What is your plumber’s phone number? Your electrician’s? Your heating and air guys number? If you don’t have it can you honestly tell me right now who you would trust? Would you let a stranger in your home at 2 a.m.? Yes, you will, if your heat turns off or your sewer backs up. And you’ll do it when you are the most vulnerable, the most in need. You are at the mercy of your best guess.
Fire, police, and doctor: these are the numbers you give the babysitter. What about the plumber, the HVAC guy, the electrician. Thinking ahead can save you from being robbed.
Many of us have been ripped off in some way, shape or form. But, very few will ever admit it.
Ex 1: You’re at a banquet in your honor. Ten minutes before your speech the sitter calls and says: “The basement has water in it.”
You might go to your phone or computer and ask for 24 hour plumbing near your home. The first thing that pops up is Mr. Pooper the Sewer Scooper. Mr. Pooper says no charge to come out and no overtime! You call and they assure you a technician is on his way. Not a plumber, he may not have even done this before but he is on his way. You tell the sitter to let him in when he arrives. Hopefully, 40 minutes later or so the sitter calls. The guy is here and wants to talk to you.
Technician: “Good evening sir. I have assessed the situation and can do the repair for $5500.00 dollars.”
“What!” You say, “$5500.00 dollars. What is that for?”
Technician: “Well, first we need to pump out the basement. Then we can open the sewer and rod the line. That will include a video inspection of the line. Additionally it looks as though you sump pump isn’t working and I’ll have to replace it with our Geargrinder 1500 all cast iron pump. Best pump in the industry sir. But I need a credit card number to even start the work.”
You: “5500.00. Wow. You know what? I’ll have to wait till I get home to see what’s going on. Is there anything you can do temporarily?”
Technician: “I understand sir. But it’s a health issue. The longer you wait the greater the chance of bacterial infection.”
You pause, a long pause…
Technician: “There is human waste in the basement sir.”
You: “O.K. Do what you have to do.”
When you arrive home the sitter hands you the invoice. “How long was he here?”
Sitter: “About an hour.”
“An hour.” You say shocked.
You go down in the basement and try and see what he did. Sitting next to the sump pump pit is your old pump. You plug it in and it runs just fine. The pump in your pit looks much smaller than your old one. You look up Geargrinder pumps on the internet and MR. Pooper shows up again but no pump company by that name. You look at your sewer but, you can’t tell if he did anything at all. The thing you do notice is that Mr. Pooper’s stickers are on everything in your basement.
The sitter adds:” The guy said you should call him because there’s another issue with your sewer.” You ignore this.
One year goes by. You haven’t told anyone what happened. You’re too embarrassed. You were going to go in to Mr. Poopers shop but he’s over an hour away. Not so local. But you have found a really local plumber who sponsors you son’s swim team. The owner is also the local cub master. You’re almost brand new, all cast iron, Geargrinder 1500 pump, stops pumping. You call the actually local guy. He charges $49.95 just to come out. He comes out with a cast iron Zollar or maybe a Hydromatic sump pump and explains this is a brand he trusts. Cost, about $549.00 installed. You tell him to go ahead and install it. He pulls out the all cast iron Geargrinder 1500, “Best in the industry” and lifts it with one finger. “Wow, looks like someone was trying to get rid of this piece of plastic crap.”
Undaunted you ask: “Do you think I should have my sewer rodded? We had trouble last year.”
The plumber looks at the clean out (opening where the rod goes into the sewer pipe) and asks: “Do you have a clean out outside?”
You: “Not that I know of. Why do you ask?”
Plumber: “Because this hasn’t been opened in years. It has a lead seal. Been illegal for years. I could open it but I’d have to replace the clean out fitting to get it to close properly again. It would cost at least $200.00 dollars just for that. That’s an hour and a half without even rodding. But the City has a program were they’ll come out for free and replace lead fittings. They’ll also camera your sewer and let you know if it needs rodding.”
You slowly begin to realize you paid $5500.00 for a new sump pump and nothing more.
My point? Would you go to work on a Sunday for free? Honest companies pay their plumbers by the hour. The fee to come out is to pay for the plumbers wages to go to your house. The guy who’s free to come out must make a sale to get paid. The more he money takes the more money he makes. Guys paid by commission are primarily salesmen. Guys paid by the hour are usually real mechanics. Local guys can help you with just the information they have. If I don’t tell my customers about free city programs or assistance I will be open to direct accountability. Why use a Chicago realtor to sell a Pittsburg home?
Ex 2: The worst case I have ever heard happened just this year. A customer of mine had a next door neighbor with a backed up sewer. He suggested my company. But the neighbor called a large chain that would come out on Sunday for free. What a savings. $28,000.00 and 5 days later his sewer was fixed. That’s not a type-o, twenty eight thousand dollars. This is my area and I can tell you we have never charged more than $5000.00 (five) for the worst case scenario. Our average is $3200.00. And we have never spent more than 2 days on any repair. His company did not replace the sewer line and they did not explain the cities free program to make sure there was a break. All they did was repair an alleged ten foot piece of pipe. And worst of all the homeowner never got a second opinion.
Admittedly, I make most of my living off of your disasters. No heat, no A.C. (God forbid), no hot water, poop coming up in your bath tub, light sockets/fixtures smoking. You people are paranoid and openly skeptical of anything I say you need done. But this is your own fault for never bothering to do their homework. Never bothering to prepare for this emergency. And now, at 2 a.m., with a house full of poop water and maybe I have other customers waiting, you want me to explain every little detail of where you money is going?
My best customers are the ones who have been ripped off and then took a few hours to find an actually local contractor. The people who drop their house keys off at my shop. They say things like, “Do whatever it takes.” And “My neighbor has some questions. Wants to know if you have a few minutes to stop by.” I do free estimates but, only me, the owner. If I have to pay someone to go to your house, it’s not free. But then the free guy wasn’t free either was he?