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Joined: Mar 2007
Posts: 49
ausador Offline OP
I'd like to hear from the members some of thier memorable service horrors.

We have all had them, the homeowner who has remomoved both three way switches and the fixture before you got there. When you look up and see 15 conductors sticking out of the ceiling lighting box and both wall switch boxes with 4-9 conductors pokeing out and wonder just how long it will now take to ring them all out and put them back together.....Replaceing the idiot DIY efforts of people who seem intelligent enough to have known better....

Anyway...I will start with one of my favorites...

The year was 1983 and I was a lowly and semi-trained apprentice working in St. Petersburg Fla. Now in those days apprentices were used for two very important activities in florida, these were commonly referred to as DITCH DIGGING and ATTIC CRAWLING. As anyone who has lived in florida knows attic temperatures can easily hit above 140 fahrenheit. Therefore prolonged "attic crawling" pursuits usually lead to complete and utter saturation of one's clothing due to the phenomenon known locally as "sweating". Also because of the local inhabitants fondness for massive amounts of insulation to be present in said attics, (usually reffered to as blown insulation), one would end up literally swimming and or pushing his way through massive piles of this insulating material.

Normally this might not be a problem of any consequence, but when one is soaking wet the insulating materials show an obstinate proclivity to stick to ones face/hair/clothing/shoes and any other parts that I have forgetten to mention. The end affect is that when you finally leave the hellish confines of the said "attic" you tend to resemble a wookie that has seen Darth Vader from too closely and turned prematurely grey as a result.

Anyway enough background, you have the idea....

My trusty journeyman and I have an install job for four ceiling fans, we know this will be a new install and therefore stock up with lots of romex and fan support boxes before leaveing the shop. (note that we only sold the 52 pound cast iron pigs also known as hunter fans in those days so that ceiling fan support boxes or cribbing a support between the joists was mandatory and not optional.)

We arrive at the job site, the customer is on-site and smiling that we have arrived on time....all seems fine. Then the horror descends, all four fans are to be installed in a "great room" with a cathedral ceiling.......

An investigation of the attic shows that this is indeed "possible" since the scissor trusses have an approximatly 12" gap at thier peak. The entire space is completely filled with blown celluose insulation.... (shudder)

My trusty journeyman has no problem thrusting me into this hellish constricted excuse for an attic where the sun is now beating full force on the black shingle roof inches above my back. I compliantly drag cable from box location to box location as my trusty journeyman cuts them in from beneath. On my third backwards claustrophobic trip back to the attic access I imagine fleeing to the hugh backyard pool and immerseing myself....I imagine myself as a aardvark...I am starting to hallucinate from the heat exhaustion.

Finally all four boxes are set and wired now I only have to tie all four cables to the switch legs from the cable I have helped fish....the end is in sight. Alas, I giddy from the heat and everything seems to take twice as long as it coordination is shot. I perch in the attic above the entryway trying to make up this last box, my head swimming, wondering if I pass out what will occur. Will my trusty journeyman actually come get me or will my dessicated bones grace this houses entry forevermore?

The sweat drips off my chin in a steady rivulet, my clothes are soaked to the point that water is dripping from my jeans onto the drywall below me. There is a growing puddle beneath me on the top of the drywall but my only concern is to make up this last box with the light and fan leg seperate and then to escape this hell. At last I blank off the box and woozily make my way to the attic access.

Outside the garage hose is wonderful relief as I hose myself down from head to foot and my fevered brain begins to cool. My trusty Journeyman collects a check and wants to go on to the next call....I am sick out the window of the van....."no more today" I tell him.

That night at home the phone rings....It is my employer wanting to know "what did I do to the customers ceiling?". Since I have no idea what he is talking about and since I am still goofy from heat stroke I flippantly tell him to take to aspirins and call me in the morning and then hang-up.

To make a long story short (well...errr shorter anyway) My sweat puddle had actually stained the ceiling of the customers cost us $900.00 to have the entry hall and ceiling repainted....ouch.

Joined: Oct 2006
Posts: 745
Wow, that's a much better story than mine. The company I used to work for did a LOT of attic fans, so I have surely endured the hell that you have described more times than I can remember.

My most memorable service call was when I replaced a 60 amp lighting main breaker for a gentleman who didn't speak English very well. Our company charged $21.60 for this breaker; a little bit high at the time, but they were paying for the convenience. That, on top of the service call added up to less than $100.00. The "gentleman" refused to pay, so I went to the truck and radioed to the shop. My boss instructed me to go back and remove our breaker, reinstall his and get out. Not so.

When I attempted to re-enter the garage, he came after me with a baseball bat, cursing me and threatening to kill me if I entered his property. I explained what I was going to do and he chased me out into the yard with the bat, knocked me down and hit me with it several times. He then banged several large dents into the side of my van, then went back in the house. Again, I mustered my way to the van to call for backup, only to be told to leave the premises, which I did.

I drove down the street and parked, just trying to regain myself and make a phone call. No sooner did I do this than the radio chimed. It was the office calling to tell me that they worked things out with the customer on the phone and that he said he would pay and that I could come back to pick up a check. I did so, with the escort of a police officer. He was arrested and charged with assault and battery plus destruction of property. I never got the check. I don't know whatever happened to the customer either.


"But the guy at Home Depot said it would work."
Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 806
Mine's a good start with, for those who didn't know, my primary trade is in cinema service..projectors, sound systems, etc. although I have worked as an electrician for about 5-7 years total.

A particular drive-in theatre (remember those?) in Riverside County was home to some of the the most bizarre equipment and the most horrible projectionist. This projectionist was an old-school ham radio guy, which of course meant that he knew everything about everything. smile

Two horror stories of repairs stand out:

First was the sound system. Five screens, all with the old "speaker on a pole" setup. The radio craze for drive-ins hadn't peaked yet (and the early systems were all AM, a great idea around lots of arc lamps and spark-producing equipment.) This theater had some very unique (and robust, if treated properly) audio amplifiers. Those amps had integrated circuit pre-amps, transistor drivers, and tubes (!) for the output stage. Each weighed in at 45lbs. and was rated for 300 watts of audio power out mono. (My tests revealed that output rating was conservative. I got over 450 watts at 1khz into 4 ohms. Burned up my dummy loads in the process.) Each screen had three of these amps.

The only real problem with them was they needed fresh tubes to work properly. If you let the tubes go bad, the magic smoke would be released from a strange part referred to as the "scorch guard" which was proprietary to that amp's maker and hard to get.

Well ham boy never threw anything away, and I would get frequent calls to come fix a bad amp. The problem was always the tubes, and they NEVER bought new ones. So we kept rotating the old ones around, randomly stumbling onto a set that would allow the amp to sort-of work for a few weeks or days.

Finally my boss ordered me to pull all the bad amps (five of them) and bring them to the shop for repair. I managed to fix four of them (one had a shorted output transformer and went up in flames during testing.) I called the theatre and told them to go to Radio Shack and order sixteen new tubes for the four I had fixed, and to call me when the tubes came in, then I would re-install the amps. I got the call a few days later, grilled the projectionist to make sure the new tubes were there..yes they were he said.

I go there, lugged those monsters up the stairs into the booth, wired them back in and asked where the tubes were. He said "let's just go over to the cabinet..." Groan. Out comes the used tubes again. No new ones. I called my boss and told him the warranty was now void on the repairs. Anyone care to guess what happened to the four amps I repaired?

The other horror story is something y'all can relate better to: each projector console had a self-contained subpanel for the motor, lamp, etc. and was fed with a 2p 50amp breaker from the booth panel. Our service contract covered those breakers in the booth panel as well as the subpanel.

Got a call that the breaker to the #3 machine was bad, and that our intrepid projectionist tried to fix it...he got the power back up, but had an issue he needed me to look at.

I get to the booth to find the booth panel deadfront off, and battery jumper cables!!! hanging out of the panel. I noticed that the projector in question was running o.k., so I asked what the problem was..other than the obvious deathtrap hanging from that panel.

Seems that ham boy had hooked up the jumper cables and got things going ok earlier, but had trapped the cables behind the deadfront leaning on the wall in front of him. So he unclamps the cable from the live bus to move them, and the cables pull the deadfront forward to slam into his knees. His reaction jams the cable clamps into the live bus, shorting them and burning the bus so badly the breaker can't be replaced (GE bolt-ons.) I still can't figure how he got those clamps to stay on the bus.

I told him to call an electrician to replace the panel, and told my boss to void their service contract before we got sued. smile

I'll add a few more gems to this thread later...

Stupid should be painful.
Joined: May 2006
Posts: 29
Junior Member
Well, its hard to pick just one or "favorite".

Joined: May 2006
Posts: 29
Junior Member
Ill try. I too may post some more later.

I sent an apprentice inot an "attic". BUT ! didnt check his entry in to the closet trap door. He later dragged down enough blown in insulation to blanket my customers wardrobe which hadnt been removed before leaning his ladder into the closet.

Only cost me $150 US. For "dry cleaning". Im glad the HO's wife wasnt home.

Joined: May 2006
Posts: 29
Junior Member
Then there was the time my right leg was plugging down thru a kitchen ceiling.

The builder had installed some walking boards in that attic above for remodel. Well he hadnt nailed them down. I
stepped on one and the next thing I knew/felt was a lot of pain in my right thigh. While my leg dangled below the ceiling below.

Didnt cost me a dime. Builder was apoligetic and embarrased. But that knot and bruise on my leg lasted three months.

I knew better, i should heve walked the joist like I had for over thirty years.

Joined: May 2006
Posts: 29
Junior Member
Sorry guys but here comes another.

I arrive at a lady's home in the dead of winter. Her furnace is not working. As I enter the basement I find a "gas company" service IDIOT who has totally pooched the wiring OEM style of the unit.

This idiot walks over to the load center and "wiggles" a breaker and then looks at the HO and declares it an "electrician/ground" problem {how many times do we hear that one}

Then this moron walks off the job.

Out of concern and curtosy I call the Utility and have to fight the supervisor to send back some real serviceman to fix what the said idiot did.

He yells at me and says its an electrcal problem and says "YOU FIX IT!.

I call a local HVAC contrator I trust and he comes over and rewires the OEM back to spec.

I didnt make a dime. Why? No it wasnt reversed polarity. It wasnt the" bad ground".

It was the perception of the HO that the electrician was the problem when I hadnt even done any work. I verified the circuit and polarity but the damn unit was butchered by the gas utility.

Of all the single most sayings to haunt an electrician and more used by morons and idiots its got to be:

Its not grounded properly, or its got a bad ground.


Joined: May 2006
Posts: 29
Junior Member
This one is kind of funny.

We did a service upgrade for an elderly couple of WW11 generation.

I get the call from the irate HO. I go over and ask what the problem is. He chides me that a light in the upstairs hallway is "NOT WORKING" then he points to the new service and says"WELL IT WORKED BEFORE" you built that box.

I sent a man up top and he changed the lamp in the fixture and everything was well with the world.

Just had to laugh.

That was easy. Customer service can be/is a bitch.

Last edited by Gmack; 12/10/07 08:52 PM.
Joined: May 2006
Posts: 29
Junior Member
OK, Im not making this up.

I did alot of work for the "City" for awhile. I get a call to the Library and there is some concern about "voltage".

The E Inspector is present and mentions boosting the Xfrmr.

After a pause the Librarian says" Cant you just lift/prop it up some with boards.

I know, a bit off topic, no horrors but.

Joined: May 2006
Posts: 29
Junior Member

Another service upgrade residential.

Sometime after I get another angry call. The man of the house is screaming in the back ground . " I paid X dollars for the damn thing and I got no service.

Well I drive over and he is in the kitchen melting down. I talk to the wife and go below and do some instrument reading.

Turns out my job install is good. I examine the Utilty Xfrmr on the pole. It has a nice lighting blast thru its case. Yeah, the hood is without power too.

You can do perfect work and or be the best but you will still have to defend it against something.

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