Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Hiring Help

When you need help in the garden, on whom do you rely? Planting, painting, fertilizing, weeding...I like to do these kinds of things myself. I actually would like to do it all myself. I'm in the process of painting my own house and I like it that way...but there comes the occasional time when I need help. I do not like to rely on others. I feel very lucky when I can find people to help me whom I can trust. Today was one of those days.

I've recently had two bad experiences with irrigation companies which shall remain nameless, even though I'd like to shout their names all over and tell people to stay away. Instead, I'll focus on the positive and mention the name of the company that was helpful.

The first unhelpful one is the company that installed my system two years ago. They abandoned me. I called three times over the course of the month. I left three messages asking them for help and never heard back from them.

The second company is a large well known company in New Hampshire. They turned off our sprinklers last year. They handle the irrigation needs of some of our friends. I got bad vibes from them the first time they came out, but they didn't actually do anything wrong. They rushed through the job and I hardly saw them last autumn. But it doesn't take long to blow out sprinkler lines. This year, they promptly lined up an appointment for me when I called for help with a leaky sprinkler head. They sent a man who took apart my sprinkler head and stared at it for 15 minutes. He never introduced himself. He never smiled. After 15 minutes of watching him stare at the sprinkler from my kitchen window I went out and started asking questions. (Was I supposed to pay this guy by the hour?)

I said, "What do you think is wrong."

Pause, pause, pause. (My thought bubble..."Did he hear me?")

I said, "Do you think it's the valve?" (I had read a little online before calling...)

pause, pause, pause. He responds, "No." He turns something on the sprinkler head and says. "That's it."

The sprinkler head is off and I see water rising. I ask, " What's 'it'? Why is there water coming up?"

He responds with slight venom, "There is always water coming up in the lines! Your system runs downhill and that's why it leaks."

I say. "Well, it never leaked before. What is the next step?"

He responds, "There is no next step." pause, pause, pause. "Where is your sprinkler box?"

Okay. This seemed a little ridiculous and I don't ever recall being treated this way by someone I hired. I pointed to the box and then called his office. The woman who answered was pleasant and I explained that I didn't think the person they sent knew what he was doing and that he was quite rude. She switched me to the foreman who apparently had just called my workman and asked him to leave my property. (That made me feel comforted. NOT...an irate strange man wandering in my yard...) The foreman said to me, "I don't know what happened, but you two obviously didn't get along. I'm not there, so I don't know what happened...." Alright. Enough. Just a lesson in how not to handle customer service. I'm turning this into a rant and didn't intend it to be one. But it was a really bad experience. Let me get back to my original idea of focusing on the positive.

I'll continue by saying that my heroes came in the form of New England Lawn Irrigation. They came out right away. Their prices were 40 percent less than the other company. Best of all, the technician immediately knew how to resolve the problem. He started at the box and didn't bother with the sprinkler head at first. It turned out that there had been dirt in the valve that needed cleaning. Sand had pecked little holes on the $12 part. He asked if he should replace it for me. He added a washer to the sprinkler head itself just to be sure. He was polite. He explained everything as he went. I asked lots of questions. He didn't seem bothered by them and answered me, giving me even more information than I had hoped. (That is very valuable to a librarian such as myself. Information is wonderful.) The sprinkler stopped leaking. I am a happy customer. Thank you John!

I have one other guy who helps me with my landscaping needs -- my arborist Bill Kucharski...I've got pictures of his son swinging from my trees...I'll have to track those down and post them. I'll save him for another day.

As I wind this up, I realize that I'd love to hear the experiences of others -- good and bad. I think the bad experience will be with me for awhile. Maybe it has taught me to stick with my gut instincts when hiring people for a job. Maybe I take things too personally. I don't expect perfection, but I do expect manners and honesty. How about you?

Coming up... I took lots of pictures in the garden today. I'll try to post them tomorrow. Also, stay tuned this week for more ideas for kids in the garden and arbor information.

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