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Letter to my Oil company

I went over the number of gallons I pre-paid for my heating oil this year. In fact this is the highest amount of oil I've used in the past 5 years. Every single year it has gone down as I've "learned" the house more. Along with the bill from the oil company, I sent them this letter:

Included you will find a check for XXXX for the oil delivery that occurred on April 8th, 2009.

I have to say I was very surprised to find out that I had used up the pre-pay amount, so I reviewed my records. This is my highest oil usage in 5 heating seasons, and I am 118 gallons over the average of the last 3 years. This year's calculations do not yet accommodate for a 'final' delivery that has traditionally happened in the end of May or beginning of June.

During our yearly cleaning / inspection at the beginning of the season, I had your technician turn down the heat on my hot water heater, which I expected would help limit my usage.

All this makes me wonder if the first fill up (11/3/08) accidentally went into my neighbor's tank. The fill location is labeled left side; however there is no fill valve on the left side of my house. I attached a copy of said receipt for your own amusement.

The overrun hurts extra since I locked the price in at what turned out to be an obscenely high amount, and I am currently not generating any income.

If there is anything you can do on your end, or you have any thoughts to share on the matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.

What would the oil company do next?

A stellar customer service move would be to credit my account for the initial fill up. It would make me a customer for life.

An okay customer service move would be to not charge me for the overrun. They'd say things like "It was ~6 months ago; we may have screwed up, but don't know. You should have been watching the tank to be sure it was full every time you got a fill-up." This is kind of like splitting the difference. If they do this, there is a ~75% chance I'd stay w/ them as a customer.

A realistic business decision would be to say "It's way to late to complain about something that may have happened 6 months ago. We're sorry, but tough luck." I'd shrug my shoulders and say "whatcha gonna do." At this point, there is a 50% chance I'd stay as a customer. Could something else have cause the discrepancy?

A horrible customer service response would be to cash my check and not contact me at all. This wouldn't surprise me. 25% chance I'd stay with them for the next heating season.

Last time I had a complaint with a different oil company, the person yelled at me on the phone saying everything was my fault. I not only stopped being a customer, I filed a complaint to the BBB.

I wish I knew more. I wish I knew that they did something incorrectly. I wish I caught the mistake--if there was one--back in November.

The Carbon Monoxide Detector Went off

The Carbon Monoxide Detector went off. Three times, about 3 hours apart. It made for a rough night sleep.

The first time, we heard one beep. I brought the attic one down to the second floor and moved the second floor one to a different spot. It was about 11 pm.

The second time, we heard two beeps. It was around 1:30. I was a bit disoriented, and jumped up immediately. I stepped on T while jumping out of bed. It sounds worse than it was.

I took batteries out of the "first" one and moved a third from the basement to our bedroom. The second and third detectors both have readouts, which were zero. I noticed that the heater in the bathroom was giving off some kind of gas, most likely steam (It is steam heat). I turned it off.

The third time was around 5:30. We heard one beep (Not from the bedroom one) and called the fire department. They just left telling us we had really low levels, especially with it being winter and the house closed up. No danger.

I replaced the batteries in all alarms about a week after Daylight Savings time, so that shouldn't be the problem.

These are the detectors I have. I think the Model KN-COPP-B. It was nice to find the docs right on the web site. Over the weekend, we'll probably buy a CO detector (or two) from a competing brand. One for the first floor and one to keep on the bedroom floor.

Roof Repair

I'm already on my s***list for my insurance company for past claims, so I'm extremely cautious about making more claims.

I had a $250 deductable. The two claims I made are:

  • Water stains on the ceiling: Result ~$500 check from Insurance company to fix the ceiling. ~$4K to fix the chimney which was the source of the leak. Apparently insurance doesn't fix the source of the problem, just the results of the problem.
  • overflowed toilet: I had to replace the floor. The check from the insurance company was once again ~$500. Most quotes for the fix were in the $2K range. I ended up paying ~$900. That is because I negotiated lower rates because the contractor left the radiator pipe (I have steam heat) open thus rusting the light fightures and causing damage to the wallpaper. After all is said and done, he got the better end of that stick.

After all this, it came time to renew and my rates shot up $400 a year, a direct result of the claims.

This weekend there were high winds (in excess of 60 miles per hour I'm told). There are pieces of my roof all over the back yard. That's a problem i couldn't ignore any longer, so finally got someone out here to quote it.

One person suggested that I give my insurance company a call, but I'm scared of doing that.

When I wanted to replace my hot water heater, I called a lot of contractors, most didn't call back. I ended up with five appointments, and only one contractor showed up.

I called 5 contractors yesterday and ended up with four appointments. That's a good start.

The first contractor gave a bid of 7K to replace the roof on the back and front porch. Plus 'extra' to do some construction that needs to be done in conjunction w/ the roof.

I'm reeling in a bit of sticker shock.

I guess we'll see what the others have to say.

More Cat Evidence

I just cleaned up four dead birds and one dead mouse from my back yard.

I haven't seen cats in our yard lately, but this is either a sign of them or an indication of something seriously screwy in my neighborhood. (I'm assuming, it is the cats).

I'm considering getting the back-yard hose spigot fixed and installing a motion detector sprinkler system.

Its 40 Degrees

It's around 40 degress outside which, ironically, means my house is freezing. It's not cold enough for the heat to go on so the inside house temp is hovering around 55.

I just bumped up the heat. I might as well do it now before I review my oil usage. :-)

Plumbing Contractor Nightmare

I'm sending this out today:

American Home Shield ATTN: Customer Service P.O. Box 849 Carroll, IA 51401-9901

To whom this may concern,

My name is Jeff Houser, and my AHS contract number is x. On August 29th, 2005 I filled out a service request through the web interface to fix a leaky pipe in the basement. The dispatch number was x and xxx Plumbing and Heating was assigned to the job. The contractors decided that portions of a relatively large basement pipe must be replaced.

Generally I have been very happy with the service that I received through AHS; unfortunately this incident is a blemish on the record. While, in the end, they did solve the problem, I wanted to express my dissatisfaction with the overall experience. My two complaints are associated with lack of cleanup and damage done to the property.

To help discover the leak location, they had to get behind some cabinets in the kitchen, right above the leak location in the basement. Thankfully, the cabinets did not need complete removal, as removing a few panels from the back of the cabinet revealed the pipe. Unfortunately, after the pipe was fixed, they did not affix these panels to their original position; instead preferring to lean them up against the pipe. The screws and nails that had been originally used were left on the counter. I was eventually able to position then into an acceptable manner, although that was my first source of frustration with the job.

Sawing through the old pipe created a lot of pipe dust, which was left as a pile on the basement floor. While cleaning up this pile, I discovered a broken saw blade buried within. You can view the saw blade in attached Pictures 1 and 2. I’m very glad I did not knick myself on it. They should have cleaned up the mess, especially the broken saw blade.

Next I discovered a can of flammable pipe cement thrown in a lint trashcan that we use for the dryer. Generally, I do not like to keep flammable things among a pile of lint. This can is shown in pictures 3 and 4, with quit a bit of lint attached to it. Perhaps I should give them credit for attempting to throw it out. I turned around to go back upstairs only to discover more problems. It appears the contractors decided to use the underside of my stairs as a way to clean their equipment from the flammable pipe cement. This is seen in pictures 5 and 6.

But, that’s not all. The contractors did not put down any drop cloth to protect the items in the basement from their splattering cement. Instead they chose to use a cooler (picture 7 and 8), some floor tiles (picture 9) and the refrigerator (Pictures 10 and 11), which was directly below where they cut the pipe. A dehumidifier in the area also got a splash of pipe cement. In case you’re wondering, let me assure that dried pipe cement does not come out.

Coincidently the contractors were performing their service on trash day, so following procedure, we had our trashcans at the end of the driveway. You can imagine my horror when I went to collect the trashcans at the end of the day and discovered that the contractors had used them to dump some of the pipe parts, as shown in picture 12 and 13. I would have expected that the contractors would have removed the pipe joint along with the rest of the pipe. A few weeks later my lawn mower found another piece left in the grass in front of the house. (Sorry, I did not get a picture for that one).

It has appeared with this job that every time I turned around, I was finding another problem with the work that was done.

This was my second experience with x. The first one (8/5/05 Dispatch Number xx) faired no better. A non-AHS contractor was able to find, and fix, the kitchen sink leak that DeCola’s could not find.

If you want to retain me as a customer, I hope that in the future you will take more care in pre-qualifying your contractors. You can view the original digital copies of these images, along with some I didn’t print out at .


Jeff Houser

The Milk is Frozen, the Milk is Frozen

I found a half gallon of milk frozen in the back of the fridge this morning. It was hard as a rock. I wonder if it'll be edible when it thaws out.

No milk means no cereal. No Cereal lead me to the box of eggos in the freezer. Eating eggos for breakfast means there are less eggos in the house. Less eggos in the house means that T will have no breakfast food on Friday.

Maybe I'll visit the grocery store during lunch

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