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If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It. If It Is, DO!

, , , , , , | Working | November 17, 2022

My wife and I have a service plan with a local plumbing and gas engineering company. Our experiences with them have been a bit variable, but this is the one that is probably going to make us cancel our subscription once everything has been sorted out.

Our living room has a gas fire which was designed to mimic a log fireplace with fireproof replica “logs”. When the engineer was servicing the fireplace, he somehow managed to break one of them. To his credit, he apologised to my wife and admitted it was his fault. However, his bosses took a different view when my wife phoned them to arrange the repair and replacement.

This is a summary of various interactions over the last six months.

Wife: “Hello. One of your engineers broke one of our fireplace logs, so we’re calling to arrange its repair.”

Receptionist: “Okay, we’ll price the log and then give you a price for the purchase and installation.”

Wife: “Oh, no, sorry, I think you’ve misunderstood. We aren’t paying for this; your engineer broke the fireplace. I am just phoning to schedule the repair.”

Receptionist: “Hmmm, this seems very unusual. I’ll need to speak to the engineer and come back to you.”

They ended the call, and a few days later they phoned my wife back.

Receptionist: “Hi, [Wife]. I’ve spoken to the engineer and my managers. They have confirmed that the damage was caused by the engineer, and whilst we would not normally be liable, we would have repaired it as a gesture of goodwill. Unfortunately, though, the part you need is no longer in production and we can’t source it ourselves. If you can find it yourself at a reasonable price, we will refund the balance and agree to install it.”

My wife immediately went online and discovered that A) the part was very much still in production and B) was in stock at a number of local retailers. She phoned them back.

Wife: “Hello. I spoke to someone earlier about the repair of my fireplace and was told that the part you need isn’t in production and can’t be bought directly. I have just confirmed that is not true; it is in production and can be bought directly from either the manufacturer or local stockists.”

Receptionist: “Hmmm, we must have made a mistake. Let me look into it.”

A few days later, my wife got a call and a very grudging admission that they actually could buy the part. It took several weeks to do so and schedule an engineer to come out and complete the installation.

The appointment was yesterday, and the work was completed without incident until the engineer was wrapping up.

Engineer: “Hello, Mrs. [Wife], that’s me done. However, I just got a message from the office that they have asked me to pass on. [Receptionist] has asked me to tell you that we will not pay for any more repairs.”

Wife: “Excuse me? The work that you have just completed was only needed because your colleague broke it in the first place! I don’t expect you to pay for general wear and tear or things we’ve damaged, but when you break something, I think it’s pretty reasonable to expect that you pay for it.”

The engineer sheepishly reiterated that he was just passing the message on. As it stands, we are debating the merits of cancelling our service contract with them. I absolutely would if there were a lot of options available to me, but unfortunately, there aren’t many where we live.


, , , , , | Working | September 22, 2022

My radiator is leaking, so the plumber comes by to fix it. It’s a small fix, but he does need to turn the water off for a bit. As he’s doing that, he notices that our boiler is also leaking. He informs my housemate and me about it, but unfortunately, he is not allowed to fix it because we are under contract with the energy company that installed it; only they are allowed to do anything with it (for insurance, liability, warranty, etc. reasons).

The plumber fixes the radiator leak he was originally asked to fix and leaves the hot water off to prevent further leakage. He advises us to just call the energy company and tell them we have a leak and no hot water, and they’ll probably be able to send someone by today to fix it.

He leaves, and I call the energy company as advised. Thankfully, they’re already in the office. (Why, universe, can I only ever get appointments at too-early-to-think o’clock?) I explain the situation to [Employee #1].

Employee #1: “All right. What’s your zip code and house number?”

I give the requested information.

Employee #1: “Oh, I’m sorry, but that contract was cancelled several years ago.”

Now, it might be early, and I’m very much not a morning person, but I’m still sure that can’t be right because I vaguely recall helping my housemate arrange a visit from this very company to inspect that boiler not too long ago.

Me: “That can’t be right. Your company came by for an inspection not too long ago.”

Employee #1: “Well, the contract was cancelled in 2020.”

It’s now 2022. I’m thinking, “It can’t be that long ago, can it?” But my memory sucks, so it might have been.

I confess my confusion to [Employee #1], who curtly repeats that he can’t do anything for me and advises me to call my landlord and ask him what gives. I can’t think of anything else, either, so that’s what I do.

Or, that’s what I try to do. Have I mentioned that it is way too early? It’s too early for my landlord to be in the office, apparently. I decide to write him an email, instead, explaining what’s going on and asking him to call me back ASAP. While I’m writing the email, my housemate is stumbling around like a zombie, getting ready for work. Halfway through the email, the metaphorical lightbulb pops up above my head.

Me: *To my housemate* “I think I know what the problem is!”

Housemate: “Huh? What?”

Me: “Wrong address!”

Housemate: “Ohhh, yeaaah. F***!”

Please remember that both of us have been up for several hours already and normal business hours haven’t started yet, something which neither of us is used to, so I think my slow thinking speed and her lack of coherent speech can be forgiven.

Here’s the thing: our (rather old) house is a little weird. The ground floor is separate from the other floors. (I’ve heard that it used to be a bakery and was converted into an apartment.) So, at street level, there are two doors right next to each other. One door is for the ground floor and has the regular house number. The door next to it opens up to a staircase leading up to the upper two floors and has the house number with an addition next to it — think #14 and #14A right next to each other.

I live on the first floor, as does my other housemate, who is on holiday and missing out on all this fun. The housemate mentioned in this story has the attic all to herself.

However, that’s not the end of it. Some years ago, an eccentric employee of the city decided that, because both floors have a kitchen and bathroom, and because the attic has a door in front of the stairs leading up to it that can be locked, the attic is, in fact, a completely separate apartment in need of its own address. This is despite the fact that the attic has no access to the street itself; you can only get there through the first-floor rooms. But it happened anyway, so now the attic is technically #14B, though we tend to forget that since we still share things like a front door, washing machine, Internet, and so on.

So, back to our story. I think I’ve figured out what went wrong. When [Employee #1] asked for the house number, I gave him #14A without thinking because that’s where I live. BUT since the boiler is in the attic, it is TECHNICALLY located at #14B. As I said, it’s too early to think, but that would certainly explain things. I call back and explain to [Employee #2] what happened.

Me: “I’m really sorry; it’s my fault. I mixed up the house numbers.”

Employee #2: “That’s all right. It happens. What is the correct house number?”

Me: “It’s #14B.”

Employee #2: “Hmm, that’s odd. We have no records at all for that house number.”

Me: “You don’t?”

Now I’m thinking, “What is going on here? I thought I solved it!”

Employee #2: “No, sorry. We have contracts with #14 and #14A, but not #14B.”

Cue a record-scratch in my brain.

Me: “Wait, what? You do have a contract with #14A? Your colleague earlier told me it was cancelled two years ago.”

[Employee #2] sounds as surprised as I am.

Employee #2: “No? There’s no record of cancellation here. The last thing on file is an inspection of the boiler last February.”

I’ll admit, I’m angry, but right now, confusion is winning out, and regardless, it is NOT this woman’s fault that her colleague made a mistake… or whatever happened. So, there’s no belligerence on my part.

Me: “Would it be possible to have someone come look at it?”

Employee #2: “Yes, of course. When are you home?”

Me: “I’m home all day.”

Employee #2: “All right, then. I’ll arrange for one of our mechanics to come by today.”

Me: “Thank you very much!”

Employee #2: “You’re welcome. Have a nice day.”

Me: “Likewise. Goodbye.”

The mechanic arrived about two hours later. My housemate had gone off to work but left the door open to allow us access. When I told my housemate about everything, both of us were left wondering, “What on Earth was up with [Employee #1]? Computer error or something else?”

It’s So Weird But I Can’t Stop Reading!

, , , , , , , , , | Working | CREDIT: ligamentary | September 13, 2022

My husband owns a small plumbing business that primarily does labor but also runs a small retail storefront with parts and basic appliances, etc. Every so often, my husband will participate in a jobs-readiness program with the local high school where they take on student interns for a semester. The students get credit and experience in the working world, and the companies they work for get free labor and some positive community exposure.

Usually, the kids are great — sometimes better than the paid employees. But this semester he got [Intern]. Here is a brief sampling of [Intern]’s misadventures in the four hours a week he spends clerking in my husband’s storefront.

One of his biggest jobs is to answer the phone. On his first day, he was instructed to pick up and say this:

Greeting: “[Plumbing Business]! Don’t forget to ask about our seasonal maintenance deal specials! How can we help you today?”

Instead, he was answering the business phone this way:

Intern: “[Intern] residence. Who’s calling, please?”

When confronted, he explained that he had forgotten the greeting, and this was how his mother had taught him to answer phones.

On [Intern]’s first day of work, my husband did the standard welcome he does for all new employees: he brought in donuts and gathered everyone around to meet the new guy. [Intern] was asked to say a few words about himself.

Intern: “I chose this job because all the good ones were taken.”

And when he was asked what he knew about plumbing, he told a detailed story of a toilet-clogging dump he had taken a few months before.

One day, [Intern] was asked to clean the break room kitchen. Someone had happened to bring in bagels. He threw out all the poppyseed bagels because “they had mold on them.”

My husband took [Intern] to a job site once to get a feel for interacting with customers and basic repairs. [Intern] asked the client if he could take home a framed photo of the client’s teenage daughter hanging in the living room.

For the first couple of weeks, [Intern] kept stealing lunches from the break room and then denying he had done it when the other employees called him on it. (It’s a small business and it’s obvious when someone has your food.) Then, he tried to pay them to give him their lunches.

On the first day that he brought his own lunch, he brought a pound of raw chuck and complained of an unsuitable work environment when my husband informed him there was nowhere for him to grill it at the store. He ate it raw. He got sick and had to go to the hospital.

The company was hosting a holiday coat drive, and [Intern] was asked to type up the flyer. Understanding his limits by this point, they just instructed him to alter the date on the previous year’s flyer. He still managed to mess even that up, and he didn’t notice until he had printed 250 full-color copies of the flyer. He thought if he threw the flyers out, no one would know. But he threw them out in the main office trash can.

[Intern] has definitely never so much as seen drugs in his life, but he’s always talking like he’s an Original Gangster. He approached a large, tattooed, black employee at the business (who is actually a church pastor, an addiction counselor, and a volunteer sheriff) and tried to buy drugs from him.

To impress a girl, [Intern] volunteered to watch her dogs — while working. [Intern] actually walked out of work to chat her up, and she asked him to watch them while she went into a store where dogs weren’t allowed. After about fifteen minutes, [Intern] got tired of waiting for her and let the dogs loose. She came back looking for him and he pretended as though he’d never met her. He knew where she was when he let them go! (My husband says the girl got her dogs back.)

[Intern] had a decent amount of money saved from birthdays and Christmases. He often likes to “flex” on the other employees that he doesn’t need to work. He is just doing this for school; he has all the money he’ll ever need. But it turns out that he doesn’t even have it anymore because he lost all of it going long on GameStop at the height of the frenzy. He is irate that he could not sell his stock back at the original price and still on some level believes he was scammed.

[Intern] has aspirations to be a famous TikToker, so he’s always setting up these asinine “pranks” like trying to bust in on people while using the toilet, rigging heavy objects to fall on people, or yelling “FIRE” when there is no fire. That pushes my husband and the others in charge to meet to discuss cutting [Intern], but they decide the entertainment value of his [Intern]-ness is worth sticking it through to the end of the semester.

It all makes sense when we meet [Intern]’s mother. She recently came in and confronted my husband.

Intern’s Mother: “Why isn’t [Intern] being paid for his work?!”

Husband: “This is a for-credit program through the high school.”

My husband thought [Intern] might’ve intentionally misled his mother, but no matter how he explained it, she didn’t get it and kept insisting he pay [Intern].

[Intern]’s mother knocked over an entire display on her way in and did not acknowledge it, try to clean it, or offer to pay for what was broken. In fact, she charged right ahead with making her original demands.

[Intern]’s dad is not in the picture, and he’s been calling my husband and a couple of the other guys at work “Dad” semi-jokingly. When his mother came in, after making her demands for payment, she asked my husband how he plans to stay in [Intern]’s life if this is really only a semester.

[Intern] turned eighteen last month. He celebrated by getting a tattoo of Calvin from “Calvin And Hobbes” peeing over his left peck, with his nipple serving as the penis. We know because he showed an infection on the site to a young family who’d come in to buy an L pipe.

That’s the crux of [Intern] the Junior Plumber for you.

I Am My Own Superior Today!

, , , , , , | Working | December 9, 2021

I’m a plumber. Together with a coworker and an apprentice, I get sent to a military base for repairs that will take several days. On the first morning, we show our paperwork at the gate. The sergeant lets us in, handing us each a form that we’ll have to bring back, filled out and signed, when we leave.

In the afternoon, when we’re leaving, the watch has changed. The new sergeant checks our forms.

Sergeant: “There’s a signature missing at the bottom. Your officer-in-charge has to sign the forms before I can let you out.”

Me: “We’re from [Company]; our boss isn’t here on the base.”

Sergeant: “No, no, not your boss. Your officer-in-charge.”

Me: “I’m not sure who that is, sir.”

Sergeant: “Your superior! I can’t let anybody out of here without permission. You’d be AWOL.”

Me: “Sir, we’re plumbers from [Company].”

I try to show him the paperwork we already showed in the morning to get in.

Sergeant: “Someone must be in charge of you! Go and get his signature!”

We retreat around the corner of a building, where he can’t see us. Since we don’t know what else to do, I sign on my coworkers’ forms and one of them signs off on mine. We go back to the gate and hand in the forms.

Sergeant: “Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?”

He let us out. We worked at the base for several more days and signed each others’ forms every time. The soldiers at the gate were happy.

Helping Them Is NOT In The Pipeline

, , , | Right | September 21, 2021

I answer calls for a plumbing business and get a lot of clueless, impatient, rude, entitled people on a regular basis.

Caller: “Yeah, my gas range is not working. Do you do this?”

Me: “We can come to check the gas line and connections to make sure the problem’s not with the gas, but we do not work on the appliances themselves.”

Caller: “My stove is not working. Can they fix it or not?”

Me: “If it’s a problem with the gas line or connections, yes, but if it is a problem with the stove itself—”

Caller: *Cutting me off* “Okay, I get that, but my stove is not working.”

Me: “So, just to be clear, you want us to come to check the gas as a start?”

Caller: *Yelling* “LOOK! You’re not understanding me here. My stove is not working. You—”

Me: *Cutting him off, but staying calm* “Yes, I do understand you. I just need you to acknowledge that we won’t—”

Caller: *Cutting me off* “YOU KNOW WHAT?! F*** YOU!” *Hangs up*

Me: *To my coworker* “Wow… Did that just happen? All he had to say was, ’Yes, okay!’”