Three years ago Frank and Donna Siene’s son, Tony, surprised his parents with a spiffy new in-ground swimming pool for their 27th wedding anniversary.
Thanks to Tony, the Sienes’ old pool, which had not been usable for more than 30 years, was reincarnated with all-new plumbing, a stylish vinyl liner, plus a new pump, filter and safety cover. Tony figured the $8,000 he borrowed to finance the pool was money well spent if his retired parents were able to escape the heat with a relaxing swim in their Swoyersville back yard.
That is not what happened, however. Instead, the Sienes have been drowning in problems with the pool ever since it was installed by JD Custom Pools in August 2012.
The Sienes hadn’t made a single splash when they noticed the pool was losing water after a day or two. They called JD Custom Pools, who came over and found two holes in the liner. They also drained the pool, patched the holes, and filled it back up. A day or two later, the Sienes noticed the pool was again losing water. This time Frank topped it off with the garden hose. When the water level sank again, he’d top it off again. And again and again. When Frank tried but couldn’t reach anyone at JD Custom Pools, he hired another company in September to close down the pool for the season, figuring he would address the leakage the following spring.
When Frank reopened the pool in May 2014, the water level had dropped even lower. He says he called JD Custom Pools repeatedly and never got a return call, so at the end of the summer, he again had the other company close the pool for the season.
When the Sienes opened the pool in May of this year, its condition was worse than ever. “The liner was wrinkled by the steps because air had gotten under the liner,” said Frank. “The pool was losing water, and now the liner had faded.”
JD Custom Pools made a house call and advised Frank that the $3,000 liner was covered by a warranty and he should contact the supplier, Pocono Pools. Manager Tim Harrison admitted the liner must be defective and agreed to replace it at no cost to the Sienes. But what about installation? Remember, there had been wrinkles in the liner, and air had gotten underneath. The Sienes had already spent an extra $300 on water and $130 on chemicals when the pool had been drained and refilled. The Sienes’ contract had been with JD Custom Pools. Would they do the installation at no cost?
No way, said Anna Dunn, who co-owns JD Custom Pools with her husband, Jeff. They would, however, install the new liner for only $500 instead of the usual $1,200.
“I don’t think I should have to pay,” Frank told me. “I only want what I paid for. JD Custom Pools should install it for free because they’re the ones we contracted with.”
I called Anna Dunn and pointed out that it wasn’t the customers’ fault that the liner is defective. After all, the Sienes paid JD Custom Pools for both labor and materials.
“We did not make the liner,” she told me. “If we made the liner, and it was defective, I would do it as a courtesy at no charge, but I got it off the manufacturer.”
“Shouldn’t you do the installation at no charge and then take it up with your supplier?” I asked.
“It’s not work that we did,” Dunn snapped, and hung up. After a little while I called back and left her a voice mail, asking her to sleep on it.
Dunn called me the next day, sounding calm and well rested.
“There was nothing wrong with the installation, but we are going to do the liner installation at no charge,” she said.
I asked, why the change of heart?
“We take care of our customers the best that we can,” she replied. “Mr. Siene was not getting any satisfaction. We aim to please our customers.”
Running a small business is tough these days, and it’s not always easy to do the right thing, but that is what Anna Dunn did. Thank you, Mrs. Dunn. Keep up the good work, and remember that sometimes all we need is a good night’s sleep.
Christine Young is the Times Leader’s Consumer Watchdog. She can be reached at ConsumerWatchdog@timesleader.com. Her column appears weekly.