The decision to let Bessie go is what brought boiler salesman Charles-Charlie-Call Me Paul into my life. Hey, I’ll call you Twinkle Toes McGee if it gets me a deal. Seriously though, Parents of the World, don’t name kids a Jr, a III, a IV, and then call them by their middle name, making it all kinds of confusing. Put personal ego aside and use that moniker on the official paperwork too, eh? I can’t say for certain if that was the case in this instance because we didn’t discuss it. We did discuss how his father had a glass eye. So. That happened. Forever in my head I not only think of him as Charles-Charlie-Paul but as Charles-Charlie-Call Me Paul-With the Glass-Eyed Dad.
If you put Charles-Charlie-Call Me Paul-With the Glass-Eyed Dad and I into a dating algorithm we’d probably come up as a 15% match. Mostly because we both breathe air. He is one of the mansplainest of mansplainers I’ve ever met and I just spent a week locked in a conference room with a gentleman that took every succinct thought a woman in the room voiced and immediately turned it into a 20 minute exposition, upon the conclusion of which people often replied “Yes. That’s what she just said.” And not in a fun The Office kind of way. Charlie-Paul-Glass Eye was verbose and prone to saying things like “If you want, you can have your boyfriend or your Daddy to come take a look.” His bombasity shone through his attempts at Aw-Shucks, I’m just here to help faux folksiness.
So, why shack up with Charles-Charlie-Paul-Glass Eye and his company? It’s not that I spread my legs for the first salesman that walked in the door, dazzled by his pie charts, customer reviews, and glossy sales pitch. Tiny Logic Person would pitch a ginormous fit. This wasn’t my first Sales Pitch Salsa. I’d been on this dance floor before once or twice, brochures and quotes spread across the kitchen table after coffee and water is poured and the polite chit chat dispensed. I met with three companies like a Smart Single Girl Homeowner and it all came down to money. Not even money per se, as the estimates were all roughly the same for essentially the same products, but financing. Twinkle Toes McGee offered the lowest interest rate and the most manageable payments, plus a 2 year free service warranty. Like the other salesman, I thought I’d be shorn of him not long after signing on the dotted line. I didn’t think I was going to have to cash in the chips on his “Golly gee, even after the sale you’re always my customer, call me about any problems, but you won’t have any because it’s such a great unit” promises.
He promised a lot of things. No rampaging rain gods in the drywall because the shiny new circulators would keep air out of the closed system . Gas is SO CLEAN there’s no need for an annual cleaning like oil. Such GREAT HEAT I would never need so much as a sweater.
My first whiff of something rotten in the state of Denmark came just after the install. The Huh House has two “zones” for heat. Basically, the upstairs and the downstairs are on their own loops and controlled by two different thermostats. It didn’t take more than a few hours to figure out something for the zones had been hooked up backwards. It’s not really quantum physics to identify upstairs is blazing 15° over the set temperature and the heat continues to pump while downstairs the baseboards are cold even though it’s several degrees below the set temp. So, I called up my friend Charles-Charlie-Paul-Glass Eye. Who proceeded to question why this little lady here might think such a thing as his company screwed up and tax her brain. I restrained myself from physically saying “Look you misogynistic jackass, this is a pretty reasonable, basic deduction.” However, I believe my tone as I explained the situation probably came across exactly as “Hey Jackass, I’m not trying to quantify a wormhole in the space time continuum here. Stop being a jackass, you jackass,” and he quickly backpedaled to admit it was probably a simple cross wiring mistake and he would make sure it was fixed.
That first winter melted away to spring and I clicked the heat off without further serious complication. Spring budded to summer and I marveled at my $15 gas bill. Summer slid into a very mild fall and early winter. I turned the thermostat on downstairs and found the ambient heat rising more than sufficient to keep the upstairs comfortable until after we rang in a new year. And thus began my true Winter of Discontent and Disgruntlement.
I’m just going to put my first very professional, restrained e-mail here since it spells it all out. I tried not to get Charles-Charlie-Paul-Glass Eyed involved. Each time I called that service phone number plastered smack dab on the front of my sleek, shiny new boiler, that number I was promised so fervently I wouldn’t have to dial, I was hopeful it would be fixed. After the fifth call, and starting to feel so familiar with the dispatcher I thought we might soon be swapping crockpot recipes, I knew it was time to cash those chips in. Please be sure to note the date on this. It may help explain the not quite as professional, angry typing that occurred in the follow-up e-mail to this.
Subject: New boiler issues
Date: Friday, January 29, 2016 4:03 PM
I’m not sure if you remember me from last year. You sold me a new boiler just before Christmas when I switched from oil to gas. You said to contact you if I had any issues. I’m currently sitting here with a repairman in my house for the fifth time since January 3rd for the exact same problem. I am beginning to suspect I have a lemon on my hands. Due to the warmer nature of the fall I did not turn on the heat to my upstairs (which if you may recall is separately zoned and was with my old unit as well) until the New Year since there was enough ambient heat from downstairs to keep it comfortable. As soon as it became colder is when the issues began. The thermostat clicks on to heat but I don’t get any on the second floor. I tested it several times to make sure it was turning the boiler on and it has been, but my baseboards remain ice cold on the second floor. Additionally, the heat on the first floor never seems to reach the set temperature, which is only set at 70 when I’m home and 66 when I’m not, on the programmed schedule. Unless the day outside is warmer it never seems to get above 65 so the unit is constantly running and I’m spending money on gas that I would not be if the unit were working properly. I noticed this issue briefly last winter but chalked it up to the fact that I had oil before and a boiler without a temper that was firing extremely overheated water through the baseboards. I thought perhaps it was just a difference. I could postulate it’s the pipes in the baseboards but I never had any issues when I had oil and the 25 year old boiler. The boiler is the only thing that has really changed in the system. I have included images of the downstairs thermostat on two separate days. The real matter at hand is the upstairs zone and the fact that a repairman comes, the heat upstairs works for about 3 days, maybe a week if I’m lucky, and then I wake up or come home from work to an upstairs that is 58 degrees. It’s not even that I set it that high upstairs that 58 is a huge difference (it’s only set at 64 and 66) but I am still paying for this brand new boiler that was proposed to be efficient, cost effective, and give me “great heat”, and paying for that gas firing into said unit but not actually heating my home. They have purged the system of air (the first time), which I wasn’t supposed to have with these circulators, and replaced the circulators and target valves three times. I do not know what the repairman will do today. In his initial phone call to me he said he had to talk to his supervisors because obviously replacing the circulator is not solving the issue. I have been tardy to work because I was dealing with this issue. I had a repairman here at midnight the next time so I would not be tardy for work again. I had to deal with this issue from a vacation in Florida and arrange for a family member that lives an hour away to be present for a repairman so that my house did not sit without heat for a week while I was gone. I came home from vacation and the next day I once again did not have heat. At that point it was snowing 2 feet outside with a travel ban in effect so I knew there was no way to get service, nor would I feel comfortable requesting it and endanger someone’s life to drive. I just turned the upstairs thermostat off so as not to waste gas and money and spent the snowstorm without upstairs heat and a downstairs that never got above 63. I didn’t call earlier in the week because they give me a 4 hour window for someone to come and I absolutely cannot be late for my job again, and because I work second shift at the hospital I also don’t want to have to call someone out at midnight again, which is when I can be home. Instead I’m spending my day off waiting. I’m not sure what can be done at this point. Will whatever they do fix it this time? Do I need a new boiler? Do I have a lemon that I’m still paying for? What can we do to retain satisfaction? At the very least I would like to have my free service period extended as I’m concerned this will happen again. If they fix the issue again today and I find myself without heat again in a week I think it is time to consider a replacement as your product has obviously not lived up to its intended promises thus far. It would be a waste of time and resources to continually dispatch your employees to keep fixing it and a continued source of growing frustration for your customer.
Thank you so much for your time,
Let’s take a moment to expound on some things, shall we? The first time I awoke to frosty baseboards I immediately assessed the thermostat said on and ran a few deductive reasoning tests involving both thermostats and running up and down two flights of stairs to make sure the boiler was firing when the thermostats were calling for heat. That’s the professional term. You learn the lingo when the HVAC gentlemen come to your house seven times in a month (“Oh, but your e-mail just said five times,” you murmur to yourselves. Oh, but we’ll get there.). It’s like the heat is a wayward puppy. Click the thermostat on. “Here Heat! Come here Heat! That’s a good boy!” The repairman came. Tried a few things. I got dressed for work. He was still trying things. Had to call and tell work I had no idea when I would be in. Turns out it was three hours late. So, when I awoke a few days later to the exact same chilled air I said fuck that noise. It’s emergency 24/7 service on the warranty. Says so right on that sticker on the front. They come at my convenience so I don’t lose my job, hence the midnight visits.
Then I was trying to relax all my troubles away with a Russian Rubdown in Key West, only to turn my phone back on after leaving the masseuse to find several messages from my sister. My cat was alive and fed but that little heating problem I asked her to check? Yeah. Still a problem. I might have let it go until I got home but fate was screwing with me. A mega snow system named Jonas was set to bore down on the East Coast right around my set return and I wasn’t sure if I would be stranded in Florida or not. Instead of imbibing copious amounts of rum punch and taking in the Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square, I was making multiple phone calls to the Keystone State to arrange a time my step-dad could let in a repairman the next day. Said repairman then showed up forty minutes earlier than the said arranged time and was calling me on a beach six states away to find out why no one was waiting at my house. That was a Thursday. I made the last flight in Friday night and snuggled in warm blankets. Saturday morning I woke to find that not only was I being Dumped by Jonas, but to add insult to injury, my bedroom was once again a frozen tundra. Again. Two days later. Snowstorms usually have me humming Baby it’s cold outside/You really should stay…. Not this time. It was more like No, Baby needs to check in to the Holiday Inn Express across town and warm the fuck up/But Baby can’t because her car is buried under two feet of snow….. Catchy, right?
Dear Friends, did you note the date on that first e-mail? I’m just going to let this one sink in.
Subject: Boiler Issues Again
Date: Sunday, January 31, 2016 10:43 PM
My upstairs is once again cold two days after the last attempt at a fix. I called for service at 17:00 Sunday evening and was told someone would be coming out. By 22:00 no one had arrived. When I called again to the call center I was told the service person had placed me on the next day due to it being a return service with “complications”. At no point in time did ANY ONE call me to tell me this was the case. I waited for five hours for someone to come. As to arbitrarily being placed on the next day with no notice, I have a job. I cannot call off my job or be tardy again for this issue. I am the only one that lives in this house to be present for service people and strangers in my house. This was completely unacceptable. They have placed me on for “early morning” but if someone is not here and finished by noon there is no point. I must leave for the job that pays for this faulty unit by 12:15. I would like to rectify this situation so that I do not have to keep calling for service, and ultimately end up without heat at the beginning of February, frustrated, and extremely unhappy at 22:30 on a Sunday evening.
Yes. That happened. It needs no further explanation. I’m surprised I still had a keyboard after all that angry pounding. It felt like I was punching those keys straight through the desk. I had a brief moment when I was so hot I wondered if the heat had started working again. Nope. It was just my blood pressure rising. Dangerously.
What does such a heated diatribe about your heating company get you? Three service trucks with four repairman showing up the next morning, including a supervisor. A personal phone call from Charles-Charlie-Paul-Glass-Eyed Dad telling you that your message was a “real wake-up call” for the service department and an apology. The free service warranty extended another year.
What doesn’t it get you? A supervisor who does anything or knows what he’s doing. First, instead of assessing his workers already in the basement or even offering some kind of explanation or apology in person for the prior day’s events when I had been completely disregarded, he wanted to stand in my living room and small talk about my cat. I could see the gears turning in his head. I was a pissed off customer. But I was also a single lady with a cat. She probably loves to talk about her cat. I can appease Cat Lady with idle chit-chat about that cat! Sorry Fucker. I do love the little spastic beast but I’m not a Cat Mom. We’re more like roommates. I feed her. She tries to abstain from puking on the carpet too often and thus symbiosis is reached. My terse smile that failed to reach my eyes must have conveyed the Get to work message because he then excused himself to join his crew in the bowels of Huh House. Some clanging and murmuring later he emerged with an answer. Or so he thought. The final hypothesis was that the two times the system was purged of air (which it was promised not to have), it just wasn’t purged enough. They had previously just purged into a bucket. He assured me they ran a hose outside and purged the whole she-bang thoroughly and there shouldn’t be any further issues. Hmmm. Sounded like bullshit. Smelled like bullshit. I expressed my doubt to him, mostly because YOU ALREADY TRIED THIS FIX. He doubled down that it was good to go. What do I know? I’m not HVAC certified. I know we had to bleed our radiators repeatedly in house I grew up in to purge the air. They were also 40 years old….. Maybe it would fix it.
Nope. Didn’t fix it. A few days later, no heat to Zone Two. Shocker. I didn’t bother with the service number. I just called Paul directly this time, expressed my dismay and dissatisfaction, and said I wanted a new unit. I knew the chances of getting one without some form of litigation were nil but I wanted it known how much I desired to throat punch someone at that point. PUNCH. SOMEONE. IN THE THROAT. He showed up personally the next morning with a repairman, one of the few I hadn’t met yet. They took the unit apart and discovered a big glob clogging the air separator. He threw a few long winded theories at me about how that may have happened when it wasn’t supposed to and they replaced the air separator. Gee, isn’t it funny how when you stop trying the same thing over and over again but try something new after an actual assessment, it might actually work? Or at least for the remainder of the winter of 2016, drawing an end to the Winter of my Discontent and Disgruntlement?
I wish I could say that was it, that my sleek, shiny new Crown Boiler is chugging along as faithfully as ol’ Bessie did, that I never had to contact Charles-Charlie-Paul-Glass-Eyed Dad again. Like all stories, the end is never really the end. This past winter I utilized the service contract with my plumbing company to come out and clean the boiler, a service they offer free with the contract. It’s a contract for which I’m happy to fork over a small fee for the discounts thanks to my shit-tastic pipes prone to pinhole leaks and unexpected reasons for meeting Plumber Jim. The Winter of my Discontent and Disgruntlement had already proven the basket of promises such as it’ll hardly ever need cleaned to be an empty basket indeed.
I had no issues with heat for months but a passing glance by the boiler halted me in my steps one day. I noticed crud and crust overflowing a release valve and marring the shiny new feel. I contacted Charles-Charlie-Paul-Glass Eye immediately before calling service to see if it was something that could wait until my day off, on account of that job that’s paying for the thing and all. He instructed me which knob to tighten and which to leave slightly ajar. When the service gentleman looked at it he determined the O-Ring inside was loose. It could have been the earlier gentleman didn’t tighten it completely. It could have been it loosened on it’s own. I had told him already that I had followed Paul’s instructions and what Paul theorized was the issue (you know, that dude in the service guy’s not so big company whom had assured me he would speak with whomever was dispatched anytime I had a problem, like this time). The repairman’s response was “Your husband told you the right thing to do before I could get here”. Breath. Take one. Maybe I didn’t take enough of one before I off-loaded. “Paul is your guy. I had a situation last year when your company was out here seven times in a month because the brand new unit your company put it wasn’t working.” Then I felt like a bitch for saying it. This guy wasn’t there. He had nothing to do with it. But that’s the tight rope to walk. If I was a dude I wouldn’t give it a second thought to calling out a company for shitty, shoddy work regardless of the representative of the company standing in front of me, but that’s a rant for another time. The only reason I even called them to come was because I have free service until December 2018 thanks to my angry, want to throat punch someone, typing.
I made it until early April this year until I woke up one day to find cold baseboards in my bedroom, even though the thermostat was calling for my wayward heat. I turned it off. I’ll cross my fingers and deal with it next winter.