Doctor Fix-It was wrong to charge me for a warranty call because the original problem was misdiagnosed/not resolved the first time.
Although the poor service and misleading phone calls/advertising I experienced with Benjamin Franklin/Doctor Fix-It are reason enough for a complaint, I am filing with the BBB primarily because of their unwillingness to uphold their warranty on service provided.
I called Benjamin Franklin/Doctor Fix-It on June 22 complaining of a clogged laundry drain in my basement. Having received quotes from other companies, I asked specifically what it would cost to have the drain cleared, emphasizing that I was worried the mainline was clogged. The receptionist assured me the advertisement I'd seen online for $100 clearing of any drain was true. Based on this conversation I selected Benjamin Franklin/Doctor Fix-It to do the job.
Upon the tech's late arrival, I immediately voiced my concerns that it was the mainline that was backed up. Although running my laundry had caused the backup on this occasion, I informed the tech that my shower had been causing the drain to back up throughout the week. Furthermore, I had snaked the drain myself to 25 feet-beyond the the junction where the laundry line joins the mainline-without yet reaching the clog. Despite this information, the tech diagnosed the problem as a laundry line backup (presumably the easier of the two jobs) and I accepted his diagnosis.
He offered me the option of a $100 one-time augur job that carried no warranty, or a $200 jet job that would be covered for two years-double what I'd been quoted on the phone. This information was conveniently omitted by the original representative I'd spoken with and would have weighed in my decision to hire Benjamin Franklin/Doctor Fix-It. After making a counter-offer, the tech and I settled on having the drain jetted for a lesser payment in exchange for a shorter one-year warranty.
I carefully watched the tech do his work and observed him running the jet a significant distance before the clog was cleared. When the drain finally started to clear, I asked him how far he had gone specifically because I was interested in knowing where the clog was. He estimated that he had gone 40 feet, which was undoubtedly in the mainline.
Within a couple of weeks the same drain began backing up again, although the effects were minor enough that I felt comfortable putting off the inconvenience of having a plumber come out again. On July 31, the backup worsened and I called Benjamin Franklin/Doctor Fix-It to come out on their warranty. Because they were at fault and I typically commute an hour home from work, I asked that they schedule service in the evening. The receptions said no evening appointments were made. She offered an appointment at 5:00 pm. I took off 2 hours early from work to be home in time for the appointment.
Well after 5:00 pm a different receptionist called to let me know the plumber would be later than the "5-to-7 time window"-a "time window" I'd neither been told about nor agreed to. In fact the very existence of such a time window had been denied entirely by the first person I'd spoken to. The plumber did not arrive until 7:45, nearly three hours later than the agreed upon time. By now the drain had cleared on its own, and despite running the water for half an hour we were unable to get the drain to back up again. Now the technician diagnosed the problem as the mainline & recommended a different $150 procedure to have it cleared.
When I objected the tech put me on the phone with his supervisor, who condescendingly told me that I didn't understand how my pipes work and that clearing one drain did not mean the entire house was warrantied. I made the following points:
(1) The original problem, which was water backing up from the laundry drain, had not been resolved. In what context would a warranty apply if not when the exact same problem recurs?
The supervisor countered that the clog was the result of different root causes, occurring in the mainline this time but in the laundry line the first time.
(2) I argued that the root cause of water backing up had been the same both times. Because the tech had to go 40 feet before clearing the clog the first time, it had to be in the mainline; the tech would have to be either incompetent or willfully ignorant to think otherwise. Whether or not he entered through the laundry line or mainline itself, the mainline was where the clog had been both times, and because the the same root problem was to blame the solution should be warrantied.
The supervisor countered that the tech had gone 40 feet not out of necessity, but as "additional service" to me as a customer-something I know to be utterly false based on my observation and discussion with the tech at the time of his first visit. The supervisor then changed his story and told me the service itself was warrantied; because a different service was now being suggested the warranty did not apply.
(3) I argued that the tech should have recognized at the time of the first visit that the laundry line was not the problem and offered to clear the mainline (as I'd originally asked) at that time. Doing so would have saved a second call out. Given that the tech possessed all the information necessary to make a correct diagnosis and failed to, the company should bear the responsibility of his error in judgment.
The supervisor maintained that I should have to pay to have the mainline cleared. As the hour was now approaching 9:00 pm and my problem was still not resolved, I asked him to make an offer. He offered to have the work done for $89-with no warranty-or else full price if I wanted the work covered. Because the company had already demonstrated it did not honor its commitments, I acquiesced and accepted the $89, no-warranty offer.
I maintain that Benjamin Franklin/Doctor Fix-It was wrong to charge me for a warranty call for the reasons cited above: The original problem was not resolved the first time, the root cause of the problem was the same both times, and the tech misdiagnosed the problem upon his first visit. Furthermore, I never signed a document stating the terms of the warranty, nor were they enumerated on any of the sales material or documentation I was given. The terms of the warranty were not even discussed verbally. A warranty that can be honored on an ad-hoc basis defeats the purpose of having a warranty at all, and certainly does not justify a 100% markup in price.
This all considered alongside Benjamin Franklin/Doctor Fix-It's poor customer service, repeat tardiness and misleading conversations, I cannot in good conscience recommend anyone seek out their plumbing services for the simplest of problems, let alone a major job. I hope others will learn from my experiences. The promise of warranties should not be bandied about without their terms disclosed in writing.
Business' Initial Response
After speaking with this customer (BBB case # ********) and reviewing his concerns regarding the service he received from our company, I wanted to communicate the resolution. I first reviewed the nature of the call and the concerns our customer had. He agreed that I understood his concerns regarding this call. We addressed each issue one by one. His main concern was that his issue was not taken care of after spending the time & money to get it taken care of.
Although, our techs do their best to diagnose issues properly, there will be times where they just misdiagnose. We make it an emphasis to learn from those mistakes so they don't get repeated and we can also pass that experience on to our other techs so we can service our customers better. As a company philosophy when situations like this occur, we want to take care of our customers. In this case, with this customer, we did not do that. I apologized that we did not take care of him in a manner that coincides with that philosophy.
To make amends I offered him a full refund of both the services and have also given him an additional $100 to cover a future drain cleaning expense if the line backs-up again. As part of our philosophy we make it a point to leave the customer satisfied with the resolution. The customer assured me that this resolution made him satisfied. I also thanked him for the information that was brought to our attention so we can continue to train our employees to get better at servicing our customers to the point they are 100% satisfied with every aspect of the service they receive from using our company.
We have since spoken with not only the supervisor in charge of this job but with all of our supervisors in regards to this specific failure and how to avoid this in the future.
Mr. Smith seemed very pleased & that is our goal to make our customers happy!
Consumer's Final Response
(The consumer indicated he/she ACCEPTED the response from the business.)
I was pleased by the company's admission of their error and decision to refund my money.