Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Another Case of Poor Customer Service

I don't get worked up to often but sometimes someone can just push all the right buttons and in this case he did, though it took the better part of half a year to do so. Let me explain.

Our house had been in need of painting for several years. When we bought it, it was in the early stages of needing paint but because I hated the Masonite siding that was on it, I hoped to put it off for a few years and save up for vinyl siding instead. Masonite is a cardboard like siding that doesn't tolerate moisture at all on bare spots, ripples like a potato chip and doesn't hold paint well. Plus with the great room addition being done in wood, I thought new siding would tie it all together to look like the house was built all at one time. However, economics made me decide that perhaps I should just go the cheap route and paint it instead and maybe try siding it again in another ten years or so when it needs repainted… IF I even still live there which I hope isn't the case.

Because I hate painting and didn't want to spend my entire waking non-work hours all summer painting my house, I decided to get some quotes first. I had in my mind what I thought it would cost to hire it done and knew that I would probably end up doing it myself to save some money. However, the first guy that quoted it gave me such a good price, I shook his hand and immediately wrote him a check for half the quote with the balance due on completion. A few weeks later, a sign appeared in my lawn padlocked to the utility poll out front advertising the painter's business name and phone number. This sign is the heart of my problem.

All summer, I had to mow around that thing and because it was cabled and padlocked to the utility poll, I couldn't mow underneath it. Now I am a lawn minimalist and that means I avoid trimming if at all possible. I have my lawn arranged where I can quickly mow it with a push mower and have no need to weed eat to get any remainders and thus I don't own one. However, with this sign that I couldn't remove, the grass would quickly grow up into weeds and every couple weeks I had to go out there with a pair of scissors to knock down the weeds.

The months ticked by, summer turned into fall and I still had a sign in my yard and an unpainted house. No phone calls giving me any idea when he might show up. Finally one night Rick the painter called saying he would be over next week to paint my house and would like my back deck cleared of the grill and furniture. I cleaned off the deck and we put off grilling until we could return our grill back to the deck. Weeks went by and no Rick or painting crew. Finally he came and primed the house and then disappeared again for another couple weeks with no word on when he would be back. Finally on Labor Day he showed up to paint but after pointing out that he still hadn't calked all the windows and doors as promised, he spent the entire day doing that. Another couple weeks go by and finally he finished. He even charged me $50 extra to hang new shutters up to replace the old ones he took off when I could have very easily have let him put the old shutters back on for no charge as agreed upon in our contract. There was no difference other than the shutters were unfaded plastic. They were exactly the same in every other way including mounting hardware and holes. But because I was so happy to finally have a painted house, I wrote him a check for the balance plus $50 without saying a word about it. He asked if he could leave his sign up for two more weeks and reluctantly I agreed.

A month goes by and the sign is still there. Our cities annual brush pickup is underway and that sign is where I normally stack all my brush because it is out of the way and next to the street. I call Rick and tell him he is now two weeks late in picking up his sign and I want it removed so I can stack my brush there. He never returned my call. So I stacked the brush on the edge of my driveway and spent the next few weeks driving around it and generally cussing that sign every time I came home and saw it still there. Two weeks ago, I had enough, my buttons had been pressed. One sunny afternoon, I came home, saw the brush had been picked up but a big gouge left in my lawn because they couldn't reach it as easily with their grapple hook thanks to the sign, saw the sign still there, and cut the cable with a pair of bolt cutters and tossed it onto my scrap pile of stuff for the annual spring trash pickup.

Another week and a half goes by bringing me to last Thursday night as I was sitting down to dinner and the doorbell rings. There is Rick looking for his sign. I go to the garage and get the sign off the spring trash cleanup pile which right now has a bunch of paint cans and old faded plastic shutters exactly like the ones on the front of my house reminding me again, the insult of being charged $50 to hang up the same shutters, only newer. He asks me how I removed it and I told him I cut the cable. The rest of the conversation can be summarized like this:

Rick: Why did you do that when you could have called?
Me: I did call and besides you said only two weeks.
Rick: I've been busy the last two weeks and not home until late and I've left very early.
Me: I have an answering machine and you have a cellphone that I've seen you stop painting and make dozens of phone calls a day on while you were painting my house.
Rick: I don't call late at night and I've been very busy the last two weeks.
Me: It's been seven weeks and I would have been happy to receive a call at any time saying that you were swamped and wouldn't be able to pick it up for awhile.
Rick: So are you going to pay me $7 for a new cable?
Me: I don't think so.

There was about five minutes of conversation but evidently Rick was hard of hearing and kept asking the same questions over and over so I weeded out the extras. On my old blog, I wrote several posts on various incidences that all came down to the same thing, poor customer service. R. Sherman has reposted several posts dealing with poor customer service relating to the airline industry. I've come to realize that poor customer service is now the norm these days and anything better than poor should come as a shock to me. I haven't been shocked in a long time.


sage said...

I like your final answer--"I don't think so!"

Murf said...

You get what you pay for Ed. :-)

The Real Mother Hen said...

Wait, is he licensed or unlicensed? :)

R. Sherman said...

Thanks for the shout-out.

Interesting that you should post this today. I spent yesterday afternoon waiting at home for a guy to come and service my septic system. Even though I confirmed the time, he was a no-show. I hate stuff like this.


Ed Abbey said...

Sage - It was the nicest thing I could think of at the time.

Murf - Oh it wasn't any sweat off my back other than the five minutes of my time.

Mother Hen - I doubt he was licensed. Out here, you go off of references and experience.

R. Sherman - Sorry it wasn't more timely. I kept bumping this post for politics. I've gotten to where I refuse to promise that I'll be at home waiting. I give them my work number and tell them to call me 10 minutes in advance. It only takes me five to drive home.

Ron said...

I won't hire anyone to work on my place until I'm so decrepit I cannot do it myself. And then I'll probably just let it all go to hell. :)

I haven't made it over here in too long... glad the election is over. I voted my conscience. Neither of the big guys.

Take care,

Beau said...

Oh my, you showed the patience of Job. I'm with Ron on that one, still trying to do it all myself. But I understand it's a time versus money thing for so many folks. And that reminds me of all the painting I need to do next year... ugh!