Winters Plumbing disappoints

By | August 6, 2010

[Read the whole series of postings about Winters Plumbing here.]

I posted a while back about a bogus “free safety inspection” Winters Plumbing convinced us to have, where “safety inspection” actually meant “excuse for one of our plumbers to get into your house so he can try to convince you to buy all kinds of stuff you don’t need.

I also mentioned in that posting how the plumber who did the “inspection” quoted us a price of $238 to replace a broken toilet handle, a job that takes less than ten minutes and requires a part that costs less than $5 and is stocked all the time by pretty much every plumber.

Scott Adams says that human beings are “rationalization machines.” I’m sure I’m as guilty of that as the next guy, but I try to be aware of when I’m rationalizing. I have suspected for quite a while that I was giving Winters the benefit of the doubt more than they deserved. I hired them to replace our heating system for a higher price than some of the other companies quoted because they seemed more reputable and trustworthy than the others. I wanted to believe that decision was the correct one. I don’t think I can maintain that delusion any longer.

Starting many months ago, I asked them repeatedly and through multiple channels (phone calls, email messages) to switch the billing on my monthly service plan from one credit card to another. They assured me repeatedly that it would be taken care of. It never was.

In short, they are apparently completely and utterly incapable of resolving a trivial, straightforward customer billing issue despite repeated requests and repeated assurances. This level of incompetence and disregard for their customers is entirely unacceptable.

But wait, it gets worse. When this billing issue finally pushed me over the edge and I decided that I was done with Winters Plumbing, I sent them a letter on June 18 telling them to cancel my membership in their service plan.

They did not acknowledge my letter. And of course, they charged my credit card the monthly fee for the service plan on August 2. I just disputed the charge with my credit-card company. Maybe that will finally get their attention.

Now that I’ve finally come to the realization that the problems I’ve had with Winters are not aberrations, but rather are part of a pattern of failing to deliver the level of service they promise to deliver, allow me to regale you with a list of all the things they’ve done wrong since I first hired them:

→ The subcontractor who installed our new ducts installed one of them in a ridiculous position, far lower than it needed to be. I had to make him take it down and reinstall it.

→ I asked several times when we were planning the new heating system to install screens underneath the vent covers to prevent stuff from falling down the vents. I made the same request directly to the subcontractor. Every time I mentioned it, I specifically said that I wanted the holes in the screens to be the size of window screens. I had to remind them several times about the screens; and the gaps in the screens they installed are about a half inch across, large enough for small stuff to fall through.

→ I’m not certain, but I think the screen material they used was taken from my work room without my permission.

→ The opening of one of the newly installed ducts was not quite wide enough for the vent cover to fit. Rather than enlarging the duct slightly so the vent cover would fit properly, they crammed it into the duct, thus damaging the (antique) vent cover and making it extremely difficult to remove later.

→ The interior of the ducts visible through the vent covers was supposed to be painted black to prevent reflective glare. The duct subcontractor forgot to paint several of the ducts before he left. I contacted him and Winters several times and asked for the subcontractor to come back and paint the ducts. He never came back; a crew from Winters came instead, and they did an astoundingly awful job painting the ducts. I chewed them out about it, and to their credit they came back and fixed it, but the ducts shouldn’t have been forgotten in the first place, and when I complained about it, the duct guy who knows how to do the work properly should have been the one to come back and do it, and Winters shouldn’t have had someone do it (the first time) who obviously didn’t know how to do it properly.

→ The duct subcontractor left trash behind when he left, including cut duct steel with unprotected sharp edges, even though we were assured that all debris would be cleaned up and removed by the workers.

→ The thermostat they installed has the ability to automatically control the humidity level in the house during the winter to avoid condensation on the windows and walls. This functionality requires an exterior temperature sensor which is connected to the thermostat; the sensor comes in the box with the thermostat. They didn’t install it. I had to call them and get them to come do it. To their credit, they installed it for no additional charge, but only because I knew enough to ask; most people wouldn’t.

→ The humidifier they installed uses an unbelievable amount of water. In the first month we used it, our water bill tripled to something like $100 for a single month. Most of it is literally down the drain; it seems like every time I turn around the humidifier is flushing itself out. I can’t believe it really needs to be flushed that often. I suspect that any financial savings we’re getting from lower heating bills is offset by the higher water bill. I’ve asked Winters repeatedly to find out how we can adjust the humidifier to use less water, and they haven’t responded.

→ I think the supposedly ultra-high-efficiency furnace they installed leaks a significant amount of hot air into my basement when it runs. I was running the fan last week to test something and could feel a ton of air blowing out the top of the furnace. I’m waiting until winter to confirm this, and if I’m right, I hope Winters will fix whatever the problem is, since the system is (supposedly) 100% warrantied for five years.

→ When I asked them how long the (expensive) air filters for the furnace last, different people gave me different answers ranging from six months to a year). In fact, it appears that the filters only last a few months.

→ The aforementioned “security inspection.”

→ The aforementioned failure to switch my service plan to a different credit card.

→ The aforementioned failure to cancel my service plan as requested.

If you’ve read this far, I’m impressed. So tell me, am I just being a curmudgeon, or am I right that these folks have propelled themselves through their actions from the “reputable, trustworthy” category into “time to look elsewhere”?

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4 thoughts on “Winters Plumbing disappoints

  1. Cate

    Thanks for the info, I just got an estimate from them to replace my heating system and it was extremely high compared to others. They didn’t give me details on what burner they were going to install or anything just a lot of garbage about different warranties they offer. No thanks.

  2. Anonymous

    Winters’ reviews on Angie’s List are all over the map, from A to F. It looks like they’re a pretty hit or miss company in terms of service – but you got to see that for yourself.

    time to move on?

  3. abbasegal

    Well, you are only being a “curmudgeon” for expecting the people you are paying lots of money to to be mostly competent. Given that that is the whole premise of your blog, I don’t think you are being out of line. You just have more persistence than most people, which is to be commended.

    With respect to Winters, the only problem with trying to look elsewhere is that there is no guarantee that anyone else will be better. 🙁 But if you do, I am sure you will publicize it, and that will hopefully help increase the prevalence of providers with decent customer relations in the world.

    Fight the good fight!

  4. Camilla

    You’re not being unreasonable. Please do report back when you find a plumber you’re satisfied with.


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