The continuing saga of my broken oven just got real interesting. If you didn't catch the first part of the story, go here to get caught up.
Office Gal from ABC called and said the oven had been repaired and Mr. Mover was on his way here to hook it up. I asked her what work they did on it and she said she didn't know, she wasn't the one who took the call. I asked her if I would need to pay Mr. Mover again and she said yes. I told her that was fine and I would do that but in the future I don't want him to come to my house again. His cash-only business is dishonest so I don't trust him. She understood.
Office Gal said to make sure to test the oven before he leaves and I assured her that Mr. Mover would sit here and wait while I baked a casserole if I felt it was necessary. I asked her what I needed to do if the oven still wasn't working properly. If I sent it back to the appliance place with Mr. Mover, would I have to pay him another $50 in cash? She wasn't exactly sure how to handle that and wanted to confer with the owner of ABC. Let's call him....Bob.
After talking to Bob, Office Gal called me back and said we would not have to pay him twice. If we did need to send the oven back then Mr. Mover could come by their office for his payment. I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying, "You know he's going to charge you yet another $50 for that trip, right?"
Then she said, and I'm totally NOT making this up, that Mr. Mover has been been contracted by that appliance store for several years so if there is a problem or I have any questions about the repair, he should be able to answer them.
I was stunned silent for about half a second then informed Office Gal that my oven was the very first one that Mr. Mover had ever disconnected and he had to write down instructions for himself to reconnect it. Mr. Mover is clearly not capable of answering any appliance related questions other than, "Can you move it a little to the left, please?"
I mean that with kindness and respect...or as much respect as I can muster for a tax-evader. He moves stuff. That's his skill set. Period.
Office Gal conferred with Bob some more then called me back. She said if there was a problem they wouldn't take the oven back to the appliance store where they bought it. And by 'appliance store' I mean 'shady warehouse with no address'. Instead they would send out their appliance repairman. ABC manages apartment complexes as well as houses so they have certain repair-people that they call on regularly. I was fine with that. Then she said that Bob would like to talk to Mr. Mover and asked if I would have him call when got there.
Okie dokie artichokie.
Mr. Mover and his assistant showed up and started maneuvering the oven into the foyer.
MR. MOVER: Did they tell you what happened?
MR. MOVER: They plugged in the oven and it worked just fine. There was nothing wrong with it.
ME: I had a feeling you were going to say that.
I could actually feel the blood vessels bursting inside my brain but I didn't have time to deal with an aneurism. I had a murder to plan. I just hadn't quite narrowed down my victim.
I don't think I explained the actual problem with the oven last time. I'll need to do that now so that the rest of the story will make sense. The original oven, which was probably installed when the house was built 20 years ago, was a white Jenn-Air wall oven that matched the white Jenn-Air stove on the kitchen island. Some kind of switch went bad on it and replacement parts were no longer available so that's why I had to get a whole new oven. When I found this out, I told Office Gal that I realize I can't really tell them what to buy or how much to spend, but if it is at all possible I would like a newer (not necessarily brand new) version of the same...a white Jenn-Air. That way all of the kitchen appliances would still match. And from past experience I know that if I don't at least try to request something appropriate, they will show up with an avocado green thrift store scratch & dent. That's what slumlords do.
Office Gal was very excited to find this white Jenn-Air wall oven. It's just the right size and even though it isn't a brand new model it had never been used. It sounded great to me until she told me she got it for $800. New ones cost several thousand dollars. I knew there had to be something wrong with it but Office Gal said it was in great shape so that's what we got.
I was out of town when the oven was installed but when I got home I could see we were going to have trouble eventually but I didn't think it would be so soon. I think it's true that the oven has never been used. I also think it's true that it fell off a truck. Both figuratively and literally. The metal frame that holds the door in place is bent and chewed up and the finish along the top of the control panel has had the enameling touched up at some point. This oven has seen some drama. Once I cleaned out all the spider egg sacs and turned it on, I was surprised that it actually appeared to be working properly.
It is a convection oven where you can choose to bake like in any other normal oven or you can use the convection/bake or convection/roast options. If those options are chosen, you enter in the temperature you want and the oven will automatically reduce it by 25 degrees and the convection fan will come on and run while you're cooking. The fan blows hot air around inside the oven and makes food cook faster and more evenly. If you open the oven door during the convection cycle, the fan should immediately shut off then will turn itself back on after you close the door. When you finish cooking and turn off the oven, the convection fan turns off as well.
At least that's what's supposed to happen according to the owner's manual that I downloaded because naturally the 'appliance store' didn't provide one. The convection cycles did seem to be working correctly except that the fan didn't shut off like it's supposed to when the door is opened. The main problem is that the convection fan was (and still is) blowing during the regular bake cycle. And even though it's blowing air, the fan itself is not spinning. So we're all convection, all the time which can make for some awfully dried out chocolate chip cookies. After we're finished baking and turn the oven completely off, the convection fan (which should never have been running in the first place) continues to run for sometimes up to an hour. With the oven OFF.
Do we all agree that the oven isn't working properly? Yes it's working but it's not working like it should. It comes with options for bake, broil, clean, convection/bake, convection/roast, keep warm, yadda, yadda, yadda. I expect all of those options to work like they should. The fact that you turn on the oven and it gets hot, isn't good enough. I pay enough rent to have an oven that functions properly on all its cycles.
Bob disagreed and at that point, I had narrowed down my victim.
Mr. Mover pulled out his handy dandy cheat sheet that he'd made the last time he was here and he reconnected the oven. I asked him to just sit tight while I test it out. I explained how it was supposed to work...that during the bake cycle there shouldn't be any kind of fan running. Even Mr. Mover understood that and said, "Oh well if that's the case then it still don't work right."
I turned on the regular bake cycle and set it for 350. When it hit 300 degrees the convection fan started blowing. Mr. Mover called Bob as requested and explained to him that the oven fan was still blowing when it shouldn't be. When Bob started yelling, Mr. Mover got nervous and obviously didn't know what to do so he handed me his cell phone.
BOB: THAT OVEN WAS WORKING JUST FINE AT THE APPLIANCE SHOP!!
ME: Well, it's not working now. The fan...
BOB: I WAS THERE AT THE SHOP, I SAW THAT FAN COME ON MYSELF, THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH IT!
ME: What's wrong with it is that the fan came on. It's not supposed to come on during the bake cycle, only the convection cycles. Did you read my email? I was very specific about what the problem was.
BOB: I read it, I couldn't even understand all that convection nonsense!
ME: The fan isn't supposed to run during the bake cycle. Only the convection cycle. If you heard the fan running, then the oven is working right.
BOB: Well maybe they tested it on the convection cycle while I was there.
ME: Maybe so, but it still doesn't bake.
BOB: THAT OVEN GETS HOT, WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT??!!
ME: I WANT IT TO WORK CORRECTLY! Hello? Bob? Hello?
I always believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt so I'm going to assume that the cell service was to blame and that Bob didn't actually just hang up on me. I handed Mr. Mover his cell phone and told him we lost the connection. He immediately started trying to call Bob back.
A few minutes later he got through and as soon as I heard Bob's voice coming through the cell phone, Mr. Mover didn't even say a word to him he just stretched out his arm and handed me the phone.
BOB: We'll just have our appliance man come out there and take a look.
ME: Okay, so can I expect that call on Monday?
BOB: Well I don't know about that.
ME: Then just some time next week?
BOB: Whenever I can get around to it.
ME: Okay. ... By the way, I've asked Office Gal for the name and address of the property owners two different times and she still hasn't given it to me.
BOB: She can't legally give that out.
ME: Actually she's required by law to disclose it at my request.
BOB: I don't even know if I have it, I'm not sure where they're living....
ME: They're living in (insert state here) and their names are (insert names here).
BOB: Well if you already knew why did you ask for it??
ME: Mainly out of respect. I didn't want to sneak around behind your back, I wanted you to know that I intend to contact them.
BOB: FINE! GIVE THEM A CALL, WRITE THEM A LETTER, DO WHAT YOU WANT!
I really didn't intend to contact the homeowners right away but Bob said to so I figured I might as well. I've known their name and address since we first moved in here. Property tax information is available to the public and most states have it online. And I wasn't bluffing about the information disclosure thing. If he fails to provide me with that information in 8 days, I can sue him for one month's rent plus $100 in addition to court costs and attorney's fees.
That man has no idea who he's dealing with. I'm a Googler, dammit!
I would never sue him for that, especially since I already got what I needed. What I didn't have was the homeowner's phone number and I didn't think I'd be able to find it. Strangely enough it was easily available with a simple Google search. I took that a sign that I should call them. So I did.
What an enlightening conversation we had! I was actually expecting it to be a little difficult because about 2 weeks ago Bob and I had a chat about the homeownwers while he was here taking pictures of the siding that needs to be replaced because the HOA sends us a nasty-gram about it at least once a month. Bob said that some homeowners are easier to work with than others and these homeowners are by far the most difficult he's ever had to work with. He wasn't sure if they were having financial trouble or if they just didn't care about the house but they didn't want to pay for anything. That made a lot of sense and I just assumed that was why we had been getting the bare minimum when it comes to repairs and every single service person they send out here would away run screaming like a girl if I happened to utter the words "green card". I've never trusted Bob from day 1 but after that conversation I really did think that maybe the owners sort of had him over a barrel and he was doing the best he could.
It turns out, that's not the case. Mr. Homeowner was just as nice as he could be. I apologized for calling him and assured him I would never do that unless I felt I had no other option. He was very understanding and said he didn't mind at all, he was happy to hear from me. He said he's heard nothing but good things about us, he knows we are excellent tenants and he wants to keep us for as long as he can so his goal is to just make sure we're happy.
So we talked some more. We talked about the oven. Mr. Homeowner said he understood I had requested a specific type of oven. I told him that was true. I realize I can't pick and choose these things but I felt like it would be wise to replace the oven with an updated version of the old one so that the appliances would still match. Mr. Homeowner said that was fine with him and he had instructed Bob to get whatever it takes to make me happy.
So we talked some more. We talked about some of the repairs that had been done in the past and I was very careful not to turn the conversation in to a Bob-bashing event. I could see that Mr. Homeowner relies on Bob a great deal to take care of his property and he trusts Bob. In fact he called him a 'straight-shooter'.
When he said that I swear to you I had an out of body experience where I was projected back to the old West and Me and Bob were havin' a showdown. Turns out Bob's not such a straight shooter after all cuz in my little mini day dream I hit him right between the eyes before he had a chance to draw.
So we talked some more. Mr. Homeowner mentioned the sprinkler system and asked if we were happy with that. Before I could answer he talked about how dry it is in the area where they live and they put in a sophisticated system that has a moisture sensor that can detect when your lawn needs water and when it doesn't. He said it saves them a lot of unnecessary watering and keeps the yard perfect. He said they're really not that much more than a regular irrigation system and that's what requested that Bob install at our house. Then he asked again how we liked it.
I told him that Bob didn't install a new system at the house. There was sort of a homemade system already here and all he did was repair it so I hope he didn't pay Bob for a whole new system. Mr. Homeowner assured me that Bob provides him with receipts for everything and he couldn't remember the exact details but asked again if we were happy with it. I told him that it needs frequent repairs but overall it gets the job done.
At that moment I knew that what I had expected from the very beginning is most like what is actually going on. I believe that Bob is giving Mr. Homeowner phony receipts. He hires illegals almost exclusively and since he pays them in cash they probably don't mind at all putting any number he wants on their receipt. Or, more likely, they let him fill it out himself because none of them speak English. He gives Mr. Homeowner a receipt for $2000, the job actually cost him $800 and he pockets the difference.
I struggled with whether or not to come right out and tell Mr. Homeowner what I suspected but in the end I decided to go with my instincts. When we talked about repairs I answered honestly without blatantly throwing Bob under the bus since Mr. Homeowner was holding tight to his 'straight shooter' fantasy. I have a lot of information I could have shared with him but decided the person I need to share with is Bob.
One thing Mr. Homeowner said that I found very interesting is that from his point of view, Bob's job is to make us (the tenants) happy. He said that as long as we're happy, he's happy. I told him that at the end of the oven situation Bob was definitely not happy with me. In fact he was angry, which I didn't understand because I'm not the one who bought a broken oven. I told Mr. Homeowner that I was worried that maybe he was upset with Bob about the expense and that anger was trickling down through Bob to me. Mr. Homeowner had no idea there was a problem with the new oven and said that was absolutely NOT the case, and he was very emphatic about it. He said that naturally he expects Bob to shop for a good price when we need service but he wants us to be happy. Then he said, "I want you to have whatever kind of oven you want, within reason of course. If you're used to using a convection combo oven and that's what you want, then that's what you should have. We just want want you to be happy".
Again with the 'we just want you to be happy' thing. Over and over again. It is very obvious that one of these two men is an outright liar and my money is on Bob.
At the end of our conversation Mr. Homeowner said that he was going to call Bob right then to make sure that he did whatever it takes to make us happy because he wants to keep us as tenants. I thanked him profusely and promised to never bother him again unless it was really important and I felt like this was...it was something that could have easily spiraled out of control. I reminded him about our time zone difference and he agreed it would be best to talk to Bob tomorrow.
Tomorrow is today. I haven't heard from Bob and I really don't expect that I will until Monday when Office Gal calls to tell me the appliance repairman is swamped and can't make it out until next week. Or something. Whatever. All I know is that first thing Monday morning I will be making an appointment to visit Bob at his office. We need to talk.
I intend to tell him that these 'difficult' homeowners seem hell bent on making us happy and I was told that it's his job to make that happen. I will tell him that I expect our oven to be completely repaired and if that's not possible I expect it to be replaced with the oven of my choice. I expect all future service calls to be handled by professionals who are licensed, bonded and/or insured. If he sends another illegal to my house I won't answer the door I will just call INS. If anything in or around the house has to be replaced, I will choose the replacement item. Of course everything is subject to Mr. Homeowner's approval but from now on we're doing things right.
I will also tell him that Mr. Homeowner asked how I was enjoying the brand new sprinkler system that I didn't get. I will let him know that from now on Mr. Homeowner gets what he pays for. Because it's his job to make me happy. And that makes me happy.
If Bob dares to even try to push back on anything I will let him know that he'll be getting 3 phone calls in the not too distant future: one from the IRS, one from INS, and one from Mr. Homeowner. I feel sure that Bob has excellent records with all the receipts he's given to Mr. Homeowner over the years. But if someone should happen to try to subpoena those service people for their records so they can verify that the receipt Bob gave to Mr. Homeowner is the same as the receipt the service person gave to Bob...they're going to have to drive to Juarez to do it.
I really hope this is the end of a 3-year long nightmare. We love our house, we treat it as if we own it and have put thousands of dollars of our own money into maintaining it over the years. All this time Bob had me under the impression that Mr. Homeowner had him over a barrel and it was his job to make him happy. And that's true. But what he didn't say is that Mr. Homeowner is happy when we're happy.
I think it's poetic justice that Bob is actually over that barrel now. So what do I intend to do with my dangling Bob? Well...Mr. Homeowner said that he's happy when we're happy so I intend to make him ecstatic!