How can a cheap zip tie worth just a few cents end up costing a customer hundreds of dollars?
Maybe I wouldn’t have believed it myself if I hadn’t seen a refrigerator repair fail in real time, through a hidden camera.
I was huddled in an upstairs room next to W5 producers and a reputable repair technician, Adel Gaynutdinov, as we watched what happened via a video feed from cameras installed in a Toronto-area home.
Our cameras had been set up to observe what the technician would do when presented with a test: a refrigerator that sounded like it was broken.
Gaynutdinov had assured us that the refrigerator actually worked fine, except for a noise made by a flange he installed to interfere with the refrigerator fan.
“Any technician could see it right away,” Adel told us.
The question was: would they just fix it? Or would you have other ideas?
The refrigerator actually worked fine except for a noise made by a flange our technician installed to interfere with the refrigerator fan (W5)
The entire operation was organized by our W5 team. We investigated some of the companies that had the most unresolved customer complaints, based on a list shared by Better Business Bureau.
The list included airlines, online credit companies, gift basket companies and appliance repair services. Many advertise widely, making big promises to potential customers, even though the reality may be very different.
According to the BBB, the companies listed showed little interest in trying to resolve any complaints, often leaving the customer feeling frustrated or misled.
One of those customers was Laura Snider, whose refrigerator in New Hamburg, Ont. He was full of food and gifts from friends to help her through her grief after the death of her husband.
The refrigerator broke down, putting all that food at risk. Snider felt he needed to fix it quickly. Without her husband to turn to, she called a company she found at the top of an Internet search.
“He said he could fix it in a day or two,” she told us. “Perfect.”
The technician took a $1,000 cash deposit and then never returned, Laura said. And when he was trying to get a refund, he says he just got a runaround. In the end, someone from the company offered to give her $400 if she agreed not to file a complaint about it. And the refrigerator would still be broken.
“I said, ‘Of course not.’ I do not agree with that. There’s no way,’” Snider said.
Snider filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. That company was among the list of companies with the most unresolved complaints.
CTV W5’s Jon Woodward (left) and renowned repairman Adel Gaynutdinov watch a video feed from cameras installed in a Toronto-area home (W5)
We wanted to see it in action, so we asked them to send a technician to a house in Mississauga, west of Toronto.
He arrived and greeted associate producer Caitlin Taylor, who was posing as the owner of the house.
Caitlin left him alone and our cameras showed him opening panels on the back of the refrigerator and snooping around. As he worked, he moved the bridle, but kept going.
The technician (left) arrives to greet W5’s associate producer, posing as a homeowner (W5).
According to the technician, the refrigerator did not have the proper “voltage” (W5)
After about 20 minutes, he called our fake owner and gave him a verdict: it was the refrigerator motor that didn’t have the “proper voltage.”
The charge: about $330 with tax.
The refrigerator stopped making noise, but our expert Adel said the “proper voltage” had nothing to do with it.
He said that if it were him, he would have charged only $90 for such a simple solution.
We paid the $330 bill, making that bridle the most expensive bridle Adel had ever seen.
Watch W5’s documentary ‘(Un)Customer Service’ Saturday at 7pm on CTV, or in our video player at the top of this article after 8pm