Recently, when choosing a contractor to remodel my bathroom, I had an experience that I feel directly translates to the pool and spa industry.

The job was easy — if my bathroom were a pool, it would be a simple rectangle on a flat lot with no extra features or tricky soil.

I obtained five separate bids, and narrowed my selection to two companies. Both had excellent references and sales reps who struck me as honest and competent. However, they were not quite equal.

The first rep, Kyle, clearly had a handle on the job. His work samples looked good, his thoughts on my bathroom showed a high level of experience, and his bid was dead center of the pack.

Next, I met John, who shared all of Kyle’s strengths, but added a few of his own.

Whereas Kyle wore a T-shirt and jeans, John arrived in Dockers and a polo shirt bearing the company logo. Kyle supplied me with perfectly acceptable printed photos of his work, but John brought a Mac with a large slide show of previous projects that played while he calculated my costs. In addition to showcasing great work, every photo also featured him standing there, proof that the images weren’t lifted from someone else’s Website.

When I told Kyle that I had already purchased tile and a sink, he simply said “Great!” But John asked to take a look at what I had selected, then began enthusiastically arranging the tile on my table to see where the accent pieces should go. Finally, John emphasized throughout our meeting that he would come to the job site regularly, and immediately return any phone call from me, a promise that he could very well break, but at least he knew to make it.

While John clearly seemed more professional and customer service-oriented than Kyle, his bid was a full 12 percent higher. So I selected Kyle’s company because I felt it was fully capable of doing the job.

A few days later, John called asking if I had made my choice. When I explained why I had gone with another firm, he checked with his boss and then brought his bid down to match Kyle’s. Luckily, I hadn’t committed to the other company yet, and ended up signing with John.

My experience echoes everything I have heard about consumers who are purchasing a pool. Those with simple projects in the low- to mid-price range are going to rank cost as one of the largest factors in their decision-making.

However, when two bids are similar, or equal, it’s the little extras that make a big difference. Granted, a fancy slide show and a nice shirt mean absolutely nothing when it comes to quality workmanship, but it denotes a level of care and attention to detail that consumers respond to when making a hire.

I feel badly for Kyle and his firm. He really seemed to want the job and did nothing wrong. The problem was that someone else was just a little more right.