email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fun With Lamps

Three years ago, I inherited a knock-off (but good quality vintage) "tiffany" lamp.

I dithered for 3 years about what to do with it (Living Room or Stairwell).  I finally decided on stairwell. 

First, I called an electrical company I found on Angie's List.  I explained about hanging the lamp in the ceiling over the stairwell to replace an existing working light and that it was heavy and awkward (so it might require 2 people).  I also requested them to install a regular ceiling light at the bottom of the stairs wired into the same 3-way switch as the top one, and that I needed the outside motion detector repaired.  They sent 1 person.  He looked at the tiffany lamp and said it was missing some hanging parts.  Well, I hadn't examined it that carefully, and it was a bit loose.  So I had him look at the motion detector.  He said the detector parts had rusted and it needed to be replaced.  So I had him install the small ceiling lamp at the bottom of the stairs.  I thought it should simply be wired directly to the upper lamp (where the tiffany lamp would go later, but he said it would be easier to just wire it into the bottom stair switch.  OK, whatever works… 

The new bottom light seemed to work fine.  Both upper and bottom lights came on and wet off with the switch.  And the electrician said it would take 2 people to hang the tiffany lamp (agreeing with what I had told them to begin with).  But the next day I discovered that using the top switch caused one to come on while the other went off.  I called the electrical company back and explained the situation.  Meanwhile, I had found that the hanging parts on the tiffany lamp seemed merely loose and with an additional nut, tightened it all up nicely.  So they sent out 2 guys a few days later.

I had a new motion detector for them to install as well.  First, they looked at the tiffany lamp and declared it "not to code".  They said it needed a complete new "canopy attachment" and rewiring, and that they didn't do that kind of work, suggesting a vintage lamp restoration company in Annapolis.  I later googled "vintage lamp restoration" and sure enough Annapolis was closest (but not exactly next door).  Meanwhile, they undid the bad wiring job of the first guy, and installed the new motion detector outside.  I suggested that they wire the new bottom light to the top light then, but they said it would mean doing the same wiring work on the top light twice and cost more.  So I agreed to wait until they could install the tiffany lamp at the same time.

So I brought the lamp to Annapolis Lighting for repair.  The repair manager told me that any qualified electrician should have been able to make the attachment and wiring repairs, but he would do it.  Still, that was an hour drive both to and from there, and I had to do it twice (delivery and pickup).  Meanwhile, my hallway light died.  I replaced the circular fluorescent bulb and then the starter, but it still didn't work, so there was new work to be done.

A new pair of guys arrived today.  The original one was fired for incompetency, and the second team had been promoted to commercial work.  The new pair did know what they were doing.  One went to work on getting the bottom stair light wired in properly.  I still think it made more sense to wire the bottom light directly up to the top one, but he chose to wire it to the primary switch (which was at the top of the stairs). 

The other guy tackled the tiffany lamp installation.  He was convinced that it could just be attached to the existing electric box already there, but I told him I wanted a better support (knowing how my builder cut corners).  Sure enough, when he removed the existing ceiling light, there was just a plastic electric box that he pulled out of the attic joist by hand.  He had to get into the attic (they do almost anything to avoid that) to install a support bar and new electric box.   In spite of the idea that both of them were there to cooperate in installing the heavy tiffany lamp, the 1 guy did it himself.  He had to stand on the very top and almost losing his grip on it once, he got it installed properly.  The 2nd guy got the bottom light wired. 

 It all worked, and we 3 tested all the 3 switches in combinations to make sure there was none of that 1 on and 1 off problem from before. 

Then came a bill for $440.  I pointed out that I had already paid for that bottom light being wired properly.  So I had to talk to their service manager.  He pointed out that he was already offerring me a discount on the hourly work.  I pointed out that the initial paid work included "install new light at bottom of stairs and run wire".  He said the first guy did the invoice wrong and the price only included installing the new light.  When I asked who would think anyone would install a light WITHOUT attaching it to a switch, he babbled for a moment, and I added that it was a quoted price and I paid for it at the time (so one of the guys here today was merely correcting the bad work of the original guy and they couldn't charge me for that twice).  When he said I had requested 2 people, I told him that was what HIS people had suggested.

The $440 came down to $275.  The service manager allowed that he was doing it "to resolve the situation"  (as if he was doing me a great favor by not charging me twice for an initially botched wiring job).  I don't really care how he accounts for his charges, just that the final charge was only for the work installing the tiffany lamp and it seemed a fair charge.

I asked the electrician here how HE would interpret "install new light at bottom of stairs and run wire", and he laughed saying he never argues with the service manager.  I understand; to the electrician (a sub-contractor), I'm not the customer, the service manager is.

But everything is fine now and I am thrilled with the tiffany lamp…
I haven't decided how I will review the work on Angie's List yet.  They botched the first wiring, but made up for it immediately.  The tiffany lamp wiring and hanging hardware wasn't their fault.  And while they got confused about the costs involved in the 3 visits, they did make the charges reasonable after a brief discussion.  And the work WAS finally done well.

I can't give them perfect scores, but I won't flame them either.

But I LOVE the new staircase lamp there.


ANGEL ABBY said...

Wow something that seemed to be straight forward took 5 people to install properly.

Megan said...

So frustrating that it took so much mucking about Mark.

Your summary didn't include the fact that the electricians said they couldn't handle the attachment to the tiffany lamp to bring it up to code when you were subsequently told that any competent electrician could do it. While the electricians you hired might have not been interested/prepared to undertake the work, they were wrong in telling you that you needed to take it to a specialist, when you could, presumably, have had it done locally.

And, lots of people wouldn't have had the wherewithal to confront the service manager about the overcharging and have the cost reduced. While their response ended up being acceptable to you, the fact is that they overcharged you initially, and many people would have paid it rather than try to sort it out.

Perhaps it might be fairest if you don't write a review at all, since it's a complicated situation with a number of aspects for any potential customer to consider. Just a thought.

Sydney, Australia

Mariodacatsmom said...

Yikes - hope we don't face the same thing when we have the electricians come in to re-wire a couple of switches. The joys of dealing with older homes.

Bella said...

The "Tiffany" light looks very nice. How about an up date on your Father.