in the fine print, if they sign up, most consumers are likely to be left holding the bag.

  8. smitemouth
    12 February 2018 @ 1:07 pm

    How hail resistant are those things? I have never been called or approached about solar panels. I think our weather here, tornadoes and hail, might make them unattractive. I think our $/kwh might be cheaper here than other places…but that’s just a guess.

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