HETRICK: Mundane matters of middle-class homebuyers

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Bruce Hetrick

I was going to tell you my oven story.

My wife and I bought a new home, you see. It cost a lot of money. So even though the seller signed the required forms saying everything was hunky-dory; even though an inspector went through the place on our behalf; even though the seller spent thousands of dollars fixing the things the inspector said needed fixing, we purchased homeowner’s warranty insurance at the time we closed on the property.

Allegedly, this insurance would cover our fannies should certain things fail after the sale. Allegedly, appliances were one of those things.

Months before we moved in, while we were still remodeling and redecorating the place, the oven started beeping.

Having had this problem at our previous home, we suspected the likely culprit: a faulty control panel.

We called the homeowner’s warranty company. They directed us to one of their preferred repair companies.

We set an appointment and waited through the proverbial four-hour window for the fellow to appear.

Naturally, the oven didn’t make a sound while he was in the house. He said there was nothing he could do.

Service charge: $75.

After we moved in last month, I turned on the oven to reheat some pizza—our favorite staple while unpacking box after box of material possessions.

I set the oven for 400 degrees. It got to 100—and shut itself off.

I set it again. It shut itself off.

I tried again. It shut itself off.

So we called the homeowner’s warranty company. They directed us to the same preferred repair company.

We set an appointment and waited through the proverbial four-hour waiting window.

This time, the repairman encountered the same problem I encountered.

He told us we likely needed to replace the oven.

Service charge: $75 and wait to hear from the homeowner’s warranty company.

After nagging the insurer and waiting through loopy voicemail loops and endless on-hold music, we eventually learned the warranty company didn’t like their preferred vendor’s diagnosis. They wanted a second opinion.

So they directed us to a second preferred repair company.

We set an appointment and waited through the proverbial four-hour window.

Repair doctor two encountered the same problem repair doctor one and I encountered.

But he said we needed a new control panel. Naturally, he didn’t have the part.

So we waited some more—without an oven—for the part to arrive.

After we and our real estate agent nagged the appliance repair firm and the homeowner’s warranty firm for several weeks, and waited for hours through loopy voicemail loops and endless on-hold music, the part was finally overnighted to the repair firm.

We set an appointment and waited through the proverbial four-hour window.

The repairman installed the new part. It failed like the original part. He said we needed to replace the oven.

But the homeowner’s warranty insurance firm didn’t like that diagnosis. They wanted to try a third control panel.

So we set yet another appointment and waited through yet another four-hour window for the fellow to appear.

He didn’t. So I texted him. He called to say his boss decided we needed a new oven. He said he’d report that to the warranty company.

After we and our real estate agent nagged the insurance company some more—and waited through more loopy voicemail loops and more hours of on-hold music—the insurer eventually agreed to replace the oven. They called after the fact to say they’d ordered one from the manufacturer. We checked the model number. They had ordered a Chevy to replace our Cadillac.

We and our real estate agent called to say this was unacceptable. We waited again through voicemail loops and on-hold music. Finally, a rude representative said it was too late to change because the order had already been placed. We asked for a supervisor.

Days later, we learned that that order had, in fact, been canceled, and if we wanted to match the oven we’d purchased with the house, we’d have to cough up a few hundred dollars because the insurer “had to draw the line somewhere.”

We’re hoping to have an oven in the house by Thanksgiving.

I was going to share this oven story. I was going to offer sage consumer counsel about home warranty firms that try to dodge claims.

But then I read about Tomisue Hilbert suing John Menard over alleged sexual advances; and John Menard sacking Steve Hilbert in an act of alleged retaliation for Tomisue’s refusal; and John Menard’s legal battle with Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, in some related action; and Melania’s angst that the whole mess would cost her millions.

And having read about the problems rich people have—and, oh by the way, The Indianapolis Star’s report that 80,000 children are going hungry in Indianapolis—I figured that, frankly, no one would care about some unbaked middle-class warning over homeowner’s warranty insurance.•


Hetrick is an Indianapolis-based writer, speaker and public relations consultant. His column appears twice a month. He can be reached at bhetrick@ibj.com.


  • One bad apple
    You had a bad experience, but please don't assume all Warranty companies are as bad as this one. Next time use RWS, a locally owned nation wide company. No voicemail loops, real people who answer the phone and a much higher level of customer service. Good luck.
  • Which company?
    I am reaching home warranty companies. Could you give the name of the company?
  • MS
    Appreciate this tale - first, to know one is not alone in these 4-hour waits, bad 'solutions' and the rest. And knocking it into proportion ;)

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