Recession Mama

{August 2, 2009}   Don’t Get Taken To The Cleaners

Today’s guest post is from Althea, who you might recall was a guest writer not long ago, talking about saving money on a road trip and still having an amazing vacation. This time, a repair company could have easily taken her to the cleaners…had she not been on the ball. Here she is, in her own words:

My washing machine broke the other day in the middle of a load, the spin/drain cycle to be exact.  It was making a low, soft, buzz or hum and I could smell a faint burn.   We are not exactly DIYers around here.  In fact, there’s not much beyond changing a light bulb that we have tried doing in the past.  Since becoming homeowners 9 years ago, our motto was always if there’s a professional out there to handle it, call them.   As we’ve grown older, wiser and…more concerned about finances…, we’ve been trying a few more things on our own.   


So, my first step was not to call the professional immediately but look to the manual for troubleshooting.  Thankfully, I have a very logical and organized husband or I’d have no clue where the manual was.  It was right above the washing machine in a cabinet, where it should be.  Unfortunately, the manual was no help, other than to provide me with a number for the manufacturer’s 800 number to their service & repair center.  I called to make an appointment and they had one available in only 2 days, which sounded reasonable to me since I called on  a Sunday.   

The first payment option they gave was $129 and that included service call to diagnose and fix the problem if no parts were necessary.  Parts would be extra.  The 2nd option was $214 and that had to be paid up front (seriously, do these people think they’re fooling us by not just rounding up to the number they really want to charge.  Does $129 really sound better than $130?).  That included service, labor and parts up to $500 and a work guarantee for an amount of days I don’t remember.  But, I asked, what if the parts don’t add up to $214?  Good news, they would reimburse for the balance remaining after the $129 service call fee and if any parts were needed.  But I’m thinking to myself, yeah right, they’ll make sure they get more money some way.  So I hung up opting for the $129 route and deciding to talk it over with my husband.  He did the math and said $129 was the way to go, although we both agreed that was still high and maybe a local, small repair shop could do better for us. 

I got online and searched around, made a few phone calls and found one I was happy with.  They were friendly, prompt, could come out the next day and their service fee was only $53.50.  Done and done.  I called to cancel the appointment with the manufacturer. 

The story just gets better from here, promise.

Repair guy shows up, listens to it run for 5 seconds and diagnoses immediately with “your pump is burned out.”  He’d been there for 2 minutes and was already closing his case and proceeding to tell me how he’d have to order a new pump to the tune of $265.  What???!!!!  I said, “you didn’t even look in it” and he says “oh m’am I can hear it, I know this problem”.  “Please amuse me and open it up anyway”, I ask.  He does, slightly begrudgingly, though he is very nice in general.  After he opens it and shows me the pump, he also shows me the filter to its left and says how some technicians will have the filter cleaned first and see if that helps, but he doesn’t recommend that and is sure a new pump will be needed.  I’m confused, so you take my filter with you and have it cleaned?  Oh  no m’am, I do it right here for only $165.  REALLY, and how does that work exactly.  He says, first, I scoop out the water that’s sitting in your wash tub with a cup and dump it in the sink, then I open the filter and let the remaining water drain out all over your floor, then I look at the filter to see if there is any debris, gunk, etc., then I run a bottle of cleaner through the cycle.  If this doesn’t work, I don’t charge you and you buy the pump, if it does, you pay $165.  I ask, “Can’t I do this myself? It sounds simple and I’ve seen washing machine cleaner at the store”. While hesitant to answer, he does tell me that I can. Really, that sounded like such hard work for $165; you don’t say I CAN do it….duh! 

I am very proud to announce that after doing the steps above, pulling a wad of  paper (probably a baby wipe that made its way into a pocket)  out of the passage way between the filter and pump, I now have a functioning washing machine.  All for the bargain price of $53.50 (Really?  Does that sound better than $54?). 

There is no way I could have diagnosed the problem myself, so the money spent was well worth it.  However, without asking a lot of persistent questions, I’d be out at least $265.  If anyone has a front-loading washer and experiences this problem, I’d be thrilled to walk you through the process again. 

Cost to fix washer: $53.50 + bottle of cleaner ($5?).  Cost of confidence in fixing minor machine’s problems:  Priceless! 


Katy says:

Bravo, Althea!!! I wish I had tried to clean out my A/C myself. The guy was there for maybe 30 minutes, and he charged me $175. He, then, chatted with me for another hour and a half.

recessionmama says:

From Heather: Good for you Althea. It does pay to put on you “game” face and ask question otherwise they’ll rip you off. Similar thing happened with our door lock repair. One company wanted to charge us over 1200 to fix it. But I did some research and tracked down someone else who did it for half that amount. BTW Katy what did you and the AC guy talk about for so long? Ha!

Katy says:

Oh Heather…it was so weird. He actually told me all about his personal life…getting a divorce, living with a roommate, but leaving out the part about a girlfriend..which another neighbor (a guy) told me about later. I had to go and hide in the bedroom while he was working!

Lydia says:

Love it!! Attaway to stick to your guns! I can’t tell you how many car mechanics I’ve had to back down over the years. I finally reconnected with a friend who runs a garage called CHRISTIAN BROTHERS in Plano (for you guys and gals in the area), who takes really good care of me. 😉

Carla says:

Yay to Althea, this is a great example that it’s easy to just TRY to save where we can. And let me also be the 1st to say that I love Althea’s use of the word, “gunk”. : )

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