The woman and the man needed each other’s help, but for very different reasons.
She needed him because she was stuck in the new home she bought this year during the thick summer heat for two weeks with a broken air conditioning system. Her new home warranty aside, nobody would fix it.
He needed her because he’s taken over a failed air conditioning company, and he’s trying to make up for the original owner’s misdeeds that led to corporate bankruptcy.
He wasn’t involved in any of that, but he says he feels bad for all the previous customers who were mistreated. He wants to make it up by seeking to earn penance for past company sins. Or to use another religious phrase, he seeks redemption through suffering.
Patonia Rhule of southern Dallas, meet Aron Finn of Frymire Home Services.
I introduced them, hoping for a perfect match. Patonia told me about how her air conditioning broke and nobody would fix it. She stayed in a hotel with her two children for a couple of nights, but the bill was $400. As a new homeowner, she couldn’t afford it. For the rest of the time, the family relied on box fans.
Aron took over Frymire as co-owner and general manager a year ago. He read my 2017 story on the company in which I detailed my own problems with Frymire from 1998. In that story, I called the old Frymire crew a “parade of nincompoops masquerading as air conditioning repair techs.”
My battle with them was personally significant because I took the homebuilder who hired them to small claims court for my first serious consumer dispute. I won, and afterwards taught all my neighbors how to do the same. In some ways, it was the infancy of me later becoming The Watchdog.
After Aron took over Frymire, he contacted me. “I feel I owe you a debt,” he said, “in that the company that I now own did not provide you anywhere near exceptional service. I have to say you were not the only customer to voice their discontent with the service that Frymire provided back then.”
His management team, he said, has been “working tirelessly at not only providing the best service and experience possible, but also rectifying the past deeds of our predecessors. This goes for both our customers and our employees.”
He added, “We still don’t get it right the first time every single time, but I can say, to a fault, every issue is resolved ultimately to our customer’s satisfaction.”
Let me give you one strong example of how Aron is trying to change the Frymire culture.
The old company earned national attention years back with a billboard that stated, “Your wife is hot.” It added, “Better get the A/C fixed.”
Aron altered the message. “Instead, we put up a billboard for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month that said ‘Frymire cares’ in pink letters. That’s the message we’re trying to send out, not, ‘Your wife is hot.’”
In Patonia’s case, she blames her homebuilder, Ameritex Homes, and the home warranty company assigned by the builder — in this case, Airtron, which is owned by electricity company Direct Energy.
Direct Energy spokeswoman Christina Allen looked into the case and reported back: “We apologize to Ms. Rhule for the time it took to repair her air conditioning unit. Her experience is not in keeping with our customer service goals. We received the call for service just before Labor Day weekend, and we made a service call to her home on Tuesday, the next business day on which we resumed regular hours. We regret she had to spend a long holiday weekend without air conditioning.”
Patonia counters that she was without cool air for two weeks, not “a long holiday weekend.”
At Ameritex Homes, president Tara Williams declined to talk to The Watchdog, but spokeswoman Stacey Wirtjes of parent company Winchester Carlisle Cos. sent me a detailed log of all the times Patonia filed a repair request and the number of visits electricians and Airtron techs made to her house.
I counted four requests for air conditioner repairs by Patonia going back to July. I counted seven service visits to her home to apply fixes that didn’t work.
The spokesperson for the builder told The Watchdog, “We are disappointed in the amount of time it took to diagnose Ms. Rhule’s HVAC, and we have made changes so that other homeowners will not have the same experience in the future.”
I knew Aron had a big heart because he and I worked together a decade ago on a similar construction failure. I reported the story of an elderly Fort Worth man who was ripped off by two brothers. The pair promised to do foundation repairs and instead only did light caulking and thin concrete patching. They took the man’s money, $19,000, and didn’t finish the job. Turns out they were ex-cons.
What made this particularly noteworthy was Canadian reality TV star Mike Holmes got involved. Holmes made a career of making repairs of shoddy work by incompetent builders and showing consumers how to be smart.
Holmes’ crew brought together Lowe’s, plumber Roto-Rooter and Perma-Pier, a foundation company where Aron worked. Aron took charge of the project. That’s how we met.
More recently, when I told Aron about Patonia’s plight, he jumped on it. His guys immediately brought over three window units as a temporary solution. His crew ran a diagnostics test and determined that the air conditioning system was “drastically undersized,” he said.
A few days later, his crew removed the old unit and installed one that was twice as powerful. They also redid the duct work.
He said he felt especially bad for Patonia because she moved into her home during the horrendous February freezeout, and she had no hot water.
Plus, he added, “Texas in the summer without air conditioning? I mean, come on! And she works from home, so she had no respite at all from the heat.”
I asked Aron what the retail price of Patonia’s job is. He did some computations and told me $11,700.
He charged Patonia nothing. She’s ecstatic.
It’s quite a transformation. Frymire is going from villain to savior. An $11,700 job is a lot for any company to lose. But it’s a penance. Redemption through suffering. For each of them, a perfect match.
After two summer weeks without air conditioning in her new Ameritex Home, Patonia Rhule learns how her new system works from Aron Finn, owner of Frymire Home Services. He came in to fix and replace what warranty holder Airtron, owned by Direct Energy, couldn’t do.(Jason Janik / Special Contributor)
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Read his winning columns:
* Helping the widow of Officer JD Tippit, the Dallas police officer killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, get buried beside her late husband
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