Thursday, November 13, 2008

I should have been a plumber

UGH! It has been a week. Alex brought home a nasty cold that had him out of school on Monday and me sick the rest of the week. I went home from work early on Tuesday because of the icky cold and then decided that since I was home I would kill a few birds and make some phone calls for appointments. Big mistake – should have just slept off the cold.

Background: Our shower has not been shutting off properly for several weeks. I tried disassembling it to replace the cartridge, but I could not remove the cartridge myself. Somehow messing around with it seemed to get the water turning on and off again properly. This solution was only temporary though as Sean called me as I was getting in to work one day to tell me that “the bathtub is gushing water and won’t turn off”. He did eventually get the water to slow to a trickle by using brute force to push the handle in – but of course that isn’t a permanent solution either.

Soo.. lying on the couch I think good chance to get an appointment with a plumber to have him replace the cartridge – I thought I’d be making an appointment for next week or something. First place I called I explained the issue and that I think it’s the cartridge and he says, “Sure we can replace it. It is a $59 service charge – I can send someone right out.” I think great – I won’t have to take more time off from work, $59 is manageable, he’ll be in and out in about an hour or so and I will still have time to take a nap before the kids come home from school (this was about noonish). Yeah, I guess I’m that naïve.

As soon as the plumber arrives he looks at the type of faucet I have, agrees that the cartridge is the problem, and tells me that the total bill to take out the old and replace with new is $275 and change. I say what about the $59? “Oh, that is just to get me here, doesn’t include actually doing anything.” Since I have to pay the $59 anyway, he is right here and it still sounds attractive to get this all taken care of right now without missing more work, I reluctantly agree. I really think the guy I talked to on the phone (which I later learned was the owner of the company) should have told me the range in which I’d be paying for a replacement cartridge, since he knew that is what the call was for instead of misleading me into thinking I was only going to pay $59. By the way, I thought $59 was reasonable since the cartridge itself costs about $16 – since taking it out and replacing would be about a half hour of labor – that sounded about right to me.

But that’s not the end of it. Plumber tries to extract the old cartridge with a special tool and the cartridge was so corroded that is broke off and could not be fully removed. Now I have a dripping pipe sticking into my shower/bathtub, the water to the whole house is shut off, and my only option is to purchase and install a new faucet. I have to do it right now because this is the only place to shower in the house (damn one full bath) and I cannot turn the water on for the rest of the house until it is fixed unless I want water spewing from that pipe full blast. Now that part isn’t the plumbers fault, the faucet was probably original to the house (1981) and we have very hard water here, making corrosion pretty common after that many years. I have no trouble believing that the only true fix was to replace the faucet.

I did have a problem with paying for the new faucet on top of the “repair and replacement charge” of $275. The new faucet to install cost $848, after he told me it would cost between $600 and $900 depending which faucet I choose. I told him whichever was the least expensive option and that is what he came up with. *sigh* Apparently the cheaper faucets were not stocked on his truck (kinda convenient, eh?). I don’t know the actual cost of just the faucet itself because it is only sold to professionals, you cannot go to home depot or wherever and buy this particular brand. I do know that I could get several similar models in other brands for between $100 and $200 dollars. Still I think I could swallow that if I wasn’t still being charged for the repair that didn’t happen. It is a really nice faucet with a hot/cold water pressure valve that makes sure the water temp doesn’t change when you use other water in the house, and did take him several hours to install.

So grand total for missing half a day of work and deciding to make an appointment: $1123 – ugh. And I’m still sick, and now there is a whole in the drywall in the kitchen where he had to go in from the back to replace the faucet so as not to mess up the tile in the bathroom. Now I get to call around to get that fixed. I’d wait til I was well, but the house is on the market and who knows when someone will want to see it. I’m thinking a big whole in the drywall in the kitchen is not really a good selling point. *Sigh* at least the new owners will have a new faucet, with extra good temp control, and which has a 100 yr warranty on the cartridge. I swear by the time we leave this place it will be an all new house – we replaced windows, roof, garage door, the kitchen plumbing and now the bathroom plumbing.

Oh, and icing on the cake? The next morning when Alex tried to take a shower the pipes start spewing water into the kitchen and into the wall. I immediately have him turn off the water. Plumber comes back out (at 6:30am) immediately and fixes the problem for free, he forgot to sodder one of the joints – but sheesh! Glad we didn’t fix the drywall the same day – no way we’d have known until the water damage started to come through the wall.

I called the owner up and complained about having to pay the extra $200 or so (the cost of the failed repair after you subtract the $59 service charge) and the two of us went round and round for about 15 min. on how ethical their charging practices were, but in the end I couldn’t make him do the right thing. I suppose I could dispute the charge on my credit card, but I’m not sure that is the right thing to do either. I guess I’ve eliminated one company for any future issues…


Jennifer said...

I find a letter to the Better Business Bureau can get things accomplished. They should have been much more clear about the "service fee", especially with people on tighter budgets these days. You were lucky to have had a credit card available.

Jill in CA said...

(((((Jenny))))) What a crummy day!! I definitely agree that writing to the Better Business Bureau is in order. Actually, if you call the owner back and tell him you'll be filing a complaint to the BBB, that is almost always enough to get them to do "the right thing." I hope he refunds some of the money, and that you are feeling completely better soon!

Anonymous said...

You'd think with the way the economy is right now that these small businesses would be willing to work with people. Apparently not - maybe he figures he won't be able to afford the higher taxes he'll have to pay? lol

Anyway - sorry about the bad day. I hope your cold gets better soon.


Kathy A. said...

Oh hon I'm sorry but I did laugh. I thought of those delicate stitching hands trying to be a plumber and could just not picture it. I am so sorry that a simple issue became a much larger problem. Hopefully you can find some resolution to this issue.

Melissa C. said...

OMG, what a total b@stard. I'm SO SORRY! I'm really mad on your behalf!!

I wish I was a little closer. Will could fix your drywall in about 15 minutes. And he works cheap. LOL

Erin said...

Jenny, that is terrible! I agree with both a letter to the BBB, and if you have a local website where the public can leave reviews of service providers (we have one around Atlanta), I would do that as well.