Tri­als and tribu­la­tions of a re­pair­man

The Prince George Citizen - The Citizen - Real Estate Weekly - - Real Estate -

For­get the im­age of the bored May­tag ap­pli­ance re­pair­man who spends long, lonely days without a sin­gle ser­vice call. The re­al­ity is that the life of an ap­pli­ance re­pair­man is any­thing but bor­ing.

While the May­tag ad­ver­tise­ment made for a great com­mer­cial, most ap­pli­ance-re­pair com­pa­nies say their days are very busy, with thou­sands of house calls in a year.

A typ­i­cal ap­pli­ance re­pair­man usu­ally at­tends be­tween four and a dozen ser­vice calls ev­ery day.

They get to fish miss­ing socks, lost G.I Joe dolls and loose change from wash­ers, re­move bra wires from dry­ers and even put out the oc­ca­sional fire.

Doug Knowles, owner of Doug’s De­pend­able Ser­vice in Vic­to­ria, re­calls the time he went to a house to ser­vice a bro­ken clothes washer in a base­ment early one morn­ing.

“The height of the ceil­ing in the base­ment was low,” Knowles says.

“While the lady of the house was ex­plain­ing the prob­lem to me she backed up against a light bulb hang­ing from the ceil­ing. The bulb ex­plodes with a ‘poof’ and sets her hair on fire.”

The woman had just used hair­spray and the ex­plod­ing light bulb had ig­nited the fumes. Knowles quickly doused the flames and the lady was shocked but un­hurt.

While he hasn’t had to put out any fires since, Knowles has found and re­moved nu­mer­ous items from the motors of wash­ing ma­chines.

Miss­ing socks are the most com­mon item he finds, but he once re­trieved a rosary from the in­nards of a ma­chine.

Some­times los­ing and find­ing pieces of cloth­ing can be in­con­ve­nient. At other times, it can be more se­ri­ous.

“I once had a cus­tomer call af­ter re­turn­ing from a week-long busi­ness trip,” says Joe Les­sard, owner of Lans­downe Ap­pli­ance.

“Her washer was full of wa­ter and wouldn’t wash or drain. Her hus­band had done laun­dry while she was away. I fig­ured some­thing was stuck in the pump.

“I re­moved a pair of women’s un­der­wear from the pump and left them on top of the washer and pro­ceeded to re­assem­ble the washer.

“When I showed her what had plugged the pump she ex­claimed ‘What the heck is this?’ and rushed out of the laun­dry room. I heard her yelling and scream­ing on the phone in the next room.

“A few months later I was do­ing a call at a neigh­bour’s house, and found out the orig­i­nal cus­tomers were get­ting di­vorced.

“It turns out the hus­band was hav­ing an af­fair and his girl­friend was do­ing her laun- dry while the wife was away.”

Guilty spouses wish­ing to hide ev­i­dence and fru­gal home­own­ers looking for ways to save a few dol­lars some­times take it upon them­selves to fix an ap­pli­ance.

The lat­ter take on the chore when con­fronted with the $70 fee for a ser­vice call and the first half-hour of a tech­ni­cian’s time. Their con­fi­dence is buoyed by the many doit-your­self books and videos on the mar­ket promis­ing sim­ple fixes. How­ever, many overzeal­ous home­own­ers ne­glect to take the time to study and fol­low the in­struc­tions given - with pre­dictable re­sults.

“I once ar­rived at a client’s house and got handed a bucket with about 500 screws,” says Abatis. “The gen­tle­man had taken apart the ap­pli­ance, re­mov­ing 20 things in­stead of just the one part that was bro­ken. In­stead of a 15-minute re­pair, it be­came a 45-minute job to put ev­ery­thing back to­gether.”

Newer ma­chines are more com­pli­cated. While some ma­chines are re­pairable, many new ma­chines aren’t built as stur­dily as ap­pli­ances in our par­ent’s time.

One re­tired ap­pli­ance re­pair­man tells of peo­ple us­ing ap­pli­ances for pur­poses they were never in­tended for. Earl My­cock of Sooke says it re­ally isn’t a good idea to poach fish in the dish­washer. “And don’t use it to wash un­der­wear,” he says, adding that mis­guided at­tempts to wash small items of cloth­ing in a dish­washer can re­sult in dam­age to the gar­ment - the fab­ric can break down and bits of elas­tic can plug the drain.

In some in­stances, po­ten­tial dis­as­ters can be eas­ily reme­died. Some peo­ple (usu­ally men) faced with us­ing a dish­washer for the first time will mis­tak­enly pour or­di­nary dish­wash­ing liq­uid in­stead of dish­washer de­ter­gent into the ma­chine. In­stead of wash­ing dishes, the ma­chine be­comes a soap suds maker.

Abatis rec­om­mends home­own­ers faced with the prospect of a kitchen over­run with suds promptly pour cook­ing oil, but­ter or may­on­naise into the dish­washer. The oil at­taches to the suds and will help break them down.

Abatis, a 10-plus year vet­eran at ap­pli­ance re­pair also warns of one pre­ventable dis­as­ter that hap­pens ev­ery hol­i­day sea­son.

“Don’t use the self-clean func­tion on an oven just be­fore the hol­i­days,” he ad­vises. The self-clean­ing cy­cle is stress­ful on ovens, with tem­per­a­tures of­ten reach­ing up to 500 de­grees Cel­sius. It is enough to push an old ap­pli­ance on its last legs over the edge. If that hap­pens just be­fore the an­nual Christ­mas din­ner, it may be a week or two be­fore it can get fixed.

“Peo­ple get the urge to clean up the oven ahead of guests arriving. But if the oven packs it in, the home­owner may be faced with hav­ing to cook the turkey in the bar­be­cue or mi­crowave in­stead.”

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