Eight years ago, Roland J. Down, a large local company, installed a new heater and air conditioner in my home. I’ve had them do a few annual inspections since then, so a week ago, when the air conditioner died during a heat wave, I gave them a call.
The repair guy showed up on time, diagnosed the problem immediately, and fixed it quickly. I was surprised that his truck said Service Experts instead of Roland J. Down, but that seemed trivial. I was very happy, until after he left. I did a quick search for the part he replaced and saw what it cost, compared to what they charged me.
Evidently, most of the local heating and cooling contractors have hooked up with Service Experts. I don’t know if it’s a franchise or if Service Experts bought the businesses. I do know that I was ripped off.
They didn’t have an e-mail address, so I filled out their “Contact Us” form and sent them the following letter:
Last week I called for service on my air conditioner, expecting it would be a day or two before you could send someone out. I was pleased when you told me you could have a technician here in a couple of hours.
He arrived on time, and when I told him what the symptoms were, he said, without hesitation, “It’s probably the capacitor.” He checked the unit, took one look at the capacitor, and said, “That’s the problem. I can tell just by looking at it.” He got a replacement part from the truck and fixed it quickly. It took him about fifteen minutes, total. Then he checked the unit in my basement, did some tests, and said everything was working fine. He did is job quickly and well.
We then had an informative conversation about the best way to save on both my heating and cooling bill.
The bill was $267 dollars. The fee for the call was $99, which is reasonable, but the capacitor seemed overpriced at $174 dollars. Using the old part as a reference, I looked it up on-line, and found I could by it, retail, for less than twenty dollars. I know and accept that repair services have high markup for parts. Markups of 100% are common. Some places charge 200%. But 835%? $174 for a $20 part? That’s ridiculous. That’s insane. That’s a complete rip-off.
Let’s leave out the fact that you’re buying these in bulk, and no doubt playing far less than the retail price. We’ll just pretend that you’re paying twenty bucks for them. Let’s also agree that a 100% markup is acceptable, making my price for the part $40. With these generous assumptions, you’ve overcharged me by $134, plus tax. I would like a refund of that amount.
I realize that I agreed to that price, and paid it, and that if you refuse to humor me there’s nothing I can do about, other than share this story with my friends.
But I have a *lot* of friends.
I await your prompt response.
That was more than a week ago. I’ve received no reply, so this is step one of letting all my friends know what to expect. If you call anyone affiliated with Service Experts you can expect prompt, competent service, and you can also expect to be royally screwed on parts.
This is the part:
Now I know what to look for, and how simple it is to replace. If it goes again I’ll be able to fix it myself for twenty bucks. I wouldn’t have minded paying $140 to learn that. But $274? That guarantees I’ll never again call Roland J. Down, or anyone else affiliated with Service Experts.
The next time I have a problem with my system, I’ll call a local, unaffiliated contractor. Sorry, Service Experts, you only get to screw me once.