Dealing with Home Warranty Companies: The Forgotten Plague

In the Old Testament, when the Egyptians were dealing with the wrath of the Lord, when they were facing lice and darkness, boils, wild animals, hail and fire… the good Lord should have looked upon them and said, “None of my previous punishments have worked thus far. I shall now subject you to DEALING WITH A HOME INSURANCE COMPANY! And HSA in particular! Good luck.”

And this is the predicament I found myself in Monday morning, shortly after the holiday season, when temperatures hovered around the 30 degree-Fahrenheit mark, and my dear furnace decided that it just couldn’t fight the good fight anymore. At around 8 am, with a clanging and a wheeze, my upstairs furnace kicked the dust.

Monday morning, I called HSA and sat on hold for 45 minutes. With my kids prancing and scampering about, I listened to the instrumental version of O Come All Ye Faithful about 500 times, all the while shushing my children to be quiet because I would be speaking to a real live person soon – really any moment now. Interspersed with the holiday music were robotic prompts promising that my call was very important to them, someone would be with me shortly, and that I always had the option to deal with my warranty claim on-line.

Optimistically, I figured I would stay on the call. After all, the robot had said my call would be answered in the order it had been received, and with 30 minutes of instrumental Christmas-carol listening and child-shushing under my belt, I didn’t want to lose my place in line. But sadly, at the end of my 45-minute wait, the system hung up on me. I’m sure this is just a systems error, I figured, still hopeful that HSA was an actual company with actual workers who were going to help fix my actual problem.

So then I did as the prompt suggested and went online to myhomewarranty.com. This is where I confess that all my years of formal schooling have failed me…because while I can debate Descartes’ Ontological Argument until the cows come home, I could not tell you whether my furnace is central combustor or resistance unit – whether it’s forced air or non-duct heating. Is there a heat pump involved? A fan? I have absolutely no idea. Basically I press an arrow on the thermostat and the heat comes on…and before yesterday, I never thought too much about it. I eventually selected “wall unit” because, after all, my furnace is located in the wall. But I would learn later that no, this was not the right selection.

The system dispatched a local company we’ll call Sequoia Enterprises to come out and fix the problem. Wow, I thought, that was easy, blissfully unaware of my own brazen naivety. All was good until Sequoia called me and mentioned that they don’t fix wall furnaces. (And in fact, they rarely ever get calls to fix wall furnaces, being that they are not the usual type of furnace in most homes in our area.)

So I had made the wrong choice and I was now back to square one with HSA. My options were to play another round of Russian Roulette with the online system or sit on hold if I made a phone call. I chose the latter, and sat on hold for thirty minutes, with the same robotic prompts and Christmas muzak as earlier in the day. Eventually a real live person did come on. She assured me that I did not have a wall unit, that Sequoia would be able to help me, and that my issue would be re-dispatched and coded as an emergency (since after all, temps were hovering around 25 degrees).

I was told I’d hear from someone at Sequoia within the next thirty minutes. When I didn’t, I called them and learned that they closed at 4pm. So much for my emergency. We spent the night huddled beneath blankets, turned our basement furnace up and hoped the heat would rise. It didn’t – and my kids woke up cold a few times.

The next morning, I was freezing and sleep-deprived. I called Sequoia and spoke to someone who claimed they had received no such emergency dispatch from HSA and my only recourse was to speak with the warranty company directly. So I called HSA and sat on hold for over an hour. Same Christmas muzak, same robotic prompts promising that my call was very important to them. No one ever picked up. By this time it had been 24 hours and I was still at square one! This is when my doubts started formulating as to whether HSA is a real company. Perhaps it exists somewhere over the rainbow, staffed by gnomes and elves. Or maybe it’s a psychological experiment, meant to test the emotional resolve of homeowners. Either way, it certainly doesn’t seem like a home warranty company with any interest or ability to help its customers.

In a fit of emotion and anger, I called Sequoia back for the third time, and with their help, I was able to get through to HSA. This is when I learned that my issue was not actually an emergency, since my house has two furnaces. I explained through clenched teeth that I don’t care whether it’s treated as an emergency. I just want it to be treated as something that involves a technician who can come to my home and fix the problem. Something that isn’t nothing is basically where I’ve set the bar.

So Sequoia is going to come out tomorrow morning and hopefully fix the furnace. We face one more night of cold and sleeplessness and then hopefully the problem will be fixed, HSA will hopefully pay for their share less the deductible, and I can rest assured that all is well and good…until the next thing breaks.

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