Category Archives: Contracts

Don’t Guess – Know Elevator Maintenance

We have all had the experience: your car just stops going. The engine revs, but you just don’t go forward well at all. You “baby” it as best you can to your local mechanic, he hooks it up to a zillion diagnostic gizmos with plugs and wires, he updates the operating system, performs all the recalls and finally, after the plethora of the clamps and diodes are removed and the computer goes dark, your car is pronounced good to go. The problem is when you pick the car up, it makes it home, but the next day isn’t good to go at all. As a matter of fact, the vehicle isn’t going anywhere.

Guess what? Misdiagnosis.

Now you have to trudge back to the garage, make arrangements again to have it worked on, line up a ride and get ready to argue the bill.

In the world of elevators, building owners and managers see the same thing. The elevator is busted, a frantic call is made, tenants are freaking out and your phone is lit up like a Christmas tree with complaints. When the repair guy finally shows up, because you have seen this movie before, you strategically place yourself in the repair guy’s most likely path, with arms folded and foot tapping impatiently.  He fidgets with his tool belt as he walks, acting as if he is all set to dive in. As he nears, knowing that he can’t avoid a conversation, he spits out an excuse, a weak apology about being late and then says, “It probably just needs to be reset.”

Here we go again.

Then the waiting game begins as you pace like a striking teamster; all you need is a placard stapled to a strip of pine wood. When he finally emerges from the machine room door an hour later, he says, “All done, must have had a power surge.” After thank you’s all around and a hearty hand shake, he exits the premises. But then, not an hour later, it breaks down again. By this time it is after hours and the response is not so prompt.

DISCLAIMER: Before I go any further I just want to say that the vast majority of elevator mechanics are extremely capable and competent. I am talking about the small minority.

What was the problem? For some reason, the elevator mechanic was just guessing. The other options are limited. Either something else broke that miraculously presented the exact same symptoms, or the technician is just not that bright. So let’s be generous and assume incompetence instead of ignorance. How do you respond?

Rock and a hard place.

Let’s face it: at the time the elevator mechanic is in charge as only he can get the elevator running right then.  Only in extreme cases (or never) should a verbal confrontation ensue.  However, the next day, if you have seen this pattern repeatedly, specific actions should be taken:

  1. Contact the company that maintains the elevator. Go over the head of the elevator mechanic, other technicians, the sales guy or the dispatcher.  Especially if this has not been a one-time affair, consistent problems require a manager or owner of the maintenance company. Don’t settle for less.
  2. Don’t discuss the matter over the phone in detail. Instead express your displeasure and schedule an in-person meeting on your premises. If they won’t schedule a visit, it will show you how much they really care about your business. Skip to number 9.
  3. Prior to the meeting, review your contract! Know what you signed on for, before the meeting.
  4. Document, if you aren’t already keeping a list of ongoing problems and failures, costs associated, poor service, and failures of service do so or compile one. Check the elevator log in the machine room for visits and notes regarding the unit. Make a complete list of issues that need to be addressed.
  5. Don’t accept an apology until the problem is resolved. Far too often, the apology is just a tactic to diffuse a situation. It seems to be in everyone’s current customer service playbook. Instead, when someone starts with, “I understand how you feel, and I am sorry…” cut them off! Explain that the most important part of the apology is making the aggrieved party (you) whole. Sorry’s can be handed out, when the problem is fixed. “I’m sorry” has become meaningless, and the easiest words to speak in the English language.
  6. In the meeting, address the immediate situation first. Keep in mind, it is OK to ask for a different technician. Not all are created equal and you might have drawn the short straw when it comes to mechanics.
  7. Once the immediate problem has been resolved, start working on the longer-term or systemic issues.
  8. Take good notes, record action items and email a list of duties going forward so everyone is on the same page.
  9. Most importantly, regardless of how things have gone, send a certified letter to the elevator maintenance company and indicate that you wish to terminate the maintenance agreement. This will prove you are serious and give you leverage when negotiating future contracts. Also, if things prove to be an ongoing problem, then you have officially served notice. Keep in mind in most cases your letter will not kick in for a few years! That’s right you are tethered to this company for a while, but the certified letter will severe your relationship when the contract is up. Then you can find another, hopefully better company.

If you follow these steps, you at least can have a plan when it comes to the few times that there is consistent poor service provided.

 

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Taylor Swift and Your Elevator Contract

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Do you remember when Taylor Swift was 18? She was Fearless and still sangin’ country. How about insulated Crocs – the shoes you could eat? Blockbuster video stores? Or RadioShack? These are all ancient history; including Taylor’s twang.  They have all disappeared or were a fad that faded with time, all from around ten years ago give or take.

One of the few things that, unfortunately, has survived longer tha

n any of this is probably your current elevator service contract. They are horribly lopsided agreements specifically designed to keep you locked in and shelling out too much money for too long a period of time. Even despite bad service, as seen in the complaint from a website below, the only thing that will survive the Apocalypse will be the Crocs on your feet, Twinkies, cockroaches and your elevator maintenance agreement. Here is the all too often common complaint and threat that you can find:

“Unfortunately, our Condo has joined XXXXXXX’s list of unhappy customers.  Our homeowner’s association pays this company nearly $6,000 a year to have them on a service retainer.  $6K to basically do nothing! So when something goes wrong, I expect them to be on it.  Our elevator has been down over a week while they figure out how to order parts.  Seriously?  Have you heard of air shipping? This is so unacceptable.  Our next HOA meetings agenda we will be discussing how to terminate our contract this company.”

Believe it or not, despite the complaints the elevator company does not care about you or your homeowner’s association (HOA). Shocking to hear that admission from the elevator industry itself, but it is true. Why, you may ask? Because you are being played. The big elevator companies intentionally have contracts for maintenance that are five years in length or more. The five year time period is pitched as standard and most people willingly sign them.  The sand starts running to the bottom of the hourglass but it goes slowly and memories quickly fade. You don’t even think about the contract until the renewal date approaches, but then it is too late.

Then, without any notice, the maintenance contract, which has an intentionally exceedingly weird window for termination renews automatically.  This is because the elevator company is banking on the HOA, building owner or business in question to have changed leadership, lost the starch out of their ire or the terms of the contract signed so long ago that they have long since been lost. Most people have bigger fish to fry so the renewal time passes unnoticed until of course there is a breakdown or the customer receives notice of the bill going up (which it will), and then it is too late. Cue the evil laugh.

If you do not believe me, here is the language from a standard elevator maintenance contract:

“This contract shall commence on January 1, 2008 and shall continue for a non-cancellable period of 5 years.  It shall automatically renew for additional 5-year periods unless either party delivers written notice at least 120 days in advance of any renewal date*, of their intent to terminate this agreement.” *emphasis added.

So, if you sign a maintenance contract today and in five years miss that magical 120-day window before the end of the contract, five years after the ink has dried, you are locked in for another five years and get this, there are automatic fee increases all along the way.

Once that next five years has run, suddenly you are wondering where all the time and money went and how Taylor Swift can still look like she is 18 years old after 5, 10, or 20 years has passed (I, personally, think she is a Vampire). Looking into the crystal ball and seeing into the future of 2025, you will also be surprised that T-Swift has breathed more life into her ever expanding career by conquering the heavy metal genre and going Goth, and also that your elevator contract is still bleeding you money each month for very little service as you missed the cancellation window again.

It is enough to drive you crazy!

So, let me do us all a favor by telling you how you can avoid missing the date and wringing your hands with worry over the cancellation. First and foremost, quit complaining on blogs and faceless websites and take some proactive action that matters! Right now, take out your elevator contract, find the official address and send them a cancellation notice by certified mail. Then, you will have at least tapped on the window for cancellation. This helps in a couple of great ways: It will enhance your negotiation position and allow you to shop for other companies. Something you can discuss at your next HOA.

As far as Taylor is concerned, you are on your own.  I only wish I could have a solution so easy when it comes to avoiding her over the next ten years.

Elevator Contracts – Shop All Exclusions

raquel-martinez-96648For some, shopping is about more than finding bargains, it is an obsession. They can’t quit comparing apples to apples and finding success in each penny saved. This is despite the fact that quite often going to store after store means burning more gas and time than actual savings generated.  Of course, the more costly the item, the more justification there is for doing a thorough job of looking around and comparing products.

When it comes to elevators, it seems like everything is expensive, especially when it comes to repairs that are outside of the warranty or maintenance contract. People feel trapped by the contract and elevator company, so, often the work is approved without considering other options. But shopping around can help lessen the overall cost of elevator ownership. Click here for the six exclusions you can shop.

 

Elevator U: The Myth of Maintenance Teamwork

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Photo by Pierre-Etienne Vachon on Unsplash

Long-term planning for elevator maintenance takes cooperation from several parties and often is equated to teamwork. However, the idea that a team is always the solution to the problem often misses the bigger point. At the recent Elevator U conference we learned a lot about the various people that make elevator maintenance systems work but, surprisingly, the word team was never mentioned.

This is may be because when you hear the word “team,” you think of a group of individuals all dressed in the same uniform striving for victory, all pulling in the same direction. Even though everyone’s in-game goals may be different, victory for the team is always the objective, so they cast self-wants aside for the win.

Baseball is a great example of this.  See how elevators equates to baseball by clicking here.

Elevator Technician – Mr. Friendly Says Hello

mrEveryone wants to see the friendly elevator guy with the big smile and the big handshake. After a merry greeting and traditional backslapping, he disappears down the hall and goes to work. Thirty minutes later, you hear the familiar sound of the tool belt jangling toward you and you know you are about to get a full report. But, after 40 minutes of discussing the weather, family, friends, fishing, the best BBQ in town, the nuances of abstract animation in the film noir era, oh and the elevator, he leaves. Both of you are the wiser for solving the world’s problems, but are you lighter in the pocketbook for the casual conversation.

This may be happening more than you think. How often do you actually look at the contract or repair bill and compare it to actual time spent on the elevator itself?  Or do you know exactly what the contractual terms of your agreement are? Some may be billed a flat fee for certain maintenance regardless of time spent, but others may be paying for every five-minute increment. The terms are very important to know.

Each and every person who hires an elevator contractor understands that they will pay for time to repair and maintain elevators.  No shock there. This normally comes in the form of a flat monthly fee with some exceptions for work outside of the scope of the contract. Others choose more comprehensive contracts that cover nearly all costs other than vandalism, intentional destruction or “Acts of God.”  Also, hourly rates can vary widely depending on the geographic location and availability of technicians. Shopping the hourly rate may be a great place to start when looking at cutting the expense of maintenance, but actual time on the job may be hiding a bigger problem. Time actually spent on the job may not be matching what you are paying for.

Here are some things to be aware of that can increase costs.

  1. Forgotten tools – Have you had to pay for trips back to the shop or to the hardware store? Do you know if you have?
  2. Chitchat time – Are you forking over fees to find out what the weather is like in Bemidji or how the Bears did?
  3. Extra assistance – The elevator guys shows up with a team. Not sure if it is training or “bring your extended family to work day,” but you need to find out.
  4. The magic act – The incredible disappearing elevator mechanic. First you see him and then you don’t. Where was he for the past two hours? You checked the machine room and elevator and no one was to be found. Did he dematerialize into another dimension only to reappear suddenly just in time to go home?
  5. Lunch break, coffee break, smoke break – It is hard to swallow paying for all three of these in an hours time but it can happen.
  6. Whoops – The elevator professional drops his pliers from the top of the car and they end up in the pit. Oh well, one more unneeded trip to the dungeon.

These are just a few things that you maybe paying for that you are not even aware of. But, there are somethings you can do to alleviate the problem.

  1. Know your contract. If you are paying a monthly fee that is all inclusive and the elevator tech is a chatty Cathy and you like the banter..who cares. Enjoy the conversation. On the other hand, if you are being charged for every second that ticks off the clock, it’s time to reassess.
  2. Insist on a sign in and sign out every time they come and go. This will accomplish a couple of things. First, it will help alleviate the disappearing act.  It will keep you informed on progress, it will make the technician more responsible and you will have a chance to find out what is going on with the elevator.
  3. Always check the maintenance log! It is your right and if “routine maintenance” is all that is written and it took two hours, there is a problem. Also insist that a log is kept in the machine room. This should be added to your elevator plan.
  4. Open a dialog with the technician. When he seems to be working a long time, safely track him down and ask what is going on. Remember, this is your building and you are granting him and his company the privilege of working on it.
  5. Open a dialog with the dispatcher or supervisor. Do this before problems start if they ever do. You should be on a first name basis with the person that tracks the time and services of the technician. This may also get some of your basic questions answered for free.

Remember the vast majority of elevator technicians are hard-working, want to fix problems right and have integrity when it comes to the people they service. However, that does not mean that you shouldn’t check their work and build into your routine a time to do some follow up and re-reading of the contract.