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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2007

    I'd like opinions @ diy homeowners buying parts

    First, let me know if this is in the wrong category: wasn't sure if I should do residential or general chat. Tks

    I work in a Trane parts house.
    A homeowner came in today carrying his unsealed rotolock compressor. I told him to take it outside, that I didn't want it if it was open and full of oil. He DUMPED the oil IN MY PARKING LOT and laid the compressor in the grass to let it finish draining. Then he wanted me to give him a new one under warranty and gave me the name of a service company that told him to come get it. He swore up and down that he worked for the company and when I called them, they told me that he did work for them and to let him have a new compressor. I asked if the unit was left open and the homeowner told me that he had sealed it up with ziplock bags (oh, how effective) since yesterday when he removed the compressor (it's been raining off and on here since yesterday). The service co that I talked to said that they had recovered the refrigerant and that they were willing to take responsibility for this unit and compressor. I asked the homeowner, who still insisted that he worked for the company, if he wanted a drier, he replied, "Do I need one??" Midway through filling out the warranty claim form, the homeowner admitted that HE had removed the compressor, he said it was "so easy a child could do it" and I asked him if a child could recover the refrigerant, too and he shut up. I finally just told him that I don't feel good about giving him the compressor and that he would have to have a service company fill out the warranty paperwork and pick the compressor up. He got mad at me and told me that I wasn't a good Christian because I wouldn't help him and that he was on disability and "deserved this compressor". I responded with he wasn't a good service technician and I had a handicapped son and deserved to keep my job. He got mad and left. Then came back a few minutes later wanting to BUY the compressor. I told him no. When he left, he was kind enough to drive through the oil puddle forward and backwards and eliminate any chance of an easy clean up with speedy dry.
    What do you think: should I have given him the compressor and put all of the paperwork on the service co willing to step up and take responsibility? Would you guys as techs and company owners ever do that?

    I never sell to homeowners, never tell them if it's in stock, NEVER give a price, and play stupid if they call and ask if their technician that was at their home ordered a part. If I suspect that I have a homeowner on the phone, I try to trip them up (what are the mfd's on your cap? what's your suction line size? do you have a reversing valve on that air conditioner?) or call the company they say they are working for to verify if they really work there. I would rather not sell them a gas valve and have them blow up their house and then sue me for selling to them.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2001
    Louisville, KY
    I think you should've called the local fire department to report the hazmat spill and provide his license plate number.

    And, you did the right thing. No homeowner sales. I don't care how many degrees you have. No license. No account. No sale.
    Perhaps you should have read the instructions before calling.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Fort Worth, TX
    What is your parts house policy about selling to non-contractors?

    I wouldn't sell to this HO, no matter what kind of sob story he laid on me. If he's that careless trying to get the old compressor to you, flinging oil everywhere and the whole bit, who's going to be catching more crap when he takes the new one home and attempts to hack it in? That's right...he'll be back in your face every inch of the way because he won't admit he's over his head when he screws it up.

    I hate it when folks try to lay a guilt trip on you because they don't get their way. If he's on disability, what's he doing lugging around a compressor that isn't exactly light as a feather?
    • Electricity makes refrigeration happen.
    • Refrigeration makes the HVAC psychrometric process happen.
    • HVAC pyschrometrics is what makes indoor human comfort happen...IF the ducts AND the building envelope cooperate.

    A building is NOT beautiful unless it is also comfortable.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2000
    Eastern PA
    That HO and that service company put you in a very awkward position. I tell my counter personell to insist on checking out someone unknown trying to obtain parts. It seems that you did everything you could do to verify this person as being with the company that you called.

    However; I will not accept an unsealed compressor, no matter what. I don't know how Trane compressors that have Roto-Locks are sealed, but brazed compressors must be brazed and sealed for me to accept them.

    Once that person dumped the oil on the property, it would have been a battle for that compressor to be returned. I'm not sure I would not have called the police on them for dumping toxic waste or something equally has silly, just to harass them.

    It is a shame when HVAC personell are put into situations like this by lying and conniving HOs who have not ethics whatsoever when it comes to saving a few dollars.

    I just don't see how else you could have handled this situation without creating a bigger issue.
    Government is a disease...
    ...masquerading as its own cure…
    Ecclesiastes 10:2 NIV

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Boise Idaho
    it sounds bogus and you should turn them in to the epa and get $10, 000!!!!!

    keep up the good work, no license no sale!!!! I had a homowner try puttting in his own condensor fan, opened up the unit and the cap had blown made a total mess, fan blade hit the coil and was running backwards. For fun I tested his old motor and it worked fine. His cap was bad and he ended up buying a new condensor, when it all could have beeen done for $125. he bought the motor from an apliance parts place, they sell to anyone.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    NO! I would not have sold it to him. When we have one of these types come into our store,,,,I either say that I will take this one or my team mamtes call me up to handle them. I have foound that once you do will come back to haunt ya. they will be back for something else and say...."what do you mean....YOU sold to me last time." I ask for a business card along with copy of their EPA and insurance. You did good....don't lose any sleep over this fool

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Slacking off right now
    Thank you for not selling to people whom are not trained and/or liscenced - The best tool bags on the market - The offical tool bag of choice by techs everywhere

    Arguing with some people is like wrestling a pig - eventually you realise the pig actually enjoys it

    Gonads serve a useful purpose but are no substitute for brains

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Burleson, Texas
    Close the account of the contractor that u were talking to on the phone.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    I wish more people had your will power. You did great. I hope that wasn't a r-410 system he was working on.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Merrimack Valley, MA


    This homeowner (are all homeowners "HO's"?) was a jerk. It's a shame you didn't get a hold of his license plate and get him to pay for the clean-up. He was way out of line.

    On the flip side, if the compressor was turned in sealed up properly and there was proof of recovery, why not sell him a new one? You can buy whatever you want for your car. It still doesn't mean you have the skills to do it right and not injure yourself or others. And if it breaks, somebody gets a service call.

    If there was a disclaimer that any non-licensed person who buys a part is doing so at their risk and responsibility, you avoid many of those arguments.

    And price? Why not? What's being hidden? An auto mechanic has a set rate and your bill is itemized (with inflated parts prices on occasion). I know how much my brake rotors cost. I know how much my toilet costs. Why can't I know what my condenser fan costs?

    But I do hope that jerk learns from his behavior.

    BTW, I had another estimate for adding A/C to my furnace. Only the 2nd vendor in 7 (across two different jobs spanning 5 years) to ask me what I wanted, do a man-J, explain what equipment would fit my preferences, and why. The sales guy was actually encouraged that I asked questions and didn't mind that I had done my own calculations (HVAC-Calc). He wanted to compare them once his calculations were complete and the proposal presented. He even picked up on the too-low intake for my furnace, without me asking, when looking around outside. But proof's in the proposal.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2006

    On the Consumers who Want it Cheap...

    While I was writing this reply to the post on whether contractors like the homeowners to buy the equipment or not, the thread was closed.

    It may be appropriate to this thread, so cut and paste, and here it goes...

    I came to this site over a year ago to answer the naive question "what does an A/C unit cost?". I have concluded that it is the total package (including the service/install), and the cost of the equipment is really not the issue.

    By way of background, I am a doctor on a salary for Uncle Sam. I am not a salesman or HVAC professional, just a soon-to-be consumer of HVAC services.

    Every tradesman or professional who provides a service that includes a tangible component (car repair, HVAC installation, plumbing, construction, or for that matter hospitalization, medical services, financial services that don't) has a public relations problem. How can I sell that service and make a profit. Notice I didn't say "reasonable" or "fair" profit, because you can't really define either as a consumer or a provider of the service.

    It has been made unseemly by the "consumer" movement of the 1960's and other envy-based organizations to be seen making a profit, but consumers have to remember that they are not entitled to "at cost" or wholesale services or products. Further, if people who do the work don't make a living, you won't have the service for long. Do you willingly work at your job for what it cost you to get to the job? I didn't think so.

    So, in HVAC-land, not unlike any other trade, part of the profit for service or an installation is "hidden" in plain sight in the form of the mark-up of the tangible product. This is in part because those who sell HVAC services are uncomfortable saying "here is what I need to stay in business and have a middle life or better life style for working hard in hot attics/stinking basements and staying current with EPA, OSHA, and whatever local government requires, the latest refrigerant, etc, etc, take it or leave it". You can read it here, explicitly or implicitly in most of the honest posts, however.

    In the eral of the internet, it really is not possible to keep the wholesale price of any product (including HVAC equipment) a secret, even if the manufacturers and distributors try to help keep it so (or even if the site rules don't permit it). Knowledge gets dispersed.

    It is a fact most consumers really don't appreciate what is required for a professional at any level to stay at the top of their game or just do a good job; they just want to know if the "blue wire goes on the green terminal", or "what antibiotic should I take for my cold," or "can I put that much weight on this kind of roof truss."

    This leads to tension on this and any similar forum where the consumer is trying to take the "parts" component of one tradesman's bid and match it with the "labor" component of another tradesman's bid; I think you call it "bid chiseling" or whatever.

    It would be nice if the wholesale costs of components were disclosed and the tradesmen could compete for business on the basis of their superior workmanship, but I just don't see that yet.

    Look at your recent car repair bill (I have had quite a few recently) and see what labor rate you are being quoted. In the DC suburbs it is at or over $100 per hour. Do you think the mechanic actually takes home that net or even gross pay? No, of course not. A lot of this goes to cross-subsidize the cost of tools for the shop, online data subscriptions, keeping a core set of parts on hand, training for the techs, the heat, the lights, the water, etc, etc. There is probably a substantial markup in the parts, too, but in auto repair business, they are not bashful about being seen to make money on the "labor".

    In a hospital, they charge several dollars for a pill that has a wholesale price of pennies; everyone knows about the $10 aspirin. However, the cost of getting the 20 cent aspirin to the correct patient at the right time and know that it is not going to have an interaction with another drug being given concomitantly, and knowing who gave it, when, and that it was not from a bottle that expired adds up. And the $10 aspirin subsidizes the care for the deadbeats and indigent patients that pay nothing for a $30,000-$50,000 surgery, or whatever that the hospital writes off for legal or PR reasons. Further, the "price" differs according to whether you negotiated in advance (via your insurance) or just used the service and asked what you owed.

    My architect charges $100 per hour (more that I make), and a few dollars for the copies of the blueprints that he provides. A lawyer or a doctor will charge a seemingly large fee for a service, and usually they make money on the service, but sometimes they loose money in terms of hours spent dealing with the complicated case.

    A drug company that does research to bring a truly new and useful compound to market has spent tens of millions of dollars to do the research, perform the clinical trials, and jump the regulatory hurdles that ensure that the 250 mg tablet is 99% pure, at least 99% potent, is 250 not 225 mg, has been tested for toxins, and the components can be traced to the original supplier if there is a problem, comes in a tamper proof container to keep the nuts from putting poison in at some step, and the distributed pills can be tracked down in the event of a recall. And when a jury awards an injured consumer a half-million dollars, or a group of injured parties hundreds of millions of dollars, that is paid for with profits from drugs you buy (they don't print that money in the basement).

    Rugs? Fine jewelry? Probably 300% to 500% markup, then 20% 50% discount to make you feel like you got a "deal".

    Groceries? 2-3% profit or loss on the food, with sale of food the draw to get you in the store to buy the furniture polish or DVD's on aisle 5. Whatever.

    All of this by way of making the point that every trade has a particular way of making a profit and staying in business. In HVAC part of the profit has traditionally been in the markup of the equipment, so you shouldn't expect to take that out of the honest businessman's bid and expect him to make you a priority account.

    To get the lowest "fair" price (whatever that is), get a few bids and do your homework. And don't begrudge the HVAC contractor a middle-class lifestyle.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2001
    Louisville, KY
    Thank you for the post. Others should read it a few times.
    Perhaps you should have read the instructions before calling.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Lest anyone think I am just a suck up to the HVAC forum I have to say that there is a real problem with the profession in that the consumer frankly feels like it is a crap shoot even when they do their homework and pay a pretty penny. We will never really knows if the system is right until after the install, and maybe not even then.

    I have seen the arguments about certification and its value or lack thereof, and if there isn't agreement among the professionals as to how to ensure high standards, then how are we to know?

    That is one legitimate reason why people want to have some kind of breakdown on a bid; they want to digest it and say X hours of labor at some plausible hourly rate plus X markup on the equipment, seems ok, or not.

    Of course, my particular medical specialty is one where we are paid almost exclusively to analyze lab tests and think about difficult problems, and there are only a couple of procedures we bill for (unlike a surgeon who is paid mainly to perform a skilled procedure). People are in awe of skilled procedures, but once you explain how you came up with a diagnosis or a treatment plan, they usually think "Well, I could have figured that out", even if they never could have in a hundred years.

    Everybody has to have an angle, or think they do.

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