My Stupid Furnace and Brand Loyalty

Repairman at a home's door.By Kim Fernandez

Three weeks ago, I realized mid-day that I was colder than usual. That was because my furnace wouldn’t kick in. I said some not-very-nice words, tromped downstairs, took the whole system down starting at the thermostat and finishing at the power source, waited a minute, brought it all back up in reverse fashion (I might have threatened the big silver box, too), and breathed a sign of relief when it fired to life. And then I called my HVAC guy, because my furnace is only three years old.

The HVAC expert couldn’t find a problem but suspected the high-efficiency heater was starving for air and overheating itself. He suggested I call a duct company to see if something was weird between the walls of my 80-year-old house. Which I quite unhappily did, after checking Yelp to find a good fit.

The duct company sent two guys out the next day. After a half-hour of poking around down in the vents, they told me some of the return ducts were blocked up for reasons they couldn’t explain, and that’s probably why the furnace threw a tantrum.

Here’s the good part: While one guy explained the issue to me, the other went out to their truck for a shop vac and cleaned up every speck of dust that had poofed out during their exploration. He grabbed a bunch of extra stuff out of the ducts and put that in a trash bag and pushed my furniture back where it was when they started. His colleague, meantime, told me he thought we could unblock the ducts ourselves, gave me a few suggestions of what to try, and gave me a very reasonable estimate to have the ducts cleaned after all that, just in case we’d want that done. No hard sell and no charge. Have a lovely day.

Long story short, my handy husband spent the following Saturday morning successfully unblocking the ducts. My furnace has run beautifully ever since (cross your fingers), and guess who I’m going to call to have the ductwork cleaned when the time comes? You bet it’ll be those guys–and I’ll recommend them to neighbors, too.

I was reminded of this a few days ago when I tried to exit a parking garage and the machine wouldn’t take my ticket. I sighed and hit the call button, anticipating waiting for an attendant and earning the ire of the drivers behind me. Instead, someone answered my call virtually, told me to have a nice day, and opened the gate arm. Five seconds. Beautiful.

Loyalty, they say, is a hard thing to earn. I don’t think that’s true. It’s all about the people.

Kim Fernandez is IPMI’s director of publications and editor of Parking & Mobility.