February 11, 2006 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver
Dietz-Crane builds homes all across America. They are part of the D.R. Horton family of construction firms, and describe themselves with these words: Pride, Care and Craftsmanship go into every home we build. Come meet the builder other builders talk about. Business is good for Dietz-Crane, and for D.R. Horton, very good. Unfortunately, what is good for them — a home construction universe on steroids — may not be especially good for some of their customers.
In June of 2003, Andy Tang and his wife moved into a very attractive Dietz-Crane home in the Rancho El Mirage subdivision, near Phoenix, Arizona. “Our house came with a new Whirlpool fridge which had been installed sometime before we moved in,” Andy Tang stated in an e-mail. “The freezer could not make ice, and the rest of the fridge was lukewarm. After going through all the troubleshooting steps in the manual, I called Dietz-Crane customer service, and instead of immediately just exchanging this obviously defective refrigerator, I was told to deal with Whirlpool,” Andy wrote. “Remember, this is June, Phoenix, and we were looking at daily temperatures well over 100. I also had a fridge full of food that would go bad,” he added.
Construction crews were still in Andy’s neighborhood, working on other houses, so it would be logical and most customers would expect that, once notified of the problem, the nice folks at Diet-Crane would simply swap refrigerators. That, of course, would immediately solve the problem, but Andy didn’t know that common sense and problem solving just seemed too complicated a notion for “America’s Home Builder.”
“I pleaded with the customer service people to please just exchange this broken fridge! It was unbelievable, they were building other houses down the block, installing appliances, and someone could easily have just brought me a new refrigerator, but they refused! While they were generally polite, I had a tough time understanding how any responsible home builder could sell a customer a new home and not immediately swap out a new but defective refrigerator for one that worked — I mean, let’s get serious here, I as the customer had just paid them a small fortune for a new house that should have had a functioning refrigerator, not a broken one. I did not know it at that time, but was in for more surprises with Dietz-Crane and Whirlpool,” Andy told me during one of our many phone conversations.
2 Years and 5 Repair Attempts Later…
Over the next two years – from June 2003 to June of 2005 — Andy Tang lost two refrigerators full of food and put up with 5 repair attempts by Whirlpool service technicians. “It gave new meaning to the words incompetent service,” he told me. Even after being told by both Whirlpool and Dietz-Crane employees that his fridge should have been replaced, it seemed that was not to be. One technician told him there was a slow Freon leak and the fridge needed to be replaced, but neither Whirlpool nor Diet-Crane did what common sense called for. Not until Andy was put in touch with this column on June 13, 2005.
Nice Doesn’t Mean Action
I immediately contacted both Dietz-Crane and D.R. Horton management in Arizona and Texas, asking these questions of everyone I spoke with: “What is your policy concerning immediate replacement of a customer’s defective refrigerator? Why was Andy put through two years of nonsense?”
Everyone I spoke with was polite, friendly, assured me that I would be called back immediately, but that seldom happened. In fact, they were sooooo nice, and I concluded that is their way of dealing with complaints; be nice, but that’s about all, if Andy’s situation was typical case.
One of their Customer Service Coordinators — Bill Miller, who works the same development where Andy lives, stated, “I can’t believe this! I will call you back in 24 hours. He should have had a new refrigerator.” I never did hear from him again, despite being repeatedly told, “We will radio him at once and he will call you right back.”
Want To Buy A Home – You Can’t Sue Us!
One of the more disturbing things I learned from Andy was a form that Diet-Crane salespeople made him sign. “It said I am waiving my right to sue for breach of contract or other defects with the house,” he told me. “It was sign that form or we will sell your house to someone else, leaving no choice as we wanted the house. While I do not think it is legal, and have heard of other builders sued even with the same kind of language in their contracts, it seems to be high pressure and not very ethical,” Andy Tang concluded.
Is Dietz-Crane any worse than other home builders? It’s difficult to say, but if they have behaved this way where it’s only a refrigerator, I have to wonder what it would be like with much more severe construction problems. In fact, Andy did have another problem — a water shut-off value that was stuck in the open position, making it impossible to turn off the main water source to his house. “We will get right back to you on,” he was told. It never was to be, and Andy repaired it himself.
The last time I heard from him was on Wednesday, June 29th, 2005. “Thanks for your help, because they just delivered and installed my new refrigerator!”
It is no doubt true, just like their advertising, “D.R. Horton is the builder that other builders talk about.” I just wonder what they are saying…
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.