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The fixers

By Terry Joseph
January 06, 2006

Unlike those dark days, when a haughty Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC) felt no responsibility to warn consumers of scheduled power outages, the contemporary image is of a kinder, gentler public utility, buying media space to advertise planned disruptions but don't take that at face value.

Notices of the sort aired and appeared well in advance of July 26, 2005, alerting homeowners in Upper Diego Martin of a three and a half hour disruption on that day, allowing them time to reorganise, T&TEC having transparently advised the thoroughly noble intention of "changing poles in the district".

The power was zapped right on schedule at 8.30 a.m. Reassured by such precision, I felt confident it would return at exactly the promised minute and indeed, T&TEC re-energised the system with equal punctuality. We fell to the task of adjusting electronic clocks, only to discover our relatively new refrigerator was not responding; it was the beginning of a four-month-long adventure involving a number of players.

Firstly, there was the problem of keeping cold those already refrigerated items, cleaning coolers and rushing out for ice, a process repeated daily for nearly a month, during which period buying habits changed per force, bulk purchases now out of the question; the rural and more expensive practice of going to the shop every morning forced upon us.

Back to July: Telephoning T&TEC to report the problem produced an impressively prompt response. The Area Manager-Distribution North, promised by letter a thorough investigation within 25 working days and delivered, the visiting expert speaking in empathetic tone and making copious notes, inducing the perception that closure would be equally swift.

But that was not to be, so daily buying of ice and perishables continued until it became clear we should source our own fridge-fixer. The Yellow Pages turned up a number of companies with assuring names, although several of them would not touch a Samsung electronic refrigerator, simply because they didn't sell it to us in the first place.

It was now well into September, by which time the daily ice and eggs purchasing routine had become so tedious, we decided to take advantage of a sale at Standard, buying a small "meanwhile" fridge, costing some $4,000.

All the while, calls to T&TEC were courteously shunted to "the appropriate department", a location that changed with astonishing frequency, each recipient sequentially promising action. October flew by and on November 9, I decided to lay our case before the Commission's communications manager, an appeal frustrated by his unavailability. The gentleman who spoke in lieu also promised to call back.

In the long interim, we engaged several highly recommended fixers, the first of which came early in August and after poking around before admitting limitation, brought a fairly expensive consultant, who announced a problem with the motherboard which, we were told, was unavailable locally.

Nor, as we found out through a network of overseas telephone calls, could it be readily had from the Best Buy store in New Jersey where the fridge was purchased although, if we could wait another month, they would source it in Korea and have it shipped to the US address on the original invoice, from where it could be sent here by parcel post.

On September 12, the sophisticated component, which cost nearly $1,500 all told, was in our hands. The fixers returned and did many technical things at the back of the appliance, before making a fresh discovery-the motherboard was fine but another device needed replacing. Of course, this meant a fresh round of telephone calls to New Jersey and repeat of the interface with their suppliers. Happily, this item was nearer at hand and was with us by October 11.

When the new part arrived, the fixer returned, this time bringing different help from yet another reputable firm but, alas, the fridge remained defiantly uncooperative, although "repair" charges had already topped the $1,100 mark.

Clearly, divine intervention was overdue and soon came when my wife went to Singer in St James for quite another purpose and saw the exact model fridge which, contrary to information received from the various fixers, the local company had been selling for the past five years.

The Singer outlet promptly dispatched a fixer, who came, saw and conquered the problem in 90 seconds. None of the previously engaged high-priced experts had thought of pressing the re-set button. After four months of inconvenience and an outlay exceeding $7,000, the fridge was purring again and for a mere $161, basic cost of the technician's home visit.

T&TEC, we may suppose, will call today.

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