US Home Filter Review

My regular readers are familiar with my fondness for many things past.  I’m nostalgic, but being trained as a history professor often provides the necessary balance between sentimentality for the past and the realities that remain clear when everything is considered within context.

Regardless of our upbringings or ideologies, I think that at times we all lament what I’ll term an erosion of customer service in our retail transactions.  My colleagues over in business divisions have several metrics and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to gauge levels of customer service.  Me, I’m just the barefoot boy from the fields who wants someone who knows their products and can offer recommendations when needed, stands behind the quality of their products, seeks to make their profit from repeat business, and considers customers as people instead of a just a source of revenue.

Admittedly I miss the locally owned “Mom and Pop” stores with which I grew up.  Chains could often operate in the same fashion with a superior level of service.  For those back in Louisiana or the Deep South, who at some point doesn’t yearn for the purple, the “Personally Yours” from the K&B Drugstore in your neighborhood?  It wasn’t just the quality of the locally produced K&B ice cream, but the reality that you had cashiers at the pharmacy checkout in the back and on both sides in the front.  If lines started to form, a clerk from the floor or a manager would open the additional checkouts.  Need assistance on the floor, and there was a clerk either on that aisle or the next along with a manager near.

I lucked into finding similar customer service at a company through the unlikeliest portals, Amazon.

That company is US Home Filter which is the online division of Midwest Supply Inc., located in Belton, Missouri.  Midwest Supply is a family owned company established back in 1928 and today is a distributor of air filters that they manufacture and ship from their facilities near Kansas City, MO.  You can read a brief history here from their website.

Now I’ve never been to Kansas City so I haven’t seen the manufacturing facility or warehouse firsthand.  I’ve never met an employee face-to-face.  In fact, my experience beyond the product itself is from an email exchange and a single phone call from the company.

Why then am I writing a review of this company, praising their customer service, and recommending their products?

Let’s start with the last part first.

Air filters for air conditioning, heating systems, and heat pumps such as we have up yonder here in Maryland are one of those essential products that is easy to neglect.  Even the best industry jargon will not induce visions of excitement, mystery, or intrigue by replacing a filter.  Now failure to conduct such routine maintenance will likely result in some type of horror from the costs and hassles associated with repair or replacement, but I purposely try to avoid that genre in life and my reading and viewing habits because sadly history has ample non-fiction examples of horrors that negate any want to immerse myself in fiction.

Like most people, my goal with an air filter is a quality build, expected performance for a reasonable period per run time and conditions, and an affordable cost.  I haven’t conducted any tests to validate the MERV ratings on these or other brands.  I can only tell you that the US Home filters appear to capture similar levels of dust and particles as other brands I have used.  The physical construction is as good as, if not superior, to the “name brands” one sees in retail outlets such as Home Depot, Ace, Lowes, Target, WalMart, or your local hardware store.  The cardboard frames are strong and solid.  The pleated material of the filter is consistent throughout the entirety of the frame.  A backing of galvanized metal adds rigidity and prevents the pleated material from becoming deformed by the air flow.

You can read Amazon reviews for size and MERV ratings of the filters I have purchased at the links below.  Combined as of my typing there are approximately 200 ratings for the MERV ratings in this specific size with the average being 4.6 stars out of 5 stars.  Statistically any ratings that are not a 4 or a 5 would be outliers if one were graphing a curve.  I’m not the only consumer who has a high opinion about these filters in terms of quality and cost.

For additional information about the various types and sizes of filters they manufacture, please refer to their online website linked here and below.  I should note that the size I need is not found easily on most brick and mortar store shelves, but it’s apparently a common size for many of the newer household sized systems.  As one can see from their website, US Home manufactures standard sizes for many different systems along with custom sizing options if needed.

I’ll let readers do their own pricing comparisons to other brands and manufacturers, but I have found my filters to be a good value when doing my own cost comparisons.

Now why am I writing this and praising the customer service?

Well I placed an order with Amazon, received the tracking information for the package, saw that the package arrived at the Federal Express distribution center near me, and then remained at that distribution center for days instead of going out for delivery.

When we purchased our new heat pump few years back, I ordered a set of filters from this same company through Amazon.  The package arrived quickly in a sturdy box that protected the contents.  The next time I ordered a set directly from the US Home website.  I believe their listed price was lower than the Amazon price at that specific time, maybe I had a coupon code, or perhaps I was in some type of anti-Amazon or major retailer mood.  I do not recall, but I do know that delivery went just as smoothly.

This time, however, it appeared that my air filters received a visit from Rod Serling at the Fed Ex center and entered into the Twilight Zone.  I’m not sure if they are enjoying that trek, and I doubt if Mr. Serling or Mr. Burgess Meredith from the remake will be providing some closing words for me to ponder per the meaning and fate of these filters.

Thus, I decided to delve into cyberspace at the US Home Filter website where I clicked the “contact us” tab in the menu at the top, typed my name and some brief comments to include my Amazon order numbers in their online form and clicked “submit.”

From there you never know if your message will reach its intended destination.  If it does, will it be filed in that recycle bin that has replaced the older fashioned filing cabinet on the floor that could be used as a makeshift basketball hoop for written correspondence, apple cores, or just about anything for that brief respite from work at your desk?  Inquiring minds want and need to know.

Well it wasn’t long after clicking that submit button that my phone began to ring.  Naturally I checked what the Caller ID displayed before answering.  “Midwest Supply,” who is that?  I don’t have time for a robocall but then the better half shouted “I think it’s your air filters,” and I answered the ring.

It wasn’t a robot, computer, gremlin, Twilight Zone regular, or even a voice informing me to hold.  On the line was a person.

It was Ms. Allison Roberts, the Operations Manager for US Home Filter.  She was friendly, polite, and apologetic.  Very quickly she informed me that another package of filters was in the process of being shipped to me directly.  She had contacted Fed Ex and even though the portal to the Twilight Zone was in the Fed Ex distribution center, she wanted to send another package because most do arrive at their intended destination without embarking upon their own side vacation.

US Home Filter was not at fault.  All jokes aside, something just happened to the package after it left their warehouse.  She could have asked me to submit another order, complete forms with either Amazon or Fed Ex, but she just wanted me as a customer to have the product I purchased and apologized for the delay.  If by some chance the original box arrives, I have another box of filters.  It was that simple.  She provided tracking information for the new package along with her direct phone number and email address if I had any questions or concerns.  It was such a quick yet thorough example of customer service that used to be the norm, and today I no longer take such basic expertise in that area for granted.  Sadly, I do not take it granted because I’ve become a kinder and wiser individual with age.  As Robert Frost might opine, I am no longer acquainted with the experience as I once was despite more frequent opportunities for our paths to intersect.

Somehow my conversation with Ms. Roberts evolved to the point where she told me a little about Midwest Supply.  I was unaware that this was a family owned business.  Yes, I am guilty of not doing independent research before my first purchase where I relied on price and customer reviews.  I reckon laziness and karma sometimes works in one’s favor, although I am not planning to push my luck in that area.

Ms. Roberts is the great-granddaughter of the founder, and she said that operations are beginning to pass from her Dad’s generation to that of she and her siblings.  We spoke a little about “Mom and Pop” stores, and she related a few experiences that she and her husband have had with contractors and other businesses.  Our exchange was similar to what one would have had if standing in your local neighborhood hardware store where both proprietor and customers knew everybody by name and at the conclusion of the visit reminded you to say hi from them to another family member.

Ms. Roberts provided customer service.  It was an online transaction, interstate from Missouri to Maryland, but it was like watching my Dad with customers in K&B or likely what she experienced with her parents and grandparents at the family business.  I’m guessing that the latest generation is expanding their business as they must to compete in today’s environment. It’s obvious by their years in existence that the business has enjoyed success through different eras.  Regardless of storefront size, however, the focus remains on a quality product and being able to deliver prior to, during, and after a sale.  Customer Service is that key; that bedrock just like it was when workers and customers knew and interacted with one another in multiple venues outside a specific storefront or facility.

For those back home in Louisiana, professors and mentors from grad school at Mississippi State, friends and colleagues from my stops in Georgia and elsewhere, former students, neighbors, readers, critics, Saints fans, and everyone else, when you need to purchase air filters, please take a look at US Home Filters.  They’ll be getting my repeat business.  Now if only I’ll be able to enjoy the breeze (filtered in this case) coming from my vents as the Brees (Drew in this case) led Who Dats breeze (no injuries, consistent, balanced offense,  and a Dennis Allen coached defense along with special teams playing well in this case) into and to win another Super Bowl.  Even if that doesn’t happen this upcoming season I anticipate that I’ll be cool or warm (depends on this MD weather — the past couple of days we have had Louisiana styled humidity) with filtration by US Home filters.

Wow, can you imagine what it would be like if our son’s first Super Bowl to watch had the Saints?  Yep, I have thought about that what if he becomes a Dirty Bird fan. I’ll adjust because I’ll still love him, but in the wonderful life I pray he has maybe instead of his guardian angel being named Clarence, Hokie Gajan could play the part.  RIP Hokie

Again, Jen and I appreciate all the words of encouragement, thoughts, and prayers in our adoption process.  We hope that you will continue as we are in the final stages before traveling to bring home our son.  While certainly not a requirement or expectation for readers or anyone, but because a few have asked if you would like to assist with either airfare or other expenses related to international adoption, I did set up a PayPal account that I have linked below for that purpose.  While I do not want to discuss adoption in any comments, as always please message me directly if you have questions.

If anyone would like to donate to assist us with airfare or any other expenses related to international adoption, I have set up a PayPal account that I have linked below.  Please message me with questions or for any additional information.

PayPal link to support LAB LouisianaBoy adoption

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AT&T Service, Tips for Consumer Complaints with any Company

This morning as I glanced over postings on social media I read that a number of friends from high school and undergraduate days were frustrated by repeating issues with their internet and cell service.  Outreaches to the traditional customer service contacts proved fruitless except for additional practice of personal patience with the various waits for the next representative, holds, transfers, and assurances that they were “valued customers.” We have all been there.

These aggravated friends cannot be classified as uninformed consumers. They consist of highly acclaimed educators, successful business owners, people with professional and terminal degrees, and that common sense, problem solving, just “Git-R-Done” ability they learned from parents and grandparents who without opportunity for extended “book learning” taught my friends and me the advantages and work necessary of both book learning and application in uncontrolled environments. I know that they have already attempted to solve their problems through the traditional customer service routes. Therefore, I’m not listing those procedures but offering a broad outline of some potential “next steps.”

I might be mistaken, but I believe the last time I had any services with AT&T was from one of the Ma Bell branches. Anyway, I’m using AT&T for the example because multiple friends who currently reside in different Parishes mentioned that company so my outline may be helpful to more. Also, since I have no personal experience with the company I might be able to highlight how simple it is to find information to take to those next steps.

First, even though I’m not detailing the initial steps, this information remains a necessity.

1) Know the services that you have and be able to convey how you use those services. The package lingo can be found on your bills. Illustrate how these services are important to your life and business and the effect that having to take the time to continuously complain resulting in increasingly negative repercussions.

2) Explain the problem with a broad overview. Then have a detailed list of dates of communications, with whom you communicated, and any results or lack of results from those communications whether in person, over the phone, or via written correspondence in any form. Also, have a detailed list of all the problems you are experiencing in regard to the actual services. Are they intermittent? Do you believe there are any causations or correlations?

OK, you’ve done all that and nothing has been resolved. That info, however, is still needed.

Since AT&T is my example, let’s learn about the company.

From the homepage, I would search for something like “About Us,” “Company Profile,””Who We Are,” or anything along those lines.

After some point and clicking, I found this overview of the company.

In this case, I only found the name and not contact information for the company head, but I also found an interesting “Code of Conduct” document.

Perhaps someone with an AT&T account can find contact information and a physical address for corporate more easily, but I had to take the long way ‘round the barn. If you ever encounter the same obstacle which might inhibit the quickest access, a Press or Media Relations section will often have that information if “Contact Us” does not.

Address found:

Now with the name of the CEO and a physical location, I’m looking for more specific contact information. Here, we have biographies for the various executives.

Unfortunately, we are not given direct contact information for the CEO, Randall L. Stephenson, but we have enough for our initial salvo.

The first volley is a letter.

If you have an email address or fax number, those are good so that you can maintain a copy of your inquiry. Regardless, I still recommend a traditional letter because even in today’s world some still view that form of communication with more sincerity solely by requiring an extra step on the sender’s part.

I would address my envelope in this manner:

 AT&T Inc.

Corporate Communications

Attention:  Randall L. Stephenson, CEO

208 S. Akard St.

Dallas, TX 75202

The letter, I would begin in this manner:

  • Date at the top, skip a couple of lines, Attention: Randall L. Stephenson, CEO, skip a few lines, and begin with a greeting like Dear Mr. Stephenson.
  • The first paragraph should be a brief description of your services and how you use them. Please note, that it should be a BRIEF description.
  • The next paragraph(s) should outline your problems. Here I would introduce the primary issues and then outline the steps you have taken along with the dates, names, and responses.
  • Following a listing of the problems, the next paragraph would have actions you would like to see. For example, if you have been billed additional fees or incurred other charges from the company, you should ask for a waiver. Adjustments for the times of no service, faulty equipment, should be included as well. The primary rule here is to be honest, fair, and reasonable in your requests. At the conclusion of the paragraph, you might decide that the lack of service reached a point where you would discontinue service or take legal action against the company. Do not, however, make statements which you are not ready to complete.
  • Conclude with a statement of appreciation for the attention you hope this matter will now receive and a professional closing.
  • Be sure to sign the letter and have all of your contact information printed as well.

Often this approach will achieve some results. You may choose to CC a number of executives or send multiple copies of the letter. My personal preference is to let all recipients know that they are within a group who you chose to contact. In other words, I do not recommend using a BCC for email, and on typed letters I included a CC list at the end of the page.

If you desire to make a public complaint, my experience has been that complaints made to the Better Business Bureau can result in the company, in this case AT&T, reaching out to you.

The basic BBB page is here which will direct you to your regional office.

Information about what a BBB complaint is and more importantly is not can be found here:

In my example with AT&T, another route of public complaint is through the Federal Communications Commission.

Details on the complaint process with the FCC can be found here.

Be prepared that it may take multiple attempts to resolve any issue. Especially remember that in the preliminary stages which I did not address in this post. Many times I have dealt with an individual which was akin to banging my head against a brick wall. Either ending that call, getting transferred to another representative, or requesting to speak with a supervisor, however, brought resolution. I cannot guess the number of times that I have wasted time trying to deal with a customer representative with nothing happening and the very same matter being handled within minutes without any form of conflict by another representative.

Perhaps it is a sign of aging and not of society expectations changing, but I make it a point to praise customer service representatives who simply conduct their job professionally and courteously.  I’ll ask to speak to their supervisor or jot the supervisor a brief note of appreciation. Before, I would only take that additional step for service that I felt went above and beyond the professionalism I expected.  With service that does not meet my expectations, I’ll continue to press until I find a representative who will at least answer questions and address concerns. Sometimes, I made the mistake and there was nothing a representative could do, but I believe they have an obligation to clarify policy or work to prevent others from making a similar mistake or having a bad experience. It’s only when a customer service representative becomes unprofessional with threats, demands, hanging up, or ending communication abruptly that I’ll complain about the type of service received.

I really don’t know if my hope of consistent service has dropped, or if I have just learned to appreciate the simple fact of doing one’s job the way it should be done more.