Rant of the Week: Wholesale Frustration

Share With:

Eric rant mugIts been a while since our last “Rant of the Week” but after a recent plumbing service call I’ve hit my limit. Normally I don’t like to call out anyone in particular so I’ll keep it relatively generic, so here goes…

First the back-story; I got a call from a long time customer having a problem with water on the floor of the mechanical room. This is new water because it was “extra wet” (their words, not mine) and normally everything would be dry but when they went to add softener salt they also washed their socks. I know what your thinking, “What’s old water?” and I thought it too. That’s not the part that got me riled up though.

Upon my arrival, feet fully covered, I could see water slowly dripping from one of the tankless water heater pressure relief valves. Aha! I immediately went to the nearest bathroom to run the shower and lav, not to clean up but rather to get the heaters going and right as I re-entered the mechanical room, viola! This house has duplex tankless units to handle the load of a rather large family and one of those ridiculous master suite bathtubs, both of which are now spewing full-flow water out onto the concrete floor through the relief valves. I quickly ran to turn off the faucets, I could’ve just turned the water off at the main but I wanted to see how the valves reacted when the heaters turned off under full pressure. As this all happened everything returned to normal. After looking everything over on the surface it was clear nothing had been “tampered” with since I first installed the units so obviously the valves were in need of replacement.

Hold on, we haven’t even got to the rant yet. Its coming…

I checked my truck and of course I only had boiler relief valves and a few T&Ps and since a tankless water heater requires a pressure only relief valve that operates above the 30 psi limit of a boiler relief valve it was time to call my nearest wholesaler. That’s when I just about blew my relief valve.

Here’s the rant:

I have worked hard over the years to be a good customer and build relationships with a few suppliers, as is the case for them to me. (? Make sense?) I never really said much when I call looking for a part that is maybe a little “less familiar” and expect to wait for a call back after the computer inventory is scoured or they wake the old guy in the corner who knows what I’m talking about but the response I got when I called looking for not one but two pressure relief valves [150 psi & 200K Btu operating range] was what had me in disbelief.

Statements like “I’ve never heard of that before” and “Its not a T&P? But you just gave me a Btu number, doesn’t that coincide with temperature?” were coming from the other end of the line. After trying to explain that every single tankless service valve kit they’ve ever sold included the relief valve I was requesting I was still met with complete confusion.

It was clear that the person on the other end was just not understanding, okay, I get it so I asked for the branch manager, surely he would know what I was looking for…guess what, NOPE!

I thanked both of them, hung up and found the model number of the existing relief valves but this time called a different wholesale house armed with the info I was sure would get me the parts I needed, regardless that this call would have me driving a few miles further and thought to myself: They’ll have it, I should’ve called them first.

I was met with nearly the same reaction initially. I had not given them a part number right from the start; I guess just to see with whom I was dealing. Even after the model number was shared the confusion was apparent. Before hanging up I asked if they’d “check in to it” and email me their findings. Man, do I wish I would’ve asked the same to the first call, maybe its good I didn’t because I might be rung up on some type of charges for making one third of the will-call desk’s heads explode…

In the meantime I went back inside, piped the relief valves over to the floor drain and explained I was having a harder-than-normal time tracking down the parts and assured them I would return in the morning to get everything taken care of. Then the email came through on my handy smart phone.

Here’s a screenshot (names and places removed to protect the ignorant): relief valve insanity


Just in case you’re not pulling this together, here’s the valve I’m looking for:

pressure relief valve

Now, as I’m almost literally pulling my hair out, I frantically punch my request for info into the Google machine with the force and fortitude of an gladiator only to be met with about a gabillion results in 0.00392 seconds. Thanks, Google.

Talking out loud to myself, almost manically as if both of the seemingly glorified order-takers were standing only feet away, I’m proclaiming the internet to be far more understanding of the needs of a plumber’s simple request and questioning people’s career paths…I really need a vacation.

In the end I simply drove to the nearest supplier, asked where the relief valves were and walked back there myself to search through the inventory only to find exactly what I had requested when I had called only an hour before my arrival. I didn’t parade my knowledge or findings in front of them (although that day I wanted to) I just clearly explained how they had what I needed all along, right in front of them, only feet away, for probably years now and it only priced out at $15. Ugh.


Join the conversation: