Service Tech or Sales Consultant?

The life example from Charlie Greer, author of “Is Service Technician a Sales Job? Good Question” [April 9], provides a great example for every service technician on how to work with customers. Using a nonthreatening voice and sharing one’s wealth of experience can help customers make wiser, better informed decisions about the long-term care and maintenance of their equipment.

Charlie’s experience tells us (the readers) that recommending solutions to customers works better than high-pressure tactics. Ultimately, we are just trying to help customers make their own decisions.

Thanks for enlightening us with this article. These skills are the skills that people tend to forget. What great insight!

Chris Hsieh

The Trane Company

La Crosse, WI

Be Careful What You Wish For

Regarding the May 14 issue’s article “Take a Look at the Overlooked to Improve Efficiency”: Mr. Karpen states that certain types of equipment should be banned by the Department of Energy. In an industry that is being regulated heavily more and more every day, we should be very careful about things we say should be banned or regulated or we might wake up with our expectations exceeded one morning. Our industry is advancing very quickly due to capitalism. We really don’t need government regulations jamming things up.

Mike Robinson Dallas, TX

The Search for Qualified Employees

I had to respond after reading John Hall’s May 7 article on worker shortage [“Clarifying the Worker Shortage Message”]. I have been trying to hire two service technicians and two to three entry-level helpers. I would be happy with one experienced service tech and one entry-level service tech who has graduated from an hvac training course from either a local college or trade school.

The problem we have is not in finding applicants, but in finding applicants who can pass a drug test and have an acceptable driving record. Ninety-eight percent of applicants when asked if they can pass a pre-employment drug test and physical say, “Sorry, never mind.” And as for those left, when our insurance company checks DMV records, it calls back with “not acceptable,” or “just barely has driver’s license.”

How can someone go to school for hvac, knowing that they will need to drive from jobsite to jobsite all day, expect to find a job when they either have a terrible driving record or lost their license from too many tickets or DUIs. The caliber and mindset of those people is very frustrating for an employer. We offer excellent pay and benefits along with continued training and education.

It would be very interesting to find out how many companies require drug screening and check driving records. After all, the employee will be representing the company, hopefully in a professional manner, including driving company service vehicles down the road. Most hvac companies around here say that if they had a drug test requirement, they would have no employees left, as none of them could pass. What a shame that so many companies and employees miss out on opportunities just for the sake of doing illegal and dangerous drugs.

Dwayne Zysek


A&S Unlimited Heating & Cooling

Rochester Hills, MI

An Interesting Little Story

A few years back, I met Rick Caldevilla, who owns Caldeco Mechanical Services in Tampa. He and the then local Carrier guy spent a day with me. The longtime Carrier dealer in the area had gone broke, and I tried to get them to think about opening a branch down here. Rick really impressed me and had all the ingredients that I like in our business. He has been very successful and while he has yet to open a place here, they have done our service and I have a number of neighbors who have them doing their service also. A new neighbor who just bought her house in December asked me who she might call for her a/c service, and Caldeco was my suggestion.

The schedule was set for this morning. I just walked over and asked her how things had gone. She just praised the person who was finishing up. At that point, the service person walked into the lanai and Marge said, “This is Annette.” Reaction by me — shock. She was well groomed, in her uniform, and I shook her hand and told her that I had been with Carrier for many years in Cleveland. My question as to how long she had been doing service brought forth the answer — over three years, and over one year with Rick. She was articulate, bright as could be, and radiated confidence. As I walked back home, I thought to myself that she reminded me of a gal that we had at RSC for many years. For you see, Annette, besides being a female, is also African-American.

I called Rick and asked him how he had come to hire her. He replied, “I had to give it a try, and it has worked.”

Thought you might be interested in this little story, with major implications to the changing world and our business. I wonder if I would have had the guts? But Rick did and it looks like it is working.

Thom Muir

Retired President

RSC-Cleveland, OH

Sun City Center, FL

Taking it One Step at a Time

This is in response to the letter from a job seeker in Columbus, OH, in the May 7, 2001 edition [“Finding a Job in Hvacr”].

You have to crawl before you can run. I have interviewed many applicants this year and have only found two that I considered serious contenders for employment — one being more of a good trainee than “a tech.” Keep on trying; persistence will pay off.

Pete Dahill

Cincinnati, OH

Experience Is the Best Teacher

In response of the Feedback letter from Sarah W. in the May 7 issue, I detect that poor Sarah is after the money and not the experience. I too was top of my class with good attendance. I graduated from a high school that was a trade school, packed with knowledge and light on experience. I went looking for my place in our trade. I soon found that nobody walks into a high-paying spot. Book knowledge alone does not make anyone a good service tech!

Yes, you start off as a helper — you now have to learn to put your book knowledge to work. Your work ethic and experience are what qualifies you to ask for better compensation down the road.

So, Sarah, roll up your sleeves; your hard work will pay off in good time! Our industry needs men and women like you who have a solid beginning in theory and practical knowledge. Too many never grasp the theory part until later in their careers; by then they are so adapted to being just a parts change that they find themselves stuck at a level without chance of advancement.

Dave Singer

Senior Commercial Service Rep.

Carrier Great Lakes

Livonia, MI

Techs Wanted

I am writing to you in response to a letter in your May 7 issue, which was submitted by Sarah Wyckoff of Columbus, OH. I represent American Residential Services, Inc., a national hvac and plumbing company.

At American Residential Services, growth is not an option — it’s a mandate! We know the only way to provide continued opportunities for people is to create them through growth. Our commitment to profitable growth gives people the inspiration, motivation, and desire to do whatever it takes to ensure the customer is served with excellence. In our growing company, there are exciting opportunities for everyone who shares a vision of growth, accountability and teamwork. We pride ourselves on turning team members into team leaders.

Commitment to people develop-ment is the cornerstone of our success and a primary reason why we attract and retain the best employees. ARS offers an apprentice training program for the hvac trade, which has been accredited by the Department of Labor Apprenticeship and Training Bureau.

ARS provides a competitive compensation package, and a comprehensive benefits package including a 401(k) plan and an employee stock purchase plan.

All service centers of ARS and Rescue Rooter welcome the résumés or applications of hvac and plumbing technicians (regardless of level of experience) and offer other career opportunities as well.

We encourage your readers to submit a copy of their résumé to our People Service’s Department via e-mail at or mail it to our corporate office:

American Residential Services, Inc.

Attn: People Services

860 Ridge Lake Blvd., A3-1860

Memphis, TN 38120

John Fosbinder

Regional Manager

American Residential Services, Inc.

A ServiceMaster Company

Higher Standards for Trade Teachers

I feel I must respond to your article on air conditioning/refrigeration instructors [“The ‘Worst Hvacr Instructor’ Contest?” May 7].

First, I must agree with you that there may be instructors teaching air conditioning that are only marginally qualified. In some private schools, the top graduating student may get the call to teach in that school after he/she graduates from the program. (This practice is also done in our universities by having courses taught to under-graduate students by “graduate assistants.”) This practice is absolutely wrong and is part of the problem with our higher education system today.

When I got into teaching, I had to prove that I had at least 10 years’ experience, take an eight-hour written test and an eight-hour practical (hands-on) test in a local technical school. After passing those tests and if you get the job, you had to enroll at the local university and start taking courses that would lead to a bachelor’s degree in education, as well as getting your state professional certificate to teach. That is how it used to be done — but no more.

After retiring from teaching in Pennsylvania, I moved to Florida and was offered a job teaching in the local vo-tech. In Florida the certification program is a joke for teaching the trades. One only has to pass a test on general knowledge and the Florida state teachers’ test and you’re in. You don’t have to provide any trade experience at all. And now, to make it worse, if you can’t pass the two tests above, you just go to the County School Board and they will issue you a “County Teaching Certificate.”

You see, it all boils down to professionalism, integrity, and money, money, money. There is no profession-alism today with teaching our trade. To prove this, RSES would rather have a mechanic teach a course than a professional air conditioning/refrigera-tion teacher. They don’t realize that just because someone is a great mechanic, doesn’t mean they are great teachers.

I am sure I would be at the top of the worst teacher list that you put together. You see, I don’t believe in “social passing” or passing a student because his/her dad is on the school board or because the student is a nice person. In today’s educational system, it is much easier to pass a student than to have to go to your director and school board to explain why you’re not a good teacher and this student has failed. The teacher that has the integrity to do the job right may not be the most popular.

Finally the last consideration is money. This problem comes from the state, school district, and the student. The state says they want great edu-cation, then cuts the budget. The local school board wants to hire a teacher for $22K and then expect that teacher to pay for classes, security investigations, and tests that they have to take, and even their certificates to teach.

So there you have it. It looks like our system has gone to heck in a handbag and it has. We have brought it on ourselves. As for myself, after teaching for 25 years, I am working as a service manager in a large refrigeration shop and feeling sorry for the young folks today that want to learn this trade.

Paul James Arthur

Port Charlotte, FL

Publication date: 05/28/2001