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Still Cold

Last night I wasn't pleased with having spent a day's worth of my writing time on trying to get our heater fixed, but I was pleased with the technician who showed up, even though he didn't fix the boiler.  I was also pleased with the promise that he would be back in the morning no later than 10:00 to finish fixing my boiler by installing a new fuel pump. He gave me a bill for the service call and I paid it right away, even though I still had no heat. In retrospect, I should have refused to pay anything until the job was done.

He didn't show up at all today.

His boss Dave Maerzke 414-217-6114 decided not to have him finish the job.  Dave stopped at the house not too long after the appointed time, stating he was there because his employee had left a tool behind, and he then gave My Angel a song and dance about a daycare that needed their heat fixed, and a recommendation to call some other guy--a guy Dave said he'd already called to tell him exactly what part we needed, and who Dave said specialized in oil heaters--so we could get service sooner than he could do it.

Never mind that Dave had time to come to the house for a tool, and to (allegedly) make phone calls on my behalf, he didn't have time to put the part in. Since his company had already identified the part needed, how long could it have taken him to put it in if he was going to the house anyway?

After My Angel's call to the other guy did not get a return call, I left Dave a number of messages over the course of the afternoon, and did not get a call back.

I also called the recommended dude, who said he never got a message from Dave.  He did try to help me out, sending a guy with a water pump just before I'd have to pay time and a half or double time (measured from the last port of call, wherever in the world that might happen to be to the tech's home), and depending on how late the service call lasted. The man who showed up was courteous and was willing to try, but admitted he'd be learning on the job since he was not trained to work on the burning mechanisms of an oil boiler.  He also said he would have to pay an extra $75-$100 to even get the parts guy to open the door to sell a part at this point (a cost that would, of course, be passed on to me, along with the time charge for the hour to get there and back again), and he would probably be there all night if he did try to fix it. He also said he knows his company--they not only do not specialize in oil boilers, but they do not keep parts for them  in stock.

After numerous calls to Dave, and switching to call from the home phone instead of the cell phone, I finally got through to him. He was of the opinion that after taking my money for his technician fiddling at length with my boiler and leaving it in essentially the same condition as when he started (i.e. it fires when you push the button, but then the flame dies), it was "going the extra mile" to give us a recommendation to call someone else.  And once I got through to him and told him we still had no heat, he made it very, very clear (without actually saying it in so many words, you understand) that he had no intention to have any of his people come back and finish the job, then or later.

He repeatedly and cheerfully said he was sorry things weren't working out for me, telling me I didn't have the whole story (as if the story mattered more than keeping my pipes from bursting), and that he was really very busy. He didn't tell me anything useful. He didn't offer to return my check as an apology for refusing to finish the job.  He didn't even tell me the exact name of the part that's needed, so the next guy could come prepared. Finally he again said he was sorry (sounding no more sorry than the first time), but he was going into someone else's house to fix their heat.

The second company tried, and were up-front with me.  They behaved in a pleasant and professional manner, and expressed understanding when I was obviously distressed.  They didn't charge me when it turned out they couldn't help me.  I don't know the quality of the work they do, but I asked for their card.  I may try them again.

But as for Dave?

I know that heating contractors have a very busy time when the temperatures plummet. In general terms, I have a lot of respect for people willing to work early and late and very, very long hours to make sure folks they don't even know have heat.  I know, from a friend who's in that business, that when there's work it comes all at once, because the conditions that stress a unit stress all of the units in a city at the same time.

I  also try hard to give people the benefit of the doubt--we're all human, after all. 

But I think it's reasonable to believe that somebody who takes your money to start a job and promises to come back the next day to finish it should show up as promised (even if it wasn't the day before a long holiday weekend.)  To not bother to even try to complete the job seems to me to be derelict, especially since this guy's stated reason for his behavior is nothing more than the normal circumstances of the type of business he chose to be in.

So, I had hoped to be able to tell you all that I am thankful that I have heat.  Instead I guess I just have to be thankful that I can tell all of my friends about this heating contractor who can cheerfully leave a paying customer in the cold with the job half done.


( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 25th, 2010 07:13 am (UTC)
Oy. That sucks.

So do you have a heat source at all, to get you by? Fireplace? Space heaters?

Good luck finding somebody who can actually fix the darn thing soon!!!
Nov. 25th, 2010 05:30 pm (UTC)
We have a couple of space heaters, a hot water heater, and a gas stove. We drained the radiators last night, and can keep water running in the pipes that still have sinks attached to them. We can hope the ones sealed into walls have emptied or are still attached to working plumbimg. I may be able to borrow another couple of space heaters.

Here's keeping fingers crossed that that is enough. And that the electric bill isn't too ruinous.
Nov. 25th, 2010 09:43 pm (UTC)
Good luck w/ the pipes and the power bill!

I'm doing without the furnace this winter, but it's by choice. I spent an _insane_ amount of money on propane for the last two winters, so this year I've gotten a really energy-efficient ceramic heater that will heat the main floor, and I have the old-style ceiling cable heat in the den and bedroom downstairs. I have a small space heater that I can put out by the well pump/pressure tank/pipes in the garage when it gets cold enough that freezing there might be a problem, and I'm going to do my damnedest to get through the winter w/ no propane.

Ultimately, the plan is to replace the current A/C with the heat pump that I brought with me from the old house, which will get me back to central heat (but electric) whenever the temps are above freezing, and I don't think I'd mind the propane so much if it was only the emergency heat. (There's also a buck stove in the basement fireplace which will probably heat the whole house, but I'll only use it when I'm going to be home long enough to make it worth lighting/tending a fire!)
Nov. 25th, 2010 09:20 am (UTC)
What a jackass! Time for a call to the BBB, or small claims court?
Nov. 25th, 2010 03:43 pm (UTC)
Oy! I'd agree. Small claims court and BBB.
Nov. 25th, 2010 06:48 pm (UTC)
Great icon!
Nov. 25th, 2010 05:44 pm (UTC)
The BBB can't do more than warn other people about him, if they think to check with the BBB when they're suddenly cold in the dead of winter.

And it's not as if he offered a written contract or anything. And I'm going to do my best to make sure I don't have monetary damages. And without that--well, it's unfortunate I had a house that was unheated over a cold Thanksgiving weekend, but that's about it.

On the other hand, there's Twitter and Facebook.
Nov. 26th, 2010 06:03 pm (UTC)
IMO it's still worth filing a report with the BBB -- if they have good data, people are more likely to check with them. But yes, nothing you report will help anyone who doesn't check for references before calling.
Nov. 27th, 2010 02:04 am (UTC)
Heh--your icon looks like an icicle in these colors! Appropos.

I probably will file a report with the BBB. Though I'd really rather write enjoyable stories than angry ones.
Nov. 25th, 2010 01:52 pm (UTC)
Oh for the love of...
How do people like this:

a) Sleep at night.


b) Keep getting money and jobs while other honest folk are out of work.

Regardless did you get any repairs done by anybody? Do you have heat enough to keep your pipes from freezing? (I've been in a house after the pipes have frozen and then pumped out afterwords. It's not pretty.)
Nov. 25th, 2010 06:41 pm (UTC)
Re: Oh for the love of...
I don't have answers for a and b. Though now that I think of it, he'd make a perfectly despicable villain in some story. With the serial numbers filed off, of course. Not that I have enough of the (metaphorical) serial numbers to make a good copy anyway.

We're taking precautions for the pipes; we already drained the radiators, we can keep water dripping in the plumbing (hopefully enough of it--this place used to be a boarding house and some of the excess sinks were removed) and my family has some space heaters to loan me after Thanksgiving dinner.

Thanks for the good wishes!
Nov. 25th, 2010 02:21 pm (UTC)
Oh, I am SO tempted to call and leave a pissed off message on your behalf!
Lesson learned, I guess, and I hope the guy loses more business than just yours.

Edited to add: Having shared the story with my spouse, he says he would be calling the BBB to report the guy.

Edited at 2010-11-25 02:27 pm (UTC)
Nov. 25th, 2010 06:47 pm (UTC)
Unless you had a local phone number, I don't think he'd care.

After all, he didn't care when I told him that he wasn't going to get the word-of-mouth recommendation I had thought I would be giving him when his tech left Tuesday night.
Nov. 25th, 2010 02:26 pm (UTC)
Ack! What the heck?! I guess it's too late to put a stop payment on that check?
Nov. 25th, 2010 02:28 pm (UTC)
I was thinking this, too.
Nov. 25th, 2010 05:53 pm (UTC)
I'm of two minds about this--if I stop payment on the check, I think the employee would get blamed, and Dave already told me he "blasted the employee a new one" for being here more than an hour and charging one hour instead of more.

And the employee was really nice. I don't want him to lose his job, even though I think he deserves to have a much better boss.

And you know, if he'd come back Wednesday, fixed the thing, and told me the final bill included the extra labor time on Tuesday, I'd have paid it.
Nov. 25th, 2010 06:55 pm (UTC)
Stop payment IMO, since you haven't received what you want: a fixed heater.
Nov. 26th, 2010 01:31 am (UTC)
yeah, I agree. i'd stop payment. The employee is culpable too. He knew the job wasn't done.
Nov. 26th, 2010 11:45 pm (UTC)
My vote is for stopping payment on the check.

Yes, the employee was really nice, but you paid a *company* to get a job done that they didn't do. You shouldn't have to be out the money.
Nov. 27th, 2010 01:28 am (UTC)
Hi there! Good to see you here.

I'm kind of surprised to see that no one is arguing that Dave's company deserves to be paid for the time they did put in. I mean, I'm cold and grumpy and angry. I think this Dave Maerzke deserves something significantly more drastic than just not getting paid. But I also know I'm not exactly feeling objective!
Nov. 28th, 2010 02:22 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm still around lurking. I just generally only read your personal stuff, not the fiction, so I don't comment much. (Nothing wrong with your fiction, don't take that the wrong way, but I really don't read *any* fiction on LJ.)

In my line of work, if we don't do the work to the client's satisfaction, I've never heard a client say "well, we'll pay you for the effort". That's not what they believe they are buying. They are buying results. And if we don't deliver, they get cranky. Justifiably so. The hvac guy is no different.

If he'd have handled it differently and more professionally? Well, that's a different situation. But he didn't.
Nov. 28th, 2010 06:22 pm (UTC)
I do like reading fiction on LJ, but don't manage to always read it, not even the stories by people I followed just for their fiction. Nobody can do everything.

But more to the point, I friended you because you seemed like someone whose company I'd enjoy, and whose posts and comments could keep me thinking. So I'm glad you're still around.
Nov. 26th, 2010 01:32 am (UTC)
Good luck with all that. Sending you warm thoughts. I feel sorry of all you cold weather folks. It's uncomfortable here without heat, but not something folks usually die from.
Nov. 26th, 2010 01:53 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Nov. 26th, 2010 11:54 pm (UTC)
That's ridiculous. I'm sorry you're going through this shit again. And it sounds like you don't have any options :( Very frustrating.
Nov. 27th, 2010 02:00 am (UTC)
Ooh, I love the gargoyle!

It's like everything else--people who have lots of money have lots of options and people who are broke have to make do. Of course, if I had lots of money, I'd have replaced my poor old boiler years ago with something newer, that needed less fiddling, and was more energy efficient.
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )


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