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Service calls more costly

C. J. Heating & Air Conditioning in Hudson installed my heat pump and recovery unit in 1988. I have used their service a number of times since then and found their charges to be reasonable. The last service call in June 1993 for a blocked drain cost me $30 minus a $10 coupon for just over 30 minutes of labor.

In May I called about not getting any hot water from the recovery unit. A technician arrived at 11:25 a.m. and left at 11:55 a.m. He checked the unit, found it okay and advised me to call a plumber.

His bill was $56 minus a $10 coupon. That is an outrageous charge for 30 minutes!

I called the service manager for an explanation. He said he would review the charge and give me a refund if necessary. Despite numerous calls and messages, he has not called me back.

Please appeal on my behalf for a refund. Timothy Healy

Response: After studying industry pricing standards and because of increasing costs for gas, equipment and training, C. J. Heating & Air Conditioning raised its prices, said service manager Robert Baum.

While C. J.'s prices are not the cheapest, they're not the most expensive either, he said. There is a $30 service-call charge plus $17.50 for a minimum half-hour labor.

Your technician said he was at your house for 37 minutes (perhaps he spent the additional minutes in his truck doing paperwork), so you were charged an additional $8.25 for the extra seven minutes, Baum said.

Those $10 coupons, by the way, were supposed to expire last December, he said, but because they had no date on them, C. J. has been honoring them, the manager said.

We can understand your annoyance at having to pay $46 only to be told to call a plumber. Had you been more knowledgeable about your system, you may have been able to figure that out yourself. But you weren't and you didn't, and so you paid a company that had the training and equipment to make that diagnosis.

Remember that when you hire a professional service technician in any field you are paying for the costs incurred to get him ready to do the job _ training, insurance, trucks and maintenance, equipment, taxes, rent, tools, utilities, stock of replacement parts, office help and supplies and management.

The cost of a technician's time on the road and on the job is the same whether he works with some tools or not.

Other companies may charge less, but do not let price be your only criterion. Companies that do not charge enough to cover their expenses on service calls make it up in other ways or go out of business.

Ceiling fan dispute resolved

My wife and I cannot agree on how best to use our ceiling fans.

We keep the thermostat set at 80 degrees and have ceiling fans in every room. She claims the fans reduce moisture and so she runs all the fans all the time. I once read that you should operate only the fan in the room you are using.

Hope you can straighten this out. R. Purcell

Response: Ceiling fans make you feel cooler but do not reduce either the temperature or humidity, said Keane Bismarck, executive director of the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association. Consequently, there is no benefit to running a ceiling fan when you are not in a room, he said. A Florida Power spokesperson agreed.

The advantage of ceiling fans is that they allow you to set your thermostat higher. The air movement from a ceiling fan will make an 80-degree room feel like 76 degrees, allowing you to turn up your thermostat and save on your electric bill.

Action solves problems and gets answers for you. If you have a question, or your own attempts to resolve a consumer complaint have failed, write: Times Action, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or call your Action number, 893-8171, or, outside of Pinellas, (800) 333-7505, ext. 8171, to leave a recorded request for Action.

Requests will be accepted only by mail or on our voice mail system; calls cannot be returned. We will not be responsible for personal documents, so please send only photocopies. If your complaint concerns merchandise ordered by mail, we need copies of both sides of your canceled check.

We may require additional information or prefer to reply by mail; therefore, readers must provide a full mailing address, including ZIP code. Upon request, names will not be published.

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