A few months ago, our water heater died. We called our home warranty people and they dispatched Street Plumbing to take care of us. They were prompt and courteous, and we were planning to ask them to convert our plumbing from plastic to copper.

Last week our new water heater started making funny noises. When the burner was on it would hum a deep bass note that would vibrate the whole house. It was as if a big truck were rumbling past, only it didn’t stop. It happened once after I got home from work, then never again. We weren’t feeling great about the events, but we went on with our lives.

Until the heater went kaput completely. Naturally this was on Saturday morning. The heater was practically brand new, so presumably under manufacturer’s warranty. We called our home warranty people (alert readers will note at this point that there are two warranties interacting). The folks at First American Home Warranty sent out a repair guy from Street Plumbing, the same company that had installed the heater, and he showed up Saturday afternoon. He replaced a hose, then couldn’t get the heater to light again.

“You need to get a new heater,” he said. He provided the specific information about our heater that the manufacturer would want when I called, then left. I called the manufacturer, and spoke to a very nice lady who was baffled. It seems everyone who installs water heaters should know that they just need to go back through their wholesaler to take care of warranties.

So I called the Street Plumbing back. No answer. I left a message. I went back to the home warranty company to see if they had a secret insider’s emergency contact number. It is not easy to contact First American; wait times are routinely over an hour. Finally I got through to someone and she said she’d contact Street Plumbing with proper authorizations first thing Monday morning, but that I should call as well.

There would be no hot water until Monday, it seemed. No washing dishes. Very unpleasant showers.

Monday morning I called Street Plumbing. I talked to the receptionist and she said that the technician would call me back. He did not. All further attempts to contact Street Plumbing failed. To the warranty company, all they said was, “we already told those guys they have to call the manufacturer.” Because Street never called us back, they didn’t know that we had already dealt with the manufacturer multiple times. But they never called us, and so never did anything to make the situation better. We had no hot water, and no one was doing anything.

Finally a key piece of the puzzle was resolved. First American Home Warranty had made the purchase of the replacement heater, so they were the ones who had to contact the manufacturer and get the warranty managed. The right person at the First American was contacted, and he said he was taking personal responsibility for seeing this through. Hooray!

By this point my dearest sweetie was handling communications from our frigid base camp. It was a task I was happy to relinquish, but I felt bad for the light of my life. Things were going into a spiral, you see. Mr. Personal Responsibility vanished. He didn’t answer messages (left at a time cost of more than an hour). Sweetie was getting annoyed, frustrated, and downright pissed off.

Another day passed. Another person at First American took “personal responsibility”. With my best gal waiting on the line, she called each of the parties involved and worked through all the shit. She was awesome. Understandings were reached. Let there be light. A manufacturer’s rep would be right out to sort things out. Except…

Another day passed. No water heater.

My sweetie called the home warranty people late the next afternoon. Had to explain the situation all over again. Discovered that HOURS EARLIER the home warranty folks had learned that the manufacturer’s rep would not be coming that day. But they never bothered to tell us that. The rep on the phone started to give the same promises as usual, and my sweetie tore her throat out, using the power of her voice alone. We’re getting off this merry-go-round, thank you very much.

Shortly thereafter, we got a call from a different plumber, Water Quality Plumbing, who is somehow more closely connected with the manufacturer of the water heater. The scheduler said there was no one available until the next day. “have you been without hot water all day?” she asked. “We haven’t had hot water since Saturday,” the brightest star in my constellation told her.

“Saturday? No one told me that!” Sarah at Water Quality Plumbing took that seriously; Jeff was at our house half an hour later, working overtime, and he fixed our water heater.

Let me repeat that. Jeff fixed our water heater. In about thirty minutes. We didn’t need a new one. Days lost while the various entities pointed fingers at each other, hours spent on the phone trying to get someone to do something, were all completely unnecessary. If the first guy to come to the house had been competent, none of the rest would have happened, and we’d still be buying a bunch of copper pipe from Street.

So while there are plenty of bad things to say about First American Home Warranty, Street Plumbing earns the goat award for this one, for not fixing the (apparently) simple problem in the first place, and compounding the problem by not providing a simple piece of information that would have accelerated the ridiculous process by a couple of days.

Lesson to all in the service industry: even if you haven’t made progress on the case, pick up the fucking telephone and answer your messages.

Thursday, I think I had the best non-camping-related shower of my life.

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