What Would You Do? | Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Mom

September 4, 2011

What Would You Do?

Once again, I come asking for your advice.

We're new at this "being homeowners" thing.  We've been here for over a year now, and still learning the ropes of how to handle all the surprising little issues that inevitably spring up.  No one likes these cute little surprises, especially after you are lulled into a false sense of security at your home inspection ("looks great!  no problems here!"): water in the crawlspace (which supposedly had never been damp a day in its existence); a leak in the kitchen ceiling; bugs bugs bugs; and lastly, a newer central air conditioning unit going on the fritz for no reason at all (in every heat wave Mother Nature threw at us this summer, might I add).

So here's the deal:  our A/C unit first broke down in June, during the first heat wave. It was a subtle, quiet thing.  One day I noticed I was a little warm.  The air was on, so I thought that was odd.  Air was blowing out of the vents, so the house should be cool, right? I checked the thermostat, and was surprised to find that it said the temperature was 78 degrees.

The thermostat was set at 72.


I called our HVAC company that services our heater and delivers our oil.  They sent someone who did not seem overly excited to talk to me, as when I tried to explain the problem, he leered at me (like, in a "how could a girl possibly know what the problem is?") and just asked  to be pointed in the direction of the unit.  So he fiddled for a while (taking his good old time, let me tell you), filling the thing with freon and cleaning parts.  He left saying it was fixed.  When I reached up to feel the air coming out of the vents, it was clearly still warm.

By the late afternoon, it was stifling. I was frustrated, as I had 2 small children to tend to and a husband who could not help me figure it out since he was working late.  I called the HVAC people back, explaining that the problem was not fixed, and since there was a heatwave, we'd like someone to come back out.  They said that since it was a Friday afternoon, they would try to send someone out, but it would cost over time.  Did I mention I called at 3pm?  Yup. 3pm on a Friday in the summer is "after hours." I went on to explain that we had 2 small children, and they cannot stay in such a hot environment.

They sent someone out, but he did not get there until 7:30pm. But, he was really nice and quickly assessed the problem (a faulty connector that helped the compressor stop and start). He worked some magic, and soon there was cool air coming from the vents. We were relieved...

...until about a month later.  During a heatwave. One day during nap time I noticed that the compressor was not kicking on as much, yet air was still blowing through our vents. The air was steadily getting warmer.  After the first experience, I knew what was happening.  It, of course, decided to start going funky on a Friday once again.  So I made the call to our HVAC company before 3pm, and was met with indifference from the lady who answers their phone.

"Well [hemming and hawing], it is Friday afternoon, so it's gonna cost a lot of money to send someone out...."

"Yes I know that. There is a heatwave and I have 2 little girls under the age of 3, one of which is an infant."

She seemed reluctant to send someone out.  But, after some time, she finally said she would send it through to the technicians, who would call when he had an idea when he'd come.

The service man calls, and seems annoyed to be talking to me. I get it - he is probably eager to get home and start his weekend. But that's part of the job, right?  He said he had one more call to go on, and he'd be out. I asked what the time frame was. He said, "before it gets dark."  I asked for something more specific. He said maybe an hour or so. Ok. I asked if he could call when he was on his way. He said snorted and said, "No."  Fine.

It was over 85 degrees in the house, and over 100 degrees outside. The girls were melting, so we decided to go to our neighbors house to stay cool for an hour.  I figured if he arrived at our house before the hour he'd estimated, he would call to let us know he was there.  I did not hear from him, and took the girls back over to wait.  There was a "Sorry We Missed You" note on the door, saying he was there until 6pm but left because no one was home.

I received the note at 5:40pm.

I started crying, because it was so hot and it wasn't fixed and now I wasn't sure what to do. I called the serviceman's cell phone (which he had originally called me from) over and over. No answer. I called the our HVAC company over and over. No answer, no machine to leave a message on. I called the after hours number I was directed to over and over.  It would not even ring.

We went to my mother's house for the time being, and called first thing Monday morning. My husband was explained he was upset, but was firm and polite with the person he was speaking to.  They told us they could not come until Wednesday at the earliest. Hubby said this was not good enough, as we should have had this fixed Friday, but we were mismanaged by the serviceman.  The woman hung up on him.

Professional much?

He called back, and after getting an apology, a service appointment was scheduled for Wednesday.  The current serviceman fixed the unit (although, the best he could do after fixing the connector again was to show my husband where the "reset" button was on the outside unit in case it happened again. REALLY?!?).

Our outstanding bill is something like $350.

And once again, the unit it on the fritz with the same exact issues we've been seeing all summer.

So I ask:


Would you pay the outstanding balance for the service that was done, despite the issue repeatedly NOT being resolved (and the crappy customer service to boot) - because they did come out and work on it?

Or, would you fight the bill because they did not actually fix anything, and pay a more reputable company to actually fix it?

We need to decide what to do - so your opinions and general homeowner knowledge would be GREATLY appreciated.  SO please leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

PS - we did cancel our oil and service contract with this company. 


  1. I would tell them that they are not getting one red cent from you until the air conditioner is fixed to your satisfaction. Then I would call the BBB and report them. After doing all that, call the people at Call For Action at 6ABC. Get Nydia on the case!

  2. Welcome to the land of home ownership. We just had to replace our water heater. I was in sticker shock. The last water heater cost me $150 and lasted 17 years. This one was $400 and I installed it myself.

    What Mychal said is good advice. But you will probably end up paying the bill anyway. Maybe you can negotiate a bit with them though. I'd find another HVAC company. Check at your church to see if anyone there has a small heating and airconditioning business. At least they would be more caring and honest with you. That's what Bill and Njeri did for car repairs, and they get very good service for about half the price.

    We only pay about $45 for the service call here, but then by the hour after that. We had to have ours recharged a couple of years ago, and I think the bill was like $75, and they inspected the whole system. But of course we're in the midwest in a small town where prices are not nearly what they are in a metro area.

  3. You can pay the bill through your credit card company. Then explain to your credit card company the scenerio and have them not pay your bill. Most credit card companies will go after a company for faulty service. It's one of those unknown services a lot of them offer.
    I also agree with Mychal - report them to the BBB and see what they can do to help you. Last but not least, you can just write a letter explaining that you will not pay the bill and exactly why. Attach the WHOLE scenerio. Send several copies - one to every department you can find. My grandmother has done this with several faulty companies and winds up just not paying her bill. When they threaten to report her she stands firm. Remember - most people don't like to be intimidated, so the one that backs down first loses.

  4. I agree with everything that's been said. Don't stand for crappy service and don't let them walk all over you. As a homeowner you will, unfortunately, find that there seem to be more bad companies out there than good ones. I recommend spending the $15 bucks a year to subscribe to Delaware Valley Checkbook (http://www.checkbook.org/) which has subscriber-submitted reviews for all sorts of companies and services.


Hey! Share a thought or two - I'd love to hear from you! ~ Steph

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