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The most expensive zip-tie: W5's hidden cameras catch repair company in action

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How does a cheap plastic zip tie that’s worth just pennies end up costing a customer hundreds of dollars?

I might not have believed it myself if I hadn’t been watching a fridge repair go wrong in real time -- on a hidden camera.

I was huddled in an upstairs room alongside W5's producers and a reputable repair technician, Adel Gaynutdinov, as we watched what happened via a video feed from cameras set up throughout a Toronto-area home.

Our cameras had been set up to watch what the technician would do when presented with a test: a fridge that sounded like it was on the fritz.

Gaynutdinov had assured us the fridge actually worked just fine, except for a noise made by a zip tie that he set up to interfere with the fridge’s fan.

“Any technician would be able to see that right away,” Adel told us.

The question was: would they just fix it? Or would they have other ideas?

The fridge actually worked just fine, except for a noise made by a zip tie that our technician set up to interfere with the fridge's fan (W5)

The whole operation was set up by our W5 team. We investigated some of the companies that had the most unresolved customer complaints, according to a list shared by the Better Business Bureau.

The list included airlines, online credit companies, gift basket companies and appliance repair services. Many advertise widely, making big promises to potential customers, even though the reality may be quite different.

According to the BBB, the companies that made the list showed little interest in trying to resolve any complaint – often leaving the customer feeling frustrated or cheated.

One of those customers was Laura Snider, whose fridge in New Hamburg, Ont. had been packed with food and gifts from friends to help her get her through her grief after her husband died.

The fridge broke down, putting all of that food at risk. Snider felt she needed to get it fixed quickly. Without her husband to turn to, she called a company she found at the top of a web search.

“He said he could fix it within the next day or two,” she told us. “Perfect.”

The technician took a cash deposit of $1,000 – and then never returned, Laura said. And when she was trying to get a refund, she says she only got a runaround. Eventually someone from the company offered to give her $400 - if she agreed to not file a complaint about it. And, the fridge would remain broken.

“I said, ‘Absolutely not. I am not agreeing to that. There is no way,’” Snider said.

Snider filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. That company was among the list of the companies with the most unresolved complaints.

CTV W5's Jon Woodward (left) and reputable repairman Adel Gaynutdinov look at a video feed from cameras set up throughout a Toronto-area home (W5)

We wanted to see it in action, so we asked them to send a technician our way, to a home in Mississauga, just west of Toronto.

He arrived and greeted associate producer Caitlin Taylor, who was posing as the homeowner.

Caitlin left him alone and our cameras showed him opening panels on the back of the fridge and poking around. As he worked, he moved that zip tie -- but kept going.

The technician (left) arrives to greet W5's associate producer, posing as a homeowner (W5)

According to the technician, the fridge didn't have the proper "voltage" (W5)

After about 20 minutes, he called our fake homeowner with a verdict: it was the fridge’s motor that didn’t have “proper voltage.”

The charge: about $330 with taxes.

The fridge stopped making noise, but our expert Adel said “proper voltage” didn’t have anything to do with it.

He said if it was him, he would have charged just $90 for such a simple fix.

We paid the $330 bill, making that zip tie the most expensive zip tie Adel had ever seen.

Watch W5's documentary 'Customer (dis)Service' Saturday at 7 p.m. on CTV, or in our video player at the top of this article after 8 p.m.

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