Service techs routinely endure discomfort and indignities to keep people healthy, cozy and safe. It's time to spread the word.

This notion arose after reading a thread on Dan Holohan's “The Wall” ( last February. It appeared in the days following a monster storm that dumped two feet of snow throughout much of the northeast. The topic was “Emergency calls during snowstorms,” and was led off by a contributor asking, “When do you tell a customer 'no'?” That is, when do you refuse to go out on a plumbing or heating service call because awful weather makes it downright dangerous to drive.

Most respondents took the position that it doesn't help the customer if the contractor gets stuck spinning his wheels in the middle of a blizzard, so they best stay home. As one put it, “to some people, a running faucet is an emergency.” Some told tales of bailing out people in terrible conditions, only to be treated rudely. Someone pointed out that for potentially deadly emergencies, such as a gas leak or downed power line, you'd have to contact utility companies anyway. It was hard to argue with the cases made for staying home.

Others, though, talked of getting a good set of snow tires coupled with chains and making every effort to service the people. No law says they have to do so, and no one spoke of being compelled by competitive reasons. The mind's eye could see them shrugging and saying, “A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.”

That line, or something close to it, was spoken by my all-time favorite movie hero, Gary Cooper, a.k.a. Marshal Will Kane, in “High Noon.” The 1952 classic was about him standing alone awaiting a showdown with a bunch of vengeful bad guys while all the townspeople found good excuses to get out of the way.

Our industry harbors many Marshal Kanes. They are out there day after day schlepping through snow and ice, rain and sleet. They routinely fix broken pipes and boilers in below-zero weather and work in searing 120-degree attics during mid-summer. They stay on jobs way past quitting time to make sure everything works the way it should before they go home to loved ones. Yeah, they get paid for it, but usually not enough. Most galling is the guff they endure owing to the general public perception that they make too much money. Like Marshal Kane's would-be deputies, most homeowners are perfectly happy to let the techs do their dirty work while they hightail it to somewhere comfy and cozy.

Stories abound within the industry of heroic efforts by service techs rescuing customers from dire straits. This happens even with emergencies caused by homeowners' own inept tinkering with PHC systems, or by their worshipping at the altar of the low bidder. Most of our industry's heroes avoid the temptation to rub it in. Most of the time they simply say, “Call me anytime you have a problem.” Anytime. And they mean it.

Recognition Overdue

It's time to give long-overdue recognition to the Marshal Kanes of our industry. We'll tell their stories here in PM. Let's call it “Unsung Heroes,” and feature tales of PHC service technicians who provide service above and beyond what anyone could reasonably expect.

Contact me (630/694-4006, or Editor Steve Smith (630/694-4339, with your tales of industry heroism. We'll write it up and publish it in the magazine. You can nominate yourself or anyone else for these stories of above-and-beyond service calls.

In fact, we'll do even more than that. In addition to publicizing these articles in PM, we will see to it that the finished articles get forwarded to trade associations and media in the subject's local area. Although we can't promise coverage, we'll do the best we can to gain publicity for the subject in his/her local market. That's because it's even more important for the public at-large to appreciate our industry's unsung heroes than it is to sing to the choir.

We want to hear stories about day-to-day service calls in which the technicians go the extra mile to satisfy customers, whether that involves dealing with bad weather, horrid jobsite conditions, extra hours or whatever. Help us sing about our industry's unsung heroes.