A few years ago, exposes on unscrupulous HVAC contractors were a popular feature on national TV news such as NBC’s “Dateline.”

Typically, following a tip from an unhappy customer, they’d call a contractor out to repair a malfunctioning furnace or air-conditioning compressor. The problems were usually simple fixes, designed to find dishonest technicians looking to pad a repair bill or sell a new system.

More than a few local TV stations did their own versions as well, focusing on everything from plumbers to landscaping companies that take advantage of customers.

More than once, I’ve been to trade shows where HVAC contractors complained they were sick of being part of such “gotcha” journalism shows.

I can certainly sympathize. Journalists - especially those in the mainstream press - like lawyers, do not have the best public reputations. And yet, many contractors, consciously or not, perpetuate these negative stereotypes.

This all occurred to me during the last few months my wife and I work on our new house. While not a foreclosure, it had been vacant for several months prior to our purchase, and the house is in need of more repairs than either of us anticipated.

That’s frustrating - and expensive - by itself, but it’s been nothing compared to the problems that we’ve had in securing bids and work from contractors.

We’ve had plenty of companies never call us back. Others quickly returned our call or even answered the phone, but getting them to come to the house proved near impossible. One we even hired - and then he didn’t show. He called us three days later and apologized, but added that we needed to reschedule immediately because he was getting booked up.

Sorry. We moved on.

Missed connections

And another company, for a different problem, seemed to never be able to call us at a time when we were home. They left us several messages, which I returned with alternate phone numbers they could use. But after two weeks of phone tag, I gave up on them, too.

And then there was the painter whom we missed after he only waited for us three minutes past our appointment time. Three minutes! We were not living in the house yet and it was about a 15-minute drive from our former residence. When we called, he said he was too busy to wait. I appreciate punctuality, but if I took the same hard line with every contractor I’ve ever used, I would have never had cable television, home phone or electrical service. All asked for a one- to three-hour window for appointments.

Not all our contractor experiences have been bad. I’m happy to report that we have a reliable HVAC contractor that we also hired for our former home, as well as a great plumber, electrician and several other trades.

Readers, how often do you have to deal with overcoming any negative industry connotations with your customers? What do you do to ensure your company has a positive reputation in your community?

Snipsmag.com June poll results

Snips recently launched its YouTube channel, featuring interviews and industry information. How often do you view sheet metal or HVAC-related content online?

• All the time. The Internet is a great resource – 44 percent.

• Regularly. I check YouTube, Google and social media websites when I have time – 33 percent.

• Seldom. I don’t find much that piques my interest – 11 percent.

• Never. All that stuff is a waste of time – 11 percent.