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  1. #1

    Semi-ethical question regarding billing when the first visit didn't fix the problem

    Hi there:

    I posted a separate thread yesterday about problems Im having with a gas boiler starting fine when cold, but refusing to re-fire. I was also getting an intermittent buzzing noise from the gas valve. The buzzing had been present for awhile, the re-firing issue only happened within the past week or so.

    Long story short, the techs replaced the gas valve. I sat in the next room as the two gents did the diagnostics and heard them discuss the readings they were getting, and they seemed pretty thorough and competent. I dont really doubt that the gas valve needed fixing (at least for the buzzing issue), and received verbal assurance that the other symptoms I described (the non-firing) were also consistent with having to replace the gas valve.

    The non-firing issue resurfaced hours after the repair (the buzzing seems to have stopped in the few times Ive gotten the boiler to fire, though). Although Ive received advice on the other thread about finding a different HVAC pro to work on the problem, I think there is some value in having the same company come out again to work again at getting a correct diagnosis, because in my view, Im a long-time customer who has already paid for a correct diagnosis and didnt exactly get it. I also think (perhaps wishfully?) that when I call Monday morning to report that Ive had no heat all weekend, the company might be willing to give my job a bit of priority (if they care about getting things right for their customers).

    So my question for the HVAC pros out there is this: What is a reasonable request on my part regarding billing? At the very least, I would like the service charges and diagnostic fee waived for this new return visit. And what is the best way to approach the company about whether the rather expensive job they did on Friday might not have been necessary?

    I try to treat people who come into my home to do work politely and professionally, but I also want to get fair value for my money. How do you guys who do this for a living handle the situation when a customer has a complaint like this?

    Thanks,

    Tim

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Kansas City MO
    Posts
    16
    Do you have a digital thermostat?

  3. #3

    Talking

    Since you have an intermittent problem, you have to be patient and understand the techs perspective. If it was my company that was out already, we would come take another look at the problem without charging you any labor, but you would still have to pay for any parts cost. The gas valve was buzzing, so I would have recommended replacement as well, and dont expect any type of refund on that. Like you said, the buzzing stopped. The best way to approach them is with kindness and humor, call in Monday morning and be polite.

  4. #4
    Yes, two zones, both thermostats are digital.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Location
    Houston Texas
    Posts
    6,320
    I agree, be understanding an intermittent problem can be a pain to deal with. The worst thing they could do is throw a bunch of parts needlessly at the problem. They found a problem and fixed it that could have been it, appears that is not the case. I suspect they will send the techs back out at no additional cost and only charge for any repairs. Having fixed on problem they can now focus on other possible reason for your problem.

    I do not work on boilers but ignitions systems can be a pain.

    Since you appear to have a relationship with this company give them a chance more than likely they will do the right thing for you automatically.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Northeast Ohio
    Posts
    4,842
    Our standard procedure is to only charge for additional parts and possibly a labor fee depending on the extra work involved with changing the part, sometimes no labor. No new service call charge, trip charge or diagnostic fee.
    A good HVAC tech knows how, an educated HVAC tech knows why!

    DEM


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Chapel Hill, NC
    Posts
    1,070
    "The worst thing they could do is throw a bunch of parts needlessly at the problem."

    Unfortunately, that's pretty much the standard in any service industry these days. The customer has to stand up for him/her self as no-one else will. There are exceptions, but they are exceptions.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    6,837
    This is the type of situation that separates the low bidder from the quality company. If you're dealing with a quality company, then they already have a designated policy on how they treat repeat and intermittent service problems. I can't speak for them but our company policy is to charge for only those parts that solve a problem. There may be one or more parts involved but if we ever put on a part that does not solve the problem, we don't charge for the part. Of course, we're not the cheapest in town either, which is the only reason we can afford to have such a policy. As for the gas valve, given the current intermittent problem I would also have replaced it, considering the buzzing sound. Not knowing exactly what type of equipment is involved, it's very difficult to give any additonal recommendations. But I would nicely consult with the office of the company you've chosen and get the dope on what their intermittent and callback policies are. That'll tell you right there whether you need to seek another company or not. If so, at least you'll know the first question to ask them!
    If YOU want change, YOU have to first change.

    If you are waiting for the 'other guy' to change first, just remember, you're the 'other guy's' other guy. To continue to expect real change when you keep acting the same way as always, is folly. Won't happen. Real change will only happen when a majority of the people change the way they vote!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    NY NY
    Posts
    181
    Tim,

    For some reason I think if your service tech had fixed the no heat condition we would be having this conversation regarding the noise at your valve.

    Intermittent control or mechanical defects can be elusive and challenging to find. Having the condition present a good tech should be capable of solving your problem in a professional manner.

    I think most pro's that have read your post understand the source of this condintion.

    Give them a chance and I'm sure all will work out to your satisfaction .

    Regards

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    2,857
    Quote Originally Posted by skippedover View Post
    This is the type of situation that separates the low bidder from the quality company. If you're dealing with a quality company, then they already have a designated policy on how they treat repeat and intermittent service problems. I can't speak for them but our company policy is to charge for only those parts that solve a problem. There may be one or more parts involved but if we ever put on a part that does not solve the problem, we don't charge for the part. Of course, we're not the cheapest in town either, which is the only reason we can afford to have such a policy. As for the gas valve, given the current intermittent problem I would also have replaced it, considering the buzzing sound. Not knowing exactly what type of equipment is involved, it's very difficult to give any additonal recommendations. But I would nicely consult with the office of the company you've chosen and get the dope on what their intermittent and callback policies are. That'll tell you right there whether you need to seek another company or not. If so, at least you'll know the first question to ask them!
    All quality companies have a labor warranty, not only for repair but diagnostics as well. Intermittent problems are can really throw a kink into situation, especially if technicians are overscheduled. As the failure is happening periodically, you may have a good opportunity to "predict" the failure from a cold boiler and ask your company to make sure to have a tech available and set up to see it happen themselves.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Saskatchewan
    Posts
    492
    I always tell the customer up front I will wave the travel time. The way I see it is you have to pay for the time. There is no flat rate on a figuring it out. Most guys do not try to make a million off you anyway. If takes 4 hours over 4 trips, or 4 hours on one trip, if I wave the travel time it is the same.

    I am upfront and tell thy guy right away, we start here with Mr Buzzy valve, I cannot promise that is it because I never see the thing fail. If it happens again do not touch anything. Call me and I will drop what I am doing and come back ASAP. I also hold the invoice open for a few days to see if the guy is happy or not. One big bill is always to collect than 3 small ones!

    I had a problem like that once with an A/C. Turns out 8 trips later I figured it out. The power was out 8 times in a month and the lady called me 8 times about her new A/C not working! Her neighbor finally clued me in to fact!

    We didn't break it. It was broke when we showed up.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Harrisburg, Pa
    Posts
    56

    jGive your service comapny a chance.

    Hi Tim

    Give your service techs a chance. Intermittent problems can be a bear to solve.
    I can't speak for your service company, but in my case I charge only for one service call and one diagnostic. If my initial course of action does not solve the issue, you pay for parts only. The only way you will pay an additional labor charge is if the solve for the problem involves a significant amount of time.
    Be patient and pleasant. Ask questions upfront concerning your fears of addtional labor charges. Its my guess you will be treated very fairly.

    Good Luck to you.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Posts
    1,383
    Intermittent problems CAN be a problem to diagnose.

    But often they are merely a challenge to diagnose, and should be correctly identified and corrected the first time out with good diagnostic methods and repair people.

    Intermittent problems can often be replicated and observed by cycling the furnace until it fails. Letting a furnace burner run continuously for 15-20 minutes will disclose a good many intermittent problems, and so will firing up a furnace 50-100 times to see if it will fail when igniting.

    Then there are the weak systems. Have the DC microamps on the flame sensor been measured? Did the repairman get out a manometer to measure the pressure being applied to the pressure switch to see if something is on the edge of failing?

    Intermittent problems often CAN be diagnosed the first time out by a skilled and energetic repairman. Not always --- but usually.

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