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I Did Bad, But How Bad? And Would You Do the Same?

So here I was, a purportedly grown man, hiding in my room, lights out, blinds drawn. This wasn't how the day was supposed to be going, and I knew what I was doing wasn't right.

I had some work to get done at home and then I was heading into the office. Before she left the house, the wife casually remarked that the repair guy might show up, but probably wouldn't because we'd never confirmed the date and time, so I didn' t need to worry about it, and anyway we didn't need him anymore because the problem had fixed itself. (I'm going to be light on details about the nature of the repair guy out of, um, ethical concerns. Well, it's because I don't want him coming after me.)

So I finish up my writing at home and I'm getting ready to head out when there's a knock at the door. I glance out the window and there's the truck from the repair firm. Dang.

Now, you need to know that we'd had the same company here a few weeks earlier for a different problem, and they'd done a splendid job and we'd paid through the nose and everything was hunky dory.

So maybe you'll understand that what raced through my mind in that moment after the doorbell rang was that if I answered the door and told the guy that we didn't need him, he'd be within his rights to charge me for a visit, whereas if I simply chose not to be at home, maybe I could skate by without paying a fee.

I took to the mattresses, or something like that. I hid in my own house until he went away. Through his door knocking. Through his phone call. Through his repeated ringing of the bell. Through his short wait out front, until he went away.

I felt awful (but not too awful). I felt guilty and small (but not too guilty or small). And I am compelled to share this with you (but not to name the guys I wronged) to see if a) you've ever done anything like this, b) you think I am a dishonest jerk, c) you think the repair company would have charged me if I had answered the door, d) you think I owe them some money.

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By Marc Fisher |  May 19, 2006; 7:40 AM ET
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I would simply ask how confident you are that this repair guy, or anyone he knows, doesn't recognize the name "Marc Fisher."

"Hey, Billy, isn't this that jerk who wasn't at his house the other day? You said he works for the Post, right?"

Posted by: ZachBG | May 19, 2006 8:44 AM

d) you owe him money, you dishonest jerk and he should send you a bill for house call!
He used his time and gas to travel to your house. He could have used that time to repair someone elses problem(s). Couldn't you have simply called him earlier and told him that you no longer needed his services for this particular repair? He could have then changed his schedule. If I were him, I would never do anotherr repair for you. And, he must now have been that bad of a repair technicican if you called him back for an additional repair (givern the number the repair people that are available these days. It's because of people like you, Marc, that repair rates are so high. You punishment is to eat a bowl of Dippin Dots!

Posted by: Worker Bee | May 19, 2006 8:49 AM

The dippin dots jokes are getting a little lame. How about we move on?

Posted by: Arlington, VA | May 19, 2006 8:50 AM

Dear Arlington, VA,

I beg your forgiveness, your highness! I noticed that you didn't have anything to add to the isssue that Marc was inquiring about. How about you move your personal opinion on to another blog?

Posted by: Worker Bee | May 19, 2006 9:30 AM

And what's the deal with airline food?

Posted by: Jerry S. | May 19, 2006 9:47 AM

Your penance is to wait all day for the cable installer. Now go and say three Hail Marys.

Posted by: Father O'Malley | May 19, 2006 10:11 AM

I would have called and cancelled, even if it was thirty minutes before he was supposed to show up. The reason they charge you for visits, even when they don't fix anything, is because it costs money to come out and visit you. And it's money he could have made from another customer with a legitimate problem (probably me, sitting at home all day waiting for a call that never arrives). I realize that dealing with the service industry can be infuriating sometimes, but I still think what you did was pretty crappy.

Although, if I were suddenly faced with the same situation that wasn't necessarily of my own making, I probably would have hid, too.

Posted by: OD | May 19, 2006 10:17 AM

Wow, what an issue...what's next how I broke in front of someone at the grocery store.

Come on Marc, don't ruin your image by sharing these Sinfeld kinda questions.

Anyway, you open the door and talk to the gentleman and explain as you're walking out, hey I am in a situation here and need to go, is there anyway we can move this to another day and you not charge me?

Now, sometimes they won't charge you, especially if you tip them for doing such a good job, I do it all the time (personal tips), and sometime they do extra little jobs for me, free.

Communications, duh!!!


Posted by: Frankey | May 19, 2006 10:22 AM

I have seen it mentioned somewhere that the breakdown of customer service is a two way street. I think is a prime example of how customers are not holding up our end of the bargain in the customer-service provider relationship.

Posted by: Verbal | May 19, 2006 10:30 AM

I'm impressed that you have a problem that can fix itself. I would gladly pay the service charge for a few of those....

Posted by: ex cap girl | May 19, 2006 10:36 AM

These things happen Marc.

Once a tele-marketer called asking for me and I decided not to be me. I told him Mr. Katz was on vacation. "For how long?" asked the fellow with a decidedly latino accent. "Oh," I said, "A very long vacation, two weeks at least."
Very politely, the fellow said 'Thank you Mr. Katz"
To which I replied: "You're welcome."

Posted by: Richard Katz | May 19, 2006 10:37 AM

Gosh, I hope that repairman is reading this chat! Marc, you're such a wimp! Why were so so afraid to approach him? Were you afraid that he would pick your scrawny little butt up and shake the stuffing out of you?

Posted by: Lyn | May 19, 2006 10:42 AM

Actually, I think this is one of those actions we've probably all taken at one time or another (whether it's dodging a house call or a phone call), but to which people feel guilty about admitting. Don't sweat it - especially if the repair guy was from Comcast. Then it's just vengeance on the behalf of the rest of us.

Posted by: Exurbian | May 19, 2006 10:45 AM

If he left a card or a note, I think you owe them a phone call. If not, it depends on what your wife meant by not having a confirmed date and time. If a specific appointment had been at least tentatively scheduled, then you should call. If it had been more along the lines of "yeah, we'll try to send a guy out there tomorrow" then probably not.

Posted by: Cosmo | May 19, 2006 10:46 AM

That's OK, I'll give you my free service-call karma from the time the furniture department at Hecht's delivered a broken recliner chair to my house, not once but twice (in the middle of a weekday each time), and tried to call me crazy when I wanted my money back.

Posted by: csdiego | May 19, 2006 10:50 AM

I do the same thing when Jehovah Witnesses knock on my door. Does that count?

Posted by: Criss | May 19, 2006 10:54 AM

This is why I get a client's credit card number before setting appointments. If they're not home when I get there, it's a $100 fee plus travel time immediately charged to the card.

Some people wonder why businesses have such strict policies. It's because of immature people like you wasting our time.

Posted by: jk | May 19, 2006 11:15 AM

Don't feel bad about the Jehovah Witnesses, Criss. I do the same thing when they knock on my door. You don't schedule them to come to your house. (at least I don't know anyone who would do that)

Posted by: Lyn | May 19, 2006 11:17 AM

See, this probably could have been avoided if either you or your wife had called and checked whether the repair guy was still coming. I try to do that even if I've been given a date and time, because sometimes the front office manages to forget after the initial confirmation. (Of course, sometimes no one shows up even after I do that, but that's a separate issue.)

Personally, I'd either apologize now or provide a nice tip the next time you need repairs...assuming they're willing to come back.

Posted by: fs | May 19, 2006 11:19 AM

I think the more interesting part is that Marc declines to mention the details of the repair because of "ethical concerns".

My guess is that he was coming to fix Fisher's illegal cable descrambler.

Posted by: Burke | May 19, 2006 12:06 PM

Pay him. You are indeed dishonest. You are also self-absorbed. Having said that, you are mildly entertaining in a bourgeois sort of way.

Posted by: Appalled in Annandale | May 19, 2006 12:14 PM

Yeah, you're a dishonest, lazy little twerp. Once your wife said there was no need for repairs, all one of you had to do was call up the repair service and tell them they didn't need to come out.

The fact that you only feel "not too guilty" is rather telling. How would you feel if someone called you over and completely wasted your time like that? The repair guy made every effort to contact you, and you showed yourself to be an inconsiderate jerk. I hope this guy and/or his company get wind of this blog post and put two and two together, so they can choose not to deal with you in the future.

Posted by: Some customers suck | May 19, 2006 12:42 PM

Your wife set you up...she should have called and canceled as soon as she discovered the problem was solved...she let you take the heat. Yes, you owe them a nominal fee ($25?) for their efforts.

Posted by: Mike form Germantown | May 19, 2006 12:44 PM

You mentioned they had provided you good service previously. This prior relationship was in some measure why you got a timely response. One would hope you're now off that list. Just don't complain when you're sitting there sweating because of an AC system in need of repair, or bailing water because you can't find anyone to rush out to repair your sump pump.

You just officially lost the right to burden us with any of your customer service complaints.

Posted by: CW | May 19, 2006 12:54 PM

Now, now Some customers suck, I wouldn't call Marc lazy. He did manage to get up the energy to go hide. He probably crawled into a rat hole, where he would feel safe and at home.

Posted by: Worker Bee | May 19, 2006 1:01 PM

you owe.
this is one of those simple ethical issues.

Posted by: Rob S | May 19, 2006 1:05 PM

I can just picture Marc cowering in the closet, sweat running down that balding head of his, waiting for the big bad repairman to go away...and it makes me smile. :)

Posted by: nutter | May 19, 2006 1:10 PM

Yeah, it was a rotten thing to do, but also something a lot of us could see ourselves doing and then regretting. No point beating yourself up over it (or inviting others to -- they are only too happy to oblige). Just try not to do it again, and if you do deal with this person or company again, be extra accommodating.

If you owe money for the visit, they'll let you know.

But, as someone else said, if it was Comcast, it was just payback for the rest of us. (One time I stayed home from work all day to wait, and after I had made several calls to confirm they were still coming, I was finally informed they had "overbooked" the day's appointments and just wouldn't make it to some. Not that they had felt any obligation to NOTIFY, or to rebook, the people they were going to skip.)

Also, I'm curious -- do people really tip repairmen, or just when they've done something extra that wasn't required or when you've done something to inconvenience them? I haven't heard of this before.

Posted by: jane | May 19, 2006 1:11 PM

Worker Bee, you're absolutely right. I take it back. Not lazy, just a heel. And he probably put a lot of thought into where the best hiding spot was.

I might possibly sympathize if the repair service had provided shoddy service prior to this (one might ask why would you keep calling a service that's bad, but sometimes you have no choice), but I can't wrap my head around treating them like crap after you've had *good* interactions with the company.

Posted by: Some customers suck | May 19, 2006 1:12 PM

Marc, you were wrong. And your confession doesn't make it any less wrong, even though you were no doubt hoping it would at least make you feel better.

Now, if I had to list all the things I've done wrong in my life we would probably be reading for a while. So, "judge not lest ye be judged" comes to mind right now.

But the Golden Rule comes to mind as well, and this is one rule we should all follow. So I hope next time you will.

Posted by: Allison | May 19, 2006 1:15 PM

"Also, I'm curious -- do people really tip repairmen, or just when they've done something extra that wasn't required or when you've done something to inconvenience them? I haven't heard of this before."

Just for exceptional service or inconvenience on my end, and only a very small amount. Some of them are probably making more than I am anyway, but it keeps me on their good list.

Posted by: fs | May 19, 2006 1:24 PM

Ha ha! That's funny. And wrong. You probably owe them a little money, yeah. Wait and see what they bill you for.

Posted by: h3 | May 19, 2006 1:25 PM

Wow, some of you people are incredibly hostile. Can't you just respond to this without calling him names? Or are your lives so miserable that you feel better by acting like you're in grade school?

Posted by: dt | May 19, 2006 1:56 PM

Uh that will be $49.95 and $10.00 re-stocking charge.

Posted by: The Repair Guy | May 19, 2006 1:58 PM

Why not just open the door and tell him that there must be a misunderstanding. The company never called to confirm AND you no longer need their services? Both are true statements, and although there is no causation, you would have been fine.

Posted by: Huh? | May 19, 2006 2:12 PM

dt - have you never dealt with customers or clients who treat you as though you're completely below them, no matter what you do? It's aggravating as hell, and can happen even to the best employees - people who treat customers politely and efficiently often get treated like dirt in return.

It'd be different if the company had previously screwed up on the customer service front, but what Marc's describing is a case of the company doing the right thing (for the most part - can't speak about the scheduling thing), where the employee is doing the right thing, and still the customer takes it upon himself to act as though both the employee and the company are annoying things to be ignored until they go away.

Is name-calling really the immature behavior here?

Posted by: Some customers suck | May 19, 2006 2:16 PM

Jane, I often tip delivery guys a couple of bucks, and always try to offer a soda and use of my bathroom. I have tipped as high as $20 for the two guys who found a way to get my big-screen (NOT flat) into our downstairs family room. I was sure it wouldn't fit. They didn't leave a mark on the walls or even bump anything, and it wasn't an easy fit. That's the kind of service you should tip for if you normally don't.

But I agree, if it was Comco$t, they deserved it. I had them out no less than 8 times for the same problem, and they ALWAYS showed up right at the end of the time "window" they gave me, if not after. I have actually answered the door and sent them away if they arrived after the allotted time (not really to be mean, it was after my daughter's bedtime, which is why I scheduled the appts. for the times I did), and I ALWAYS called Customer Disservice and made sure they gave me that $20 credit for a missed appt., even if they showed up 5 minutes after the window.

Posted by: The Cosmic Avenger | May 19, 2006 2:22 PM

Sorry, Marc, but you're a dishonest jerk. You should have answered the door and told the guy you didn't need him. And it sounds like your wife was just as much of a jerk as you were: her reasons for claiming the guy probably wouldn't show up sound like guilt-induced wishful thinking.

I think you ought to call the guy, apologize, and ask if you owe him anything. Chances are about 50-50 that he'll say no, don't worry about it, thanks for telling me. But if he says yes, you should pay up. (After all, you and your wife knew he charged "through the nose" when you made arrangements for him to come back a second time.)

Posted by: DMS | May 19, 2006 2:32 PM

Seems there are a lot of service repair folks sharing their thoughts on this blog.

Mark did mention that he "paid out the nose" for the first visit. Seems reasonable that he probably wasn't too eager to pay even more for an unecessary visit that the company itself didn't bother to confirm.

Posted by: exurbia | May 19, 2006 2:34 PM

I bet a comparison study about who gets the short end of the stick more often in these home service repair situations - the customer or the service repair person - would reveal that it's the customer who gets shafted more often than not. Aside from the fact that we're at their mercy as to when (and if) they might show up, most of us are forced to take a day off from work to accomodate the visit because they won't come out on weekends.

Posted by: bethesda | May 19, 2006 2:39 PM

Marc, I'm surprised. You're an honest person. Honest people answer the door, tell him everything's ok, and, if there's a bill, pay it. In this case, YOU WERE WRONG!!

Posted by: steve | May 19, 2006 2:52 PM

bethesda, you are right that many repair people do not work weekends, but please realize that they too have families that they like to spend time with. They cannot work 24/7.

Posted by: Lyn | May 19, 2006 3:07 PM

Yeah, I think what you did was wrong - not like genocide wrong, but wrong. However, I'm not going to be overly harsh because in a moment of weakness I may well have done the same. To those of you who want to string Marc up by his plumber's helper, SHAME! Judge not lest ye ... you know the rest.

Posted by: Sam888 | May 19, 2006 3:07 PM

dt, Marc provoked the name calling himself. It's listed as choice b) in his column.

Posted by: Worker Bee | May 19, 2006 3:10 PM

You are lousy. You suck. You owe money. The whole office smells like the roof of your mouth, haven't you ever heard of breath mints? Also I really don't appreciate you stealing my lunch or taking my parking space. The only thing worse than your breath is the peculiar odor that exudes from your chair the whole afternoon after you've had curry. On top of that trim your mustache and quit it with the whiny laughing...oh sorry saw the abuse and figured it was Weingarten.

Posted by: Piling On | May 19, 2006 3:11 PM

Piling On - Leiby - is that you?

Posted by: Lyn | May 19, 2006 3:16 PM

You're right, Lyn, they can't work 24/7 and shouldn't have to, but I'm sure there are some single employees who might like to take on a weekend shift. Companies really should consider offering this as a customer service.

Posted by: bethesda | May 19, 2006 3:39 PM

Indeed, you have committed an evil act, Mr. Raw Fisher.

You must now commit seppuku.
Good day to you.

Posted by: CT | May 19, 2006 3:50 PM

You may or may not get charged, but you will probably be blacklisted by the company. They may never show for you again. Thats what my husband's company does with no-show clients.

And for those that think the repair guy is earning more than you, probably not if he/she works for a large firm. My husband's hourly rate is under 15% of what the company charges you for an hour. He gets tipped occasionally, usually only $5-10, and only 2 or 3 times a month (he makes 2-4 service calls a day). Funny thing about that though, he gets tipped in working-class-type neighborhoods, but never in multi-million $ homes in Georgetown and McLean.

Posted by: Ruby | May 19, 2006 4:03 PM

The people posting about how awful this is must not have tried to get a contractor to their homes. They show up 50% of the time or less, in my experience and that of my friends. Someone says you're going to get "blacklisted" - how would you tell? And I am sure they factor into their prices a certain amount of no shows. No big deal.

Posted by: Fed Govt | May 19, 2006 4:22 PM

"You're right, Lyn, they can't work 24/7 and shouldn't have to, but I'm sure there are some single employees who might like to take on a weekend shift."

Yeah, 'cause single employees never have anything else to do on the weekends, right? Or, should I say childless employees, since single people can have kids? There's also the matter of labor laws, and overtime - if they have to pay time and a half, they'd have to increase their rates. And, of course, people would whine about that, too.

As for all the posts about how contractors are horrid anyway - Marc had already stated that the last time they did business with this company, they received good service. His only complaint was the price, and that was glossed over, stuck in between two phrases that praised the company. Yes, companies like Comca$t have shoddy customer service, but this particular company, by Marc's own admission, is prompt and decent. So why with all the, "Contractors are horrible anyway" posts, as if that is justification for not treating the guy like a human being?

Marc (or his wife) should have called as soon as the problem cleared up, and, barring that, he should have at least faced the guy and said, "Hey, sorry, the problem's fixed now," when the guy came to the door. I choose option b: he's a dishonest jerk.

Posted by: Some customers suck | May 19, 2006 5:01 PM

I think Deborah Howell should have the comments for this post shut down due to the incivility of it all.

Posted by: rfs | May 19, 2006 5:52 PM

To SCS: I am constantly barraged by the type of people you mention. But what you're doing is using the excuse of being on the other end of a computer, rather than face to face, to justify taking out one's frustrations. Maybe these are all the things you'd like to call people who do what Marc did, but as you implied, you'd never say it in person, right? Fine, Marc asked if he was a dishonest jerk, I think he earned the title too, as I would have called to cancel myself. And immature for not dealing with the problem. But a rat? A wimp? Sweaty bald head/scrawny butt/whatever? That's certainly not mature, it's because people know they can get away with it without being slugged.

Posted by: dt | May 19, 2006 6:02 PM

Regarding the post from Bethesda:
Would you be willing to spend more for weekend service? In my business, design and production, it can be had, but at a price. Part of what anyone is willing to pay...

Posted by: Karl | May 19, 2006 6:44 PM

"That's certainly not mature, it's because people know they can get away with it without being slugged."

dt, is that the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about two people who disagrees? Do you think it automatically turns into a slug-fest? Adults are very capable of disagreeing face-to-face without hitting each other.

Posted by: Worker Bee | May 19, 2006 7:01 PM

Karl, you betcha I'd be willing to pay a little more for weekend service! It would still be less than what I lose in productivity at work by having to take an entire day off to wait around for a service repair or installation call that may or may not happen. But I think weekend appointments are something these companies should offer as par for the course: the operative words here being "service." And to SCS - the comment about single employees taking on weekend shifts was in response to someone who implied that service repair people wouldn't want to work on weekends because they wish to have time with their families. I'm willing to bet there are plenty of married w/children individuals in the industry who'd be willing to take on a weekend shift, too.

Posted by: bethesda | May 20, 2006 10:06 AM

Yes, you owe the company money. The reason is simple. The repair guy is on a schedule. He probably had an appointment before and after you. If you had answered the door and told him the truth he could have moved along to the next appointment instead of cooling his heels waiting for a no-show, or in this case no-answer. Perhaps if you had been honest instead of being a jerk, he could have gone through the rest of his appointments and finished early or even gotten to someone on the next days list. It's a BUSINESS. You treated the incident as personal. You owe that business at least the initial visit charge. Pay up. It's your pennance for being stupid that day.

Posted by: callie | May 20, 2006 11:30 AM

dt, interestingly enough, I never once implied that I would never say this sort of thing to a person's face. Matter of fact, in similar face-to-face situations, I have not hesitated to let a person know I think s/he's acting like a fool after they've asked me or tried to gain my sympathy. And as Worker Bee said, adults can disagree - even vehemently - without coming to blows.

Posted by: Some Customers Suck | May 22, 2006 12:32 PM

Nope - You don't owe 'em a penny unless they have a written policy (that was provided to you) and which indicates there will be a charge for missed service calls. The End.

Posted by: calli-oop! | May 24, 2006 2:17 PM

If that type of thing were such a big deal, the company should have a written policy and way to collect should people hide in their homes to save a buck.

Not a big deal. Just funny.

Posted by: Greg | May 30, 2006 5:26 PM

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