As any parent can attest, we all wish that we could shield our kids from life’s heartaches by having suffered them ourselves. Unfortunately, we soon realize that the only way to “learn” is to experience the pain first hand.
Regardless of what conventional wisdom says, I am going to share a rather painful experience I had in the hopes that it will save you from the same agony.
Several years ago, our family was in the throes of yet another military relocation with a million different minute details that required my attention. My husband and I had decided that we would act as our own landlord on this property, so I started looking for the perfect safeguard for any maintenance issues that may arise. I wanted something that would protect us from large expenses, but I also desired to make it as easy as possible on our tenants. Alas, a home warranty policy appeared to be the perfect answer.
I had spoken with a neighbor who had inherited a policy from their seller and they were quite enthusiastic about it. I briefly looked into the company they were with and decided that the expense was just a bit more than we had wanted to commit. After all, we had new appliances and had done recent maintenance on our major systems, so I was feeling confident that this was nothing more than a safety net and I didn’t want to spend more than I had to.
Low and behold, I found a company that was offering a great price with outstanding coverage. And not only that, but as an added bonus, they were going to give me a $50 Home Depot gift card for every year of coverage that I purchased. This was quite an appealing offer for someone who had just purchased a new home. I was SOLD and signed on the dotted line for a three year policy, and I had already picked out the items I would purchase with my $150 gift card.
Like Ralphie waiting for his Secret Society decoder pin, I checked the mailbox every day for my found money… but the gift cards never came. Repeated calls to the company started to leave a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. How reputable is a company that makes promises it doesn’t seem to keep? I kept holding out hope by equating it to the long wait you often have for rebate checks. Surely this would be a similar situation.
It seems that I didn’t knock on wood when I said that we weren’t likely to have any issues with the major systems in our home, because not long after our tenants moved in, we received a call about the air conditioning unit. I explained to our tenant that they could simply call the 800 number I had left them, and the company would dispatch a service repair man to their home within 12 hours. Even better, the deal I had signed up for allotted us two free service calls, so there wouldn’t be any out of pocket expense for our tenants. I was a proud peacock at this point! The after action report from our tenants left me with that same feeling in the pit of my stomach again. The service call seemed to go well with the problem resolved; however, the service provider required that our tenants pay the $70 deductible because there was no record in the computer of the free service calls.
At this point I threw up my defense mechanism and decided that all of the fancy sales techniques that I had fallen prey to weren’t important as long as they were reliable in addressing our maintenance issues.
Unfortunately, that strategy didn’t help defend against the growing ulcer in my stomach once it came time for our tenants to make a second service call. This attempt didn’t result in a mere $70 deductible, but rather no response at all! They had called and left several messages on their automated system, to no avail. So I called repeatedly and even placed on online service request. No luck on my end either. So after five days of waiting, I had to bite the bullet and call a refrigerator repair man and shell out several hundred dollars for a new compressor.
Now with a fire in my belly, I started to do some research on this company through the vast information network known as the “internet.” Wow, did I feel like a complete fool! Reading the staggering amount of complaints against this company made me almost toss my cookies. How could I have been so foolish? Had I just taken a few moments of time to research this company, I surely would have saved myself a whole lot of money and heartache.
They say, “Hindsight is always 20/20,” and in this case it surely was an accurate statement. At the chaotic time of organizing a move, I thought I was doing a great job of juggling all things and was pleased with the purchase I had made. But now in calmer times, it was easy for me to see that I had made a rash decision with little or no real research.
In the end, I was part of a class action suit against the company and came out with a check for $64. This was hardly compensation for the thousands of dollars I had lost, not including all of the shiny incentives that made me sign in the first place. I would be lying if I said that the lessons learned from this experience made the regret any less bitter to swallow; time has healed the wound yet the scar remains.
The lesson I hope that others can take away from this, without suffering the pain yourself, is to do your due diligence. Take a few moments of time to do a quick search of the internet and see what it may turn up for you. Use your military network and your neighbors to gain knowledge from their experiences.
There are a lot of great home warranty companies out there, and it can be a great option for the homeowner that wants to protect themselves from large, unexpected repair expenses. Just don’t get distracted by the flashing lights as I did and hopefully my experience can save you some of the same heartache.