Friday, May 10, 2013

Air Conditioning Blues

I'm beginning to think either one of three things is happening in my life whenever I hire something done.

A. I am too demanding in wanting things to be done right the first time.
B. The service industry is just gone to hell and doesn't really care if they get repeat customers by providing good service.
C. I'm just the unluckiest guy on earth.

Now I've never been lucky so C is partially correct and I do like things to be done correctly the first time so that it lasts a long time and I don't have to spend a lot of time fixing those things that shouldn't have been done incorrectly the first time around. Despite A and C being partially true, I suspect that B is the biggest factor in my recent fortunes.

Last summer when I moved into this place, the nearly 40 year old air conditioner and heater had seen their better days and were horribly inefficient. I called another local dealer and after three months of calling him and asking him, he finally got me a quote. I paid him some money down and he scheduled my new heating and air conditioning system to be installed the following week. Nearly two months later and after several phonecalls and appointments that he never followed through on, he showed up to install it on the very day my wife went in the labor and I was in the hospital supporting her, the very reason why I had been pushing to get it done two months earlier.

They finally got it installed and in his parting words, he mentioned that he hadn't plugged the air conditioner in yet but that he would be around before spring to get it plugged in and working. Six months later with spring already here and the day forecasted to be very warm, I went outside and plugged in the air conditioner since the installer had never been back yet. The thing ran but didn't cool anything down and I suspected that he hadn't charged the system yet. So I called him and asked if he could do so.

He said he was extremely busy that day (which is why I thought he should have done it on one of those days in the last six months when it wasn't so hot out) and that he would be there the next morning to fix it up. I told him I appreciated it because the next day was forecasted to be just as hot. So I sweated all day long and well into the night thinking that the next day would be cooler for me. The next day came and went and ten minutes before five, typical quitting time, I finally called to see where the installation guy was. I was told he would be paged and a half hour later he showed up and said that he didn't have the equipment to do the job and that he would do it the next morning.

Again the next day passed by, fortunately cool enough I didn't want the air conditioner, and the installer still didn't show up. Again I called to inquire if he was going to show up and this time he called back to say that it was raining so he couldn't do the service required. It indeed had started raining about four o'clock in the afternoon but had been dry all morning. He told me he would definitely get it done sometime in the next two days.

I'm not sure what the deal is but if I were running a business and someone paid me completely for a working system six months ago, by gosh it would be working... at least before they needed to use the various components. If by some chance it needed some work and they made an appointment with me, I would not have them wait for me for two days and never call them once to let them know that I wasn't going to be there. I would be afraid that this person would never give me anymore business for my atrocious customer service.

Eventually both days passed without any sign or word from the dealer and a third day in the form of Sunday passed by also. I called him up yet again on Monday and told the same secretary that the first three appointments I've made have been a bust and I want to make a fourth one that morning or else. She promised to page the dealer and have him call me back... as always. The fourth time must have been a charm because about an hour later, a guy whom I've never seen thus far, showed up and started charging the air conditioner. He didn't call ahead of time as promised and had I not been around, I'm guessing I wouldn't have gotten any word that work had been completed. But at this point I don't care. The air conditioner is finally working and I can use it at my convenience instead of some dealer who obviously doesn't care about his reputation. I hope it works for many years to come because when it doesn't, I'm definitely not going back to this guy.


Three Score and Ten or more said...

Never pay in advance. (Maybe a minimum deposit, but never very much

edifice rex said...

Ok, not to take up for the guy but this line.."after three months of calling him and asking him, he finally got me a quote. " was your first clue NOT to use this guy. If they can't be bothered to even give a quote you know they are not going to care about your service. This kinda thing is why I tell everybody, when they ask me about hiring a contractor, to ALWAYS get 3 quotes. And rarely does anyone ever do this, even after being told what's going to happen.

Ron said...

I always feel like I have won the lottery when people I hire actually show up and do a halfways reasonable job.

sage said...

This stories begin sounding like the making of a Chevy Chase movie... I agree with 3 Score & Ten and Edifice Rex.

Vince said...

I agree, never pay all in advance. In fact hold the last 20% for three months to make certain things are kosher.
I will add this though. I've been involve in landscape design for more than I care to remember. I can design and build an environment for you would see very little change from $5 million an acre or $50k. Now I don't mind people trying to get more for their cash but there is a difference between a contract for 50k and expecting a bit extra like a shrub or two and a contract for 50k and expecting 100k out the other side.
Here though, you have a on/off situation. It is either working or not. And that fellow should have said when he didn't have the time.

Ed said...

3 Score - I didn't pay him in advance. He installed both systems before I paid him. However due to our cold climates, you are not supposed to charge an air conditioner when it is cold. It seems unreasonable to withhold money from him for 5 months just for that.

Edifice Rex - On hindsight, that should have been my clue. I think I forged ahead because he deals in a quality brand of heating and air conditioning systems that I wanted. They are known for lasting forever. Unfortunately, it bit me in the end. I rarely get three bids but I normally do my homework first and have a good idea of what I should expect to pay. Also, in a small rural area where we live, most times I'm lucky to have two people who are willing to quote something and live in the same town. We rarely have the good fortunate to have three businesses that service this area for the same thing. However for heating and air conditioning, we do but see my earlier reason for allowing myself to get suckered.

Ron - I'm beginning to think that way too. I had an electrician out recently to solve a problem I couldn't puzzle out. They did such a good job, called me to inform me that they were running 15 minutes late and charge very reasonably. I now have them in my contacts for anything else electrical in the future that I can't figure out.

Sage - Sometimes I wonder that myself.

Vince - Withholding 20% may work for large organizations but the mom and pop ones that I have to choose from just can't do that. Some of them need all the money from the completed job to buy parts for the next job and then the difference is used to buy groceries and such. But I do get the fact that since he had all my money, I didn't have much leverage in the situation and that is a lesson I won't soon forget.

Anonymous said...

After all I would have to contact another dealer to provide any service. You've obviously found the rotten apple.

Ed said...

Woody - Most definitely.

Darryl Iorio said...

I think we're all guilty of A. If we're paying for a service, of course we'd want it done right to get our money's worth. Sorry to hear that the air conditioning service you called gave you a bad impression of the service industry; but not all dealers are like that. This is where canvassing comes in handy. If you've got time to spare between getting something done and needing to use it, taking the time to research and compare dealers is a less harrying task than having to deal with bad service.