I used to be a very trusting person. But, one day, I felt a shift.

I was in grade three at the time and prone to nasty stomach aches. So my family supplied me with Tums – not just a roll, but a whole big box, as I practically ate them like candy. My much needed box sat right above my cubby at the school classroom entry, where we all hung our coats and mucky rain boots.

One day, I felt a tummy ache coming on so I headed to my trusty supply. But the whole box was gone.

I looked everywhere to no avail.

Only when we were outside for recess did I see all my rolls of Tums on the muddy ground in a puddle. It was one of those moments of “why would anyone do something like that?” and it felt a bit like my childhood naïveté got trod into that puddle right along with the Tums.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but I’d say I felt more on guard and a bit less trusting from that point onwards. A bonus to my wariness though is that I’ve found it’s come in handy as a consumer.

We recently had a cold call for a furnace check up by a company offering an amazing deal of $25. I asked what that included and the salesman replied, with a seriously defensive tone, that only if anything was necessary would I get a quote for other work.

The very nice technician came and seemed to do a thorough job of checking the furnace over the course of an hour. Then he gave me a rundown of what was “needed”, totalling $700 for a cleaning and a part that was supposedly missing.

Whoa. That sounded like a lot for a furnace that’s been well maintained. And why had the previous company never mentioned this missing part?

It was time to fall back on that good old gut instinct that was telling me to get a second opinion.

So I called in the company that had maintained the system for the previous home owners, and after an inspection by a gentleman who’d been working for them for twenty years, was told the furnace didn’t even need a cleaning until next year and that no parts were missing.

The charge for next year’s cleaning will be $150, or $550 less than the estimate of the other company. In other words, if I had believed the first guy, who seemed very upfront and knowledgeable (and yes, trustworthy), we would have spent several hundred dollars unnecessarily. But now, we can keep that money in our own pocket, thank you kindly.

My summary? Second opinions are good as even though they may cost up front, they can save many dollars in the long run. And if the second opinion matched the first, you can at least (hopefully) not feel ripped off when handing over the payment. I’d also say to lean towards local companies (like Campbell Care Plumbing Heat and Air www.campbellcare.com) that earn trust through word of mouth, their history of treating customers well, and charging fairly for necessary services. Cold calls? Meh, they can take a hike.

When the first company calls for a follow-up this fall, I’ll kindly tell them they can go jump in a rainy mud puddle. Except if they would actually like to do that. And come winter, I’ll be able to turn on the furnace, while my sensitive tummy and I rest easy, no Tums necessary.

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