Hidden Camera Uncovers Dishonest Repairmen
We’re in the middle of the summer, and nothing is more important around this time of year than staying nice and cool. Thanks to the miracle of air conditioning, we’re all able to stay nice and cool throughout the long summer months. But if your air conditioning breaks, you’d better call a repairman on the double. But how trustworthy are these repairmen? A recent hidden camera investigation sought to answer that question. And according to the results, it looks like many trusted repairmen are just blowing hot air in your face when they give you the bill.
The investigating reporters rented a home in New Jersey for the sake of their investigation right in the middle of a big heat wave. They then commissioned three different air conditioning experts to examine their system, all of whom said the system was in excellent order.
After the initial inspections, the reporters brought in Bobby Ring, president of a top A/C company and senior vice chair of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America. He also took a look at the system and created a minor problem for the reporters to hire air conditioning technicians: a simple broken wire that shuts the unit down. Ring said that the broken wire should not take more than $200 to fix, regardless of where they go for service.
Ring lastly added that any technician or company that charges more than that or says there is additional work to be done is either lying or incompetent, neither qualities that are very useful for an air conditioning technician.
The house was wired with eight hidden cameras to capture every angle and the reporters hired a mom to pose as the homeowner. She had her call six companies to fix the A/C. As the contractors showed up, the reporters were watching with their AC expert from a control room in the basement.
Good news: The first contractor found the broken wire. But instead of fixing it, he wanted to charge the mother for an expensive part – something called a capacitor.
“He’s either incompetent or he’s trying to deceive her,” Ring said. “There’s nothing wrong with the capacitor, because we checked it.”
Yet this guy wanted to replace it anyway. The price: $395. So one of the experts showed him the real problem, fixing the broken wire and turning the machine on in seconds. No broken capacitor there. His company didn’t return calls for comment.
The next guy found and even fixed the broken wire quickly; the unit was working, the fan was turning. So why did he tell the hired mom that to fix it, he also needed to replace a pricey part?
“Because it’s leaking,” he told her. “Combustible fluid.” It sounded serious, and so was his bill: $692.
When the reporters revealed themselves and confronted him, they asked: “Did you actually test the part that you replaced, before you replaced it?”
“Actually, we were watching you on hidden camera, and you didn’t.” In fact, what he said was a leak, the experts say, was just harmless rust, and the part worked fine.
In a statement, the company owner told the reporters his employees follow a “…code of ethics…I stand behind my technician…(who)…presented the problem correctly and…made a recommendation based on visual concerns… If for some reason he did not follow our process, he will be dealt with accordingly.”