Finding a good repair service is only the beginning. How you deal with the shop you choose also matters. Here are some guidelines:

  • When you call for an appointment, ask about the company’s system for calculating charges—especially about what the minimum charge covers. Also, find out the company’s policy on travel charges if the technician has to return to the shop for parts. Repair services usually don’t charge for travel time for the second visit, but you better make sure. If the company charges on a time-and-materials basis, find out how it calculates time charges—by what time unit (per 15 minutes or per 30 minutes, for example) and the cost per unit.
  • During this initial call, describe as accurately as possible your appliance’s symptoms—when during the operating cycle the problem occurs, what it sounds like, how the appliance responds to different settings, etc. This description will help the company assign the right technician to the job, put necessary parts on the truck, and schedule enough time for the job.
  • Unless you are content to wait around all day, request an appointment for a specific hour. If you can’t get an exact time, arrange for the technician to call you a half hour or so before arriving. Many companies are glad to do this.
  • Before the technician arrives, clear everything away from the appliance so that work can start at once.
  • Note what time the technician arrives.
  • Describe the appliance’s problem to the technician just as you did over the phone. You can also be more helpful at this point—showing samples of clothes damaged by the washing machine, for example.
  • But avoid offering your own diagnosis of the problem. Otherwise, the technician may make the repair you request instead of fixing the machine.
  • After the diagnosis is complete, request an estimate. Make sure the estimate is a firm quote that will not be altered, regardless of how long the job actually takes. Any company that charges on a flat-rate basis should, of course, be willing to treat its estimate as binding. And even companies that price on a time-and-materials basis will ordinarily stick to their estimates, except on very unusual jobs. Before work begins, ask the technician to write down the price quote—perhaps on a service call ticket.
  • If the estimate seems too high, and you can get along without your appliance for a few days, ask the technician how long the estimate is good for and whether coming back will incur an additional travel charge. Many companies will give you a few days to think about a repair and not charge for travel a second time.
  • If you decide to shop around, get the technician to write out an itemized estimate.
  • Use the estimate to call a few other repair services for price quotes. To check on the fairness of parts prices, call a local parts distributor. The repair service’s prices for parts should not be much higher than what you’d pay if you bought direct.
  • Avoid letting the technician take your appliance away. Nearly all repairs can be made in the home, and by retaining the appliance you retain your leverage.
  • Ask about any warranties on parts and labor.
  • If you go ahead with the repair, ask to keep, or at least see, any replaced parts. You have a right to them.
  • Ask the technician to explain what he or she will be doing. Observe the process, but don’t tie up the technician in needless chitchat. You could be charged for the time you waste.
  • Obtain an itemized invoice before you pay. The invoice should include:
  • Name, address, and phone number of repair service;
  • Your name and address;
  • Description of appliance repaired, including make and model;
  • Date of service;
  • Itemized charges, including labor and description and prices for each part (including used parts, if installed);
  • Name of technician; and
  • Any warranty on parts, labor, or both.
  • If you can, pay by credit card. If there is a problem, you can dispute the transaction with your credit card issuer.