I had a ceiling kitchen light go out a few weeks ago and so, being a handy type I attempted to fix it myself. I discovered that the wires had "arc'd" and there had been some damage to the wiring. I felt it necessary to call a licenced electrician in this case.
The initial response over the phone from Hi-Lite Electric was excellent. They seemed knowledgable and really wanted to help. I was told that it would cost a $120 service travel fee to get an electrician to my home. This is where I should have said "No"... but assuming that travel and labour is expensive I agreed. My assumption also included the belief that for $120 I would also get this simple job done. I was wrong!
Two uniformed and clean guys showed up. One was an apprentice. They put booties on and came in, inspected the problem and went to the basement to look at the electrical panel. I was told instantly that they were going to do a "single circuit diagnosis" to find out what the problem was. This is when the alarm bells started to go off- the problem was simple. It had nothing to do with electrical panel. It was simply a screw that came loose in the wiring box above the light on the ceiling and, over time had shorted and burned the wires and caused the damage. Simple enough and easy for an experienced electrician to see. How do I know this? I'll get to that soon.
The Hi-Lite representative knew full well that the solution was simple as well but he chose to sit me down and put me through a 5 minute "company overview" including his qualifications and experience, show me the company written guarantee, explain their company philosophy blah, blah, just to "soften" me up and instill confidence that Hi-Lite Electric is not to be questioned and would do what needed to be done...for a price!. I am sitting there looking at this guy do his best to pull off the script- he was not good at it and had absolutely no sincerity in his "act" His apprentice is sitting there with us shuffling his feet, eyes to the floor- he is obviously uncomfortable with it as well. I am equally uncomfortable. I dont need to hear this garbage. I have paid $120 for two guys to arrive and fix my little problem...at least that is my assumption.
The Hi-Lite representative then proceeded to shove a price list in front of me. He explained that they use this price list to explain exactly "to the penny" what it will cost me to fix my problem. The price list (which I still have a copy of and have gleefully showed to lots of people who are shocked by this thing) consists of a ten level cost structure starting at $59 for simple things (and I assumed my problem) up to level 10- $1139 for tough stuff (which was not my problem). To my disbelief the Hi-Lite representative pointed to level 5 as my problem- a $319 charge to do a "single circuit diagnosis" to see "exactly" what the problem was. I blinked, looked at him and asked him to repeat himself. He without hesitation- while his apprentice shuffled his feet, eyes to the floor- expained again.
Now I am no moron. I looked up at the ceiling light and said "you want $440 to fix that?" "We will diagnose the problem and then offer you ways to fix it after that. We may have to pull wire" blah blah he said. We bantered back and forth and once I really understood that for $440 he would "diagnose" the problem and then for $XX he would fix it I said enough and asked them to leave.
I paid $120 for a courtesy call. "What" you say! "You paid them!". Yes because I agreed over the phone. And they took it without hesitation. Acceting this travel service fee over the phone- that was my first mistake.
Upon a casual check of other electrical contractors later the most expensive "travel service fee" was $90.
Now back to why I know it was a simple problem for sure- I called another guy who showed up promptly, came in, knew exacly what to do, explained it to me, fixed it and left- in 15 minutes! He quoted me $80 to get to my home and charged me nothing more to do the work. Just like I expected in the first place! I got away with a total $200 dollar charge to fix what should have cost $80 or so. I consider myself lucky though. Oh by the way- I had a bunch of other electrical work to be done in the future. The new guy quoted me and will be back soon to do it- this will cost about another $2000- Hi-Lite had it in the bag if they didn't try to cut my legs off on the first place.
Moral of the story- dont belive all that you hear, use your head, call around and compare pricing before you buy and dont take any crap form insincere tricksters!
Oh and dont call Hi-lite Electric.