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What I Learned from Canadian TV

Show catches service professionals taking advantage of customers.

I’m not sure about all of you, but, being in the NYC market, there has not been a whole lot of work to do. So I have fallen down the YouTube rabbit hole. I’ve watched way too many guitar videos and bloopers reels. But then I found the “Marketplace” series on CBC, a Canadian network. Marketplace is a consumer-advocacy type of program with hidden cameras where they catch scammers and expose them. I came across a segment they did about home repairs.  I suggest you all take a look at this video, which is also posted below — after reading this blog, obviously!

The show’s producers intentionally rigged some issues in a home (plumbing, a dishwasher, and a garage door opener) and then filmed the repair people they brought in. Some of the repair techs were completely honest, even if they made some small diagnostic errors. But there were a few that were clearly scamming the homeowner or were just lazy and didn’t want to fix existing issues and would rather replace with new hardware. For a leaky faucet, they loosened a fitting on the hose for the pull-out faucet. Most of the plumbers caught it fairly quickly and had it fixed in minutes. However, one tried to sell a new faucet for almost $1000.

Related: 5 System Design Criteria for a Successful Takeover


For the garage door, they pressed the lock button that prevented the garage door opener from operating. The light on the on-wall button blinks to indicate the system is locked, so it is fairly obvious what is going on. They also misaligned the sensor beam at floor level so the light flickered to indicate it was out of alignment, which would also cause the door to not operate properly. Two repairmen solved the issue immediately; three blamed a bad circuit board, even after it had been replaced by a prior repairman.

One of the dishwasher repairmen even urinated into a coffee mug that was in the sink and put it back in the sink. And one of the garage door repairmen urinated in the garage. What is up with these guys peeing on people’s things! I get it, you have to go, but just ask the client to use the bathroom. I’ve never had a client refuse to let us use a bathroom.

It really is not too hard to extrapolate what happened in this segment to what is going on in our industry. There are many instances where we have been called into a client home because they are experiencing issues with their system and want to have someone repair or replace what is wrong. Many times it is as easy as an unplugged power cord or a bad IR emitter that takes just a few seconds to fix. We still charge for the service call, but the client is back up and running for a relatively small cost. Sometimes clients tell us they had other pros in and got quotes for thousands of dollars to replace hardware. I know we would never take advantage of a client like that for the easy fix. We will often let them know that the equipment is old and failures are quite possible in the future or that there are more modern solutions available that will provide significant benefits in ease of use, performance, or functionality, but we would never insist hardware that is functioning get replaced.

There are also instances where we may not have done enough due diligence on the initial call and, when we show up, we realize the client has a system or hardware we do not work with and do not have the relevant experience to repair. We are quite upfront and honest when this happens and let the client know that we are not the best fit for their system and they really need to contact dealers who are familiar with the hardware — we usually recommend someone we know or we refer them to the manufacturer dealer locator. We have also had a similar discussion with clients when the system is quite old and we do not feel comfortable troubleshooting it due to the age and the wiring — I am afraid that, once we touch it, we own it, and if the client isn’t willing to upgrade and overhaul a 10–12 year old system, we will also tell them that we are not the best fit for them and they need to find someone who is more comfortable rehabbing older systems.

I am sure many of these repair people could have made honest mistakes — we all know that it is often a process of elimination to find out what is causing an issue and sometimes our initial instincts are wrong.  This piece should all make us aware that we need to be as upfront and honest as we possibly can be. We need to treat our customers as we would want to be treated by professionals who come to our homes.

Also by Todd Anthony Puma: Business During the Coronavirus – How I’m Spending my Days