Saturday, January 26, 2008

Is Your Refrigerator Running?

I have had a string of some pretty bad luck recently. One link in the chain was the sudden death of my refrigerator. We have only lived in our current home about six months so our home warranty was still in effect. Here's the initial timeline of events, starting on January 11:

Friday 3pm: Fred is dead (I call my fridge Fred). What was once ice is now the liquid formerly known as ice...and it's everywhere. I report the claim to the home warranty guys, AHS, as an emergency as I have no other form of refrigeration inside my house. We use the back patio as a makeshift freezer section and wait for the service people to call.

AHS Sucks


Friday 5pm: The service guys don't call, but Fred starts cooling again. Being naive optimists, we take this as a good sign and decide to wait until Monday to raise a ruckus.

Saturday 2pm: Fred is dead again. Water is everywhere. I curse myself for leaving the ice maker on. Sarah cries. I call AHShole again and am told my claim has been escalated and I should have a technician call me back within the hour. This guy, Jim, is incredibly nice. For a second there, I actually expect someone to call me back.


Saturday 3pm: Fred continues to drip what I can only guess is some sort of refrigerator embalming fluid. No one calls. I call AHShole back and am told that my claim is going through the system again and that I should hear back by 5pm. Seriously.

Saturday 6pm: No one called. I ask why no one called and the unhelpful answer is that "the contractor isn't picking up." Then it sounds like you need to call a different contractor. I am now told that I should use "outside authorization." She explains that I can call anyone I want for a diagnosis but AHShole needs to approve any repairs before they are performed. Luckily for me, since AHShole stalled all damn day, it's not 6pm on a Saturday and no one within 50 miles is picking up.

Saturday 8pm: After 90 minutes of calling every single name in the Google Maps search results and the Yellow Pages, I run out of people to call. I have left a half dozen messages and paged a handful of people. At 8:30, some company called Ruples calls me back and says that he can come out tomorrow afternoon...but not too early. We agree that 1pm is not too early and he warns me that his Sunday rate is pretty steep--$35. I hold in my laughter and tell him to come on out.

Sunday around 1pm: Ruples shows up--I realized it's a guy, not a company--in what might be an antique pickup truck. He immediately declares that Fred's relay is dead and this might be an easy fix. After running some 1970s style diagnostics, he gives me the bad news: Fred needs a new compressor. Fortunately, they're easy to come by and will only run my insurance company about $450. We are supposed to talk on Monday after he confirms part prices and gets authorization from AHShole.

 


Monday 3pm: I call Ruple to ask what's going on. He says that he needs the money for the parts up front and that he can spin by to pick it up and order the part on Tuesday. I ask if he's kidding, if he really expects me to prepay cash and just hope for the best. He wasn't kidding. I tell him to forget about it.

Monday 9pm: I call AHShole and ask that they send someone else since the guy I called didn't work out. They explain that since they'd already paid for a diagnosis they would not send anyone else out and Ruples is the only guy who can do the work. I tell them that I think he is trying to scam me and that I don't trust his diagnosis. Further, they didn't pay him, I did. Further still, I don't want reimbursement of my $35, I just want someone to come out and fix Fred.

Annette at AHShole explains that this is not going to happen and repeats her earlier statements. I repeat my earlier statements and we argue like this for 10 minutes or so. Finally, I say, "if you're not willing to accommodate my request or explain why it is unreasonable or how it will cost you any extra money, please connect me to a manager." I wait on hold for a few minutes. She comes back and agrees to send out Sears to take a look on Thursday. All of Fred's contents have long ago spoiled so I happily agree. An appointment is scheduled for 8-12, 3 days later.

Thursday 8:30am: The Sears technician calls ahead and predicts a 9am arrival. He's a nice guy and arrives on time. Ten minutes later Fred is back to his old self again. Apparently the compressor was fine--only the relay needed replaced. Thanks Sears! I ask the tech how much he would have charged me if I didn't have insurance (my copay is $55). He immediately answers, "$265."

I wish I had some orange juice in my mouth when he said that so I could spit it out all dramatically. Two-hundred-sixty-five-frickin-dollars for 10 minutes of work. Are you kidding me? He didn't even pretend this was due to parts. At that hourly rate, he must make over a bajillion dollars per year.

In conclusion:

  • Fred was dead for six days

  • No one in refrigeration or appliance repair works on weekends

  • ASH is no better than the oft-hated, stereotypical home warranty company

  • By calling in a second technician, I saved the insurance company a few hundred dollars (you're welcome, Annette)

  • I could have fixed the relay myself. I wouldn't even have needed my soldering iron.


So there you have it. If we have another appliance failure or two, this home warranty thing might actually pay off. Obviously, I don't recommend getting them--in our case, it came with the house.