Someone Else’s Mistake
We’ve needed a new hot water heater for about two years. We still had — albeit inconsistent — hot water, so it was difficult to muster up the energy to replace the heater. But we finally hit our breaking point and ordered a new heater, even though I will sort of miss the daily family question asked after every shower: “Did you have hot water?” Followed by one of two responses, “Oooh! Lucky!” or “That sucks.”
We went with a big business rather than ordering the heater from a plumber; the thought being that if anything went wrong with the heater, we didn’t want to be dependent on a sole proprietor.
I laugh now at this mindset.
The heater came, a man installed it, and all seemed well. We took showers and there was an abundance of hot water. There was much happiness in the household. It was nice to be warm.
A few days later, we did a load of laundry. As we were getting ready for bed, Josh went to move it into the dryer, and I heard him yell, “SHIT!” I ran to the laundry room to find it flooded with a half inch or so of water on the floor. It had seeped out into the next room, soaking the carpet. Everything on the floor that wasn’t made of plastic was ruined. The flood had picked up the glue trap from behind the heater and cricket corpses were floating on top of the water as salt in the wound.
We spent an hour trying to soak up as much as possible. What happened was that when the installer drained the old water heater, he used the washing machine’s drain. But he failed to re-hook up the washing machine to the drain before he left, so when the laundry was going through the final cycle, all the water that was in the machine ended up on the floor.
Anger doesn’t really cover how I felt mopping the floor at 12:30 am.
We went to bed and dealt with the store in the morning. They were apologetic and sent a company to clean up the mess. There was $1400 in initial damage, and that doesn’t cover replacing things like the baseboards which were destroyed in the process. We’ve had industrial fans running for days as well as a dehumidifier. The clean up company is supposed to return to finish assessing the damage and work to put back together the laundry room again.
But here’s the thing: we had to front the money to pay the clean up company. We’re supposed to get reimbursed by the big store and have that fact in writing. But, of course, we can’t get a person to return a phone call nor tell us when we can expect payment. Someone else’s mistake has become our headache, eating up work time and energy. We can have our insurance cover the additional costs, but we would still have to pay the deductible, so in the end, we’re still paying for someone else’s mistake.
I can wrap my brain around needing to be responsible for my own mistakes. When I cause a problem, I understand that I will have to deal with the consequences and pay the price, even if it was an accident. That is life. What I can’t accept is that because an installer made a mistake, we have to pay for the damages. We have to deal with righting it. We have to make phone call after phone call and front the money to fix it.
Humans make mistakes, it happens. But businesses need to step in and fix mistakes in order to have any trust between consumer and provider. And fixing that mistake means jumping in and doing everything possible so the weight doesn’t rest solely on the customer.