Americans Beware: American Home Shield is a Rip-off

Reading this could save you considerable money and even more aggravation.

It all started with a mailing from my home mortgage company. Inside was an extensive invitation for me to sign up with American Home Shield. It grabbed my attention. After all, it sounded so sensible. For a monthly fee of $39 I would have the ability to call for service whenever virtually any home appliance or equipment – from plumbing to a furnace to a refrigerator and more – was not working. I would have to pay $55 for the service call, but then I would be entitled for whatever repair was necessary or – and this is the real enticement – actual replacement of the equipment if it could not be repaired.

This company’s home warranty type product almost sounds too good to be true. And you know what that means. They promise fast and expert service. After all, we know how difficult it can be to get a first-rate repair person that you can trust. And here was a well established national company offering a service that my own mortgage company was urging me to buy.

Being somewhat cynical about the business world I decided to do some research on the Internet. I learned some interesting things about this company. It has been in business since 1971. It boasts that it serves 1.2 million homes today and handles 3 million service calls per year. A major part of its business is selling home warranties to purchasers of homes.

Clearly, it must pay mortgage companies for new customers obtained through the kind of marketing pitch I received. I also discovered that AHS has ties to the National Association of Realtors. Any member of NAR can obtain a $50 savings certificate for use at certain companies owned by ServiceMaster, the parent company of AHS. And if a NAR member sells a AHS warranty to a home buyer client, on the agent’s behalf AHS provides the buyer with a $50 ServiceMaster savings certificate.

After learning about the company I then spent time on websites reading what AHS customers had to say. Wow! I have never read so many consistently negative comments about a company. From all parts of the country people unloaded their anger and pain. What I read from actual customers was in total disagreement with all the sales rhetoric in their marketing materials.

After reading many customer complaints I saw a clear pattern of lies and abuses that I summarize for you – in the hope that, like me, you will not get burned by this unscrupulous company and waste substantial money and, worse, suffer greatly.

The marketing pitch that I am sure draws customers in is that AHS replaces appliances or equipment that have failed due to “normal wear and tear.” But this is probably the biggest con job. Customer after customer has discovered that AHS or its service representatives can find a million and one excuses for not replacing what no longer functions. In many cases they blame the homeowner for doing or not doing something and, therefore, say the homeowner has the responsibility for replacement, not AHS. Mind you, this decision from AHS can take time – long after the home owner is in desperate need for replacing some critical part of their home – like a heating system in the dead of winter. AHS customers meet nothing but the ugliest bureaucratic games when they attempt to get from AHS what they think they have paid for in their monthly and service call fees.

Perhaps the most depressing customer outpourings I read were from people who found themselves in need of immediate, emergency service for something that had broken down, but upon calling AHS for help obtained nothing but disappointment. Time after time, AHS customers reported that either no service person showed up or that they waited a long time – meanwhile suffering not just inconvenience, but in many cases situations imposing real threats to the health of home occupants.

Another big generic category of AHS failure was that customers discovered that the service person that came to their homes was totally unqualified and ineffective. It seems that AHS uses no genuine certification criteria for who they enroll as service agents. Customers have routinely found that the service person was unable or unwilling to make repairs, made repairs that did not work, or were completely dumbfounded by the nature of the broken appliance or equipment.

Here are some very representative comments from unhappy AHS customers:

Jeffrey in Texas wrote how he paid for two repairs on a clogged water line and that neither worked. Then the company would not repair his broken air conditioning system because some repair had been made on it by a previous homeowner. “It is extremely hot (82 degrees inside tonight) in our house and still cannot get AHS to move and fix anything. I am afraid that if I have it fixed, then they will never reimburse me. I am looking for either AHS to fix the A/C, or I want the $110 reimbursed for the 2 improper repairs and the rest of my warranty reimbursed,” said Jeffrey.

From Carolyn in California: “I’ve phoned AHS five times for the same repair of refrigerator since 2003. AHS only uses two repair companies. One of them is never prepared to repair anything! He does not show up, twice it took him over three weeks to show up and he still did not have the right part! Not only does he not show up , but lies about setting appointments. The customer service operator at AHS is ill informed, rude, and simply gives you a run around. I hope to take them to Court if they continue to give me the run around. I have paid them consistently and they do not live up to their contract, they look for ways to get out of doing any work for you.”

Jonel from Arizona noted: “My 10-year-old Hotpoint dryer stopped running on a Monday night. On Tuesday morning, I made a claim to American Home Shield (AHS) and they didn’t get a service person out until 8 days later. During this time, I was on the phone nearly every day, inquiring about when a service person would be out, and every time the AHS rep said that they had contacted the service providing company and that they couldn’t do anything for me if the company wasn’t responding fast enough. When the service person finally arrived, he looked at the appliance and reported that the motor was burnt out. I asked him what the next step was, and he said he would give AHS a call when he could get around to it. He also mentioned that it could take him 10 business days to get the part (which he also noted was located in Texas, two states over).My family will cancel our service plan with American Home Shield as soon as our contract is up. It’s not worth paying $40+ dollars a month, plus service charges, to a company who deals with slow and/or incompetent service providers then looks for ways to get out of covering appliances. This entire experience has been extremely disappointing.”

Robert in Pennsylvania had a terrible experience with a plumber sent out by AHS. He thought the plumber was a “shyster, a con man” that he replaced with a plumber he found, and heconcluded that “AHS is running a giant scam.”

Deborah in Arkansas summed up her experience: “The company is terrible and took 5 weeks to send someone to fix our stove. The stove was never fixed and so we tried to cancel. Their cancellation department can only be reached by fax or mail and they can take up to 30 days. During that 30 days, they keep deducting money from our account. I called the bank and they can’t do anything and I called the company. They just repeated the same thing. ‘It can take up to 30 days to stop the automatic payment deduction.’ This is a rip-off!”

Marjorie in Georgia related this December surprise: “Apparently, AHS is continuing its tactics of not providing service. We’ve been in our home three weeks. The furnace is not working. It is Friday evening. The earliest they can arrange for someone to call me to arrange a service call is Monday. Their position is that the contract provides for service calls only during business hours.

I am going to have to pay for the furnace repair myself. They have said they will not reimburse me for the work and will not make any attempts to get anyone here before sometime next week. In the meantime, I am living in a house without heat.”

Listen to Amy from Wisconsin: “I called to report that our furnace went out and that the heat was not working. Finally, the service agent came, we paid the $60 service call fee and he told us the board was out on the furnace. He said he’d have to order it and would get back to us. Never got back to us. We finally called them, they came back out and the guy had ordered the wrong part. So, ANOTHER four days passed and they didn’t call us back. Again we called them and they stated they’d be out between 1pm – 4pm. NEVER came, never called. Called them this past Friday and they apologized but couldn’t get out until Monday. NO HEAT IN WISCONSIN IN MIDDLE OF OCTOBER – NOT GOOD.”

Alexander in New York summed up his experience: “During the time I had the warranty with AHS their first answer to all problems is ‘not covered.’ It takes months to get AHS service.”

Get the picture? AHS is a totally unreliable company that somehow has managed to stay in business and make tons of money at the considerable financial and emotional expense of millions of Americans. They are aided in this awful scheme by mortgage companies and real estate agents. Now you know.

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