Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Air ducts a flat iron and scandal

I don't know why I am about to tell you this story. It's embarrassing to me, but I can now look back at it and laugh. When it happened there was no laughing going on. Bear with me, there are a lot of details. So let's dive right in, shall we?

When we moved into our new house here in Ohio I wanted to get the carpets and air ducts cleaned right away. The previous owners had 2 if not more cats and at least 2 dogs. Carson and I have cat allergies and they were put to the test while we suffered for the first few weeks of living in the house.

I received a coupon packet in the mail and included was a deal for air duct cleaning. Being that I had no clue what reputable companies were in the area and not having any word of mouth suggestions, I figured that a company that offers a coupon should be reliable. Yeah.

Let's move on.

I called and scheduled the appointment.

I have had our air ducts cleaned at our previous house so I knew what to expect or at least I thought I knew. I figured a large truck showing the companies logo would pull into the driveway with a clean cut uniform wearing employee(s). They would unroll their huge industrial sized vacuum tubes attached to the truck, hook up to the furnace and vents, turn on the switch and major balloon type structures would protrude out of the back of the truck while it sucked out every ounce of dirt, hair, food, particles and lost toys that made their way into the vent system.

At least that has been my experience.

Oh boy - did I have it wrong.

On the day of the appointment a beat up white, rusty hatch back car pulls up and two young "boys" dressed in plain white t-shirts and khaki shorts along with a load of tattoos walk up to the front door and ring the bell. I thought they were here to sell me something, but then they announce they are here to clean my air ducts.

Uh, okay. Not quite the look I was expecting, but a small voice told me not to judge a book by it's cover and it kind of sounded like my mom. But my gut was telling me otherwise.

I let them in and my dog wouldn't stop sniffing them, which luckily they were very friendly and the one guy loved dogs so he kept playing with her. They also talked about their kids and showed me pictures. Not the most professional display, but I didn't mind that much.

I am not exactly sure what or how they attempted to suck out the crap that was sitting in my air ducts especially with the equipment they brought. It included a large shop vac (I kid you not), some type of compressed air pump, which they let Carson and Luke take turns playing with. Strange. But I got some cute pictures of the boys "working." And they also used "sanitizer" which came in a pump similar to the weed killer I have in the garage.

To me, it was all a bit too unprofessional. My standards aren't that high, but this wasn't even coming close to what it should have been. After 40 minutes of them going in and out of every single room in my house, doing whatever it was that they were doing, they brought the bill to me and I pulled out my coupon which was $74 for all the vents.

I had them do a few extra things, like clean the furnace, cold air returns, and main lines. They threw in the sanitizer (a $150 value) for free (my ass!) I am almost embarrassed to say how much I paid. It was no $74. Try adding a zero to the end of that and then we're a lot closer to the real amount. Just imagine my head as a sucker, like in the old cartoons. I had been HAD.

I let it set in for a few hours. The shock was overwhelming and I contemplated how was I going to tell my husband how much I paid without divorce papers being filed? In the meantime I went upstairs to straighten my hair and get ready to go out and run some errands. Except, my flat iron was not sitting on the counter next to the sink where it usually was. I looked in the drawers, but came up with nothing. I asked the boys if they had seen it or had been playing with it, but they insisted they had no clue what I was talking about. This flat iron is one of the nicer ones that the professionals use. So you know it comes with a high price tag.

Here goes my gut reaction again. My mind starting going and I instantly thought that maybe the cleaning boys took it. It sounds stupid for a guy to take a woman's flat iron, but hey, there's a quick $100 you could make. This idea was not sitting well with me.

I put on my detective hat and and started doing some research. Of course I did not have the coupon and I didn't know the name of the company. The receipt they left me only said a generic name of which I couldn't find doing an online search. And the phone # on the receipt just rang with no answer. I left a message for the distributor of the coupon pack hoping they could help, but with no such luck. I called a neighbor and explained the situation hoping she had kept the coupon, but she had thrown them away. Although, she did offer a good suggestion, to call the police department and see what they recommend I do next.

I tried calling the company's number again and got in touch with the "owner". I told her the situation with the missing flat iron and explained that I didn't want to make false accusations, but was hoping they could shed any light on if they had seen it lying around. She was pretty defensive right away, but said she would get in touch with the guys and call me back later in the day.

In the meantime, I contacted the Better Business Bureau to see if they had any negative reports against them, which they had not. The representative took my information. I also called the police department to see what advice they could give me. They said I could either come into the station to fill out a police report or they could come to the house. I accepted neither, since I wasn't completely sure they were the culprits or not. I also contacted my credit card company to see if my card had been charged yet in which it was pending and also meant I wasn't able to stop it. They did say I could dispute the charge once it posted. That wasn't helping me at the moment.

Since I had not shopped around initially, I decided to call another local air duct company to get their advice. We talked in depth for quite awhile about the services they provide, what I should have received, and the price I should have paid, oh say half of what I dished out already. After getting off the phone I felt like I had been taken advantage of. Completely! I was mad so I called the company back to complain and request a refund.

And do you know what that lady told me after going back and forth with each other? She said I had buyers remorse and I should have done my shopping around before I allowed their company to clean my air ducts.

Oh no she di'n't!

Oh yes she did!

The nerve of her to tell me that I had buyers remorse. By this point I was fuming, steam coming out of my ears and all. Not a pretty sight. I hung up the phone and went upstairs to clean (it's what I do when I get mad) and calm down.

As I am picking up items from the bedroom floor, I glance down and see a cord sticking out from under my bookcase. The thoughts that ran through my head in that split second were crazy. In a way I wanted it to be my flat iron so I wouldn't have to go into any more debt having to buy another one. But on the other hand, I was hoping it was not the flat iron so I could prove that those corrupt people stole it from me.

I bent over, reached under and pulled out - my flat iron. I started bawling. I felt like such a loser. Here I have accused these people (in my head) and convinced myself they were no good, tattoo, punk, guys out to ransack my house and leave my air ducts dirty. I was a bit humbled.

I was taught a good lesson that day - not to jump to conclusions. At this point I knew what I had to do. I reluctantly called the evil lady back, told her what I found, and apologized profusely for contemplating that one of the guys would have taken it. At this point I couldn't hold back the tears. I wasn't looking for a pity party, just for her to accept my apology, which she did with hostility in her voice, but that was sufficient enough for me.

I can only imagine the stories they tell about me now. I just hope they're laughing about it too.

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