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Don't Get Ripped Off by Your Appliance Repairman

By Charles Hopkins Published 07/6/2006 | Home Improvement
Picture this. You get home from work and just want to settle into your daily routine. Suddenly, you realize that the refrigerator isn't cold, or the microwave isn't heating, or the washer won't empty. Now what?!? Do you open the phone book and hope to get a well-trained, honest repairman? Or do you just pray that you don't get ripped off?

Try using these six tips to get the service you need without getting taken to the cleaners.

1. Write down the make and model of your appliance and a brief description of the problem (a single paragraph will do) before you pick up the phone. This information will not only help the repairman diagnose the problem; it also makes you look like a smart consumer. Remember, knowledge is power.

2. Try to find a factory authorized repair center first. This is a must if your appliance is still under warranty. Factory authorized means that the manufacturer stands behind the repair and will usually mediate in any disputes. With stiff competition in the appliance market, the last thing the manufacturer wants is an unsatisfied customer who purchases a different brand.

3. Ask people you know for referrals. Okay, this one is pretty basic. But, with all of the appliances we use every day, someone you know has needed to have one of them fixed. Benefit from their experience, good or bad.

4. Check the yellow pages for repairmen who take credit cards. Credit cards offer an extra layer of protection for you. If you are not satisfied with the fix and the repairman refuses to address your concerns, you can contact your credit card company and request a charge back to the merchant. This will involve more paperwork on your part, but can give you a better position when negotiating a dispute. Be aware, though, that using this tactic too often can leave you in bad standing with your credit card company. Check their policies on charge backs first.

5. While you have the yellow pages open, compare the ads. Yellow page ads are not cheap. Only the most successful or competitive companies can afford the big display ads. While this doesn't indicate the level of service you get, it does show which companies invest in advertising and which expect to still be in business in a year or two.

6. When you do start making calls, ask the same questions of each company. A good start would be:

How long have you been in business?
Do you use factory parts?
Are you insured for any damages the appliance may cause after the repair?
Do you offer a written guarantee on parts and labor?
Do you have any corporate references?
Have your repairmen received any factory training?
Has your company ever been taken to small claims court to settle a dispute?

Using these six tips will help you to weed out the dishonest, incompetent, or just plain bad appliance servicemen. They will also help identify the good servicemen that you can count on for a long time to come.