Thursday, June 28, 2007

Go with reputable contractor, they say

More than once I've heard HVAC contractors say that the quality of the equipment is nowhere as important as the quality of the installer. They say, you can buy a cheap Goodman unit, have it installed by a reputable contractor, and have a better result than when you pay three to five times more for a Trane or Carrier unit and have it installed by a nincompoop.

It's all good and well, except for one thing.

Define "reputable".

Do you really think you're qualified to determine whether the contractor is reputable or not? Remember, smooth talk and clean look is not an indicator of the fact that he is either honest or knowledgeable. Neither is jaded look and arrogance, by the way.

OK, suppose you admit it, you aren't. Who do you think is?

Your neighbor Joe must be. He told you that he's really ecstatic with the quality of work that a contractor Bob did last week, and low rates he's charged. So you go and hire Bob, only to meet Joe next week and hear the horror story about how the next contractor he'd hired, Jim, uncovered all sorts of shortcuts, omissions and stupid things that Bob did - and actually, that he's now suing Bob for anguish and mental suffering. Now, that gives you a warm and cozy feeling.

"Check credentials", they say... What exactly do you know about credentials? With all those "get the degree you deserve for the price you can afford" spam messages flying into your inbox by hundreds every day, how can you be sure?

Point is, you really can't know. You can't hire honesty and experience, you may just stumble upon it by sheer luck. But chances are really slim, because uncle Darwin knew what he was talking about when he said "survival of the fittest", and mind you, "fittest" doesn't necessarily means "better" as defined by you, but "better" as defined by competition rules. Racking up enough volume by cutting all imaginable corners to squeeze out those who are spending too much time honestly doing their job to the best of their ability is good enough in that book.

One way out of it? Make sure you know what they are talking about. Only then you can hire a knowledgeable contractor. Hiring experienced (as in street smart, not book smart)? Hiring honest? I'm not in a position to give you any advice about that...

And don't ever make a mistake of thinking that there's safety in numbers and you can cheat by hiring a big company to do what you need done, thinking that you can go after them if they screw it up. All that will happen is they will bleed you to death sending many crews one after another to fix the screwup, each of which will have approximately the same amount of clue (asymptotically approaching zero), requiring you to be at home, say, eight to two, or twelve to five, day after day, week after week, and each crew fixing one thing (optional) and breaking two in exchange (mandatory). Just say no.

Hmm... That turned out acid all right. According to the above, we're screwed completely. As I was thinking this article over and disliking the way it is (all negative), a glimpse of hope sparkled in my head when I thought of reputation systems. But then, immediately, when I googled up "hvac contractor reputation system", this article came out on top... Hmm... I guess some work is waiting to be done.

No comments:

Post a Comment