Service Matters (part 2)

Arpi’s is a venerable residential, commercial and builder supplier of heating and plumbing in Calgary. They, too, are now on my black list.

About 2 months ago, my wife and I decided that we would get a new furnace to replace the original one, which had been causing us strife by way of $400 energy bills each month. When the new federal budget passed, providing a 15% tax credit towards home renovations, we thought that this, combined with the Government of Canada eco-energy retrofit grant which we’re working towards, would provide us enough incentive to improve our comfort and save money in the long run.

After getting three quotes, Arpi’s was by far the cheapest, regardless of being one of the most recognizable names in the industry locally.

During his review of the project, the estimator (Dennis), surveyed the potential task at hand and among other things, inspected the exhaust chimney, which we learned provided the previous furnace and hot water tank an outlet to send exhaust fumes (including CO) into the air and not into our house.

Now high-efficiency furnaces, we learned, don’t need this chimney – they vent directly through the side of the house. So what’s left is simply a hot water tank for this 5″ diameter chimney, and hot water tanks don’t produce enough pressure to push the gas up the chimney and out of the house – it was the combination of the furnace and tank that required such an escape. So when installing a high-efficiency furnace, installers drop a liner down the chimney to reduce the size of the opening and create more pressure.

During his inspection, he established that there exists a 45-degree jog in the chimney in an undetermined location, but likely behind a wall of cupboards in our kitchen (ie: not easily accessible).┬áNone of this phased our estimator though, and his clever sales skills had us thinking it was nothing major either.┬áHe very clearly said, “we see those all the time,” and “not a big deal,” so I wasn’t concerned.

Well, guess what. Big deal. The furnace is in now – sure can’t take that back for a refund – and installers spent two hours heaving on the liner, which kept snagging on something at the jog – likely a screw or two poking through. They could do nothing but give up and provide me with the following options: allow them to bust into the wall to find the jog, attempt to smooth it out, drop the liner again, and leave me with a big hole in my wall (or dismantled cupboards and a big hole in my case), or… Buy a new hot water tank that, like the furnace, directly vents out the side of the house.

In other words, they need to bust up my kitchen, with no guarantees that’s where the jog is, nor that they’ll be able to fix the problem (this time they were crystal clear), OR spend an additional $2,000 on a hot water tank that we don’t need (the existing one is only 3 years old).


It’s safe to say that had we been presented with things a little more straight forward, – that there was a realistic chance we’d be in this position – we probably wouldn’t have gotten a new furnace. I told Arpi’s that they were at a crossroads. They could either go down the route of providing great service, give me a hot water tank at cost, that I’d eat $1700 or $1800, and we’d call it even; or they could quote me on a new hot water tank in an effort to make themselves a couple of bucks, I’d take my business elsewhere, and then get them to come back and finish things off.

The defensive stance of, “it is clearly stated on the contract” gives me the impression that they’ve chosen the second option.

I find it hard to believe that such bad service exists these days, especially from a company like Arpi’s, who are laying off employees amidst these current economic conditions. Making amends and providing honest service to customers – even if you’ve made a mistake – goes such a long way to building credibility and a strong customer base for a company. But this is clearly ignored or misunderstood by many businesses – even ones you wouldn’t expect it from.

I’m gathering quotes from some other companies. I’ll let you know how things pan out.

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