My initial positive view of this company has changed after my recent experience.
In the last few years, I have received excellent services from NWS. For example, they dealt efficiently with low water pressure in my two old homes in downtown Toronto and the pricing was reasonable. One weekend last spring, the owner (Walter) and his wife, who happened to be in my area when I called NWS, very kindly came to address an urgent water issue in my basement. Walter promptly explained and made a minor adjustment, which solved the problem. Again, the price was very reasonable.
However, my recent experience with Andre (on January 11, 2014), subsequent responses of a person who answers the NSW phone, as well as a non-response from the owner, left me feeling rather undervalued as a long-time customer.
I have had no hot water since the previous day and, assuming that the pipes may have been affected by the recent extreme cold, I called the NWS that morning asking if Walter could come to asses the situation. He was away for the weekend but I was told that one of their workers was not far from my house and that he would come to help. Andre, a very personable and unfailingly polite man arrived, checked all spouts in the house and went to the basement, where he spent three hours, checking the pipes, announcing that he knows which pipe may be the culprit (it was not) spent a considerable time on his cell, saying that he "will make some calls," presumably to discuss the hot water issue in my house. Afterwards, he said that the problem was the water tank, rented from Direct Energy, which needs to be fixed in two places on the top or replaced. He pointed out that he prepared the tank for replacement by cutting and closing the two connecting pipes; this unauthorized procedure caused me three additional days without hot water.
The next day, the DE technician came and said that he could not examine the tank because the pipes were disconnected and that the plumber needed to come back to replace them and reconnect them to the tank. He also suggested that the knob at the bottom of the tank, regulating the flame, should have been put in a different position after the pipes were disconnected and that the current position presents some danger (did not specify). He also pointed out that a plumber, not being an employee of DE, cannot make suggestions regarding repair or replacement of the tank.
In the evening I received an email from my basement tenant:
"... the tradesman dealing with the (water) issue has completely ruined my kitchen California rug. It is special to me, he must have assumed that he was welcome to stomp excess mud/dirt off on it purposely."
The following morning I left three messages with the receptionist, asking that Walter give me a call. And, though I was repeatedly assured that he would call, he did not.
I hoped to discuss with him that perhaps a more experienced plumber would have checked the tank first and finished here in about 5 minutes. I would have of course paid for a visit but not $450 +HST for three hours of pipes examination that was likely not even necessary. I also wanted to discuss that perhaps a more experienced plumber would have known not to cut the pipes and speculate on repair/removal of the rented tank. I also hoped to make sure that I would not have to pay for replacing the two pipes to their original state.
The person at the reception wanted to know a bit about the situation and promptly invalidated all my comments/experience. I was assured that Andre is an excellent, experienced plumber, who would not spend time on unnecessary procedures. He was kind and considerate in cutting the pipes; and if he decided that the tank should be replaced, then it has to be done. Regarding the treatment of the kitchen rug, surely the tenant can wash it; she went as far as to claim that the company encouraged its employees not to take their shoes off, when they repeatedly go in and out of the house, as the time spent on this can make the visit more expensive. In my opinion, this person was quite rude. I do not believe that the company promotes this policy; I watched Andre put a cloth cover on his shoes when he was entering parts of the house where I was and the state of the kitchen rug came as a surprise.
To conclude, it is not only me who is disappointed by Andre's approach to the issue at hand; also the DE technician noted his lack of knowledge demonstrated by inappropriately cutting the pipes and leaving the knob on the tank in a potentially dangerous position and my tenant noted his lack of consideration.
The ending of the story is good- the NWS sent (no extra charge) two very pleasant and knowledgeable plumbers here, who put clean tarps on the floor to protect it from their boots, efficiently reconnected the two pipes to the tank, while removing the small ball (a part of older tanks, intended to regulate water's flow but sometimes clogs the opening and needs to be removed) from the tank's connection point. Voila, the hot water came back!
Despite this outcome, my experience as described above as well as the responses of the person on the company phone and especially the lack of response from the owner do not show NWS in a positive light.