Hired to repair toilet to sewer flange. 1 hr tried to con us into buying $120 toilet to replace $400 good one. No work done;;charged for $75 service.
I contacted Plumber Mike's (******* *******) through your BBB web page (9/24/14), explicitly describing a leaking toilet (spurting from base) with inadequate or short flange bolts, possible cracked cast iron flange in the deck, and a secondary issue of leaking valve stems in shower, asking worst-case price for flange replacement and other. I received an e-mail quote, available upon request. On the morning of our appointment (10/6/14) Mr. ******* called and asked us to e-mail photos of the shower valves so the proper parts would be sent. E-mail available upon request. His plumbers *** ***** and **** arrived late after "running out of gas", supposedly without the proper parts.
They did not attempt to remove the toilet or fix flange, bolts, or seal. Instead they cited first hardware in tank, overflow out of the tank, then backups, and finally claimed toilet "garbage" because the trapway diameter was too small. Mr. ***** attempted to convince us he could sell us a better toilet from his warehouse for $120, would return to install this instead, taking away our "problem" toilet.
Meanwhile they would not turn off water to repair leaking shower valves because of the condition of the Miami-Dade County water-meter/valve; which did need repair. But without attempting a repair, they insisted the valves required replacement, perhaps cutting a hole through the wall which my husband could then "tape over".
All told, the plumbers spent well over an hour on a "service call" where they failed to do any work whatsoever even though the problem had been well defined. Instead Mr. ***** tried desparately to convince us to part with a $400 Eljer toilet in almost new condition in return for a cheap toilet. We can only guess he intended to resell our more expensive toilet as new; internet research after he left shows the model has the standard trapway diameter of 2 1/8 inches, not substandard as he insisted. As the afternoon wore on and he tried harder and harder to sell us on his plan, his stories became progressively more outrageous, with him telling us he was a country boy, raised on a ranch where his father broke horses, disciplined with switches and bullwhips, but after my grandfather (from Chicago) who bought this house came up in conversation he was "born and raised in Chicago... just a Chicago country boy". He then told detailed stories about how other plumbers had taken advantage of elderly customers. He also tried to play on religious sympathies, predjudice against immigrants, and so forth. Rather than confront, we let him go on to see just how far he would take it. For this performance, we are being charged for a $75 "service call"? Invoice ***** avaiable upon request.
We do not dispute his failure to shut off the water and replace the shower valves, because there is/was a problem with the County water meter/valve; two men from the County fixing this as I type. But his assertion that entirely new shower valves had to be installed through the wall contradicts what Mr. ******* had said in the original quote, in his phone call the morning of the service call, as well as our independant research. He certainly could have replaced the flange for the toilet, because the toilet has its own shut off valve at the wall and does not require the water main to the house to be shut off.
My wife spoke to Mr. ******* this morning, and he became confrontational and abusive, calling her a "liar".
So our complaint is that Plumber Mike's, while they provided an up front quote for the work we detailed, sent plumbers with no intent of doing the work we desired and every intent of CON-vincing us to part with an expensive toilet in exchange for a cheap one. We have been charged $75 to waste an afternoon listening to a deceitful sales pitch. No repair has been attempted, and we still have an unsanitary condition in one of our two bathrooms. When told what we thought of the service call, Mr. ******* responded like a playground bully towards my wife.
We want Plumber Mike's to immediately drop the $75 charge for their "service call" when no service was performed.
Our plumbers were dispatched to the property 4240 SW 13 Terr Miami XXXXX on Monday Oct 6 in regards to a shower valve and toilet issue. Our company does not usually travel that far into Miami however decided to take your job out of courtesy. Once our technician examined the issues we advised you to contact the water company to have the water shut down. No work could be done on the property unless the water was shut off. The property did not have an internal shut off valve. Our technician was courteous enough to stand there and wait for Mr ******** to contact the water company to have the water shut off, this took 45 minutes. While we were patiently waiting our technician had a pleasant conversation with Mr and Mrs ********. It was no fault of ours that the water needed to be shut off in order to do the necessary repairs nor is it our responsibility to contact the water company on your behalf. Our standard procedure in a situation like this is to reschedule the job once the water has been shut off. However we still stayed and waited all that time out of courtesy. Our technician gave you the following recommendation to resolve your issue:
Toilet - replace the toilet due to calcium build up in the p-trap (this can happen to any toilet whether it costs $400 or $80 after 11 years of wear and tear). Our technician advised Mrs ******** that she could purchase her own toilet and we offered to use our company discount to get the toilet at a cheaper price. We did not offer to remove her toilet nor would we ever resell or reuse an 11 year old toilet. Our technician Joe advised her that it would make more sense to change the toilet because replacing just the fill valve and the flapper would still warrant another service call due to the calcium build up in the p trap. She would still need a toilet in the long run so instead of putting a bandaid on the toilet Joe advised her to just replace the toilet for no further issues to happen. He even offered to replace the flange free of charge when the new toilet came in.
Valves - the shower valves were rusted and needed to be replaced. In order to do this we would have to open the shower wall to remove the old valves and install the new ones. We advised Mr and Mrs ******** that if we were unable to remove the cartridges, we would have to replace the valves altogether. We advised that we would go through the back of the shower wall so that we would not damage their shower tiles.
Service call charge: Plumber Mike's charges a standard service call fee for providing a diagnostic estimate. This is to cover our plumber's time, gas and expertise. We advised the Thompsons that we would take off the cost of the service call if we came back to do the job. Bear in mind that our office is located in Hollywood and we went beyond our service area to Miami. Upon being told about the $75 service charge, Mrs ******** became irate and threatened to contact the BBB if she was charged. We still insist that she owes us the $75, and we have come across customers like her who seem to think the BBB is a tool used to threaten contractors out of paying for their jobs. We know when a customer has done this before and we are sure this is not her first time doing this to contractors. (We call them thieves) To think that we should send 2 technicians all the way to Miami for free is ludicrous. There is no plumbing company that would drive over 40 miles for free and give a diagnostic estimate for free. These customers clearly had no intention of paying for their job and are career crooks.
Mrs ******** states she received an emailed quote prior to the service call, this is incorrect. We do not email quotes unless we see the job. I would like to request a copy of this alleged quote she received from us.
Mr and Mrs ******** agreed that our diagnosis of the toilet was correct and to rectify the plumbing issue a new toilet is needed. Our experienced technician of 36 years did not try to con or mislead Mrs ********. He simply advised her that she needed a new toilet with no regard for price as we advised her to purchase her own toilet at her discretion.
Mr ******* did not quote the Thompsons a price or resolution over the phone. Our policy is to see the job before quoting a price.
In regards to the conversation that lasted 45 minutes, our technician was asked to wait for Mr ******** to contact the water company. It is not our policy to wait that long for a customer to shut the water off. However out of courtesy we waited. While we were waiting the customer started friendly conversation about being from Chicago. Having that in common, our tech related to Mr and Mrs ******** and engaged in the conversation while he was waiting. It would have been rude if he were to say "sorry Mr and Mrs ******** we need to go to our next job and cannot wait for you to contact the water company." They proceeded to tell Joe that the home belonged to their father who was "crazy" and "could no longer take care of himself" and that "their father wants his house back but they will not turn it over." This conversation was held as a courtesy while Mr ******** was on hold with the water company. After a 1/2 hour Mr ******** stated he was still on hold and our tech advised he would wait 10 minutes more. We are not certain as to why Mr and Mrs ******** would imply that our tech was telling "outrageous stories" about his life in Chicago. It seem as though it is hard to believe that our tech would be raised on a farm and own horses. There was never any conversation regarding religious sympathies or prejudice against immigration. Our experienced plumber was being courteous and patient with Mr and Mrs ******** and nothing more. We take offense to the implication that our plumber was telling "outrageous stories" about his life.
In conclusion, Plumber Mike's was not going after the Thompsons for $75. We initially took it as a loss, however since the Thompsons chose to report their thievery we wanted to respond with our side of the story.
(The consumer indicated he/she DID NOT accept the response from the business.)
Wow. I never expected Mr. ******* to try so hard to support my complaint. Let's start with the facts.
He asserts he did not quote a price. We did not want the work to be open ended, so we used the BBB "Request a Quote" website feature to initially contact Plumber Mike's and several others, as follows:
"I have a couple of plumbing problems that I need fixed.
1.) One of my toilets started leaking and spurting around the base when flushed. I tried to tighten down the closet bolts and discovered that the closet bolt on one side was too short to have a washer, and the bolt on the other side broke free when I tightened it. The china of the toilet is not damaged, and the T bolt is now free floating under the base. The house was built in 1949, so the soil pipe and closet flange are probably iron. Can you give me an idea of how much this will cost to fix from best case, just replace the wax seal and bolts, to the worst case, replacing the iron flange?
2.) Both the hot and cold valves (probably Gerber) in my shower leak. About how much to replace both valve stems?
Plumber Mike's was the only business contacted who gave us a price. What is more, the website (http://www.plumbermikes.com) clearly advertised "Up front pricing on standard jobs.... You know the exact price before the job is started - not an estimate". They responded as follows:
"BBB Plumbing Response
Thursday, September 25, XXXX X:XX AM
From: "****@plumbermikes.com" <****@plumbermikes.com>
Good Morning ****,
In response to your questions on the plumbing work, worst case scenario for the toilet would be a new flange (cast iron), new wax ring, **** bolts and grout.....total $475. Second, 2 new valves (Gerber) complete rebuild $195 each. Please feel free to give us a call if you have any questions or if you would like to schedule an appointment.
Plumber Mike's Inc
The job was as clearly defined as possible without my lifting the toilet myself. It is a dirty and heavy job, and parts for the shower valves are expensive, so I was prepared to pay the total amount. This was NEVER supposed to be a diagnostic call.
Mr. ******* holds his serviceman's (Joseph Irons') line that the toilet was the problem and that the fixture needs replacement. Let me make this clear. A sewer pipe points up through the floor. The sewer is vented; there should be no pressure or back-pressure. A flat disk, called a "flange", is attached to the end of this pipe for mounting the fixture. In a house as old as ours, this is probably iron. Two threaded bolts (what someone non-technical might call "screws") project up from this flange. The toilet fixture is tightened to the flange using the bolts, a wax ring at floor level seals the two together. The only path to the base of the toilet is through or around this wax seal. When water began spurting from under the toilet I discovered one bolt had been previously cut off too short, and the other became loose and was moving about freely, suggesting the iron flange had cracked. With nothing securing the toilet to the sewer pipe or to the floor it can jiggle about, defeating the wax seal. ANYONE can understand how a toilet will leak if not securely attached to the sewer pipe. A cheater's fix is to attach a half-moon or spanner piece to the flange to hold the bolts (these are available at Home Depot). A proper repair is to set the toilet to the side, remove the old flange, lead in (as in molten lead) a new one to the sewer pipe, replace the wax seal, return the fixture and fasten it in place with the flange bolts; this is the worst case scenario I mentioned.
As Mr. Irons blamed the toilet itself with one explanation after another I became suspicious. A clogged trap? The trap is between the fixture and its attachment to the sewer pipe, upstream of the toilet's base. Flushwater passes **** the bowl, through the trap, past the wax seal and flange into the vented sewer pipe. If clogged, the trap will restrict the flow, reducing the pressure, speed, and volume of flushwater at the seal. It will REDUCE leakage there. Draw this path out if necessary, but anyone can understand this.
Of course, there is the issue of turning off the water to the toilet. There is a simple valve at the wall for just this purpose; water to the entire house does NOT need to be turned off.
As for the odd repeated insistence that the toilet is "11 years old", Mr. ******* does not know the age of the toilet. It happens to have been installed 9 years ago. I can only guess that Mr. ******* mistakenly thinks the fixture had a 10 year warranty. Sorry, Mike, it has a lifetime warranty, which you should have honored.
I am left with only two choices; question the plumber's competence or question his integrity. Mr. ******* further limits my choice by touting Mr. Irons' 36 years of experience.
There are a few other points in his letter that need to be addressed. For one, my father is no more "crazy" than we are "career crooks". He only entered the conversation when I bemoaned that my EIGHTY FIVE (85) year old father shows poor judgment by insisting on repairing household issues like this one himself. This was the comment that launched Mr. Irons into a series of detailed stories about the elderly being swindled by plumbers, such as being tricked out of a $700 sink fixture, a point Mr. ******* did not dispute.
By the way, why does Plumber Mike's list both Dade and Broward counties on their website if driving to Miami was such a great imposition on their good manners?
Now for the outright slander.
Mr. ******* asserts "...we have come across customers like her my wife who seem to think the BBB is a tool used to threaten contractors out of paying for their jobs. We know when a customer has done this before and we are sure this is not her first time doing this to contractors. (We call them thieves) To think that we should send 2 technicians all the way to Miami for free is ludicrous. There is no plumbing company that would drive over 40 miles for free and give a diagnostic estimate for free. These customers clearly had no intention of paying for their job and are career crooks."
Isn't this a little irrational? How does he know this? Where does this special knowledge come from? Clairvoyance? He looked in his crystal bowl? If he had some reason to suspect we were criminals, that we do this all the time, why come to our address at all, or does he regard all customers this way? Or are these accusations because we used the BBB complaint form? For the record, this is the first time we've used the BBB's website to find a business, and also the first time we've complained to the BBB about a business. How exactly are we supposed to profit this way? I still have a leaky toilet and shower. Hooray for me.
They would have done better to have looked at my walls than into any crystal ball. They would have seen degrees in engineering from MIT, physics from Vanderbilt, and a US Naval Officer's commission. We are not "thieves" or "crooks"; we are people who are accustomed to accountability and have worked hard for every accomplishment. At the very least they might not have taken us for fools.
We do not have criminal histories, nor do we have a crystal ball. We have The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which provides Criminal History Information. Mr. Joseph Arthur Irons, plumber, born 1963 (actually born in Illinois!) has felony arrests for purchasing marijuana, cruelty and abuse of a child and battery, but no convictions. However, ******* George *******, born 1956, (AKA Andrew Bradley *******, Stephen Emanuel *******, Thomas George Gray, and a few others), has arrests for curfew violations, trespassing, obstruction of justice, resisting an officer, burglary of a vehicle, aggravated battery, possession of drug equipment and paraphernalia, selling syringes without a prescription (and he wouldn't sell a used toilet?) and 8 felony counts of cocaine possession. Besides his misdemeanors, he has served time for several of the felonies, and has one solid felony conviction for cocaine possession.
Florida statutes have allowed convicted felons to be considered on a case by case basis for licenses since 2007, but Mr. ******* has had his personal commercial licenses (FRO2172, FRO1901) since 2005. Maybe he was given special consideration; maybe not, in which case he might have obtained these fraudulently.
So who is the career criminal?
This has been an ugly exchange, and I hope the BBB will not shy away from publishing it. I have always been under the impression the BBB existed on the one hand to protect customers from shoddy work and unscrupulous business practices and on the other hand for respectable businesses to distance themselves from such unprofessional conduct. It is no more a tool for career criminals to bully businesses than it is mere cheap advertising. So
Final Business Response
We are not going back and forth with this customer any more. We will waive the $75 service call fee. Owner ******* ******* would not be in business for over 19 years and have an "A" rating with Angies List if he had a criminal background. He would not be able to operate a business this long and have countless business ties with the county and city districts if he has this criminal background that was fabricated. We do not wish to continue this correspondence with the ********* as we have decent customers who are happy to do business with us. We wish the ********* all the best.