This company has, what I consider to be, some very unethical billing practices - charging for time when they were not on the job.
I contacted this company on January 10, 2014 to deal with two plumbing issues. I had a clog in my master bathroom that needed to be addressed as well as a frozen/broken exterior faucet.
On calling to make the appointment, I described the problems in detail, expecting that they would come prepared with the necessary parts and equipment.
Although this seemed to be a one man job, they sent 2 men, one plumber billed at $60hr and a helper that would be billed at $30hr. Upon arrival, the plumber went under the house and determined the problem with the cracked faucet. He cut the faucet off and said he would have to go back to their office for parts. He left, leaving his helper behind. He was gone for AN ENTIRE HOUR, even though their offices are less than 10 min away from where I live.
In the meantime, the helper, who had been instructed to remove the toilet in preparation of being snaked only loosened the bolts and spent the remaining time making small talk with me.
The plumber returned and quickly went under the house and replaced the cracked faucet. Then he came into the bathroom with a large snake apparatus. The two men lifted the toilet, pulling my bathroom linoleum up because neither of the men had thought to cut the seal around the toilet base. They also got water all over the floor because neither one of them had bothered to drain the water out of the tank before removing it. That necessitated about 15 minutes of clean up time before they could start snaking the drain.
The plumber ran the snake out to its maximum length and then proclaimed that he could not fix the clog, that he thought the problem was in my septic line. I told him that was not possible and reminded him that the other drain line in the house was moving completely unobstructed and both were connected to the same septic. He finally agreed but said there was nothing he could do because the big snake apparatus would not fit under the house and there was no electricity down there. I was shocked and upset that he was implying that he was going to leave without clearing the line. Then he said that he could use a balloon apparatus to unclog the line with water pressure. I agreed but apparently he had not come prepared with this equipment either so both the plumber and helper left again to go back to the office. Again, they were gone for AN ENTIRE HOUR.
Ultimately, the clog was fixed and the faucet was repaired. They had arrived at my house at 1PM and pulled out of my driveway at 5PM.
When I received the bill, I was stunned. I was billed a full FOUR HOURS, FOR BOTH MEN! Out of the four hours that they billed me for, the plumber was only on the premises for half of that time and perhaps spent an hour and a half of that time working. The helper was on the premises for an hour longer but accomplished NOTHING OF NOTE.
Upon receiving the bill, I called and explained my concerns to the owner and they promptly sent me a revised bill which removed the hours for the helper but still billed me for the two hours that the plumber was off the premises.
I realize that, from time to time, a plumber will need to get parts to deal with something unexpected. There was nothing unexpected in this instance. He should have come with the parts and equipment that he needed to do the job and, even if a trip back to the office was justified (which I don't believe it was), two hours to make two trips to an office that is within less than 15 min. driving time (roundtrip) was both ridiculous and excessive.
The only words that come to mind here are 'padding the bill'. I would caution anyone who wants to use this company to be VERY clear about their billing practices and how they calculate their hours, before securing their services.
I think it would be appropriate for the company to refund half of the plumber's billed hours.
This call was received and completed on Jan 10, 2014.
The busted faucet was the result of very cold temperatures earlier in the week.
This call was responded to on a Friday afternoon, the actual invoice was for 3.75 hours of labor for both the plumber and the helper. The faucet that was replaced was a 8" Frost proof hydrant, we do not carry those items on our trucks because they are job specific, they might take 6", 8", 10", 12" etc. based upon the thickness of the wall they are going through, we also do not stock these in our warehouse, which means that the plumber had to go to a local provider to buy the part. This takes more time.
The second trip from the customer was caused by the toilet flange. The toilet was not evenly mounted on the flange, and a flange had to be adapted at the shop to allow a secure fit. Again, we do not carry equipment in our fleet that would allow a plumber to adapt a flange at the job site.
When the customer called and expressed her concern about the bill, it was reviewed and we removed the hours of the helper -- 3.75 hours --, even though the labor was spent and necessary to effect the repair. We also did not bill for the overtime rate for the plumber, 3:30 pm is the normal quit time. The weather was cold and we wanted to make sure our customers had water over the weekend, and use of their facilities.
My men worked overtime, on a Friday afternoon to help a customer.
Final Consumer Response
(The consumer indicated he/she DID NOT accept the response from the business.)
I agree that the invoice was only for 3.75 hours. I was being generous in rounding it up to 4 - the time spent offsite was still 2 hours, with the remaining 1.75 being the actual time at my home, of which almost .25 of it was spent with the plumber taking a cigarette break, leaving the actual work time to be only 1.5 hours.
I have also already conceded that the bill was adjusted to remove the hours of the helper. As far as labor spent and necessary to effect the repair -- nothing could be further from the truth. I saw that with my own eyes. Out of the 2.75 hours the helper spent on my premises he was only out of my sight for .5 when he was under the house and other than that the most constructive thing he did while he was here was mop water off of my bathroom floor which resulted from him failing to empty the toilet tank before they removed it. And, unless he needed to help drive the truck on the second junket back to their office he was also extraneous for that hour. Once again, this was nothing short of a very transparently veiled attempt to pad the bill or to train a novice at my expense.
As for the overtime rate - first of all, that was not explained at the time I made the appointment. The only hourly rates that were given to me were the $60 plumber's rate and the $30 helper's rate. I would not expect any ot rate until after 5pm unless it was otherwise stated upfront, which it was not and, quite coincidentally, 5pm is the exact time that their truck pulled out of my driveway. If the plumber had (which I still contend he should have) come with the parts and equipment he needed, he would have been done WELL before 3:30.
I am not a plumber but, I do know that the replacement of a frost free faucet and the snaking of a drain are very commonplace for skilled and experienced plumbers. why they would not carry such items and have them in stock at their offices, I don't know. Even if there were a dozen such sizes they should have had at least the most common sizes on hand. My house is a standard ranch style home with a brick crawl space, it is hardly anyone's definition of unique in design or construction. House walls do not come in an infinite number of thicknesses, most constructions are fairly standard. And, because the plumber was well aware that this would be the repair he was being asked to do he should have had all the most common sizes in his truck.
As for the supposed flange - that was never explained to me. The only reason for the second trip was to get the balloon apparatus to force the clog through the line. No parts, other than the cracked faucet were taken from my house. If they are claiming that they needed some special or adapted flange for the job, I would argue that. I had that toilet installed after I purchased the house and at that time there was no talk of needing a special flange or doing any special adaptation to the existing flange and the workman used nothing but standard plumbing tools out of his truck - no trips were made to get additional parts or make any alterations to the flange or anything else.
I am as close as I could possibly be to this company, short of being located right in their driveway, what if I was located an hour or more from their offices? I have to wonder if this is standard practice with this company and I would expect it is. Really, I will say it again, this seems like nothing more than a very transparent effort to pad the bill and I would caution anyone considering using this company to think once and twice about what they will potentially be paying for, versus what they are actually getting.