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residential service
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A client's 80 gal elec wh, which I installed 14 months ago, fried it's lower element and stat and I don't mean just went out. There were scorch marks and burned plastic everywhere. I get on the phone with Rheem/Ruud and they tell me "no prob', take it to ANY Rheem distributer and swap it out. So I start calling around. The only one in town who has what I need is a supply house that I use a lot less than I once did. Tell them what I need and where I need it brought to. "ok, no problem" that is until they find out that I didn't buy it there originally. Allright so this is an annoyance, the fact that they won't bring it to me, but I understand completely, after all I don't warranty other plumbers work nor do I warranty products provided by ho's. Well the timing is just bad because I'm already on mega stress overload this particular day but it is what it is. This will sound crazy but all I had time to do was cut the thing loose and let it drain as I drive away. I just don't have time to stand there and watch it drain (I'm buying one of those pony pumps for sure!) Well the tank, because it's a warranty issue has to be returned to the supply house. My plan is to go on to where I need to be and have my other plumber come get it after he is done on his current call, take it downtown, swap it, and then go install the new one. Well as it turns out by the time he gets there I'm close to the supply house so I just go by there to meet him since I have all the reference numbers and necessary info anyway. So I get there just as they are pulling the other tank off of the truck. Pretty good timing. Go inside "hey I'm here for the tank, here's the Rheem warranty reference number".

Here's where it gets interesting.

The guy had told me earlier on the phone that he has 4-80 gal elec wh that were just delivered the day before. So now he pulls up our cash/cod account and says something like "How can we get you to spend $1000 with us this year" ... THIS FLIES ALL OVER ME! So I just tell him "You know what, I used to spend a lot more with you but the fact is that on most items you are the most expensive or nearly the most expensive in town and frankly your customer service sucks and that's why I don't trade with you as much as I used to." Well at this he is insulted and starts getting all in a huff and says something like "you have an attitude like that and you want me to help you! No, I don't have anything for you, I can't help you!" and he walks off. Well I'm in an instant rage but fortunately I have learned to control this over the years so I don't say anything I just pull my phone out of my pocket and start calling Rheem but before I get through I track him down and say "let's go talk to your boss". So now I'm with the next guy up the ladder in the middle of the administrative area explaining to him that I had a warranty authorization number from Rheem for a replacement tank and that I don't care where the tank was originally purchased from that I expected that replacement tank, since they are an authorized Rheem distributer, on my truck immediately. I also explained to him that I had one million things to get done that day and I did not have time for this and that everything that had happened so far only reinforced every reason I had for not doing the business with them that I had in the past. I also told him that if they were going to pull some stunt like this they should have told me that morning. I was red hot mad but managed to keep my composure although I did speak in a very clear and understandable tone. I told him that I did not appreciate at all the attempt to strong arm me into doing more business with them for the very great favor of honoring the warranty of a product that they are distributers for.

I had my tank loaded and my plumber was on his way within about 10 minutes.

Now looking back on it, I really don't know what would have happened if the shoe was on the other foot. I certainly do not warranty anyone else's work or products that I did not provide with the exception of 1 or 2 companies for whom I have signed up to be service providers for but for those that I am service providers for, I certainly do work within the rates agreed to by the manufacturer at no cost to the customer on warranty items. Now if it's non warranty item then that's a whole other thing.

The whole thing just caught me on the wrong day but I have to say I am even less inclined to do business with them at all anymore.

Btw this tank was out of my labor warranty for this particular tank. We offer 3 different installs for tank type water heaters: standard, deluxe, and premier. Any standard grade tank that we install will come with whatever the manufacturers warranty is for the tank and parts and a 1 year labor warranty from us. So even though the defect had nothing to do with us and our labor warranty was expired by two months, I chose to go ahead and replace it at no cost to the home owner because it just seemed like the right thing to do. Rheem did not hassle me at all about honoring their warranty either. So with the exception of the supply house (which the ho never knew anything about) these were examples of excellent customer service in action.

I'm still pretty ticked off about this. I just can't believe the nerve of these guys to try to extort more business from me in exchange for the warranty tank. It's also incredible to me that this goofus after failing in his attempt to get me to promise "to do better" would actually refuse to honor the warranty simply because I answered him with a rebuke rather than submission. Who do these people think they are!? Someone needs to explain to them that the gold rush days of the new construction business are over (at least for the time being) in North central Alabama.

These are tough economic times. I'm not talking about beating down the supply houses. I certainly am not the cheapest plumber around but I bring the goods. People routinely hire my company in spite of our expensiveness because they see and understand after talking with other "plumbing companies" the difference between us and them. So it's not always about money regardless of the economic state. On the other hand I would never dream of saying to one of my clients "Well Mrs. Jones, we can get a technician to your home this morning but I see here that you've only spent $250.00 so far with us this year. How can we get you to spend $1000.00? Can you imagine what sort of results that would yield!?
 

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Master Plumber
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You providing warranty service on another man's work is a completely different animal than a factory distributor doing it. It's part of the deal for them.
 

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Always Something
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1,369 Posts
When I have things like that, that I need to warranty, I just call and check stock. On things like cartridges I will ask if they have any warranty ones available before I remove it from the valve if I don't have it with me.

Smells, my only advice is this: pick your battles. If it were me, I prolly would have just brushed him off, but who knows. I agree that it was pretty ballsy of a thing to ask and hay, I did sales too...I know how it is. When I am running hard, I don't have the time to BS with idiots again... pick your battles bud, before you start needing to take high blood pressure meds!!
 

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Illinois Licensed Plumber
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4,253 Posts
All the supply houses here that carry Rheem, AO Smith and Bradford White charge me a $100 paper work fee if I was not the one that originally purchased the water heater. Yes I will do warranty work even if someone else installed it. Heck I still get paid for my labor. The one State distributer I deal with does an even exchange no matter where the heater was bought or who bought it.
 

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Hey if you buy a chevy in st louis and you go to boston and it breaks down you don't go back to st louis to have it fixed under the factory warranty you have it fixed in boston at a chevy dealer. So why should a water heater be any different regardless of who put it in or who installed it. I am not going to go to mexico and track down juan del rio ortega vanzuela el hernandez to fix it just because he is the one that installled that particular part.
 

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Senior Moment
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All the supply houses here that carry Rheem, AO Smith and Bradford White charge me a $100 paper work fee if I was not the one that originally purchased the water heater. Yes I will do warranty work even if someone else installed it. Heck I still get paid for my labor. The one State distributer I deal with does an even exchange no matter where the heater was bought or who bought it.
They charge the same here even if you bought it from them. Puts me in a tough situation, do I eat the $100 or try to explain to the customer why a warrantied heater is still gonna cost them. Usually if it's a good customer, I'll eat it.
 

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How often does Rheem want the tank back from you? Most of the time , I thought they just wanted the serial number tag off the unit/
 

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www.DunbarPlumbing.com
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5,478 Posts
I have good relationships with the supply houses I deal with on a regular basis. The others I will not step foot in and they will never see my dollars again, it's that simple.

To get to that point, they've done something that didn't follow the routine of respect or there was an instance where they didn't have my best interest.

On the matters of these warranty issues, I usually let the customer do all the footwork because they have the most to gain, right?

Time spent in the matters of pulling tanks to give back bring one back put in another is mind numbing to say the least.

The worst situation I've been in is calling over the phone reading a serial tag and BAM! all I have to do is mail the serial code sticker or send it in to them next time I'm in.

I've said this more than once...but anytime you're in a supply house, you're losing money. There's only one bradford white distributor in my area and I won't buy from them just because of who they are and what they 'didn't' do for me years ago.

Their loss, not mine. Loyalty can be bought and sold on ebay these days it seems....

I probably would of beat them down like redheaded stepchilds as well, just to rehearse for the next time! LOL!! :eek:
 

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residential service
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
How often does Rheem want the tank back from you? Most of the time , I thought they just wanted the serial number tag off the unit/
I really don't know because this is the first time I've had to have a warranty replacement tank from Rheem/Ruud. The guy at Rheem said just what you said "you must provide the tag". The guy at the supply house said they had to have the tank, so we took them the tank.

I deal with different supply houses for different reasons. One is very close to the interstate and has very good customer service when you go in. If you need them to bring you 1 widgit it breaks down a little bit but really, I can understand this. If it's a misdelivery on their part they give me no grief and get it corrected quickly. Another supply house I deal with regularly is slightly harder to get to but not much, is generally reasonably priced within the pack and has excellent customer service. I have on several occasions called these guys up at 4:30 pm and they have been willing to deliver (usually in someone's personal vehicle on their way home) whatever I need. On the down side it is my opinion that they do not keep their warehouse sufficiently stocked because on several occasions they have not had what any supply house should ordinarily have, this is a problem but I still trade with them a good bit because of the other things. In service you often might not know what you need until you are on site looking at it. Driving to the supply house is a pain in the backside and costs me money. This second supply house is very good usually about the "I need it right now" deliveries and so I trade with them often. There are other supply houses I trade with for specific things because that is the only place you can get it (Noritz).

The supply house I dealt with the other day is one that I generally do not require anything from. They carry Kohler and Delta and really are completely geared towards new con anyway. Obviously they carry Rheem but I can get Rheem somewhere else and the Ruud distributer is one block away from the other Rheem distributer. I went to them the other day because they were the only ones in town that had what I needed. Instead of taking the opportunity to possibly begin to change my mind about them with respect to their customer service, they instead just reinforced everything I had come to dislike about them. I live in the service world having come from the new con world. I understand both mindsets but I am firmly entrenched in the service world. I am always striving to find ways to improve my service to my customers and I have come to expect no less from my vendors. All supply houses (locally) do whatever they can to limit your knowledge of their pricing so that it is difficult to price shop them. Ok I understand this because you want the customer to have something invested in doing business with you. If it simply comes down to the customer looking at a list to find who has the lowest number then it becomes virtually impossible to make it because much of the time a person will go with the lowest number if that is the only information he has available to him to make a decision. My point is this, if you are a supply house and you won't provide me with any sort of pricing catalog so that I have to call to price every widgit every time because the price changes all the time, then you better be doing something (customer service) to attract me and hold me. I am no different than a lot of other people in that very often I will do business with someone just because I like the person. Of course the person has to deliver the goods, on time, and as advertised but that really should be the easy part. If I do not like you, I don't care what you are selling or at what price, I'll go elsewhere.
 

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We always just turn in the sticker on the heater the next time we go in to the supply house.

My pet peeve - seems like all supply houses are stocking less and less. Ridiculous a supply house would run out of 80 gallon water heaters. Seems like Lowes & Home Depot know how to keep water heaters stocked though we don't shop there.

The whole calling everytime you need a price is also a waste of time. Prices fluctuate so often from invoice to invoice. The only thing I know for certain in pricing is water heaters and garbage disposals - everything else fluctuates too much.

If we were charged a $100.00 warranty fee, we would be looking for another supplier. If all the suppliers charged the fee, then we would most definitely pass it along to the customer.
 

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Illinois Licensed Plumber
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How often does Rheem want the tank back from you? Most of the time , I thought they just wanted the serial number tag off the unit/
With AO SMith , Bradford White, and State, they only want the tank if the unit is less than 12 months old other than that its just the tag. When I done Rheem a few times they wanted the tank even if the unit was over 12 months but less than 24 months.
 

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Illinois Licensed Plumber
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4,253 Posts
They allowed to do that?
When I complained to the manufactures about the supply houses charging us paper work fees, all they say is that they frown on it and there is nothing they can do about it.

There is a plumber out west of me that buys.. no let me rephrase this.. he stocks water heaters from the distributor, and they distributor comes and inventories the stock and gives him a bill and restocks for each one sold. I wish I could get an arrangement like that.
 

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Certified Lunatic
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All the supply houses here that carry Rheem, AO Smith and Bradford White charge me a $100 paper work fee if I was not the one that originally purchased the water heater. Yes I will do warranty work even if someone else installed it. Heck I still get paid for my labor. The one State distributer I deal with does an even exchange no matter where the heater was bought or who bought it.
Last one I did (A.O.Smith) the supply house tacked on a $50 paperwork fee... Customer paid over the phone via credit card and I treated the job as customer supplied...

I did not do the original installation...

You did the right thing in dumping on the supply house!
They deserve to know why they will not make it through the tough economic times we are in...

I guarantee you are not the only plumber that feels that way...

One of the golden rules in sales is if a good customer has left you and they were dissatisfied with what you provided, in order to get them back some sucking up is required.

Their salesperson needs to sign up for Sucking Up 101 at the local community college...
 

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Service plumbing is a completely different field than new construction in my opinion. Yes, we use the same tools at times, and yes we do the same work, but our needs are completely different at the supply level.

I can't tell you how miffed I get when I can't get a simple 1/2c x 1/2FIPS drop-eared ell. Or even a 1/2" cxc drop eared ell. The reason? They don't sell enough of them to warrant stocking them.

As for how to deal with these bozos? Don't. Call them and ask for your outside sales rep and talk to him. Let him make your case and explain to you how they are going to earn your business.

I would have popped that off to the dweeb at the counter faster than he could blink. "You want more of my business? Earn it!! I'm not going to come in here and plop down a thousand bucks a year just because you ask me to. I'm gonna come in here and spend a thousand bucks because you treated me as if I were the most important thing you had to do today!"

I don't sell on price and I don't buy on price. If the supply houses don't take of me, I don't trade with them. I would have been on the phone to the Rheem factory rep faster than that kid could say, "Oops".
 
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When I complained to the manufactures about the supply houses charging us paper work fees, all they say is that they frown on it and there is nothing they can do about it.
Don't talk to the manufacturer, talk to the manufacturer's rep company. They are the ones charged with market penetration and sales for your area, and they can direct you to someone that will deal with you fairly. I would also refuse to pay the fee as that was not disclosed to me when I contacted the manufacturer. They are responsible for the supply and distribution chain of their product, not I. Therefore, they can set limits on unfair practices that penalize those that are playing by their rules. I know that you're in the Chicago area, but I don't pay kickbacks for someone doing their job. Sorry.

There is a plumber out west of me that buys.. no let me rephrase this.. he stocks water heaters from the distributor, and they distributor comes and inventories the stock and gives him a bill and restocks for each one sold. I wish I could get an arrangement like that.
You most likely can with good credit and enough sales per year. Talk to your supply house outside sales rep about it.
 

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Illinois Licensed Plumber
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I don't mind the service charge. The supply houses really don't make much on water heaters. They need to charge that to cover their time for handling the warranty issues. The customer pays it anyway. Every time I get a service fee, they throw in a new warranty on the heater. It's worth it.
They only write up the heater with the remainder of the warranty of the original heater. The only time they extend the new heaters warranty to the full six years if the heater is an upgrade( non FVIR heater to a FVIR heater). which the manufacture charges the upgrade fee.
 
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