Saturday, January 12, 2008

Adventures in Consumerism

Now Pebbles appears to have a sinus infection, poor thing. That's my guess based on her grabbing at the area of one eye and crying out, spitting up ghastly green-and-brown phlegm, fever and yes, lethargy. Of course it's now late Saturday afternoon and the doctors' office is closed so let's hope it doesn't get worse before Monday.

To distract myself from the misery, let me recount two amusing customer service adventures that happened to the Funny, Funny Family this week.

1) Episode XXXVI of You Call This a Home Warranty?

I have not been able to decide if having a home warranty is a huge waste of time and money or a big money saver. The service people the warranty company sends are ridiculous -- take forever to make appointments, don't show up, don't report the proper information to the home warranty company, seemingly purposely misdiagnose things to say that the warranty company won't cover the repair and we should pay the service person hundreds of dollars instead.

And yet through being a pain in the ass to the home warranty company, I have managed to get them to fix a very expensive problem for nothing more than the $55-per-visit fee. So yes, huge aggravation, but it has saved me money.

This week's episode took the cake. Our garbage disposal stopped grinding. I filled out an online service request and was assigned a plumber that has been to my house before. Since last time they broke a pipe, refused to fix what they broke, and then said the broken pipe wouldn't be covered by the warranty because it "went outside the four walls of the house" (it didn't).

Obviously, I called the home warranty company and asked them not to send this plumber. But first, on a lark, I Angie's Listed both the company I didn't like and the company that eventually fixed the problem for us. Both companies got terrible reviews, all from people who got them through home warranty firms. It's possible that these plumbers ONLY do business through home warranty firms.

I requested the company that we had had a good experience with, despite their lousy online reviews. When the plumbers came I was cradling a crying and very sick Nutmeg on the couch and helping her to the bathroom. After an hour of working, the plumber called me in and said he had fixed the problem -- there was a drywall screw stuck in the disposal. I could believe that because there has been a lot of remodeling-type junk sitting around our kitchen since we moved in, and there is no rim around our sink to keep things from rolling in.

But. Then he said, "I haven't called it in yet, because I know the company's gonna deny it." While I considered this, he launched into an explanation of how the pipes under my sink were all wrong and illegal and that this was probably the cause of our repeated clogs in the sink stack. This may be true but I didn't see what it had to do with the case at hand. He said that if he called the warranty company, not only would they deny it but they would "make him redo all this."

I stood there staring at him, wondering how on earth the company could simultaneously deny the claim and "make" him redo my pipes. He said he'd "only" charge me $160 for removing the screw from my garbage disposal. WHICH HE HAD ALREADY DONE.

When I hesitated, he laughed and said I looked like I suspected he was trying to rip me off, when he was really doing me a favor. I assured him that my look was confusion because I had no idea what he was talking about.

He warned me that "it might seem rude," but once the claim was denied he was going to have to put the screw back in my disposal.

"Um, okay," I said.

Finally he got the idea that I was in no way willing to pay him $165, and he took the visit fee of $55 and stormed off.

Later he called and said the company had approved the repair, but "They won't cover it again if you drop another screw in there."

Understood, freako plumber.

2)The Coffee Pot

Shortly before Christmas, in my holiday hustle and bustle, I accidentally smashed our coffee carafe against the sink while washing it. What is it with this sink, eh?

Our coffeemaker, which we bought last year, is red just like the rest of my pimped-out counter appliances. We wanted a red carafe to replace the one I broke, so we ordered one on

We waited for it to arrive, and were sad not to have it when we left for a week at Christmas. We figured the holiday rush had delayed it.

As of Monday this week, it still had not arrived. In fact, the tracking page on Amazon said it had been sitting in some Illinois town since Dec. 22.

Finally I realized that if you go to the UPS Web site you get more detailed tracking info. According to that site, our carafe was in a TRAIN DERAILMENT. My, it's something when your small appliance accessories had a more exciting Christmas break than you did.

Unsurprisingly, according to UPS, once the carafe was unpacked it was found to be broken.

I sent an email to Small Appliance, the vendor that sold it through Amazon. I was disappointed to find no customer service phone number.

After a few days, "Patty" from Small Appliance called to say that they had emailed me weeks ago through to ask if I wanted a new coffeepot sent or a refund. I never got the email -- probably my own fault because I may not have updated my email address with Amazon.

Anyway, she said she'd send a new one. I begged for expedited shipping, but she went all Amy Winehouse on me. "No, no, no."

Later in the day, Patty called back and said she found out we had already been refunded. So I had to assure her once again that I want the damn thing and read her my credit card number over the phone. Once again, she declined to give me faster shipping, and I surely would have demanded to speak with a manager had I not been trying to soothe two sick and stir-crazy kids while Googling illegal online sources of will-to-live pills for myself.

As a punishment, Patty got to hear all about the system we have devised for letting our coffee drip into mugs and pouring those mugs into the carafe from our old coffee pot (which doesn't fit the new one).

That'll teach her.


Kim Moldofsky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kim Moldofsky said...

We had a home warranty our first year in the house. It's the HMO of household repairs. So many hoops to jump through to get what you needs.

We had a garabge disposal problem, too. This well-dressed guy with amazing shoes came to fix it. Best dressed plumber I've ever seen. He put on latex gloves before even touching my sink. He got it in working order, but advised us not to use it. Nearly ten years later, I'm still afraid to use the damn thing!