Roto-Rooter Drains $200 From My Bank Account For 3-Minute Visit

Rochelle warns you not to call for repairs without confirming contractors’ rates. She attained this hindsight after a 3-minute visit by Roto-Rooter cost her $300.

She writes:

I mistakenly called upon Roto-Rooter to attend to a cut pipe without finding out the charges in advance. My contractor, who was on site at the time of the plumber’s visit, assured me they were in attendance no longer than 3 minutes – they pulled up to the rear yard, entered the premises with the cap for the pipe, installed it and left.

The cost of this visit is over $200 – $179 ‘call out’ plus tax. I called and complained. The Roto Rooter representative (Jeff) said their ‘call out’ charge is the industry standard, their service people of the highest caliber, etc, etc. I called around to three different plumbing companies and was given a range of ‘call out’ charges running from $89, $90, to $142. The Roto-Rooter representative suggested that I should have inquired about the price prior to using their service. I agree, I should have checked first. However, I was under some stress, had a cut pipe and a need to get to an appointment. Also, it has been my experience that service companies usually let me know right away, over the phone the charges that I can expect to pay. I anticipated a bill of $50-$60. $200 for three minutes work is outrageous – that works out to $4,000/hour. It also makes me wonder if the next person on the list for service is going to be charged the ‘call out’ charge for the same hour I’ve been billed.

What’s the most unfair you’ve ever been treated by a service technician who made a brief visit?

Comments

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  1. humphrmi says:

    Boy, it’s difficult to not be anti-OP with posts like these.

    • Bremma says:

      I agree here. She should have checked the price, and also calcuating it as 4,000 and hour is unfair, as that call out rate is probably a flat rate, not their per hour labor charge, which means it could be something as simple as the OP’s issue, or something much more difficult like severely backed pipes or other major plumbing disaster that might take longer.

    • chefboyardee says:

      I agree wholeheartedly.

    • sagodjur says:

      The OP admitted she should have checked the price first. Not everyone has the presence of mind to do so in every scenario all of the time. She’s human. Sue her.

      It’s good customer service for a company to voluntarily disclose their rates when a customer is requesting service. Sure, it might scare some customers away, but then maybe you’ll have to lower your rates instead of relying on the customer forgetting to ask the price in order to make an extra buck.

      • PTB315 says:

        The fact OP acknowledged that ultimately its her fault for not making any effort to find out the cost prior to ordering the service doesn’t change anything significant with the story. It’s an unfortunate situation, but ultimately could have been avoided.

        I’m not very sympathetic to someone who states “Also, it has been my experience that service companies usually let me know right away, over the phone the charges that I can expect to pay.” It’s nice that some people do that, but that doesn’t change the fact that OP gave a company permission to perform work without making any inquiry into their pricing. OP had an expectation of $50-60, and if she made even the slightest attempt to find out what the cost might be, I’m sure the company would have informed her that there was a service call plus hourly rate.

        And OP needs to skip the outrage math of turning 3 minutes into $4,000/hr. It’s irrelevant to the situation. A service call does not by default take into affect what happens upon arrival, and the way OP describes the charge, they didn’t even charge any labor time. Just the service call, for which we have no definition of whether that is just for showing up or if it includes the first hours worth of work or something.

        She’s throwing a shit fit over a bunch of things that she made no effort to understand prior to getting the work done, and quite frankly appears to still not understand, based on how much information is not included in the summary above.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      Yeah, this is pretty much all on the OP. A few good way to avoid these problems.

      1. Avoid franchise contractors — If someone is a good plumber, electrician, door installer, cabinet installer, transmission rebuilder, etc. s/he probably wont be working for a chain.

      2. Always ask for a breakdown of costs and an estimate.

      3. Always verify this information when the contractor shows up.

      4. Always expect to pay a minimum fee for the truck roll, in addition to an hourly (or per job) rate. Every business has overhead and a minimum cost to simply dispatch. An emergency, off hours, or last minute appointment will almost always cost extra.

      5. If you’re a homeowner (or a car owner), try to establish actual business relationships with contractors. Use the same plumber, electrician, GC, mechanic, etc. repeatedly if you’re happy with his or her work. This will pay off in the long run and you wont get nickle-and-dimed if they know you’ll be feeding them bigger projects down the line.

    • BobOki says:

      Yeah, this is a pretty open and close case. Nearly any service charges a hourly fee, as in no matter if they are there 1 minute or 59 minutes, you are charged an hour. That is pretty standard practice and has been for over a decade at the minimum, OP just wanted a free ride.

    • Jeff-er-ee says:

      I have to wonder what brand of magic wand the OP thinks this contractor used to magically appear on site with no travel time. Part of the reason that there are “minimum times” is that, although the job actually took 3 minutes, there was probably a good 45 minutes of travel time, and that plumber gets paid whether they’re idling in traffic or cutting pipe.

      I wish people would start looking at things with a broader perspective. Really, I do.

  2. hosehead says:

    Standard practice, lady. What’s the problem?

    • Anonymously says:

      Being standard practice does not mean everyone knows it, and not knowing to expect the buttrape means you didn’t pre-lube, which leads to more butt hurt.

      • hosehead says:

        Then how did she come up with the $50-$60 “expected” estimate? If she pulled it out of her butt, she should not be complaining about further butt-related insertion.

        The problem is the lady is a bad consumer.

        • kujospam says:

          She called other places afterwords. Read please.

          • PTB315 says:

            It’s ironic you declare that hosehead should “read the story” when he stated she pulled the $50-60 range out of her ass, and stated that $50-60 was based on her calling other places. FTFA: “I anticipated a bill of $50-$60.” Keyword = Anticipated. That means that before she saw her bill. The calls after don’t even confirm that range, the two cheapest estimates over the phone were $90.

            Everyone commenting read the story. I assume you did too, next time try reading with comprehension. Or make absolute sure you’re accurate while condescendingly correcting someone.

    • skylar.sutton says:

      Agreed.

      1) Do your homework and ask before you authorize… or it’s all on you.
      2) No they won’t be charged the “same hour” as you were… b.c. the guy has to get in his truck and DRIVE to the next place. Part of your fee is the time/expense to drive out to you with a fully stocked van.

      (Disclaimer: Not pro roto-rooter… just anti stupid-americans)

    • Pax says:

      Simple, “she learned a costly lesson and wants to share it with others”.

      Why so angry?

  3. TBGBoodler says:

    Don’t ever call My Plumber. They advertise that they will tell you the cost up front. Yeah… after the guy is already there for the paid-for visit.

    They wouldn’t tell me how much installing a faucet would be over the phone, and once the guy was there and I was already out plenty of $$$, he quoted me an outrageous price over and above his visit price. AND tried to upsell me on a very expensive faucet, talking trash the ENTIRE time about the faucet I’d already bought and had him install. To the point that it was creepy having him in my house.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      “…They wouldn’t tell me how much installing a faucet would be over the phone”

      Why in the world did you go with someone who refused to give an estimate?

      • TBGBoodler says:

        I know… but the way she expressed it over the phone made it sound OK. Like the cost of the visit would apply to the installation cost. I was stupid. But I won’t be again. That’s for sure.

        It’s nice that I’ve now found a great local plumber. He’s not cheap, but reasonable and he comes when needed and does a great job when he’s here.

    • skylar.sutton says:

      Good thing she called Roto-Rooter than… way to RTFA.

    • PTB315 says:

      Its unreasonable for them to not give you a best case scenario over the phone based on hourly wage, service call, and time spent. I’m assuming they weren’t providing the faucet or other necessary materials, if they were, then that’s complete bullshit. An installer should be able to figure out time and material based on a perfect scenario, and give you that price with the condition that it was in fact based on perfect conditions, and that it might be/likely will be more than that, and what the hourly rate is.

      And I’m talking about any installer with experience in their trade. A plumber should without any doubt have basically mastered his understanding of time and materials required for basic jobs. The training they go through to get their titles and certifications is no joke.

      You shouldn’t have given them any business, but I can’t say I haven’t done the same before. They’re real friendly and encouraging when they want you to commit to something without any significant agreement or understanding regarding costs, then the bill comes and you feel like a victim of a crime.

  4. PunditGuy says:

    I object to the concept that a brief visit is “unfair.” The brevity of the visit or the amount of work done is completely irrelevant. Surgeons can get paid very, very well to move a knife a couple of centimeters, and the outcome isn’t judged on how long it took.

    $200 fixed the problem, and fixed it quickly. As a bonus, a life lesson was learned.

    There’s no guarantee that the cheaper service providers could have come right away — but the way to determine whether they could or couldn’t would have been to call them.

    P.S. — “I agree, I should have checked first” followed by a string of excuses that include the service provider being psychic does not equate to accepting responsibility.

    • Runner says:

      Once being in the service industry, I’m going to agree with this 100%. It’s not about the amount of time, but the level of expertise you paid for and the responsiveness they gave.

      Someone may do a job in 5 min’s, someone else it may take them 2 hours. Do you pay the guy that took 5 min’s less because he knows what he is doing?

      • Scrutinizer says:

        A company was having a problem with some of its equipment. No one could figure out how to get to work so in desperation they called a retired engineer. He walked in, took out a piece of chalk and made an X, then he had them drill a small hole on the X. The equipment worked fine and the engineer billed the company $1000. The company refused to pay saying a $1000 dollars was too much for making an X. The engineer resubmitted his bill $10 for making an X and $990 for knowing where to put it.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          I’m confused what kind of equipment requires a hole to work. Was is a collander manufacturer?

          • Bremma says:

            I think it’s more of a general skill analogy than an actual event. I.E. Skilled person knew exactly what was needed with a short examination

            • jesirose says:

              Yeah my BF showed me a similar real world example from his job. Someone actually asked him for help on this job, because they couldn’t fix it. The problem was fixed by a piece of duct tape – but should they pay him just for the actual tape? No. They pay him more because he knew where to put it and that putting it there at all would fix the problem.

        • Buckus says:

          Along the same vein:

          A woman brought her car into a repair shop complaining the engine was making a weird noise. The mechanic listened to the engine and confirmed the sound. He took out a hammer and hit the engine block just so, and the noise stopped. He then billed the woman $100.

          “But all you did was hit the engine with a hammer” she protested.

          So the mechanic broke it down for her:
          $10 – hit engine with hammer
          $90 – Knowing where to hit the engine with the hammer.

          In the same vein, as a programmer I get paid to type alot. But should I just get paid for the amount of typing I do, or for knowing what words to type?

    • FrugalFreak says:

      plumbers ain’t surgeons. Doctors go to school for years and charge for that, plumbers go to nowhere and simply take a test and pass. they charge that much cause they are people who take advantage of people in emergency situations. they are kin kinda to lawyers, not docters.

      • BDSanta2001 says:

        There is technical training, some apprenticing and a number of certifications to become a valid, licensed Plumber in Texas.

        • FrugalFreak says:

          and yet many plumbing shops hire self proclaimed plumbers. Yes it happens because they pay them less because they aren’t certified, I know this to be a fact for some shops.

          • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

            Always insist your work is done by a licensed plumber.

            This will more likely occur when you use non-chained plumbers. “Private Practice” if you will. Usually 1-2 guys (or gals) who do all the work themselves.

            Also oftentimes cheaper. Find one with a good BBB rating.

            • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

              I’ve seen the exact opposite. An independent contractor is typically licensed and bonded and does all of the work himself, along with an assistant. The chain shops often rely upon the license of the owner, who then sends his workers out to do work under his (distant) supervision.

              In just about every situation, I’d trust the work of any random independent contractor out of the yellow pages than I would somebody from a chain operation.

        • Bremma says:

          I made a post like this, but it didn’t go through, but this is true.

          Most service type professions have an apprenticeship period where they are working under a certified plumber/electrician/ect learning and practicing their skills before they are a full fledged professional. I don’t know how long a standard apprenticeship is, but it’s not a short period of time by any means. There are also other certifications and training that maybe required on top of the apprenticeship. So while it’s not as formal sounding as med school, there is significant raining involved.

      • FrugalFreak says:

        doctors

      • PunditGuy says:

        Lawyers don’t go to school for years?

        Plus, analogy fail. You pay a premium for every service that you are unwilling or unable to do yourself. You pay an extra premium for quality. You pay an extra premium for response time.

        Welcome to capitalism.

      • meske says:

        You’re welcome to fix your own pipes.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Licensed Plumbers are generally required to “intern” (called apprenticeship) before even being allowed to get a license. They do indeed need years of training first.

        Lastly, it is common industry practice for trade positions like plumbers, electricians, lawyers, etc. to charge a flat “call in” fee. Meaning whether it takes 3 minutes or 60 minutes that is the minimum charge for the first hour. They do this simply BECAUSE most of their required services do only take 1-10 minutes. And no one could make a living if they simply charge paltry fees for quick work.

        • blinky says:

          Licensed plumbers are paid while they intern for years. Doctors pay to do it.

          • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

            False. Interns are paid for their work. In fact, there have been court cases over taxation of medical interns. The debate was whether paying medical interns for on the job training was considered educational training or not. Being paid during education internships is tax-free, while the alternative is obviously not. In the end, courts ruled that medical interns compensation is considered educational and thus not taxed. This decision was actully made this year (2010)

            • zekebullseye says:

              And I’m getting a tax refund! Yay! It won’t be much but money is money and it’s better in my pocket than Uncle Sam’s.

        • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

          I anticipated a bill of $50-$60. $200 for three minutes work is outrageous – that works out to $4,000/hour.

          No one says it’s fair. And I’d hate to point it out, but whether you bounce a $3 check or a $300 check– the bank charges a flat fee for that bounced check. There is no sliding scale fee. I’m still confused as to why your contractor didn’t understand how to cap a pipe…? Or whether he just didn’t want to?

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        How do they take advantage of people?

      • womynist says:

        I wouldn’t go so far as to say they “take advantage of people in emergency situations”; I’m sure some do, but for me it amounts to the fact that plumbers basically work with shit all day long. If that were my job, I’d charge a lot for it too!

    • crazydavythe1st says:

      I agree. She isn’t paying just for three minutes work. She’s paying for travel time to and from the job site and paying in general for the plumber’s expertise.

      If the plumber billed at an hourly rate with no minimum at say – $50/hour, the plumber would only be paid $2.50, which could hardly be considered fair. This is very standard in service professions. Yes, someone else will probably be billed for the call out charge within the same hour you were. That’s not the point, though. A three minute job indicates someone that is of the highest caliber, in my opinion. A lesser plumber would probably take that long just to walk in the door.

      I would just try to get the rate lowered to an average of the other companies’ call out rates. I would just tell them “I am very satisfied with the efficiency of the repair, but I am disappointed with that seem to be quite a bit above average” and that “I would gladly recommend your company to friends and family if it weren’t for this”

  5. odarkshineo says:

    consumer fail.

  6. Hi_Hello says:

    anticipated a bill of 50-60… the range of call out changes she from was 89,90, and 142…

    it’s not 3 min of work. How long did it take them to drive to your place? how long did it take them to load up the truck? how long did it take them to find your location? how long did it take them to schedule the appointment? how long did it take for them to suit up? fill up the gas, bla bla bla.

    • mobiuschic42 says:

      You get paid for getting dressed in the morning? wow. :)
      Beyond that, yeah, no one pays just for 3 minutes.

    • Clyde Barrow says:

      Exactly. My TV repairman cost me a total of $200.00 for little over 45 minutes of work; $100.00 to show up and $100.00 to fix the issue.

    • Destra says:

      I don’t get paid for driving to work in the morning, and neither do my contractors.

    • cashxx says:

      Its sick what people are charging…..that why america is going to shit. Go into best buy for an HDMI cable and they are like $40 or $60 dollars. A friend that works there gets them for what best buy cost is or something like that and its under 8$. Go to monoprice.com and they are a few bucks. Everything is like this and its ridiculous! Contractors are even worse, I wonder how many people get cheated on a daily bases!

  7. Runner says:

    “My contractor, who was on site at the time of the plumber’s visit….”

    If your contractor broke the pipe, get your money from them. If you’re building your house still, get your money from them.

    Otherwise the only thing you can do is take your hit and learn to ask next time. If all they did was install a cap on a pipe, they are a couple of bucks at most hardware stores, and very easy to install.

    From the 3 min’s they were on site, that’s about how long it would have taken.

    • FrugalFreak says:

      Best thing you can do lady is learn to fix stuff yourself, the home service profession is iffy, all of them!

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        A) Some work requires a license or permit. Electrical work is the notable rule in that case.
        B) Not everyone is capable of learning these things, or willing.
        C) Even if you get a general idea, you may screw it up due to lack of experience/knowledge. That is why the professionals exist.
        D) Most skilled professions contain unscrupulous businessmen. It’s not hard to find the good ones, if you want to try. Most people just go with the quickest and easiest option (hence chain companies) even though they are usually not the best choice. The fault lies in our innate nature to follow the path of least resistance, even if it causes more problems later on.

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          You don’t have to be a contractor to pull a permit. I’ve never lived anywhere that didn’t offer HO permits. As long as you do the work to code, it doesn’t matter who is doing it.

          • hosehead says:

            You need to get around more. In my city, you need an inspection by a licensed plumber or electrician for most work that is completed. You can do the work yourself, but you have to pay a licensee to inspect it and sign-off.

            • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

              That’s a screwed up system. So plumbers and electricians inspect and sign off on their own work? Isn’t that a conflict of interest?

              Everywhere I’ve lived it’s been the same way. Regardless if you’re a HO or a licensed contractor, when you pull a permit you still need to have the city inspector sign off during the rough in and the final inspection.

        • RandomHookup says:

          I tried a “learn it online” electrician’s course. It didn’t go so well, but, on the plus side, the dog’s fur is starting to grow back in.

      • hoi-polloi says:

        I agree that there’s a lot homeowners can learn to do themselves. That said, you have to be motivated. You have to invest time and energy into doing research, working your way through projects, etc. You’re not going to be as fast as a pro, and projects may take longer than anticipated. Especially the first couple times you do something, your finished projects may not be as polished. I say that from personal experience, and I worked for a little while in a fairly specialized trade. If you go this route, also be prepared to invest in a lot of tools and learn how to use them safely. The largest concern is in areas where improper work can have catastrophic consequences.

        My wife and I have tackled many projects ourselves, including the bulk of our kitchen renovation, lining, pointing, and partially rebuilding a chimney, etc. There are still things I’d rather pay professionals to do. I’ll gladly change a fixture or outlet, but I’m not willing to learn to rewire my house. I have a great electrician who I’ve used for years. I have a great window company and roofer, and may have finally found a good HVAC guy. I’d suggest doing your research on companies, asking friends and family for recommendations (and people you should avoid), and getting multiple estimates for any significant job. Feel people out and never let yourself get pressured into hiring someone. If someone comes to you and claims you need something done, tell them to get the hell off your property.

  8. Hi_Hello says:

    oh forgot… if it’s was an EMERGENCY, swing by a hardware store to get what you need to fix the problem. if it takes them 3 min, it probably would take you an hr or so.

    • Rachacha says:

      Exactly. I usually keep a small stock of emergency plumbing supplies just in case a pipe breaks at 3:00am on a sunday morning, so that I can do a quick repair to stop the leak, until I can get to the hardware store to get the parts necessary to properly fix the problem.

    • SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

      unless its a 4 hour drive to the site.

  9. Platypi {Redacted} says:

    It would be nice if the $$ matched in these stories, oh well. We know what they mean.

    This is a sad lesson most homeowners get to learn. You have to pay an upfront charge for most contractors. It varies, but typically electrician and plumber rates are stiff, worse for the name brand shops. Local contractors can usually be had for lower rates, but you have to do the legwork to find them.

  10. Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

    Ummm… and the contractor couldn’t do it, because….?

    • Ixnayer says:

      simple, liability. Most contractors won’t touch anything subcontracted to another company. I have to go to new construction and rehabed houses to turn the furnace switch on and put the thermostat on heat or AC. My company is contracted to do all heating and Air so the Contractors won’t touch it until we start it up to confirm it is working. If they touch it first, any problems can be charged back to them.

  11. Aedilis says:

    Yeah it’s hard to not blame the OP. You learned a lesson lady. Unless you’re gushing sewage into your basement, call a couple places and ASK how much it’s going to cost before you agree to the work being done.

  12. pop top says:

    “What’s the most unfair you’ve ever been treated by a service technician who made a brief visit?”

    Not only is that poorly written, it’s also incorrect. The OP wasn’t treated unfairly. They didn’t do the requisite homework (i.e. didn’t find out the charge BEFORE the service was done) and only have themselves to blame. Would you buy a car or a computer or even a pair of shoes without asking about the price beforehand?

    Consumerist is about educating consumers and giving them the tools necessary to make informed decisions, not crying about how you dropped the ball and want someone to complain to.

  13. abucsfan says:

    Thanks for the heads up – I’ve removed Roto-Router from my “do business with” list. The other idiots can say its your fault but I object to these outrageous charges. I can not do business with them as a result and will caution others as well.

    • dolemite says:

      I’ve had 1 experience with Roto-Rooter. I had sewage start to back up from my toilet/shower downstairs (yeah, it was nice). I called them, and they showed up in about an hour. They had to remove the toilet and send a tool down the pipe that cut away all the tree roots that had invaded my sewer line. They were down there for at least 2 hours, and came up covered in sweat, and many other things. Looks like it had kicked their butts, but they finally got it done. I think it was $390 for 2 guys for 2 hours. I think they earned it, and haven’t had a problem since.

      • vdragonmpc says:

        Then they really should be off the list as they didnt need to pull the toilet loose and cause a new issue. Did you know what those cool vents are on your roof? Yup direct access to the ol sewer line. Feed the rooter down through the pipe and get it done the direct way.

    • craptastico says:

      removing an entire franchise due to the actions of one franchisee that’s probably located nowhere near you is extremely ignorant

    • hosehead says:

      Have fun finding a certified plumber that will show up without a minimum truck-roll charge, usually equal to 1 to 1.5 hours of their labor rate.

      The OP should have asked. How did she come up with her estimated $50-60?

  14. mszabo says:

    3 minutes for the OP = 45-60 minutes for the Roto-rooter. Assuming you don’t live next door to Roto-rooter it makes sense for the customer to pick up the tab for travel expenses. I work as a SW consultant and I certainly bill for all travel time to/from a customer site unless that is negotiated elsewhere.

    • MrEvil says:

      Back when I was doing in home computer service I charged $50 for a roll-out. It was for two reasons:

      1) to keep people from having me drive out over something that I could have solved over the phone with them.

      2) to pay my vehicle expenses. It is EXPENSIVE operating a vehicle when it’s tied to your source of income. It goes beyond gas prices, you might put 12,000 miles a year on your vehicle…I was putting almost 3 times that on my vehicle in a year. I had to buy more costly commercial vehicle insurance. And anything that could wear out on my car wore out several times faster than it would on your car.

  15. skapig says:

    How exactly is this an issue if the submitter admits to being in the wrong? She chose to be a bad consumer and is paying the price for it.

    Time is money. Transportation is naturally a part of that. Sometimes jobs don’t pan out. The call-out fee ensures that their time isn’t wasted. There’s nothing unfair about her situation. She agreed without concern for the price. That’s normal for people who are more interested in getting their issues resolved quickly than how much it costs. Hindsight certainly leads to some remorse when shopping around after the fact, but the priority in the moment was to get the job done.

  16. BannedInBrittan says:

    If it was just capping a PVC pipe why couldn’t she just go buy a cap and Lowes/HD and cement it on? That’s so simple the people there would even tell you how to do it step by step.

  17. Ichabod says:

    Ever heard of Research? How hard is it to ask a few little questions?

    • Firethorn says:

      I was trained by government work to always get 3 quotes for stuff like this.

      I have found that in my personal life, for things like loans, insurance, etc… It can generally save me at least 20%. Often more.

      For example, I’m buying a house. I actually got 4 quotes – the cheapest is nearly 1/2 the price of the most expensive, and even the 2nd cheapest is nearly 30% more.

      The difference between loans varies by like $2k/year.

  18. XTC46 says:

    I get this a lot in my profession (System Administraotor). Yes it took me 15 minutes to fix your problem, and it was only a few settings changes, but it took me YEARS to learn to immediately recognize the problem and learn which settings needed to be changed. You arent paying for my time, you are paying for my skill and experience. This person would be really pissed had they charged her 150, came out tore up the old pipe, fixed it wrong and it leaked for the next few years, possibly causing foundation damage (depending on the location of the leak) and a higher water bill (depending on the type of leak).

    • ChuckECheese says:

      I disagree with you. The mere fact you have education and experience doesn’t mean it is ethical for you to force others to sign a blank check to use your services. This, in my opinion, is the biggest problem the U.S. has with its medical care system. The median physician income (that’s their reported income after expenses) is over $160K/year for the lowest paying specialties. This is very out of sync with what most of America is making. Add in the cost of insurance company overhead, and it’s an unaffordable black hole of financial suck.

      The fact is, a small, highly (self) entitled group has created a situation in which it can impoverish the rest of society at will, by creating high economic barriers to accessing its services. Doctors, and in this story, plumbers, are charging a far higher rate for their work than the majority of people in the same society can charge for theirs. This is inherently unbalanced, and will lead to economic and social problems.

      They may be uninteresting questions, but a society worth living in does have an obligation to look at wage distribution and ask, “Does this wage structure work for all of society, or only for a few of its members?” And we are talking about ethics here – about what is just and good for many. Everybody who keeps parroting the party line about free markets (there aren’t any) and beating their chests at how skilled and educated they are, are only justifying their zero-sum game aka greed, of which there is too far much of currently, and it’s tearing us apart.

      Regarding the specifics of this post, in Phoenix, I know I can get such a leak capped for about $90, as I just got a few quotes for this type of repair. It would also be appropriate for any service provider to provide prices whether they are asked or not. I have a friend from Paraguay who thinks the situation here with blue-collar “professionals” is hilarious, as she points out that in Paraguay, you can get your car or plumbing repaired for perhaps a chicken, or maybe even your leftover lunch, but here, such services cost many times the prevailing wage.

      • TuxthePenguin says:

        I cannot believe you just tried to make that argument with doctors. Have you stopped and looked to see what they have to go to get to the point to begin making that $160k a year? Lets compare that to the average American making 40k a year (median income) right out of college. Lets assume both had to take out the same student loans and both would have the same earning potential right out of college.

        Four years in Med School. Costs a doctor 200k easily. Your average American makes 160k. Average American is up 360k. And now the fresh Med School grad has to work another three to seven years as a resident before he can sit for his boards and become a specialist. Some require even longer. The highest they’ll get paid in this period is 60k usually.

        Lets assume they worked five years and made 60k each year. They earned 300k and the average American made 200k. They’re now only behind by 260k. Assuming the average American isn’t making more after nearly a decade working…

        Now the doctor can finally begin working… but he’s 260k behind. It takes him over two years just to EARN the difference in total earnings, nevermind the additional student loans, etc.

        But the larger takeaway is that you are paid on how easy it is to replace your skills and knowledge. That’s it. Its simply supply and demand. Someone working at McDonalds flipping burgers can (and is) replaced within a month, learning curve and all. How long does it take to replace a doctor? A CPA? A lawyer?

      • XTC46 says:

        So you think everyones time is worth the same amount? What incentive is their for anyone to study something more difficult then ditch digging if the wage isnt higher? Surgeons get paid more becasue they spend YEARS in school, and make a huge initial investment (schooling) and should be conmpensated for that.

        Customers dont sign a blank check. I tell them my hourly rate, I tell them how long I think it will fix. They sign a check for how long it took me to fix the issue, in 15 minute increments. If they dont think my time is worth it, then they can spend their own time fixing the issue.

        I do a lot of work for lawyers, they happily pay my 100/hr fee becasue their time is worth about 300/hr. It makes no sense for them to spend 2 hours fixing something I can fix in 30 minutes (and yes, this is very regularly the case).

        So let me ask you, do you make the 7.25/hr minimum wage the guy flipping burgers at McDs does? If you are making more than him, then you prove your entire point wrong. Some peoples time is worth more than others, that is fact.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        I’ll ignore your rant on doctors…

        You really need to study up on overhead costs and labor burden if you think a plumber working for a franchise is reaming the public.

      • Rachacha says:

        I have worked in a couple of different service industries in my life. The first was in the repair of audio/video equipment, and the second was in engineering.

        For the AV repair, there was a common problem with old Kodak slide projectors. Our technicians could diagnose the problem simply by listening to it. Basically a $0.01 piece cracked and broke after 15 years of use. A good technican could fix the problem in under 30 minutes, and we used to charge $75 for the repair. Why so much? Well, after repairing hundreds of these units, the technician learned every trick required to get the assembly out efficiently, and we manufactured special tools to help us do our job more efficiently, thus ssaving us time. The company invested many hours in training the technicians, and when they first started off, it would take them several hours to repair. The $75 fee was a flat rate and reflected the average of the time time required by the novice technician compared with the expert technician. Expertise is valuable.

        For the Engineering service, I used to charge $250/hour with between a 4-8 hour minimum charge for some of my services, even though my actual hourly salary was about $35/hour. So again, why the huge markup? First, there were only a handful of people in the world who could do the type of consulting that I was doing, Second, the type of work I was doing required the use of very expensive pieces of test equipment, and the cost of that equipment was built into the hourly rate or “overhead” on each project. Even if the equipment was 30+ years old and had been paid for countless times over, there were still ongoing maintenance and calibration fees that needed to be paid.

        In the case of a plumber, you have the salary and benifits of the plumber. His time spent traveling from the previous job site to your job site, the costs associated with operating his vehicle (maintenance, gasoline, insurance etc) as well as all of the tools necessary for his trade. Even though the OP’s job was simple and likely required a pipe cutter, sandpaper and cement, the service call rate includes all of the above expenses and a portion of all the equipment on the plumber’s truck.

      • ThomFabian says:

        I find it interesting that you think your story of your Paraguayan friend actually bolsters your argument.

        Do you really think the time and energy invested in fixing your car should be equal to a chicken? This is your example of a *good* financial environment?

        An hour’s effort (at minimum) for a meal or two? Thats well below any minimum wage most folks would argue is livable.

      • rmorin says:

        I say this in all seriousness. You are a communist. No one in their right mind would ever agree with you. Doctors go to school for 11+ years after high school for the most basic practice areas (internal medicine/family practice). You really think they are abusing society by making a 160K salary? They have more skills and knowledge that someone who has not been to that much school could ever have. Your attitude is radical and nonsensical. There is no “blank check” as you speak. You pay for value; that someone who is in charge with your healthcare knows what they are doing. With the OP example, you pay for someone who can’t (for whatever reason) do what you can.

      • AustinTXProgrammer says:

        We do have free markets. Why don’t you go and become a master plumber or a doctor if they make so much? Not that easy? So why would anyone do it? Oh yeah, big paycheck! If more people go into the field and it becomes saturated, there will be downward pressure on wages and prices.

    • nybiker says:

      THIS!!!. I too am a computer system admin (granted, unemployed at this time, but still that’s what I know). I tell people the same thing. You’re not paying for my time, but my knowledge (and the skill to find the answer if I don’t know it – sometimes just figuring out the correct phrase to put into Google is a skill, considering the kinds of symptoms computers can have).

      OpenVMS FTW!

  19. CaptCynic says:

    “Roto-Router drains $200 from my bank account”… This headline makes it sound like they took the money out of her account without authorization. I think the headline is unfair and poorly written. I agree with most of the other comments here.

    I had an icemaker go out on my refrigerator and was unable to fix it myself. I had it replaced, at the cost of the icemaker + labor. It took him about 5 minutes to install. Call-out charges are a minimum cost for a service call and are necessary. Sure it only took 5 minutes to replace, but I wasn’t cheated.

  20. Augie says:

    Hmmm hired somone to do a job before bothering to find out or discuss what it might cost then complain when the cost exceeds your expectations…Really?.

    Mininmum charges are nothing new especially in the plumbing industry and a large company such as Roto-Rooter has had these practices in place for a long time. Guess what? It’s generally not worth a contractor’s time or trouble to come do an emergency house call for 50-60 bucks, that’s why they charge a minimum amount.

  21. moderndemagogue says:

    Are you kidding me? $4,000/hr?

    How long did it take the guy to drive out there from the location? And then drive back? You’re covering that cost too. He probably had to devote at least 20 minutes or half an hour to your project, which makes it around 400-600 / hr. Still high, but not exorbitant.

    And get an estimate. You were under some stress? Clearly not that much given you weren’t even on site, and it was instead your contractor who told you how long he was there. Please. This woman’s words sully Rotorooters good name for no reason.

    • EBounding says:

      Yes. There’s also the opportunity cost of having less labor for a potentially more profitable job. The call-out rate offsets that.

      And I agree that this headline is pretty close to libel. When I saw the headline I was expecting to read that Rotorooter had the OP’s bank account linked for some reason and just took her money.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      And then there are inherent costs to being licensed & bonded, as well as vehicle payments, maintenance costs, workman’s comp, taxes, OSHA compliance etc.

      Small jobs also typically have a minimum cost because otherwise, why would any plumber take up a little project for 5 minutes worth of pay when it takes 20 minutes of driving there and 20 minutes to the next project and still requires the same amount of paperwork as a big job?

  22. CharlesFarley says:

    It takes a doctor seconds to snip out your tonsiles and another minute or so to put in a stich or two. What should he/she charge? You are paying for time (portal to portal), training and experience.

  23. rage says:

    Call joe the plumber next time he supports thrid world wages .

  24. rpm773 says:

    Perhaps the OP can take comfort in the fact that a portion of that $179 call out fee goes right back to the Roto Rooter corporation.

    I don’t usually deal with franchises and middlemen when it comes to contractors for my house. I like to keep it local and independent.

  25. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    So, was it $200, $300, or “$179 ‘call out’ plus tax”?

  26. AnonymousCoward says:

    I paid $300 to a bee removal guy once. He shows up, throws the lid on the trash can that the bees had built the hive in, duct tapes it shut, puts it on the back of his truck, takes my check, and drives off. He wasn’t there 10 minutes.

    Best $300 I ever spent. 80% of the bees here are killer bees. I didn’t want to mess with them.

    • ShadowFalls says:

      I say if you feel the price is right for the job done, you have nothing to be angry about. You are paying for their expertise, because they can do it and you can not.

    • RandomHookup says:

      But did you get your trash can back?

      • satoru says:

        A trash can possibly full of killer bees? Unless there are gold bricks and my first born somewhere in there, they can have the trash can. Though there are days when giving up the first born has crossed the mind :P

  27. Dragon Tiger says:

    When I used to contract for network services, the company I worked for billed the customer for the first hour (or portion), and then by 15-minute increments for time after the first hour. On some calls that took very little time, I would ask if there was anything further I could do for them, since they paid for a full hour of my services.

    So, yeah, not sure what the OP was expecting, really.

  28. DanRydell says:

    “$200 for three minutes work is outrageous – that works out to $4,000/hour.”

    Stupid logic is stupid. The price would have been the same if they were there for an hour, so it’s not $4000/hour.

    You can’t look at fees from skilled laborers based on how long it takes them to complete the work. You’re not just paying for their time, you’re paying for their knowledge. They knew how to fix the pipe and the OP didn’t.

    You also have to consider that they can only schedule as many service calls as they think they can complete in a day, and they don’t know how long it’ll take to fix your pipe until they get there. So while it only took them 3 minutes, you took up a block of time that could have been spent fixing a bigger issue for someone else.

  29. Rachacha says:

    So Basically the lady didn’t ask for the rates because she was too busy to care, and then complains that the rates are too high when she receives the charges.

    Several years ago, I had a gas leak in the middle of winter, and the gas company turned off the gas to my home saying the problem was with the pipes behind my walls. I needed to call a plumber to come out and investigate and repair ASAP, but I took the few minutes extra to call a couple of companies and chose a company that to me presented the best value (and could come out on the urgent schedule that I needed them in). They quoted me a price over the phone, including any disclaimers or terms of the estimate, and at the end of the visit, I gave them a check for the quoted amount.

  30. ThomFabian says:

    Nope, the OP didn’t pay $4000/hour, she paid $200 to have her problem fixed.

    Additionally her time for her appointment she had to get to was evidently worth enough to her not to shop around beforehand.

    That said, the story serves as a good reminder to get quoted rates before the appointment is made, even if it is somewhat slanted toward the “this company is evil” angle.

  31. hoi-polloi says:

    I used to work as a chimney sweep. It blew me away when people complained about efficiency. On one job, the homeowner hit the roof when we said we were all done installing a liner for his hot water heater. “Your office person said you’d be here a couple hours!” We said it was generally a quick procedure, and that the installation was a part of the overall cost regardless of the time involved. We apologized for the misunderstanding, and said that we’d talk to the scheduler to clear up the confusion. He kept asking for a discount. We finally told him it was a nice day out, and that we’d be happy to put our ladder back up and kill some time on his roof. After that, he wrote the check and let us get to the next job. Sometimes a brief visit is sufficient, and killing time on a job won’t do anyone any good.

  32. devilsadvocate says:

    I run an appliance service center and we also have a minimum trip charge. Our local rate is $85. Parts and labor are extra. My labor is then billed via flat rate, just like an auto shop. That way if my younger guy goes out and takes an hour to do a job that my older tech can do in 15 min. the customer is billed the same. He has a saying that he’s said to more than on person “I’m not charging you $75 to install this part, I’m charging you $5 to install the part and $70 for the know how to do it.” The customer should have asked how much the minimum charge would be and Roto Rooter should have told her. It is what it is though and the customer needs to take responsability for this.

  33. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    Recently had an electrical contractor do some work. They quoted ‘tiers’
    “That is tier 5″
    I don’t understand completely but each tier is a higher price. Time, materials, etc. are not really broken out on the invoice. Anyone else familiar with this type of billing?

    • satoru says:

      Dunno that sounds kinda odd. Most contractors work on a per-hour basis. “Tiering” doesn’t make sense. I’m not calling for a Level 1 Support Plumber. I want you to fix the sewage shooting out of my toilet. So it’s usually a parts and labor breakdown. You have to be a licensed plumber or electrician, so I expect you to know everything concerning such things. If a job is more complicated it’s because it takes more time, and thus costs more, or might require more parts to fix.

    • satoru says:

      Inside the house there shouldn’t be much electrical work that any licensed electrician can’t do. Even swapping out an electrical box is ‘relatively’ ok to do. Maybe pulling conduit sucks but that’s just a time thing, not a skills issue.The only ‘hard’ part might be pulling additional amps from the electric pole outside. That usually requires some coordination between the utility company and the electrician.

  34. Ixnayer says:

    I don’t believe that is ridiculous at all, Do you realize how much it costs to run a company with vehicles? Registration, taxes, insurance, maintenance, etc. You are not paying for 3 minutes worth of work. You are paying for the trip from wherever the plumber was to your place. I’m an HVAC Tech and at the beginning of winter and summer I continuously make $115 service calls where customer states the heat or AC isn’t working and turns out to be a clogged filter. 30 second fix, you pay me $115. If you knew how to do it yourself you wouldn’t call professionals. When you call a company, find out the price, any company that won’t tell you isn’t worth dealing with.

    • hoi-polloi says:

      Not only that, but you’re paying the wage of the office staff, the cost of maintaining an office (possibly rent, heating, office supplies, business cards), advertising, etc. The only way that money is coming in is through work being billed to the customer.

  35. catskyfire says:

    It’s not so much $300 for 3 minutes work. It’s $300 for knowing how to do the job properly, quickly, and well. it’s $300 to hire someone with the right tools and the right knowledge.

    I just paid a large fee for a guy to open my car door after I locked the keys in. He took longer to fill out the paperwork than to pop the door. But, in all honesty, if I could have done it, I wouldn’t have called him. (And calling people who have your spare key to come get you doesn’t really apply when you’re 4 hours away.)

  36. BrazDane says:

    This doesn’t cover the case when a contractor makes a job sound a lot more complicated than it is. I had an electrician come to my house and install 6 outlets a few years ago. He took a good while to tell me how difficult it would be and made it clear he would need three days to do it. Based on this, he quoted me a price og close to $900.
    When he actually came to do it, it took him one day, and another 45 minutes the following day. When I saw this, I asked for an itemized bill, which he refused, because he said I had agreed to a ‘project price’. This may be true, but at least I learned to not trust this guy ever again. I even tried to argue with him that when he had given me a very specific price – something like $872.35 he would already know exactly what the pieces cost, otherwise how would he have arrived at that price? He then gave me some BS about how he never kept an inventory and how he had no ways of knowing exactly what a job cost because he just ‘got some parts from the bins until they were empty”. And then suddenly, he cold do the itemized bill, but then it would be more expensive, because he was pretty sure he had used some parts he didn’t originally include in the quote… Amazing how much he wrapped himself in lies just to avoid itemizing the bill.

  37. DH405 says:

    In all fairness, the chain tends to be way overpriced pretty much across the board. If you’re looking for a plumber, why do you want to pay their franchise fees on top of the labor?

  38. BuyerOfGoods3 says:

    As the old slogan goes: “Invoice Breakdown: $10.00 for service call, $190.00 for knowing what to do about your problem = $200.00 bill.”

    You aren’t paying for just their time; but their knowledge and expertise. The guys in IT get this *all the time* – I should know, I married one.

    Shame on OP for assuming a price and then writing to this website to brag about her mistake.

    • evnmorlo says:

      Whatever. Probably takes 5 minutes of googling to have 90% of the knowledge to do the job, though it might take you 10 minutes instead of 3 to do the fix.

  39. HighontheHill says:

    It’s a shame OP didn’t do due diligence when making the appt. and even more of a shame her ‘contractor’ didn’t pop the cap on for her… The depth and breadth of the average persons helplessness in life boggles my mind. Often.

  40. stooj says:

    Would it make you feel better if they had taken an hour? Why does it matter how long it took them? They got the job done.

  41. nybiker says:

    While not unfair, my experience with unexpected charges had to do with a chimney inspection/cleaning. When I bought my house I called up a recommended place and asked how much to clean/inspect my chimney. I was told a price and had a check written out for said amount. My mom, who was house-sitting during the process, called me and said the charge was now twice the amount I had been quoted. The missing piece of information in the price I was quoted? How many flues are being cleaned/inspected? Yeah, so while I did ask how much, I was not asked the flue quantity and since I had never had a chimney inspected, I didn’t even know to ask. FTR, this was in 2000. When I called the company, I agreed to pay 1/2 the cost of the 2nd flue. I explained to them that they should use this experience as a learning/teaching experience to train anyone who provides pricing information to prospective customers to ask for the flue quantity.
    Since I did ask how much before agreeing to the service call, I felt we both came away satisfied with the resolution.

  42. superfluousK says:

    unless your house is haunted don’t call roto-rooter

  43. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    Roto-Rooter, that’s the name…
    There goes your money, down the drain!

  44. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    We had repair people come out to fix the dishwasher as it wouldn’t drain and was full of icky water. It was a husband & wife team we had picked locally. They had all their tools, tool-belts, and raring to go and do battle with the plumbing. First thing, the woman pulls the cap off of the doohickey on the sink and asks us when was the last time we cleaned the trap. We replied “Never. We don’t even know what that thing is.”
    “How long have you had this dishwasher?”
    “Seven years… since the house was built”
    “And you’ve never cleaned it?! It should have been clogged within a few months.” (mouth agape)
    “We hand-wash all the dishes prior to putting them in the dishwasher.”
    She cleans the trap out and the dishwasher starts working like a champ. She nervously explains that they charge $75 just to come out. I could tell she was worried we would balk at her 3 minute repair. I just smiled, paid her cash and thanked her for the lesson on maintaining the dishwasher.

  45. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Wow.
    3 minutes on site.
    Cue the Benny Hill music.

  46. the_didgers says:

    $200 is outrageous, Roto-Rooter knew it, and of course they didn’t tell her beforehand because they knew she would use someone else.

    First offense is shame on Roto-Rooter. Any similar future incidents, shame on the OP.

  47. Razor512 says:

    She made the mistake of calling them, they are just as bad as geek squad. These companies thrive off of stupidity. if you are willing to call them then you don’t understand what money is and enjoy loosing it.

  48. ericfate says:

    Who cares how long it took? Did they fix the problem, Yes. Is that their rate, Yes. If the OP feels slighted by the dollar amount, then they should write off the additional piece of the fee as the cost of a good education. The education part belonging partly to the person who showed up and knew how to finish the job quickly and accurately, and part of it belonging to the person who didn’t bother to do any research as to the potential cost involved with getting the problem fixed.

  49. Extended-Warranty says:

    This is comparable to buying shoes. You aren’t buying the $5 materials. You’re buying the $100 shoes you didn’t know how to make yourself.

  50. Adam says:

    Yeah, you didn’t pay for 3 minutes jagoff. You paid for him to be sure he had the requisite materials to fill the job order, you paid his travel expenses and his time to get to your location…etc, etc, etc.

    I’m a contractor and I get calls for little jobs that sometimes take me just a half an hour. But it also cost me some materials, it took me time to drive to the location of the repair, etc, you see now?

    This post is just effing ignorant.

  51. wee_willie says:

    I’ve had to call RR to my home twice in two years to fix two problems that were related (one problem the first year, related problem the second). While they were there, they told me I was lucky I didn’t need to have my septic system repaired, because it would cost me upward of $30,000. Within the second year, I had to have an entire leach field installed, and several other things my county required with it (switchbox, etc). I checked with neighbors before calling anyone to fix it, and I found a local man who fixed it perfectly, according to the county inspector, for $3600. Now, I always check with neighbors before I call anyone to do anything.

  52. wee_willie says:

    I’ve had to call RR to my home twice in two years to fix two problems that were related (one problem the first year, related problem the second). While they were there, they told me I was lucky I didn’t need to have my septic system repaired, because it would cost me upward of $30,000. Within the second year, I had to have an entire leach field installed, and several other things my county required with it (switchbox, etc). I checked with neighbors before calling anyone to fix it, and I found a local man who fixed it perfectly, according to the county inspector, for $3600. Now, I always check with neighbors before I call anyone to do anything.

  53. wee_willie says:

    I’ve had to call RR to my home twice in two years to fix two problems that were related (one problem the first year, related problem the second). While they were there, they told me I was lucky I didn’t need to have my septic system repaired, because it would cost me upward of $30,000. Within the second year, I had to have an entire leach field installed, and several other things my county required with it (switchbox, etc). I checked with neighbors before calling anyone to fix it, and I found a local man who fixed it perfectly, according to the county inspector, for $3600. Now, I always check with neighbors before I call anyone to do anything.

  54. SOOKE says:

    What’s an OP?

  55. floodx says:

    technically unless you signed a contract up front before they did the work – you have no contract (doesn’t matter if this is “standard practice”) – refuse to pay or dispute the charge on your credit card – make them take you to small claims court or provide documentation of a contract for the stated amount – I would think the court results would be the going rate for the call out charge or similar contractors (i.e. the average of the amounts that you called and got from the other contractors). Of course if you signed something post work stating you would pay then your screwed.

  56. pot_roast says:

    It’s $5 for the part.. and $195 for knowing where, how, when, and why to place the part.

  57. Zaphâ„¢ says:

    Roto-Rooter is awful. We (my wife and I) called them once to get a drain snaked which proved to be unsnakable and quoted us $1200 dollars to replace the drain. I called a local plumber to compare rates and they quoted $350. Needless to say, we went with the local plumber and paid even less than the quote because it did not take as him long as he thought to replace the drain.

  58. infected says:

    This post is horse shit. You’re paying for their work and expertise, not the amount of time it took. If they ran into complications during the fix and it took a full 8 hour workday and they still charged the $200, I bet you wouldn’t complain then.

  59. The Porkchop Express says:

    Who cut the pipe? maybe they should be the ones to pay anyhow.

    Seriously, if your contractor cut the line he should probably pay for it.

  60. Roto-Rooter says:

    Hello, I’m with Roto-Rooter’s corporate headquarters. I’d like to look into this matter a bit more closely but first I need to know the city and state where the work was done. It would be more helpful to have even more specifics such as the date of the service and the address where the service was performed. I realize you may not want to put out this information in a public forum so I invite you to contact our customer satisfaction manager, Pat Swanson, at 866-578-0007. That’s a toll free number. You may also email Pat at Pat.Swanson@rrsc.com
    I’d like to point out that Pat and I represent the company-owned locations across the country but not the independent franchises. Company-owned locations (and most franchises) always provide a free, written estimate of charges BEFORE any work is performed. And, with only a few far away or rural exceptions, Roto-Rooter does not typically charge a “trip charge” to come out and take a look at your problem. Furthermore, our service technicians do not charge by the hour, but rather by the job type. They’ll charge you the same price for a particular job type that takes 3 minutes or 3 hours to complete.
    If one of our service technicians did something wrong, we want to know about and we will make it right.

    Regards,
    Paul Abrams
    public relations manager
    Roto-Rooter Services Company

  61. Clyde Barrow says:

    Yep,,it’s expensive because it is a specialized service. Lesson learned. Next time ask. But it really makes no difference unless you know how to do it yourself.

  62. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I called them once because my tub wouldn’t drain and was backing up. They sent some yahoo out who looked at the tub, said “I’ll have to come back in a few,” and never returned. The next person came back twice, snaked out the pipe and hammered the hell out of my tub, and accomplished nothing.

    They did not charge me anything for those visits, thank God, because I would have fought them. I called someone else who came out, actually went under the house to see where the pipes ran, opened my pipe outside and found the clog and in three hours, had everything running smoothly. Yay for competence!

  63. Puddy Tat says:

    Call them to and advise you still have an additional 57-minutes of work for them to attend to and its gonna be dirty so Suit UP….!

  64. dkmurphys88 says:

    I’m a plumber. Now i know never to call roto rooter. But the OP i wrong on this. its not the 3 mins it takes to do the job you have to advertise the job $, pay all the insurance$ , pay for the wages $ , take the time to get to the job $ , train your guys $ , and all the other over head. yes franchise companys do charge more and a lot of times there guys are not as good as other. no respectful plumber would work for mr. rooter, roto rooter any of the rooters. but you should have asked before doing the job what it would cost.

    that being said if you do want your money back send them a certifed letter if it has less than 3 days. you have a federal right to recind. also some states have a longer time period check with our state. the right to recind or cooling off period is your right to cancle any work performed at your house within 3 bussiness days of work being done.

  65. Destra says:

    We once had a flooding toilet that was backing up sewage onto our floor. It was a Sunday morning, and the only plumber that we could find charged us $200 for a snake drill that took less than 5 minutes to complete. The plumber told us to our faces that he was charging us more money because he knew we wouldn’t be able to find someone else who could do the job that morning. We weren’t pleased with the amount, but supply and demand, I suppose.

  66. cashxx says:

    I bought my first house in 2007 and had them come and fix a problem I was having. I wanted to replace the pressure valve on copper piping but I couldn’t get the one end loose to remove the old one. I have never sweated copper pipes before and was frustrated after a 15 minutes or so. After they came and seen what I wanted done, it probably would have taken them 5 minutes tops to do because I already had everything laid out I just need to get the old one off and the new one put back on. After they looked at it they gave me a price of I believe was $225 and it blew me away what they wanted, they really didn’t even have to do much. I told him that was too much and I can’t pay that, I have all the parts and everything laid out, someone experienced can have it done in under 5 minutes. He called his manager and they went down to $175. The manager was on the phone I could here him since he was on a cell and the manager said inform the customer that your time is important as well as ours and its a fair price. After I heard that I said I’m sorry guys but I’m not paying that. I guess I have to learn some patients. After they left I cut the pipe with a dremel tool and put the new one on in about 5 minutes. The problem was a little water and it just wouldn’t heat up enough to loosen up. Oh well, I learned not to ever call them and I recommend no one else does either. I can’t imagine what they would charge on a larger job.

  67. Admiral_John says:

    So OP called Roto-Rooter and, by her own admission, made no inquiries about the cost of the service or minimum service charge.

    I assume this call was made as an emergency, which means that most likely it had to be shoe-horned into other scheduled service calls. The plumber had to drive to OPs location, install the cap, then get back to their schedule.

    OP says “$200 for three minutes work is outrageous” but what she may not realize is that may have been the charge regardless how long the problem took to fix, or it could have been their minimum charge for an emergency call.

    Sorry, no sympathy here.

  68. EyseTre says:

    this is a lame story…the homeowner should have a) checked the price and b) called around. Instead, they got EMERGENCY service by a reputable company that showed up on time and fixed the problem. This job should not be judged by ‘how long it took’, but by ‘how much time did it save me having to do it myself’. Roto Rooter has to have people available, trucks, insurance, parts, etc. Plus, her expectations are low, expects to pay $50-$60 to have someone come out and fix her pipe. Everyone she called was at least $89!

  69. Poisson Process says:

    So, most people seem to think that its completely her fault and she deserves no refund. The common reason given is that she should have shopped around. By this logic, if the bill was one million dollars, she would still be liable. Clearly this isn’t right.

    Yes, the OP should have gotten prices first, but she still has a right to be protected from price gouging. $200 for 3 minutes work plus millage (assuming they drove less than 15 miles) is excessive.

    • cashxx says:

      It is her fault I think she should have got the price first. But for 3 minutes of work at $200 is ridicules!!

  70. italianbaby says:

    this falls on the op. she should have inquired about prices before having them(rotor rooter) come out.
    didn’t matter if they took 3 minutes. she’s paying on the whole hour.