Plumber charged me twice and I need an opinion

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by jerbrad, Sep 20, 2010.

  1. jerbrad

    jerbrad New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Glen Ellyn IL
    My back-up sump pump was beeping so I called a plumber. They said I needed a new regular sump pump whick I paid them $415 to replace. They also told me I needed a new battery for the back-up pump. I purchased a new one and installed it as directed by the plumber and instruction on the box. The next day, the back-up pumb started beeping again. I would reset it but it still went off every 8 hours or so. I called the plumber back and they charged my $145 for a service call. They said the plug in the back of the back-up pump was unpluged so they pluged it in, tested the high water alarm and reset the system. That's right... they charged me $145 for 1/4th hour and parts. What parts were needed to plug in a plug, test a high water alarm and reset the system? Needless to say, I called and asked why I was charged for another service call. After two weeks of calls back and forth, I was told they consider it two different problems and there's nothing they would do. I have been a customer for many years. Please help. Am I wrong or was the plumber wrong?
    Thanks for your comments
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2010
  2. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    14,889
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    It does sound like two different issues, but in the same basic location in your home.
    They did send a plumber out a second time, to work on something that you installed. Right?

    Fifteen minutes? If they are like most contractors, they have to charge travel time. If they say they don't, they really are. It's built into the price most times.
    Then you also have the minumum charge that many places charge for, which can vary a bit, but there is no such thing as a 1/4 hour show up fee that gets any work done. That fee is just to write up a quote.

    The other day, I dropped off a part in Seattle for a job my son was working on. In the evening it would have been much quicker, but during the rush hour drive time, it was 1.5 hours, and I spent no time on the job.
    Take all those 1.5 hours, with no time on the job, and if you weren't charging for it, how would you buy gas even?

    But the pump is working, and the back up pump too, right?
    It's all good.

    And no, I wasn't able to charge for my actual time for dropping off the part, it was more like a money loser, but it kept the job moving.
    I'm always amazed that UPS will deliver to someones door step for less then $15
    But then when you look at the trucks, they're dropping stuff off on every street as they drive by. Those $15 charges start to really add up.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2010
  3. Estrogen Hostage

    Estrogen Hostage New Member

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    NE KS
    I think it depends on exactly what they did the first time. It's somewhat likely they inadvertently unplugged the backup pump while working on the main pump. If they were messing with it and forgot to plug it back in - it's on them. If it was already unplugged and they weren't looking at the backup pump - it's on you.

    I'm glad I live where I live though!
  4. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    14,889
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    Really? Even though the homeowner admits that he was the last one to work on the back up pump, you lay that on the plumber?

    I can't imagine a plumber unplugging their backup pump and telling them they need a battery.
    Keep in mind, the homeowner was buying and installing the battery, it wasn't like the plumber was "hoping" for more work.
    I can imagine a homeowner replacing the battery, and forgetting to plug it back in.

    This kind of forgetfulness happens. I don't think contractors should be responsible to drive out every time a homeowner leaves a pump unplugged.

    I've had cases where I've asked the homeowner to fully open a shutoff valve and let me know if that fixes a problem.
    They insist that I need to drive out to do it.
    I tell them if all that's needed is to open their shutoff valve, it's a service charge. They still won't check the valve for me.
    I run out, open the valve and charge them. What goes on in their head that they can't reach down and check things in their own house. No wait, they had. They had played around with the shutoff and turned it almost all the way off thinking that was the correct solution. So when I asked them to reopen the valve, they thought the plumber was just dumb. So because they think the plumber is dumb, they want the plumber to drive all the way across town, and "fix" what the homeowner did to themselves.
    There are a few things like that a homeowner can do himself, things like:

    Make sure it's plugged in.
    If the valve opened?
    Push the reset.
    Look inside the tank and make sure there isn't any cardboard or paper instructions preventing the flapper from sealing.
    Make sure it isn't someone peeing on the floor, and not that the wax seal is leaking, there is a big difference, a wax seal leak is mainly clear water.
    Make sure your spray head on the kitchen sink isn't loose.

    Can you other plumbers think of a few things here?
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2010
  5. nhmaster3015

    nhmaster3015 Master Plumber

    Messages:
    836
    Location:
    The granite state
    Oh the joys of being in business :)
  6. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    Long term repeat customer? You charge him cost for that one if you want to keep him as a customer. Get him on the next real service call.

    Dentists and doctors office visits dont get that money.

    Or come here and get it fixed for free.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2010
  7. Estrogen Hostage

    Estrogen Hostage New Member

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    NE KS
    I don't know if that's what happened but neither do you. On my backup pump alarm it will beep at me if the battery is bad. Maybe the plumber unplugged it to keep it from beeping. Maybe he bumped it while working on the pump. On my pump removal of the main pump would require removal of the backup pump. Maybe the OP inadvertently unplugged it. Who knows?

    I am just saying that it depends on what actually happened. If the plumber had to remove the pump like on mine and didn't plug it back in himself - you bet he should make a call over there to make it right! If the homeowner did it - there should be a service call involved. We don't have enough information to decide which person screwed this up.
  8. jerbrad

    jerbrad New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Glen Ellyn IL
    I'm the owner

    Thanks, everyone. I do want to say I was the one that unplugged the back-up system when the darn thing kept beeping but I unplugged every possible plug! This was before the plumber came out the first time. The reason for my initial call was 'the back-up system' was beeping. They replaced the sump pump and (I think) assumed that was the total problem. The plumber also wrote on the invoice - 90 day warranty. My second call was for the same reason - the back-up system was beeping. I am a long standing customer and have spent a ton of money with this plumber.

    I've NEVER complained before and feel terrible doing this but I can not understand how this is two different jobs! Terry, I know you're the expert but how would you feel if you called someone to fix something in your home (I'm sure you're able to fix everything) and had to call again a few days later because of the same problem?? I just don't get it.
  9. masterpumpman

    masterpumpman New Member

    Messages:
    729
    Location:
    Virginia Beach, VA
    I like Terry's response and he's right. In this instance who really knows whose really at fault? If the home owner distrusts the long time plumber, I recommend that he find another one however keep in mind he was apparently your trusted plumber for a long time. My well drilling/pump contracts all read that if the systems were serviced by other than our authorized employees our warranty became void. In this case since the customer attempted to service the equipment any warranty was void. Sorry home owner, the customer isn't always wright!
  10. jerbrad

    jerbrad New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Glen Ellyn IL
    I will not let this go! I feel I have been wronged and am now going to write to the newspaper and the BBB. I get the impression the only people that understand my side are the ones that use plumbers and the one that say I'm wrong are plumbers. hmmmm

    To the tradesmen out there who think I'm wrong...let me tell you a little secret! I will not be using your services any longer and I will be spreading the negative word to my colleagues at the University where I work, neighbors, friends, all associations I belong to and anyone else I come in contact with. I may even start a little website called www.xyzplumbingsucks.com. Now, is it that important to be right? I just want to be treated fairly and when I call someone to fix something, I would like that person to use their skills and talents it fix the thing right the first time. And why offer a warranty if you don't honor it?

    Thank you all for your help in this matter.
  11. Estrogen Hostage

    Estrogen Hostage New Member

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    NE KS

    Don't you think that's taking it a little bit far? If you're capable of installing the battery you're capable of making sure it's all plugged in before calling him back.

    You assumed some of the responsibility to get it all back together when you let him leave without putting the battery in. I assume you did that to save money?
  12. jerbrad

    jerbrad New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Glen Ellyn IL
    Thank you all for your opinions. I appreciate it.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2010
  13. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    EXACTLY my point boys. If his plumber would have sucked up this little one, and made it right for nothing or a few bucks, he would have a continued customer and friend and new customers coming in on referral. Now he has an enemy for no good reason.

    You guys must live in BIG cities where you can give the finger to your old customers. Here, where everyone knows each other, you have to be fair like granpa was before we all got so greedy and need electric toilet seats to wiggle our hanging parts with hot water and blow dry our vent. Dont pay the guy.

    $145 for 15 minutes? The plumber could have come in on a taxi and still made a profit. Ridiculous.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2010
  14. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Well, regardless of who is right, the plumber lost a long term paying customer that will now for the next 5 yrs minimum be telling all the people that will listen the name of the plumber and to stay away from him. Many of those people will stay away from him.

    IMO that will cost the plumber much more than to have refunded this $145 service call refund. Especially when he can't prove that he or his guys didn't leave the plug unplugged.

    Me, knowing it is difficult to near impossible to overcome bad PR, I would have given the refund. Especially after telling the customer how to replace the battery himself. I would still have my long term paying on time customer feelin' good and no bad PR, and all for $145! What a bargain when you compare that to the cost of finding a new customer to replace an existing one.
  15. nhmaster3015

    nhmaster3015 Master Plumber

    Messages:
    836
    Location:
    The granite state
    Unfortunately, nobody is ever right in these situations. I would have eaten the bill to keep a customer
  16. jerbrad

    jerbrad New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Glen Ellyn IL
    FOLLOW-UP - I just wanted to let everyone know I called the plumber back and explained again how unhappy I was. By that time they did some research on my situation. They were very gracious and waned me to be happy. They explained that they considered this two different service calls and the $145 was the cost of a new service call. Because they were the same to me and the plumber now realized that - they are refunding me the difference between the 1/4th hour for a continued service call and a new service call.

    Thank you again for your comments!
  17. jerbrad

    jerbrad New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Glen Ellyn IL

    This is what I'm affraid of! They will "get him" on the next real service charge! I'm so glad I don't live in Northfork, California. And you don't have to worry, I will not be calling this plumber again...for this vary reason.
  18. justwater

    justwater Well Drilling/Service

    Messages:
    327
    Location:
    FL/GA
    for the record i am not a plumber. i am in well drilling/service so i guess i am the same type of evil..

    if the plumber replaced the sump pump and assumed that was the total problem, you wouldnt have known about the battery needing replacing on the backup. your first post says that he told you about the battery when he was there, and apparently told you how to fix it as well.

    so the guy fixes the one pump, diagnoses the problem with the other pump.. apparently you tell him you can handle the backup pump *so he takes the time to explain to you how to fix the backup pump knowing he wont make any money off of that* (tells me the guy isnt a crook). .. and you originally unplugged the pump you worked on, not him.. i cant imagine why this is the plumbers fault.. or why the plumbers warranty should cover your work as well. this should be a good lesson for people, while you already paid the service charge.. let him fix it all! sometimes saving 50 costs you 100... or 145, lol. sorry.

    yes, a good long term upstanding customer (who feels bad complaining to the company but is ok with dragging their name through the dirt with some crazy website that no one will look at).

    even if the plumber did do it for free like some others mentioned he should.. wouldnt it be nice to know i had a customers out there telling all their friends (if they have any) that my company will come out again the next day to fix their screw up and not charge them anything. thats good business there. never heard of a long-time business without a couple unhappy customers. no matter how hard you try, you cant make everyone happy.. and make money too.

    old guy told me a long time ago.. "son, it will take alot longer to go broke sitting at the house rather than out working for nothing".

    **so the company is doing you a favor adjusting the bill for this bs but you still wont use them in the future??.. yea, upstanding customer.**
  19. Jerome2877

    Jerome2877 In the Trades

    Messages:
    397
    Location:
    BC
    Agreed, they gave you a break as an act of good faith and your still not happy!
  20. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    You really got that comment wrong. "get" you didnt imply they would rob you on the next call, they simply would have some more jobs in the future to make up for the time.

    They made it right, even though you had to ask too hard for it. You really should be satisfied with his work, even though I would never have called anyone except a brain surgeon for a $145, 15 minute consultation.
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