Recently the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) did a sting operation where they tried to catch various types of repairmen trying to cheat their customers.
To those people who have been calling and texting me: NO, my company was not featured. They featured a company called Neighbourhood Appliance Service out of Scarborough, Ontario. My company is Neighbour’s Appliance Service servicing Mississauga and Brampton. We are in no way associated … I’ve never met them before. Those were not my guys.
Here is where the show can be viewed online: http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/2012/whentherepairmanknocks/
I’m not sure if that link will work for people outside of Canada – maybe my foreign visitors can drop me a line and let me know.
Now, onto some thoughts and comments on the show.
I am really not a fan of this type of ‘aha, I caught you’ type of lazy reporting. The simulated problems are often not something normally seen in the field as was pointed out by many commenters on the CBC site. If you want to run this type of show, don’t simulate a problem – use a real problem on a real machine. Diagnose it, but don’t fix it and then see who finds the problem and who is just changing parts. I’m not a toilet guy, but I certainly understand that chains do not normally tighten themselves, so I might not have looked to that as the initial problem. I would like to think that I would have caught it, but even the very best service men are fooled some of the time – it’s what they do when they see they’ve made a mistake which separates the scammers from the legit companies.
For the dishwasher not draining problem; this was a good simulation. Blocked drains at the drain stub under the sink are very common and is the very first place any tech should look when diagnosing a dishwasher not draining. Typically, I would start at the drain stub and work backwards to sort out this type of problem. Most of the appliance guys caught that pretty quick … except for the rookie that they showed last. That guy is one of the scary ones as he clearly did not have the experience or even the common sense to start in the most likely place. Here’s a hint for consumers: if an appliance repair guy pulls up in a family car, run. In the industry, these are called ‘car trunkers’ and they have the reputation of being fly-by-nighters. Consider yourself warned.
Finally, I am uncertain how I would react with a reporter jumping out with an ‘aha’, and cameras and lights and people milling around. I want to believe that I would keep my cool and stay professional, but the purpose of this type of attack is to fluster guys up and get them to react. That is what ‘reality TV’ is all about – the reaction. As I said earlier, it is how a repairman reacts when he makes a mistake that separates the honest guys out. I am totally ignoring the companies that were blatantly trying to rip off the consumer (those guys deserve every bit of bad publicity they get) – but I really think that a couple of those guys who were ‘caught’ had just made an honest mistake and did not know how to react when the cameras were on them. How would you react in the same situation in your job? This was meant as a rhetorical question, but something maybe we all should spend a moment to prepare for with the advent of cameras everywhere and lazy reporting. I would like to have seen a bit more of the ‘good companies’ and maybe some interviews with those techs to find out how they think and act. Showing consumers what a professional repairman looks and acts like and how he thinks, might have done just as much good as showing the scammers who are harder to spot because they do everything they can to blend in. Of course, positive reporting does not sell TV shows …
Advice for Consumers.
You do not need to be a victim of a scammer … not in your appliance repairs, not in your car repairs or on the internet. If you get an email from Nigeria saying that there is 3 million dollars in a bank account waiting for you … it’s a scam. Use your head. Keep your common sense about you – if it sounds fishy, it probably is.
Have a plan. Don’t call the first guy in the yellowpages who’s company starts with AAAAAAAAAA Appliance Repair (so that his listing is first in the Yellow Pages.) Call 3 or 4 companies to get quotes and get a feel for how they operate. Don’t go with the guy you feel uncomfortable talking to on the phone just because he will undercut the other 3 companies by 10 bucks. Back to common sense – use it. Cheaper is not always better.
Spend 5 minutes on Google looking up the problem with your machine. There are very few problems out there that are not talked about in some way on the internet … not that everything you read on the internet is correct, (see Nigeria above,) but at least arm yourself with a basic understanding of your appliance and how it works. Don’t tell the appliance repair guy what you think is wrong, but make sure that what he explains to you makes sense in light of what you learned before the repair. Knowledge is good protection against scammers.
Call the manufacturer and ask who they recommend. Appliance manufacturers do not want their customers ripped off. It is in their best interest to recommend the very best repairman they can. Trust them.
Get references. Call your friends … ask co-workers. Who had a good experience with whom. Who to avoid. Word of mouth, while not always 100% accurate is a lot better indicator of performance than a colour ad in your local newspaper. Check out reviews online … but beware of reviews for companies that all look the same. Online reviews are another scam that many repair companies are using to suck in customers. In fact, one of the ‘good’ appliance repair companies shown in the show has purchased 100’s of reviews which are showing in various local review sites in the GTA. Fake reviews: run.
Get a second opinion. Back to my first point – you don’t need to be scammed. If you don’t like what you are hearing … if you are uncomfortable with what the repair guy is saying or doing – stop. Get a second opinion. Spending the extra $40 or $50 dollars might save you $100’s in unnecessary repairs. This is your home – you are in control. Don’t ever forget that.
Takeaways for Service Companies.
Dress for success. I noticed that guys who generally looked good were either the companies that did good work … or were the ones behind the sting, setting up the problems. A nice uniform will instill confidence a lot more than an old pair of ratty jeans and a dirty t-shirt. (Note to self: Add ‘New Work Pants’ to the ToDo list … lol.)
Say ‘hello’ at the door and make some small chat. I was uncomfortable watching the guys who just barged into the home with little more than a ‘where is the problem.’ I’ve found that even just asking how the consumers day is going will break the ice and open them up to you. Getting the consumer to talk to you is key to a quick repair. Once you have a bit of experience, you will find that you can diagnose many problems just by what the consumer is telling you. You’ve seen and heard it before – use your ears and your experience to help you diagnose.
Spend the extra time on the diagnosis part of the repair … and don’t think out loud. Keep your thoughts about what you are seeing to yourself until you are sure of what you are seeing and what needs to be done. This is a lesson that took me a long time to learn. I used to blather on and on about what I was seeing and what I thought the problem was only to have to backtrack later when, after spending the appropriate amount of time diagnosing, I discovered that my initial thoughts were wrong and the problem was something else. Then I had to spend extra time trying to explain to the customer why my initial thoughts were incorrect … ‘but don’t worry, I know what is wrong now.’ lol. It does not help the consumer have confidence in you.
Have a plan. Much like my advise to consumers, every repair should have a plan. That is the first mistake by the rookie appliance repair guy who had water everywhere. The dishwasher is full of water … and not draining. What happens if you hit the fill? It will flood. Nice plan. Instead, plan ahead. How can I get this water out of this dishwasher? Do I need a bucket? Is it possible that I may have some water come out – do I have towels handy? Make a plan before taking out the first screw – then work the plan. It takes seconds.
Finally … guys. Peeing in a customers coffee cup and then putting it in the sink???? Peeing in a bucket and leaving it in the corner of the garage???? REALLY????? What is wrong with you animals? I’ve never seen or even really heard of that before. There is NO excuse for this. Here in Canada we have a Tim Hortons on pretty much every street corner … what better place to take five minutes to use the facilities … freshen up a bit and have a nice coffee – all for $1.65. There is no excuse for what those guys did and I’m embarrassed for my industry to see that. To my readers who are consumers – that is NOT the norm. I’ve been in this industry for 22 years now, and I’ve never seen that before. Shocking.
EDIT: I’ve got to say one more thing. That show was not indicative of the average appliance repairman or company that I know. I associate with probably a good dozen companies and none of them would provide the type of service that was shown by the bad companies on this TV show. I know those types of guys are out there – I do see the results of their work, but they are fewer and farther between that what CBC would have you think. There is no perspective on this show – did they go through 15 companies to find the one or two bad ones? Why did the last 3 companies in the garage door opener sting all have the same logo on their truck? What this just to pad the shows findings? They should have provided some perspective on what they did there. I would like to have seen 10 or 15 companies recommended by manufacturers put through a sting operation like that. I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of them would have passed those tests with flying colours. Maybe this is just me with my rose coloured glasses on, but I smell something fishy here based on my experience in the industry. (See point 1 under Advice for Consumers.)
Would love to hear your comments.