Buyer’s Remorse Strikes Again

The importance of understanding the implications of your decisions.

One winter evening, I was lighting a fire when I noticed the little wiggle in the fireplace door had become more like a nasty lurch. Not long after that it fell off its hinges. When I had the fireplace cleaned they tried to fix it but my chimney guy said I was going to need new doors. We very gingerly opened and closed the door from then on. This year, after it once again fell off, sending little parts in every direction, I set out to get the doors replaced. Here’s what I found: on my particular pre-fab, zero clearance fireplace you CAN’T replace the doors. Plus they don’t make spare parts to fix it.

Well isn’t this something I should have known before I made the decision to go with this type of fireplace? I picked everything from floor layout to switch plate covers in this house. How did this important caveat not come up? My contractor never said “Basically, the shelf life on this fireplace (aka hazard) is XYZ years and then you’re in deep doo-doo.”

So there I was wallowing in regret. I had a huge case of buyer’s remorse. And I was stuck with crappy doors.

Then I got to thinking about it. My contractor was like the engineering team on a projectbuyers remorse – be it software or business process. Their job is to assess requirements and give solutions. He did that. I said I want a fireplace. It needs to be in the living room and burn real wood. He said you can go pre-fab or masonry. I made a choice.

What I didn’t know was there would be downstream implications to my choice. I was blind to these. I didn’t have anyone to guide me to a deeper degree of understanding of my selection. Had I known all of the little details, the value proposition of the solutions would have changed a great deal. I may have made a different choice. Even if I didn’t, I would know what was likely to happen and plan for it. Sounds a little like some projects I’ve seen.

There is a person or a team, let’s call them analysts, that gather up what your needs are – your requirements. You verify what has been collected is accurate and that info goes off to the engineers to create a fix to your problem. You get alternatives and you make a decision. (Yes, I am greatly simplifying.)

Only, just like in my situation, the real depth of understanding may not be there and you may not know it. Ideally your analyst needs to help you think through the broader implications. You have to ask the Not So Obvious I Mean Really Way Out There Questions so there are no surprises later on, or risk experiencing buyer’s remorse. (Let’s face it nobody is happy when the client has regrets.) To avoid that, the analyst needs to help you make an informed decision.

All too often, the analyst only focuses on giving as much info as possible to the people proposing the solutions. They piece they are missing is going back to the client with as much info as possible about what each option means at every level. Information needs to flow through your analyst’s desk in both directions.

But let’s not put this all on the analysts. The clients have obligations too. I should have stopped and thought carefully about my choices. Possibly I needed to do my own research. I should have posed many more questions than I did. The same applies to your project.

If you are the client, don’t settle for just receiving the options and then make the choice out there on your own. Your analysts are the liaison between you and the engineer types. They speak both languages – business-ease and technical superstar. Get them to ask questions on your behalf, solicit their input, gather up the information you need from them. It may or may not slow you down during the planning for your project but it will certainly help you avoid regrets at completion time. There is nothing worse than wrapping up your project only to find that you solved one problem but created two more you didn’t foresee.

How are you actively avoiding buyer’s remorse on your project?

Are you giving Conscious Consideration™ to your decisions?  Use Maple to help you think deeply or even just create Pro & Con lists at

Originally published on November 15, 2011

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