The Tale of the Broken AC: A Short Story

The summer was hot and humid. Every night when it cooled down to a sweltering 75, a haze settled over the back yard. Lissa loved having the windows open to the breeze and smells of summer. She was determined not to give in and turn the AC on, but the high humidity proved too much for her and the boys so she finally caved.

She turned it on, and walked to the nearest vent expecting a cool blast of air. Instead, she got a lukewarm and feeble breeze on her feet…barely cooler than the outside.

She trudged over to the refrigerator and called the home warranty company, glad that it at least gave out before the warranty expired. The company had “preferred” vendors that they had to send out, so she scheduled time for the next day.

Bill came out to take a look and Lissa cheerfully greeted him at the door, wiping her forehead with a towel as she offered him a glass of water. After a short time, Bill came in and told her the bad news. There was a leak, two to be exact and the whole unit would need to be replaced. She wasn’t too upset as it would only cost her the deductible since the warranty company would cover the rest.

Bill told her that it would take about a week to get the new unit in as the warranty company would have to approve the order and send it to their preferred parts vendor. He pumped some freon into the AC telling Lissa that it wouldn’t last long, but at least she would have a week’s relief from the heat and humidity.

Ten days went by and Lissa had not heard from either the vendor or the warranty company so she called the latter up and asked for a status. Kim, a cheerful customer service rep, told Lissa that the parts vendor was backlogged with orders. Apparently AC units all over the state were failing. She was assured that it would only be another few days.

It took two more weeks for the unit to come in.

Lissa and the rest of the family had been living in the basement, coming up only for food, so she was very excited when Bill came back to install the unit. At the end of the day Bill came inside and told her he was finished. Lissa smiled, almost giddy as cold air came blasting out of the vents.

The AC worked all day on Friday. Saturday morning the air circulating through the house was back to that lukewarm breeze. Not cold at all.

Lissa’s husband headed outside to inspect the new unit and found it to be covered in ice. This did not jive with the 90* weather. On Monday, Lissa called the HVAC vendor who told her that she would need to call the warranty company so that they could approve them to come out to diagnose the problem.

Rolling her eyes, Lissa called the home warranty company who then approved their HVAC vendor to pay another visit.

Bill came out again and tested several things finally determining that the unit, ordered by the warranty company, was too big for the house and was freezing over because too much cold air was being pushed through the condenser. He called the warranty company and reported the problem. They told him that they would have to send another parts order up through the chain of command to get the approval for the replacement. Again, the replacement that was needed due to the warranty company ordering the wrong size unit.

Lissa was starting to get annoyed.

Thinking it would only take a few hours to get this approval, Lissa resigned herself not to get angry but to give feedback in the survey that would come to her once the installation was complete.

A week went by. Lissa called the Bill to ask what was going on. He said they were still waiting for the unit from the warranty company’s preferred parts vendor. Lissa then called Kim at the home warranty company and asked for an update. Kim told her that the approval had not yet gone through to order the replacement unit.

Now, Lissa was a relatively even tempered and quiet person. She was slow to anger and she tried not to hold a grudge. She didn’t get too worked up about anything…most of the time. Then poor Kim uttered these next words.

“We are still waiting for the approval. We’ve had a lot of people calling about their air conditioners lately…it’s been so hot. We are just really backed up. We have one gal that has been waiting for over two weeks.”

“OK,” Lissa said, feeling the blood rush to her head. “I have been waiting for over six weeks. I’ve had a unit installed that was too big for the house. Installed by your preferred HVAC vendor who got the parts, ordered by your company, from your preferred parts vendor. I don’t understand why this was not fixed immediately. I waited all of July in 90*+ weather to get the wrong unit installed.”

Kim responded, in a rather clipped tone, “Well I’m sorry ma’am. That is just the way it is.”

Silence. Then, steam roared out of Lissa’s ears. She could not speak, could not think of how to respond to this ridiculous reply. She knew it was not Kim’s fault, but the fact of the matter was that Kim represented the warranty company, so Kim would have to bear the brunt of Lissa’s wrath.

“Listen here. I don’t care how long everyone else with a broken AC has been waiting. Your company is in the service industry and it is your job to provide prompt and good service to your customers. I am one of your customers and I am aware that you have other customers, but it is your job to treat me as though I am the ONLY customer you have. That is the just the way it is, ma’am.”

As if by magic, the new unit was installed the next day.*

*Story based on true events, however…I am still waiting for the new unit. In my dream world, this is how the AC saga ended.


2 responses to “The Tale of the Broken AC: A Short Story


    I was getting worried, because this started out very similar to “The Bridges of Madison County”.

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