National Home Services’ dirty tricks


The doorbell rang this afternoon. I answered it, and there was a guy who said he was representing National Home Services. He even had a badge with the company logo on it, and it might have had his picture, but I didn’t really pay much attention to it. He said that he and his colleague were in the neighbourhood checking on people’s hot water heaters. (Aside: why do we call it a “hot water heater”? It doesn’t heat hot water, it just heats water. It’s a water heater.) He said they were making sure that the heaters were as energy efficient as they could be, and they were upgrading them for free if not. I told him that our heater was only a year or two old so it was unlikely that we had a terribly inefficent model (this may have been a white lie – I’m not 100% sure how old it is, but it’s certainly not more than four or five years). Then he said that there was a mistake made at some point, and some of the heaters that were installed were the wrong ones and they should be replaced. Lie #1.

I don’t remember the exact words he used, but the impression he gave me was that his company was contracted by Reliance Home Comfort (the company from whom we rent our hot water heater) to check our heater and make sure it’s OK. I asked if Reliance was worried about whether we have the right heater, why didn’t they call us? He said that he didn’t know. I said that I was going to call Reliance to verify that they were sending someone for this purpose, and he admitted that he does not work for Reliance, and that National is one of their competitors. He then went on a little rant about Reliance, saying that they were an American company (Lie #2), that they are actually an investment company (Lie #3), and that George W. Bush owns 51% of the company (Lie #4). He must have mentioned three or four times that National is a Canadian company while Reliance is American. He also said stuff like Reliance had bought all the hot water heaters from Union Energy for $30 each as an investment, so it’s not in their best interest to maintain them or replace them. I have no way to verify that but from what I’ve found, Reliance Home Comfort used to be Union Energy and just changed their name in 2005. I’m guessing that that was Lie #5 but I can’t be sure.

He offered to come in and take a look at our heater and see if it was one of the ones “mistakenly” installed. What are the odds that he’d take a look at our heater and say “Nope, this one is OK. You don’t need your heater replaced. Have a nice day”? Pretty low indeed.

Eventually he must have figured out that I was not going for it, and he left. Of course, I then did some research on the internet to find out how much of what he was saying was true. I found that Reliance Home Comfort is a limited partnership, whose brand name is owned by a Canadian “open-ended limited purpose trust” called UE Waterheater Income Fund (this could, I suppose, be viewed as “an investment company”). That company is privately owned, so it’s possible that the ownership is American and it’s even possible that Mr. Bush does own 51% of it, though I found no evidence of either of those. However, the Reliance Home Comfort part operates solely in Ontario and the corporate headquarters of both Reliance and UE Waterheater are in Toronto.

I cannot say with certainty that the bit about Reliance installing the wrong water heaters was a lie. But even if it’s true, he tried to imply that he was there to simply fix the problem, when in reality he was trying to get me to switch to an entirely new company. He failed to mention that part until I pressed.

But even if what he told me was true, why do I care whether the company I rent my hot water heater from is Canadian, American, or Brazilian? As long as the heater functions properly, their service is reasonable when needed, and I’m not paying an unreasonable price for it, the fact is that I don’t care. I’ve only had to call for service once that I remember, when the heater wasn’t working very well. They came out within a day or two and replaced the heater with a brand new one, and the new one (more efficient and bigger – same monthly price) has worked flawlessly ever since.

The guy’s whole sales technique was based on (a) misleading people into thinking that he was there on behalf of whatever company they were already dealing with, and then when that didn’t work, (b) bashing Reliance by telling lies about them.

I posted this on National Home Service’s Facebook page:

Pushy sales people are one thing, but sales people who mislead and tell outright lies about your competitors are unacceptable. It doesn’t matter how good your prices or services are, I refuse to deal with a company that uses such underhanded sales techniques.

I also mentioned them on Twitter in a similar message. I don’t imagine that the Facebook comment will stay there long or that they’ll respond to it, but between those two things and this article, I’ve managed to say what I wanted to say. I don’t care if they give me a brand new water heater for $5 a month, I’m not dealing with this company.

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