Tuesday, September 03, 2013

An Example of Bad Service

I've got a bone to pick.

Last year, we did an extensive renovation on our basement, gutting it down to the dirt and finishing it.  It's now my favourite place in the house.  I did most of the work myself, but brought in professionals for the concrete, plumbing, and drywall finishing.

My complaint is with my plumber.  My concrete vendor recommended him.  I was a little leery, as I couldn't find any information about him in my due diligence (he has no website, no company profile on the BBB website, and no mentions at all of his name or business online, which is part of the reason I'm writing this post).  But I trusted the reference and booked him.  His name is Jason Borgstrom, going under the company name J.Son Mechanical.  I was happy with 99% of his work.  It's that nattering 1% that has escalated and has now completely soured my experience with him.

The job we had for him had two main elements.  Part one was roughing in plumbing for a 3 piece bathroom.  Part two was removing our 100 year old cast-iron main drain and replacing it with PVC pipe & a backwater valve.  Previous owners of our home had done some plumbing upgrading, and the main venting stack had been replaced with PVC and tied into the cast-iron drain.  This is where that little nattering problem came up.

The main stack, if you're not familiar with plumbing terms, is a vertical pipe that sticks out of the roof to allow air into the plumbing system.  This lets draining water be replaced by air as it flows out of the house - without this, you'd create a vacuum in the system, and drains would drain slowly, if it all.  The stack ties into the plumbing on every floor of the house.  In my house, this 2½ story piece of pipe is held in place by nothing other than the ground on which it sits, which is not a problem as that ground doesn't move.  But when my plumber removed the horizontal cast iron drain from underneath the vertical stack, suddenly the weight of the whole stack assembly was held in place by the thinner pipes that connected into it from the sides, all the way up through the second floor.  One of those connections, the one from the kitchen sink, cracked and started dripping.  It was a slow drip, so we didn't notice it right away.  But when we did notice it, we opened up the kitchen cabinets to find the source and deduced the cause.  We called the plumber back to correct it.

He insisted that he did not cause the damage, but agreed to repair it, and did so.  Up to this point, we were still at 100% in terms of satisfied with his work.

But then he billed us for the repair, to the tune of $65, on top of his $3425 invoice. [Seeing that, my satisfaction dropped to 99%.]  I objected to being billed for that since it was damage that he caused, and told him via email that we would subtract the $65 on our payment, which we sent him promptly.  This was his reply:

If you believe it was caused by the stack, then so be it. I am not going to make a big deal out of $65.00. Thanks very much for having the courtesy to inform me of the difference. Thanks again.


As a customer service professional, his snarky tone really irritated me, but that was the last I heard of it and I let it go.  I figured that maybe I had just caught him on a bad day.

But a few months later we learned that the city was offering a substantial rebate for renovations done where there was a backwater valve installed, which we had done.  They required a detailed receipt from a plumber showing the exact work that was done, but our invoice was very basic and did not meet the city's requirements.  So I emailed Mr. Borgstrom asking for a more detailed version.  He didn't reply, so I figured a phone call would be better.  When I talked to Jason, he said that he remembered me, and he flat out refused to help me, saying, "Maybe next time you'll treat your contractors better."


I am now of the opinion that Jason Borgstrom of J.Son Mechanical has deplorable customer service skills, which, in a referral driven trade such as plumbing, is very unfortunate for him.  I'm quite well networked, and have recently had several friends ask me if I can refer a plumber to them.  My response has been that I don't yet know any good ones.  While I don't wish him any ill will, I do hope that this post helps future prospective customers of his make an informed decision.

There is a happy ending though: the city, once we informed them of our situation and Jason's intransigence, agreed to make an exception and is proceeding with our rebate application.

Look at the powerful customer service lesson here: Jason had an opportunity to keep my satisfaction at 100%, and to generate referral business, by owning up to his mistake and not charging me $65 for the repair.  He had another opportunity to get me from 99% back to 100% by saying, "Sure, that's reasonable.  No problem."  And he could have got me from 50% back up to 99% if he had taken 10 minutes and done up the paperwork I needed when I first requested it.

Instead, he was unreasonable and rude.

For the record, Sturgeon Construction did an amazing job breaking up & repouring our concrete floor (that was a hard, hard two weeks for them), and St. Joseph's Carpentry did incredible work with our drywall mudding and taping (virtually dust free!).  Both firms had no problems coming back to fix minor issues.  I'd heartily recommend them to anybody.