I’m a busy person. I’m a recently engaged, young professional, twenty-something female who loads a lot onto her plate. I work full time at The New Flat Rate, I teach dance classes part time, and I’m a volunteer in the community, so I am rarely home. That means things around my house can kind of start to pile up until I’m free. I just purchased my first home, a cute little condo, back in August, so I am quickly learning about all of the overwhelming joys of homeownership. Can you hear my sarcasm?
The New Flat Rate so generously gave us the week of Christmas off to be able to spend time with our families, but it was during my break that I decided I needed to have some things worked on in my home since it’s the only free time I could fathom in the foreseeable future. More about that to come.
Rewind to about a month ago. My garbage disposal wasn’t working, and my dad, who just moved about 5 hours away, was in town. Growing up, I would always watch as he would fix things, and as often as possible, he would have me in there fixing with him so I could learn. So, we went to Lowe’s and bought the coolest looking garbage disposal we could find (okay, really, we bought based on specifications), and we brought it back to my condo to install.
As you probably know, since you’re likely far more mechanically inclined than I am, an install meant we had to uninstall the first one. After squeezing in under my sink and pounding the thing off, we had it removed and set aside. Then, Dad talked me through step-by-step on how to install my new one. He supervised me rolling my plumber’s putty Play-Doh style in my hands and running it along the rim (NO GAPS, ROSALYN!), and he ensured that I had the logos lined up properly when looking from above in the sink, not because it helps with functionality, but because he knows I can be a little OCD and it would drive me mad if they were misaligned. He taught me how to use the tool to snap the metal ring into place on the neck of the disposal, and he made sure when I twisted it on, I got over that last little bump…I’ll bet you know the one I’m talking about. By the way, that installation only took me three extra trips to Lowe’s. One to get plumber’s putty, one to get a “sprocket,” as he called it, since we were hardwiring it in instead of just plugging it in, and one to take back that sprocket and get a different one as I got the ½ inch instead of the ¾ inch. There really is something to be said for expertise.
We had the new disposal installed beautifully…I’d call it a Platinum job if ever I did see one (okay, it was my first time, give me some grace). Only when that highly anticipated moment came to flip the switch and grind up a lemon peel, nothing happened. No grinding. No sound. Nothing. Dead.
I’m sure this has never happened to you since you’re an expert, but for me, it was one of the most disappointing moments of 2020…and that’s saying something given the world is ending and all.
After a couple of words that I’d have to bleep out if I were including them, my dad said, “The switch is bad. Not the disposal.” I’m willing to try to work on most anything, but electricity is probably where I draw the line. Not my dad, the genius lighting guy, and one of the handiest humans I know. “Go get me a two-way switch at Lowe’s. On/off. Not the one that costs $1.39, but get one a couple of levels up from that.” I drove back to Lowe’s and got my frequent flier card punched for the fifth time that day as I made my way to the switch aisle. Did you know that there are exactly 5,798 two-way, on/off switch options…in white? Not to mention ivory, black, camouflaged, beige…HOW do you get the right one? I video called my dad and he guided me on which switch to buy, and I was on my way back home.
Like I said, electricity is a no-go for me. I ran into the living room and got my dad his Crocs (because hello, he’s a dad, right?) so he wouldn’t get electrocuted. I had on my thickest rubber-soled shoes, and just for added value, I put on my turquoise silicone hot mitts, ready to safely jump in and grab my dad if things went south (I wish I was joking). He had me go to the garage and flip every breaker one by one since they weren’t labeled, and we yelled back and forth to figure out which one needed to go off. For some reason, I don’t know that we ever actually located it, because as far as I can recall, his meter kept reading electricity. So, he just went for it. He took off the old switch and wired the new one with me by his side, braced with my hot mitts, ready for the rescue. Something sparked at one point, but he didn’t seem that concerned. He talked me through the install, which I mostly blacked out on after I saw the sparks. I’ll just call an electrician, thank you very much.
We got the new switch in, and much to our delight, the switch and the garbage disposal worked (by the way, anyone want a used garbage disposal that probably works? It’s still in my garage). I was so excited; I nearly went door-to-door asking my neighbors if they had anything that needed to be ground up.
We were riding a high, and we were so happy, in fact, that I asked him to take a look at my light in the entry way that never turned on (yes, I did change the bulbs). Might as well take advantage when your dad comes home for a visit, right? He and my fiancé took down the light, did something to the wires, put on those orange and yellow caps, and it still didn’t work. It seemed there was no power going to it, but Dad wanted to test something before I went and bought yet another switch. So, as many do it yourself projects go, there it dangled until today.
After all of that handywoman excitement, I went to throw a load of laundry into the dryer…and it wouldn’t start. Is this what you all deal with every single day? You fix one problem only to have a whole series of new ones? I was so frustrated, but thankfully, I lived overseas for a couple of years, so I’m no stranger to handwashing clothes and hanging them up to dry…at least I had a washer, right? I called my dad over, and he told me we probably just flipped a breaker when we zapped something during the switch-switch.
I don’t know a lot, but I do know what a breaker looks like when it is flipped. Nothing was out of place. Even still, I went back and flipped each one, yelling to my dad from the garage, “Okay, it’s on. Okay, it’s off” breaker by breaker. Nothing worked. I went on Google and YouTube, the sources of all DIY diagnosing, and found that my thermal fuse was probably blown on the dryer since it wasn’t working and all my breakers were in place (again, give me some grace here).
Dad had to go home, but I was certain I could handle it as I have done a few repairs and replacements now on my washer and dryer…nothing a little YouTube couldn’t teach me. The next day, I went back to Lowe’s, where they now had my picture up for customer of the month. Again, I’m sure this doesn’t surprise you since you’re an expert, but did you know that thermal fuses don’t exist in Lowe’s because they’re considered a “specialty part?” Guess what? They aren’t at The Home Depot, either. I went on Amazon and ordered my thermal fuse, and while I was at it, I ordered a door switch and all the other parts that go bad (they’ll die eventually, right? And if the thermal fuse didn’t work, I’d have a backup plan).
I waited a couple of days, and my thermal fuse came in the mail. I crawled back behind my dryer, wedged myself in there, took off the back panel, found the old thermal fuse, yanked it off, put on the new one, crawled out from behind the dryer, pushed start, and…nothing. No drying. Dead. I let a few of my own choice words slip (I learned more than just fixing things from my dad), and I went back to the drawing board. I assumed it had to be one of the other parts. It was late, so I decided I’d try tomorrow. Tomorrow turned into the next day turned into the week of Christmas break. My laundry has piled up, and my sweet fiancé has been taking my wet clothes to his mom to dry and fold during my work day…bless her.
On Tuesday of Christmas break, I muscled my dryer into my car by myself, drove to the appliance repair shop, and dragged it in and told the guys I changed my thermal fuse but didn’t know what else to do. They plugged it in, and it worked like a dream. Just what I was afraid of. I was hoping to repair a part on my machine, not need an expert to come to my house. But it was official. I needed an electrician. I called my dad, and he said my breaker was probably bad. But again, I don’t do electricity. I messaged Matt and Rodney at The New Flat Rate and asked them for a recommendation for an electrician. I called a local place, and they said, “We will see if we can get to you today; I’ll find out if someone is in the area. If not, I’ll call you back and put you on the schedule for tomorrow.” I waited and waited and got no call back. On Wednesday morning, I waited until they opened, and I called back. “I haven’t forgotten about you. I’m going into a doctor’s appointment, but I’ll call you and let you know if a tech can get out there today.” About an hour later, I got a call from the tech, who said he could be here in about an hour. I texted him my address, and much to my surprise, he actually showed up, and he came with a helper.
I showed them around and rapid fired my questions, all spurting out in a domino-effect kind of way as they came to me: “My dryer isn’t working, and I know you don’t do dryers, but it stopped working when we changed my garbage disposal, but really we changed my switch, too, and something zapped, and then my dryer wouldn’t work. It’s not the thermal fuse. It worked at the appliance shop. I have already flipped all the breakers 143 times. Sorry, my house is a mess, it looks like Christmas exploded. Also, how long does it take to label a breaker box? Could you label it for me so I don’t have to flip every breaker? I have two cats, but they won’t try to get out or anything. By the way, can you help me fix this light that is dangling here? It doesn’t turn on. Hey, in my living room, there is a fan, but no light. Can you make this have a light? Also, I just bought my fiancé this nice grill. Can you put an additional light outside on my porch so he can see when he is grilling at night? But the dryer is the priority. Do you need a cup of coffee or a water or a snack? Okay, you know where things are; I’m available if you need me.” Poor guys. I at least tried to gift them that “breakaway” that Matt talks about in The New Flat Rate training so they could work in peace.
Now that you have the entire back story, I want to share with you how the call went from there on, and I want to tell you from a customer’s perspective what could have happened differently.
The guys worked first in the laundry room, and then they went to the dangling light. They immediately started fixing things; they never told me what was wrong with the dryer or with the light, and they never said how much it was going to be, but all of the sudden, I looked up, and the light was turned on. I was deLIGHTed, but not sure how it happened. He told me that it was never wired right and probably never worked. Then, they told me they needed to go to Lowe’s and get a new breaker for the dryer (Dad was right). They left and came back, and a few minutes later, I heard my dryer going. I cheered, and then I wondered what my next excuse for not doing laundry would be.
I thanked them profusely and again offered them snacks, Christmas cookies, coffee, water, anything. They politely declined, and then I asked them how I could pay. I was standing there with a checkbook in one hand and my wallet with two debit cards and one credit card in my other hand, and the tech said, “Oh, don’t worry about it, he will send you a bill. Is the address you sent me your mailing address?”
I was floored. They never told me how much it was going to be. I was standing there with four forms of money in my hands, expecting to fork over at least $600 after emotionally preparing myself for the fact that I was paying for the expertise of a tech and a helper plus their time, material, profit, overhead, all of it, and I couldn’t pay them. I wanted to pay them. I plan all of my bills out (mortgage, car insurance, gym, HOA fees all come out on the first), and I wanted this one to clear my account before the other doozies at the beginning of the month. I think they actually thought that they were doing me a favor, but now as I sit here writing this, even though my dryer and my light work, I still feel like I own the problem because I have an unknown bill coming in the mail…someday. I’m free now. I wanted to pay now. So that’s the first part of what I would consider an inconvenience as a customer. I could have completely released my problem today, but it’s still looming in my mind until the bill is paid.
Next, though I did rapid fire my questions, I want to talk about all of the missed opportunities and money these guys left on the table.
As I mentioned, I am never free to have a tech in my home. Let’s review all of the problems I threw at them on the day I was available to have them here: Garbage disposal. Switch for the garbage disposal. Something sparked and zapped. Dead dryer. Me installing a thermal fuse by myself. Dangling light that never worked to begin with in a condo that was built in 1997…in an entire condo association with hundreds of units. A request for an outdoor light for my fiancé’s grill. A request for an indoor light for my living room. A request to label the entire breaker box. A dead breaker. A young professional who just moved in who had to ask for a referral for an electrician. A person who has air conditioning, heating, three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, two stories…do you see where I am going with this? There was so much missed opportunity, and I spoon-fed it to them.
Now, I do realize that it is the day before Christmas Eve. I’m sure these guys don’t want to spend time labeling a breaker box or installing a grill light. But imagine if they had said, “Hey, you mentioned labeling your breaker box. Since one of those breakers was dead, why don’t we schedule a day to show you some options; if you like, we can test each breaker, replace each breaker, and label your box for you so you have it done. By the way, since that one light was never wired properly, would you like us to come in and test every switch and every outlet and make sure your home is wired properly and safely and make sure that everything works? At the same time, we could install your living room light and an outdoor light for your grilling area, too, since we would do a whole home rewire.” Do you know how quickly I would have jumped at that offer? Or how about even a, “Hey, thank you for choosing us. We are so glad we got you up and running today. Can we put you on our inspection list? Can we mail you coupons? We put a sticker on your breaker panel and your dryer in case you ever need us again.” Anything. But instead, they did nothing but the bare minimum. They didn’t even have a truck wrap, so I won’t even remember them by a logo. I am so grateful that they fixed what I had asked them to, but I’d so much rather feel like I have a relationship with that company and that they will take care of all my issues all at once if I request it and pay them to.
I don’t know how much today’s service call will be. My dad says they’ll probably charge me $95 to come out, a trip fee to Lowe’s, the charge for the breaker, and at least $50 an hour for the tech and his helper. I told him I was ready to be slapped with a $1,000 bill, and I was ready to pay it. Not that I want to, but maybe since I work for The New Flat Rate, I see their expertise, I see my convenience, and I see that they are valuable. He thinks my bill will be closer to $200 or $300. But can’t you see? I was expecting a bill between $600 and $1,000, and had they redone everything, I would so happily pay it. I was at peace with that price tag.
Instead, they’ve gone home after spending a couple of hours with me. They walked home with no money, an outstanding bill (that someone less honest or able might sit on for a good while), and no plan to follow up with me.
Had they shown me a menu of options, I could have chosen to have all of my problems taken care of today. They could have gotten hundreds more on their call today had they wanted to. Had they told me the price up front, I could have gone ahead and paid, and we would all be happier. Had they had their van wrapped, my neighbors would know who to call. Had they even introduced themselves, I’d know who to leave a review for online. And so on.
I’m not a contracting expert. I don’t claim to be. But I am an expert customer. I am exactly like your typical, every day customer who is busy, stressed, and unsure of how to proceed when there is a problem in the home. And today, I was just begging for someone to take my money.
The New Flat Rate
Update: Today is January 13, 2021, and I still haven’t received a bill for my electrical services, though I’ve checked my mailbox every day waiting for it. I do know that we had Christmas and the new year in there, but we’re two weeks in now. In an effort to be a nice, honest customer, I texted the number where I had previously sent my address.
“Good morning. This is Rosalyn Zock. You guys worked on my electricity on 12/23. I haven’t seen a bill yet and just wanted to make sure I wasn’t leaving anyone stuck. Unless I somehow won a free Christmas repair or something!
“Lol. Thanks for get with us. He probably just hasn’t sent it out.” yes, get, not getting.
“Do you happen to know how much it is?”
Okay, so at least I know how much my bill is. I’m honestly shocked that it is so inexpensive. As I mentioned before, I was expecting $600+, and I was braced for a price tag of even $1,000. My dad was far closer when he estimated $200 or $300; I’m wondering if I’m even being charged for everything!
Regardless of the bill, though, can I ask a bold question? And I’m asking because I truly don’t know.
Contractor friends, is this sort of thing the usual? At The New Flat Rate, we are in business to help contractors make more money, and I have to be honest—if everyone is doing it like this electrical company, OF COURSE the company has no money!
Are you depending on your customers to call and ask to pay the bill?
Are you waiting until the joy and relief have dissolved to hit your customer with a bill?
If I were to have questions about my charges and dispute my bill, do you think the conversation and my memory and the tech’s memory are better the day of or three weeks later?
Can you imagine if I went to the grocery store, pulled a cart of groceries with no price tags, and left with the store cashier telling me on the way out that they’d send me a bill? Of course not! It’s preposterous.
Contractor friends, you deserve to get paid what you’re worth. Heck…you deserve to get paid at all. And you deserve to get paid when the service is rendered. Because that’s how a transaction works, and your customers are fully accustomed to paying the moment they receive something.