Sleeping Giant Awakened

Let’s start at the beginning. Where did my apartment management go wrong?

On April 2, 2008 I walked into the management office of Poplar Place apartments in Kennesaw and requested a work order for three things.

  1. My ceiling fan was broken, as the pull chain had completely removed itself from the housing for the fan control, leaving it permanently off.
  2. My laundry closet door would not shut all the way on one side.
  3. My ice maker no longer made ice, but was not leaking water.

All three of these issues had appeared in relatively short order, with the ice maker and the closet door being particularly annoying. When it comes to little issues like these I am not particularly unpatient. I could wait. The little woman behind the desk trying desperately to ignore me so she could put some new college students into an apartment said they were “behind” but that it would get taken care of “within 72 hours.”

Then a month passed. On the last week of April I wandered back into the office and reminded them pointedly that these issues would need to be fixed, immediately. This is when their sob story was first revealed to me. Apparently, their entire maintenance staff had quit and they were hard pressed to find replacements. The interviews were not going well. In fact, they were having to pull maintenance workers from other complexes that they owned in the metro area to service mine.

Fine. Whatever. Fix the shit. I got a second work order, filed it with the first one for later reference should this continue to be a problem, and commenced waiting. Later that day my closet door was fixed and a note was left that they would be back to fix the fan and the ice maker. Within 72 hours.

By the time I returned from my trip to Denver in the second week of May, these had not been fixed. I walked back to the office again and said “Fix this, now.” I was still trying to be nice to these people; it was not like the fat and/or old women in the office were going to wander over and replace an ice maker themselves. But this was to be their last warning. They swore they’d have it fixed within 72 hours. Again.

Now, I’m not known as a patient person. I think I had been more than reasonable. More reasonable than I would ever expect myself to be. When my air conditioner broke two Saturdays ago, that was that. It was 80-90 in Georgia, I had no ceiling fan in my bedroom, no air conditioner, and no ice maker. And I fucking hate ice trays.

When the camel’s back broke in the very early A.M on Sunday morning I holed up in my office under its (functional) ceiling fan and a box fan and called the emergency maintenance number. A guy came out immediately, looked at it, and said he couldn’t fix it that night and he’d be back the next day.

I prepare to work from home so that I can ready the assault.

The next morning dawns and I call the office to make sure that, yes, someone would be coming that day. They insist that someone will be. By 2:00 no one has arrived, so I call again. They still say that the work order is out. At 3:30 I walk over to the office and I’m greeted with a hilarious sight.

They know it’s me. They know what’s wrong. Two of them had already been chewed out on the phone that morning and afternoon. When I walked into the office the complex manager did an about-face and retreated into the mail room where they hide the packages. In a few minutes they cave, and after being asked what I needed and saying Very Loudly in the room full of hopeful applicants that I wanted my two-months-outstanding maintenance issues taken care of, they assign Fat Bitch to take care of me. Fat Bitch has apparently just been hired to act as ‘resident liaison’ or some similar bullshit title, has the fakest smile in the world, and takes me to one of the private back offices to talk to me about my issues. She asks exactly what’s wrong, and I tell them yet again. I get the same ‘we have no maintenance employees of our’ spiel.

When she finishes regurgitating whatever they trained her to say in management biscuit school I get to say my piece. I tell her I don’t give a shit what their excuse is, maintenance is part of the contract and if they do not perform it I will take legal action. I am not bluffing. I ask her if it would be okay with them if I stopped paying rent for a few months because I was out of work. No? Then I could not care less about your excuses either. I walk out and await the maintenance guy after being assured once again that it would be taken care of.

He does not come that night.

Tuesday dawns and I call them again to ‘insure’ that yes, someone was coming out today, for reals. As soon as I hang up on them I turn around and call the southeast regional office for the management company, Milestone Management, ask to speak to the person in charge, and immediately get her on the phone. This is where things start to go right. I inform her of my issues, in detail, and how pissed off I am about the lot of them. She tells me that she is going to personally make this her responsibility and that she will call the complex immediately to tell them that they will now report directly to her on the issue. It sounds nice, but I’ve heard nice things from them before, so I don’t expect much to come from this. But she says she’ll be calling me back one way or another for updates, and to expect something to be done as soon as possible. Once again, for reals.

Less than an hour later there is a knock at my door. Maintenance guy is here, and he springs into action immediately. First he recharges my A/C and it begins to blow cold air again! Blissful cold air!

He asks what’s next and how long I’ve been waiting. I point at the ceiling fan and tell him that it’s been broken for two months. He borrows my step ladder, looks at it, and goes outside saying he’ll be right back.

Fifteen minutes later he arrives with a brand new, high end, ceiling fan slung under his arm. I recognize it as one of the ones they advertise as being an ‘upgrade’ for your apartment that you can get for only $x/month more! In less than half an hour my cooling status has been upgraded back to fully functional. Sadly he looked at the ice maker and said he didn’t have one that would work in the shop and that the unit would definitely have to be replaced, but I was willing to let that slide until the next day given what had been done already.

But all is not really well. By the late hours on Wednesday my A/C is blowing warm air again. It has somehow sprung a leak so bad that an entire charge of refrigerant disappeared in less than 24 hours. I call the emergency number, and the office, and explain to both answering machines that my A/C is already out again and will have to be repaired immediately. I’m still working from home, still huddled in my home office under the fans. At 9:00pm a maintenance guy appears, says that yes, the entire charge is gone, but says that sadly he can do nothing about it this late at night.

Thursday I finally have to go back in to work, content to continue my phone call harassment for now to make sure that someone really does get back out to my apartment again. But a marvelous thing happens. Before I can even get in my first reminder to the office I get a call on my cell phone from a number I don’t recognize it. When I answer it I get the assistant to the regional manager for Milestone Management. Yes, that really was his title. He informs me that he is on the ground in Atlanta and heading up to my apartment complex in person to take care of business. At this point I hadn’t spoken to the management company in two days, so this was entirely out of the blue to me. But it appears that the regional manager really did make it her personal issue to take care of. I stopped my harassment calls just to see what this might bring.

When I got home on Thursday night I was greeted with many wondrous sights. Maintenance had not only been there, they had been there all day. Someone had been on Home Depot duty as a brand new, off-the-shelf ice maker was in my fridge. They left a long note informing me of this and that my A/C could not be repaired, but that they would be back tomorrow to replace the entire unit. I filed the note with my other paperwork from this operation, and noticed that they had messed with the blinds in my office for some reason.

What the note did not mention, and what I did not notice until I went outside to get my mail, is that one of my bedroom windows was awry, but I couldn’t see why because the lower part of it was blocked by the privacy hedge from the angle I was at. Curious, I immediately went back inside and opened the door to my bedroom only to be greeted with a rush of 71 degree air. The guy they had sent pack muling to Home Depot had been made to purchase a brand new window unit and install it in my bedroom to tide me over. The cord was still wrapped in plastic, even. Apparently the askew blinds in my office were from them checking the windows in there to see if it would fit before realizing that my desks block all the lowest portions of the windows.

I was so amazed at the existence of the window unit that I had to call over my good friend and neighbor Travis to show it off. The assistant to the regional manager had been true to his word and had taken care of me to the absolute best of his abilities.

The next morning, Friday, as I was showering for work, there came a series of knocks on the door. Bright and early maintenance was here again, this time to install the new unit. Sixteen SEER of black beauty. That’s going to save me a good bit on my power bills compared to the old unit from the 1980s, I’m sure.

What’s the moral of the story? Harassment still works. And sometimes management companies really do mean what they say, even if their local employees are complete shit. I have nothing good at all to say about the management office of Poplar Place, but Milestone Management went above and beyond.

Also, it’s almost a week later, and while Poplar Place (specifically, Fat Bitch) has already called to make sure I’m “still satisfied,” no one has mentioned that window unit. It’s still installed in my bedroom. It’s only been used for a single night.

No one has mentioned it at all.

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