I sell industrial piping equipment, particularly for the power generation industry. It's actually more exciting than it sounds, because I talk to people all over the world, and every day there's a new challenge.
Yesterday's challenge was a discussion with a project manager (PM), of Asian background, who wanted to know if one of my products would work in service conditions of 450 degrees Celsius. This equates to 842 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, the product he was buying (sorry, I should say bought....we shipped it last week, and he chose now to see if it will work with that temperature) was made out of cast carbon steel, which has a limit of 800 degrees Fahrenheit.
On top of that, this guy's math was really bad, he was basically asking if it was that big a deal if there was only a 22 degree difference (he thought it was 822 degrees...it took me time to convince him that the website worldwidemetric.com is never wrong). Unfortunately, carbon steel, when exposed to temperatures over 800 degrees, undergoes a chemical process called "graphitization." Basically, it breaks down. We had the following exchange of words on the phone:
PM: Is it that big a deal that it’s only 40 degrees higher then the limit?
Me: Yes. You have temperature limits for a reason.
PM: What will happen?
Me: Catastrophic failure.
PM: (pause) OK…...
Me: That’s not a good thing.
PM: But it will only see that temperature occasionally.
Me: If you use this item at that temp, the warranty is voided.
PM: Oh. OK. What can you sell me that will work with this temperature?
Me: (fights urge to rub hands together and say, in a C. Montgomery Burns voice, "excellent"): I'll have to get back to you.
It scares me that me and my 4 years of a Political Science degree have more knowledge than a guy with a 5 year engineering degree.