When I turned on my bathroom lights that day, they were flickering. I was a bit concerned, but decided to keep that fixture turned off. Later that day, when I returned home, I needed to turn on more lights, and they were flickering in half of my house. I called Duquesne Light to see if that was an emergency, and the lady who answered the phone didn't have a clue. After that, I walked down to my circuit breaker box and opened the door. I heard crackling, and became really worried. I went to the phone book and unfortunately the twenty-four hour electrician who answered my call was Waldron Electric Heating and Cooling. They came out at 7:15 that night. Prior to coming, they told me on the phone it would cost $95.00 to walk in the door, and there would be a diagnostic fee to find the problem. When they came out, they told me the fee was $648.00. I thought that was high, but it was the night before New Year's Eve, and I was scared. I paid by debit card. Once he went down to my box, he called me downstairs and said, ?Ma'am, your box is on fire.? I ran downstairs, and clearly saw sparks inside of my breaker box. He told me that half of my box had burned, and that the main circuit breaker was also burned and needed to be replaced. He also said I needed to have the outside rewired and all of the lines replaced from the pole down into my house, including a new meter. He said I was lucky my house hadn't burned down, and he said he was surprised it actually hadn't. He really scared me.
When he told me the cost, I almost passed out. For a 150 amp box, the cost was $8165.00. With the ?better? surge protector he added another $995.00. Then there was the $507 for the emergency work permit from the City of Pittsburgh. He told me it was that expensive because someone had to come in and get the fax in order to issue the permit. The total of all of this was $10,410. Because he was such a ?nice guy? he gave me a 200 amp box for the price of the 150 amp.
Prior to getting the prices, I asked my neighbor to come over, because I didn't understand anything about the circuit breaker boxes. Unfortunately I didn't check with him again when I learned the prices.
Before beginning the work, the man from the company, named T, explained all of the charges, and had me sign many items agreeing to the charges, and agreeing not to cancel even though I have that right legally in the State of PA. I had no choice but to put these things on a credit card. He wouldn't accept a check. Two men worked from 8 that night until 3 the next morning to complete the work.
On Tuesday, January 2, I called Erie Insurance to see if this was covered by my insurance. They took down the information, and said they would have an adjuster call me. When I received that call, I realized I had a really big problem. That man asked who did the work, and when I said Waldron, he said, ?Oh no. I was hoping you wouldn't say that name. They charged a family in the North Hills $17,000 to do a job that cost $4000. They are really bad news.? He said he would have the electrician who works for Erie call me.
When that electrician called, and I explained to him what had happened, he told me to call Pittsburgh to see if an emergency electrical permit had been issued. I called on January 3, and the woman who answered said a fax had been sent over the weekend, but nothing had been done about it as of that date. The cost of that permit, which was issued January 3 was $44.00. I had paid $507.00.
Later that day, I called the PA Attorney General's Office. When I said I had a problem with an electrical contractor over the weekend, THEY SAID, ?Mr. Waldron????? They said they have a Mr. Waldron expert on staff. When I spoke with her, Ms Westfall, she gave me a lot of information. Her agency has already filed a suit against this man. Although they won a monetary judgment, it had never been paid, because Mr. Waldron just closed that company and opened up under another name. She suggested I take this to a magistrate, but warned that if I win there, he will appeal the decision, and drag it through the courts. The real problem is that Pennsylvania has no laws against price gouging. He can legally charge whatever he wants to. She also told me Channel 11 has already done a report on this man. When I told her how stupid I felt, because I think I'm a fairly savvy consumer, she told me that an attorney who works for the State Attorney General's Office was also taken by this man. He seems to prey on women.
I phoned my state Senator, Jay Costa and my representative, Dan Frankel. Mr. Frankel's clerk called me back to tell me that on December 30 2006 an anti-price gouging law did go into effect, but it's only in the case of a legally declared natural disaster. They said the State Attorney General's Office would advise me if I decided to take the claim to Small Claims Court.
I phoned Channel Four, and their consumer reporter told me he had a story all ready to air on Mr. Waldron, but their attorneys wouldn't permit them to air it. They said he does business under several names. When I looked him up at the Better Business Bureau web site, I found he does business under eleven different phone numbers. They also told me Mr. Waldron has no assets. All of his money is in his wife's name. I will send you that report in a separate email.
The electrician from Erie Insurance came out of January 4. I showed him a part that was left in my basement and asked him what it was. He said it was a surge protector that is hard-wired into the breaker box. He said it's possible it's a better one than the one that is installed, which I paid $995.00 for. He will get back to me with that information. While he was at my house, he phoned his supplier to find out the cost of the surge protector that was installed in my box. His cost was $45.00. He told me that when he gets those by the dozen the cost is about $5.00 apiece. He found some of the work may possibly have a problem, and suggested that I wait until the City Electrical Inspector comes out to get his assessment. He did tell me though that even at emergency rates on a Saturday night, the total cost of the job should have been around $2500.00.
My credit card company refuses to stop the payment unless I can get someone to state on letterhead paper that the work was unnecessary, or that I was charged for work that was not performed. The electrician from the insurance company said he could only say that if he had pictures, or the old breaker box. My Waldron insisted on taking his own pictures because he said he would fight my insurance company for me. He also took all of the breakers and the old box with him. That means I have no evidence, and it's just his word saying that half of the breakers were burnt.
The electrician from Erie Insurance told me he could have done something in the box that created the sparks I saw. From my description, it sounded to him that I may have needed just one new circuit breaker. Even if that wasn't the case, he could have definitely done some repair that would have made the box safe until January 2 when a regular electrician could have fixed it at a nominal cost.
Today I phoned Channel 2 to see if they would do a story on this man. I'll let you know what they say. I also phoned my City Councilman, Doug Shields to see if there is a way the City can cancel his permit to work in the City of Pittsburgh.
After getting legal advice, I sent Mr. Waldron a letter canceling the contract, even though I had signed away my right to do that. When he received the letter, Mr. Waldron phoned me and asked why I would want to do that. When I told him about the price gouging, he insisted that those were normal rates. I told him about the surge protector he left in my basement, and he said he would be by to pick that up. I said, I would never let him back into my house. He said he would bill me. I told him I would never give him one penny more than I have already paid him, and he said he would take me to the Magistrate. I told him I'd take him there first.
I now know that Duquesne Light would have done the work that night if I had requested it. I also know that Erie Insurance, and probably your insurance company too has peopled you can call. You can contact your company's emergency number 24/7.
Please pass my story on. Don't let this happen to any of your friends.