Service Experts Ripoff

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.

Dave Hitt

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:

Service Experts Ripoff
As I said in the letter, I don’t mind paying $99 for the service call. The fact that it only took him fifteen minutes to replace it and then test the system doesn’t matter – I was paying for his expertise. But paying $174 for a $20 part – that matters.

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.

7 Comment(s)

  1. My dryer went nuts on me a couple of weeks ago. Maytag Neptune. I knew the above would happen so I didn’t call. I opened up the back looked and decided it was the control board. Went to ebay, went to Searspartsdirect. Ebay had the part for $99, Sears Direct $200. I went for the Sears part. Got it, It didn’t fix the problem. My son and I toned the the LCD control panel buttons, all of them were correct except for two sets were swapped.

    I ordered a new LCD panel. $179. Swapped them out with the old controller. Voila. The dryer worked again. Sears direct let me send back the unneeded Control Board. 90 day returns. The ebay site was 15 day.

    In Wisconsin, My air conditioner did the same thing. I didn’t call a repair man. I did find the blown capacitor and replaced it. One thing to remember. After you turn the power on to the air conditioner, you need to wait 24 hours (or 12) to start it. That capacitor has to charge. It doesn’t do it quickly.

    brad tittle | Aug 8, 2013 | Reply

  2. The crazy markup op the parts allowed Service Experts to grow and provide a rapid response. I don’t think you can separate the good service and high prices.
    Googling your problem is very good, but you should have done that sooner. You might have fixed it yourself and save much more. I do it all the time.

    That capacitor looks like a motor capacitor that delays the mains frequency to start up the compressor motor. That takes a lot of abuse and gets probably very hot. No need to wait for it to charge.

    Eur van Andel | Aug 10, 2013 | Reply

  3. Sorry Dave, but I agree with Eur.

    I work in customer service and I always get customers complaining about the price of my company’s service and a lot of will angrily say that they are “stuck” with my company since we are the only people who can provide them service. I point out that since we provide service countrywide and also in many remote communities that is why our prices are so high. Some customers gratefully acknowledge my point and most begrudgingly acknowledge my point. Some respond with a stream of obscenities and death threats.

    I am not saying without a doubt that it was a fair price, but I am saying is that you usually get what you pay for and good service isn’t always cheap.

    Harley | Aug 17, 2013 | Reply

  4. @Harley: Paying for good service – well, 99$ for half an hour of work, isnt’t that it already?

    High prices for exotic parts that are seldom used but on stock for a long time to provide immediate servicability – fine. But as I read the article, the spare was a common item as the mechanic almost immediately knew what to replace. So no multi annual storage interest on the item price should be applied.

    If that service company thinks, their service prices are still too low, then they should increase them (and announce them) – cusomers will pay for good service and expertise if they know the price in advance.

    Michael | Sep 28, 2013 | Reply

  5. Current doesn’t flow through a capacitor, so it doesn’t generate heat. In fact, this is one way to diagnose a bad one–if it’s hot (or even warm), it’s BAD.

    Joe | Nov 28, 2013 | Reply

  6. Eur makes total since. I myself also being in the HVAC industry for a small “mom & pops” company. I know this company, they have aquired A LOT of smaller companies with wonderful reputations in bigger metropolitan areas, Service Experts is a MASSIVE company and apart of American Capital investment group now. Comparing to my company, they are pricier, but by no means are they a “rip-off.” Yes a capacitor is a cheap part that we as hvac contractors spend a lot less on to get them. My company charges an $89.00 trip charge, and for a capacitor replacement it’s a standard $119.00 whether it take our tech 10 minutes or 4 hours, flat-rate pay, most hvac companies have moved to this method. Look at the large picture, imagine being the owner of a company and having to pay your employees hourly pay to do the work, company work truck, insurance, gas, employee benefits… I think I’ve made my point. All of that is taken into account when the prices are set for any service company for anything. Also, think of how much it costs JC Penny for a shirt, probably $2-$5.00, and they’ll charge $25-$50.00 to us as a consumer. So before you go knocking trades out there, and companies, think a little bit.

    Steve | Jan 29, 2014 | Reply

  7. for a capacitor replacement it’s a standard $119.00 whether it take our tech 10 minutes or 4 hours,

    If you had done the work in ten minutes and charged me $119, I would have been delighted.

    $274, not so much.

    Dave Hitt | Feb 9, 2014 | Reply

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