Roto-Rooter Offers Tiny Refund To Customer Who Spent $200 For Short Visit (Updated)

Usually when a company emails us after we post a complaint, it’s with tail between the legs and the intent to satisfy the customer. Roto-Rooter, however, seized the opportunity to offer a piecemeal refund that only managed to further anger the offended client.

After a Roto-Rooter rep asked us to put him in touch with Rochelle, who wrote us about paying $200 for a three-minute visit from a service tech, we forwarded his info to her. She says Roto-Rooter offered a refund of only $30.

Rochelle isn’t happy and she said the company won’t budge when she tried to negotiate for more.

UPDATE: Here is Roto-Rooter’s response:

Our plumber was at the
customer’s home for 17 minutes, not three minutes, as she claims. This plumber is very experienced and knows how to work quickly and effectively.

The customer initially called us stating she had an emergency because her building contractor cut one of her pipes and the water supply had to be turned off. The customer lives pretty far from our office so there was significant travel time and we were very busy that day.

The customer was not home when our plumber arrived but she told us that ahead of time and asked us to explain to her building contractor what needed to be done. So we completed the work and charged our standard rate for the first hour of work (second and third hours are discounted accordingly).

The customer had every right to call other plumbers for price quotes and choose the one offering her the lowest price. But instead she called us and when you call Roto-Rooter you don’t get a random guy who works out of his house with zero overhead. Roto-Rooter is licensed and fully insured. Our service technicians are uniformed and they drive clearly marked vehicles. They must go through a criminal background check before they are hired and they submit to random drug screenings and driving record checks to make sure they are safe and trustworthy.

Furthermore, we pay our plumbers decent middle-class wages so they can support their families and build a decent life. All of these things cost money but they give our customers peace of mind that they may not get from some cut-rate plumbers.

We gave the customer a $30 refund after she called us back stating that she called a competitor and was quoted a lower price of $170. We felt that matching the price of the competitor would be a friendly gesture that might make her feel better about the service call and could result in her calling us again the next time she needed a plumber. But clearly she feels that a 15% refund is “a tiny discount,” as the headline claims. We feel this refund was quite fair and have determined that any additional discount is unwarranted.

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

Comments

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  1. msbask says:

    They won’t negotiate for more, because she doesn’t deserve more.

    • dbeahn says:

      She didn’t even deserve that. She called, asked them to come out and perform a service, they did so, and billed her the price they charge to perform that service.

      If she wanted to pay less, then she could have called someone else. At very least, she should have asked for the price before authorizing the service.

      • Anonymously says:

        I had a similar experience with a different company. I called and ask how much it would cost before scheduling the repair. They say $X. They never explained that the $X was ONLY for the call-out fee. Sometimes asking doesn’t help.

        • msbask says:

          That’s not a similar experience at all. You asked, they lied. That’s completely different.

          If that had been the case here, I’d be saying that she should pay the agreed price and let them try to sue her.

    • stevenpdx says:

      Exactly. It doesn’t matter how long it took to get the job done, it matters that the job got done.

      And if someone is in a hurry, needs service now, and doesn’t check prices beforehand, then it’s gonna cost more.

    • common_sense84 says:

      She deserves at least 50 bucks off. But considering the next highest was 120, 80 dollars back would have been the 100% correct action here. 50 would have at least been enough to take the bill out of 100% scam territory.

      • Rachacha says:

        Why do you feel she deserves a refund just because the competition charges a lower price? RotoRooter has established a pricing schedule that allows them to cover their costs and make a profit while maintaining the level of customer satisfaction that they wish to provide. If their potential customers choose to use RR, then RR stands to remain in business, but if their competition can deliver the same or better level of service for a lower price, RR will soon be out of business.
        The consumer has the burden of selecting a contractor based on the criterion that she deems are important. Perhaps Joe the plumber was charging $100, but he could not get out to the job for a week and a half. The customer needs to decide if waiting over a week is worth saving $100. In this situation, the customer CHOSE not to solicit competitive bids or even ask RR what their rates were, so why does the consumer deserve a refund unless she can prove that the plumber quoted (and billed) for work that was not done.

        • kobresia says:

          I’ll add to what you’re saying, not only did RR get the job done, but they also did sufficient advertising that this woman called them first, and not the other local plumbers.

          Part of the “fee” is also name recognition and reputation for the franchise. You could call Joe the Plumber, but you don’t know how reliable & trustworthy he is. While RR is probably not going to be the cheapest or the best, they’re a more-or-less known quantity that is likely to be competent, well-equipped and bonded. You don’t know anything about Plumber Joe until after you’ve had him out.

        • davidc says:

          Because if they had told her, before they started that the charge would be $300 for about 5 mins of work, she would have handed them their walking papers?

          But since they didn’t give her a written estimate and they are overcharging, then she should get a respectable refund.

          I treat plumbers like used car salespeople now. I assume they are trying to rip me off and treat them accordingly.

          • PTB315 says:

            There is, no my knowledge, no law that requires a written estimate. They have no burden to force her to hear their pricing. Nothing else is relevant here. It is 100% her fault and she’s being an entitled bitch. She is owed nothing, because nothing she described that was done by Roto Rooter was illegal or immoral.

    • qbubbles says:

      I agree.

  2. digital0verdose says:

    Time to find a new plumber.

  3. MaelstromRider says:

    They didn’t have to offer her anything. I don’t care how stressed you are…when it comes to construction, you always shop around.

    • SkreanAme says:

      Oh boy. I learned that lesson very early on in my foray into home ownership.

      1) Get it in writing.
      2) “It will take us a week” in contractor speak translates to two months, and only if you yell at me.
      3) Never, EVER give them the amount. Half at most, and the rest when finished to my satisfaction/local building codes.
      4) A good contractor is like a good mechanic. When you find one, hang on to them for dear life and recommend them to your friends.

      • Rachacha says:

        Been there and done that. Had a contractor do some major work on our home. All throughout the process he remained on schedule and within budget and I was very pleased, but he got to the last step, final approval by the county and dropped off the face of the earth. Several complaints to the county, letters from lawyers and 5 years later, I think I finally have everything that I need to keep the county happy. I still owe him some money that was held back for completing the project, and if he dares to ask for it, I figure I can string him along for about 5 years or so :-)

  4. apd09 says:

    I believe this was all covered in the original post. The money is really about paying the expertise and education of the person from Roto-Rooter and they value their time at 200 for the visit out there because it pays for the travel costs as well as the work done.

    30 is a nice gesture on their part and yes it would be nice to get more but as already stated in the original post the OP did not shop around for the best price to see if it was in line with what others would charge and instead just agreed to the work without knowing the cost upfront.

    This was a slap in the face by Roto-Rooter no doubt and they would have better not responding at all because now they just look cheap when there was no reason to even respond in the first place unless they were going to lower the 200 cost for everyone which would then be a gesture to consumers that they might be wrong while this is just a symbolic gesture to make them seem nicer. It really is going to have the opposite effect.

  5. Dragon Tiger says:

    As per the previous thread, she made a uninformed (and possibly poor) choice. No one’s fault but her own, really.

  6. StevePierce says:

    Take the $30, say thank you, and never call them again.

    • Blueskylaw says:

      How dare you come on here with good advice. Next thing we know is you will be calling this a life’s lesson learned.

      /sarcasm

    • vastrightwing says:

      I agree. I’ve had this happen to me with locksmiths, plumbers, heating oil techs, pest control, in short any professional industry where they come to your house. I’ve learned to call local people first and get recommendations. I steer clear from Roto-rooter, Terminex, Home Depot and many other commercial brands because they cost way more than the local guy who’s been doing it for years. Sure they will try to justify the cost, but it’s all hype. It works for me to pay a local guy to come and fix something and pay for his knowledge rather than buy into some inflated commercial brand. The guy who does the service is the same guy, he just has to pay the franchise fee, which you pay for in higher costs.

      • apd09 says:

        I will disagree with you on Home Depot because a lot of their in home services are provided by contractors. I replaced a heat pump from the people who work through home depot and I got a better price than Sears and a different local company. I guess it depend on the service you are talking about but not everything from Home Depot is bad.

        • vastrightwing says:

          I see your point. Home Depot was the last place I thought of. I had an incident where they sent a guy over to me and gave me a quote that was thousdands higher than everyone else. Turns out the guy didn’t really want to do my job. He admitted it when I asked why his price was out of the park.

  7. chefboyardee says:

    Rochelle needs to read the comments in these threads and realize that she’s being unreasonable.

  8. FCBLComish says:

    Itemized bill:

    Turning screw= $5.00
    Knowing which screw to turn =$195.00

    Would it have been better if the guy stayed there for an hour? If the job is done, what is the difference how long it takes??

    • squirrel says:

      Why not? If he’s there for a minimum of 1 hour for $300 and he’s done in 3 minutes, I’m sure she’s got gutters to clean, trash to take out, and perhaps an oil change. Put him to work.

      • jason in boston says:

        Actually, when I had the AC guy come in during the summer he did just that. He basically said: You have me for an hour, is there anything else I can do? He ended up showing me what all of the wires did and how to clean out the duct-work myself. Guess who will be getting a call when I need help with anything HVAC?

    • The hand that feeds, now with more bacon says:

      I had a similar experience with an A/C repair company. Based on my description of the problem, the tech already knew what was wrong before he came. He walked out to the unit, replaced the dual-run capacitor (which took about 15 seconds) and handed me a bill for $150. No charge for labor.

      Call out = $95
      Part + Tax = $55

      Immediately after he left, I looked online and found the same part for about $20 including shipping. I’m more upset about the ridiculous charge for the part than the callout. Of course, if I knew anything about heat pumps, I could have saved myself $130.

      • apd09 says:

        I had somewhat of the opposite experience, I called a tech out for the heat pump, he told me he needed to replace the capacitor (I think) and it would cost 300. I said go for it. After the replacement the pump still didn’t work so he checked the fan motor and turns out the motor was dead and needed replacement. He pulled the capacitor out and said if I want to replace the motor it is around 1500 but no guarantee how long the heat pump would work since it was so old. He told me no charge for the visit since they did not fix anything. On the spot I spent 6,000 with them to buy a new heat pump and air recycler because the unit needed to be replaced and they were honest with me about the costs or the repair and were willing to not charge me anything since they didn’t do anything other than diagnose the problem.

      • Big Mama Pain says:

        Parts for anything you buy through a middleman are marked up. Car parts are a big one.

        • Altari says:

          The middle-man upcharge is a good reason for developing a relationship with contractors. With enough business, the “good ones” will stop charging extra for parts. Since they usually buy at a lower rate, it ends up saving some serious cash (like on the 5 cars my family needs maintenanced, thank you, My Mechanic!).

      • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

        I believe that in most states you are allowed to provide your own parts and they have to use them if they’ll work. At least, I think that’s true for auto parts – can anyone else confirm?

        But, remember, you’re coming in after the fact. You didn’t know which part was broken, nor how to install it. Also, were you in a position to wait for that piece to get shipped to your house? Depending on where you are, no AC may be a big, big deal.

  9. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I’m just surprised they haven’t already sent her bill into collections.

  10. XTC46 says:

    She shouldnt get a dime. If you are concerned about price, then ASK FOR THE PRICE before you say to come out. They fixed the problem, they charged a rate which is in line with standard rates. You dont get to scream emergency, not do research, then get the best deal around. Thats not the way it works.

  11. njack says:

    She’s lucky they didn’t just tell her to get bent. They provided the service she contracted them for at the price they typically charge. Everyone knows plumbers aren’t cheap, especially if you need one in an emergency or don’t shop around. It would be wise for her to shop around for a plumber, an electrician, and a general handyman now, before she needs one again in an emergency.

    • whittygirl says:

      Agreed. Roto-Rooter warned us when they came out that the price was the same whether it took them 5 minutes or 2 hours to remove our clog. But we had tried snakes and everything we had access to and it didn’t work, so we ponied up. It took them about 15 minutes, and we discovered that our kids had somehow put screws down the tub drain, thus creating a home for our uber clog.

      It was an expensive 15 minutes, but still worth it.

    • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

      Interestingly, this is a case where dealing with a big chain probably helped her in getting some money back. If this was a local place, they probably would have laughed at her, knowing any negative word of mouth would end up making her look foolish to most people.

      Big chains have to worry about national news (or big blogs like the Consumerist) picking something up and badly distorting it. The Consumerist didn’t (but damn, what a classic Phil story!), but I could see some Dateline-style show turning this into an “investigative report”.

      In any case, two lessons learned:
      1) Ask about money before you hire someone
      2) Ask the FREAKING CONTRACTOR INSIDE OF YOUR HOME for a recommendation on who to call.

  12. framitz says:

    Sometimes flat rate billing for services sucks.

    I had an O2 sensor replaced a while back. The mechanic charged $160 for labor. The job took less than 5 minutes so I challenged the labor costs. He showed me in his flat rate labor table that $160 was correct. I reminded him that I have him service 3 vehicles and that he will either adjust the labor or I will go elsewhere going forward.

    In the end he reduced the labor for the job to $20.

    I learned to always ask what the charge will be prior to committing to the work.

    The OP got some money refunded, call it a win and learn from the experience.

    • apd09 says:

      you’re lucky. in a lot of states auto repair work is just like the mechanic told you based on a preset amount for the work done. The price is the same wherever you go. You got a break because you go there often with many cars, but that would not change the fact that no matter what repair show you went to they would charge you the 160 because as is stated many times here it is not about the cost of the labor it is about the cost of the person learning how to perform the labor and the equipment they use. Car ports cost money, jacks cost money, tools cost money, education costs money.

      Many States have regulated the auto industry to stop people from gouging on prices and you had a mechanic who you knew and they did you a favor but not many people will get the same treatment.

      • Darury says:

        My limited understanding is 99% of auto repairs are now based on a standardized time required listing. So essentially, the book says “Replacing part X takes 1.2 hours”, the shop bills for 1.2 hours. A good mechanic can do it in 0.2 hours and still be able to bill for the 1.2. A buddy of mine said he knew guys pulling down over $100k a year since they could bill for 20-30 hours per shift.

        • apd09 says:

          I have the same understanding that you do that it is all based on what the book says it should be. This person was able to get a discount, but I know many places that would have said we are sorry to lose your business but we have to charge what the book says. Then the person could go and spend years trying to build a relationship with a new mechanic in order to hopefully get a discount from them, but the cost is the cost like it or not and there is not much that mechanics will do in terms of discounting the cost because they are required by law to charge the flat rate.

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          But the opposite can happen. Seized spark plugs, stripped bolts, and rusted out parts can turn a little job into a much more involved one.

        • Southern says:

          Most repair shops & dealers use the “Chilton Flat Rate Manual”. It estimates the time that an experienced technician will require to perform a specific action on a vehicle. Most shops work a bit faster than the manual, and some shops have a minimum 1-hour fee (even if the job only takes 5 minutes).. It all depends on where you go.

          I was out of town and my thermostat went out (it’s an $8 part at AutoZone and takes about 10 minutes to install), but I had no tools and was on vacation and didn’t want to get greasy/dirty while we were out, so I took it to PepBoys and had them put it on.. Literally took ‘em 10 minutes, including topping off the radiator. Cost? $150. Which I was happy to pay – had I been at home though I would have done it myself. :P

    • hoi-polloi says:

      Sometimes flat rate billing sucks, but it can work out in your favor. When I worked as a chimney sweep, installation was included in the price of some jobs. Tasks like installing a liner on a water heater or putting on a top-mounted damper were routine and usually very quick. For those rare times when the job was more involved, customers still paid the flat rate.

      Once someone complained because a liner installation took significantly less time than our scheduler estimated. The guy wanted us to knock money off the bill even after we explained it was a flat rate and that the scheduler must have been confused. Finally, my coworker said it was a nice enough day to put our ladder back up and spend the next hour hanging out on his roof. He wrote the check and off we went.

    • Big Mama Pain says:

      So a fast mechanic should earn less money than a slow mechanic? If your mechanic had been less experienced, it probably would have taken longer than the flat rate time allots. The labor estimates for mechanics are in everyone’s best interest, and don’t forget that diagnostics are factored in there, too. He may have known right away that it was an sensor, while another mechanic might have had to take time to figure out what was wrong.

  13. Daverson says:

    I bet that $30 will get her a great ride in a waaaaaaaaaambulance.

  14. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    I can’t believe they offered her anything. They shouldn’t have. I am normal not an OP blamer, but she should have asked how much it would cost. That is her responsibility. She also needs to realize that plumbers are expensive because of their expertise.

    I can’t believe Consumerist is still giving this lady all of this attention.

  15. Rachacha says:

    $30 on a $200 bill is a 15% discount. Not a bad peace offering. I understand why Rochelle feels upset, but I hate to say this, she has no one to blame but herself. RotoRooter to my knowledge did not perform a bait and switch, did not bill her or pergorm any unnecessary services, and did not indicate that things that were working properly were broken just to help pad the bill.

    She called them and asked them to come to perform a service for her, and she did not request an estimate or a verbal indicateion of what the charges would be. She did not stay home until the plumber could diagnose or complete the repair in order to provide an accurate estimate. The plumber came, performed the repair and left as he was instructed to do. She gets the bill and is pissed because according to someone else, it only took 3 minutes (which means it probably took 20-30 minutes). Would Rochelle have been happy if it had taken the plumber a full day to repair and she had to pay $200? How about if it took the plumber a full day to repair and it cost her $500?

    Question for Rochelle if she is reading this. What do you think is a FAIR price to charge to fix the problem that you had at a time that you wanted/needed it fixed keeping in mind that this was a job that you could not or did not want to perform and utilized the skills of a trained expert who completed the repair in an expiditious manner.

  16. AvWuff says:

    It’s not $200 for 3 minutes. It’s $200 for 3 minutes and 20 years of experience.

  17. hmburgers says:

    I called a plumber to disconnect a gas dryer–it’s the law in MA that any gas appliance requires a plumber for connection and disconnection.

    It took him less then 3 minutes to turn the gas knob off, unscrew the pipe to my dryer, screw a cap onto the now disconnected gas feed pipe.

    They charge by the hour, minimum of 1 hour… $90/hr

    He asked me, “Is there anything else you need done around here? You’ve got another 55 minutes”… I told him no thanks, and he went on his way.

    This lady doesn’t deserve a refund… she didn’t ask for the price in advance, or even what their hourly rate and minimums are… now she’s learned her lesson, I don’t fault Roto-Rooter at all—–but at $179/hr I’d also never call them either!

    • dyzlexiK says:

      If it took him 3 minutes, and later said you had 55 minutes, what exactly did he do for you for the extra 2 minutes? Bow-chicky-bow-wow.

  18. Virginia Consumer says:

    I found out about the $200 visit fee when I drilled through a pipe during a remodeling project. I asked about all costs up front and after hearing about the cost decided I would give it a go as DIY first.

    Cost me about $2 and 3 hours (most of that on the phone with parts suppliers and at the store trying to figure out what I needed to make the repair).

  19. jp7570-1 says:

    I believe Roto-Rooters may be franchises, so there is little likelihood that they will bend to the will of the “home office”. The OP is also partly responsible for not getting cost information upfront before authorizing the service and for not comparing with at least one other plumber before moving forward with the repair.

    Having said that, $30 is a 15% refund on the $200 repair. My own personal experience in dealing with services and retailers is when I ask for a discount, it is around 15% to 20% max. And that is – in the case of retail – if I am buying something in quantity, paying cash (as opposed to credit card), or buying a “demo” item. So, 15% isn’t that out of the ordinary.

    Having gone through a house remodel a few years ago (the WORST experience in my life), I learned to always ask for a written quote from all contractors and subs.

  20. Mom says:

    Roto-rooter’s specialty is cleaning out pipes. When I have raw sewage backing up in the basement, and the guy can show up and fix it this morning without an appointment, $200 is pretty reasonable. When it’s a regular plumbing job, and it isn’t an emergency, I can call around and find a cheaper price. But the callout fee for pretty much any plumber is going to be north of $100, regardless.

  21. tbax929 says:

    They overpaid. I wouldn’t have given her a red cent.

  22. maraa01 says:

    I think that they were extremely fair. She was charged the standard call out fee and after complaining the company refunded her 15%. To me that is customer service. 200 dollars for three minutes is a lot of money, but I don’t know of any company that would have charged her for less than an hour. I would recommend either making friends with a local plumber for future jobs or to learn some basics for taking care of your home. Something they fixed in 3 minutes could probably be fixed by a homeowner with basic tools and basic skills.

    • kcarlson says:

      Even so, at a $4000 hourly rate there should have been a few more perks…

      • dwtomek says:

        The hourly rate for the initial call out was $200/hr. I would assume subsequent hours would be billed at slightly less than the call out rate. Or were you implying that had they stayed the entire hour that Roto-Rooter would have billed her $4000?

      • thesalad says:

        I’ts not a $4000 hourly rate, it’s a 200 hourly rate (if you want to even say that muchm you can resonably say it’s a $75 callout and $125 hourly fee).

        ANY place I know of chages 1HR up front for any repair, I’ve had a waterheater tech come in and charge me $75 to spend 5 min to replace something.. I didn’t bitch.. I needed it done by an authorized tech, and that’s what they charged.

        In rare cases some places don’t or if it’s a simple job and a local place they’ll say.. just call us next time you’ve got a real problem.

  23. thej999 says:

    It looks like they are big on flat-rate pricing. Just need to ask for it up front..

    http://blog.rotorooter.com/blog/roto-rooter/0/0/flat-rate-pricing-vs-hourly-pricing/

    Occasionally, we hear from flustered customers who say something like “sure, he fixed the sump pump perfectly, but it only took him 20 minutes and he charged me $200! I think this is way too much for the time it took him to make the plumbing repair.” That is the downside to flat-rate pricing. If our guys are too good or too fast, the customer comes away feeling he was taken. But we maintain that flat-rate pricing is much fairer to the customer than hourly pricing. After all, how can you be sure that an hourly plumber isn’t stalling in an effort to pad his bill?

  24. tequilajunction says:

    My experience with RotoRooter from a few years ago:

    They came in to assess a problem and gave me a price to fix it. It was a price, not an estimate. So when the job ended up being more complicated than they’d expected, taking a 2 man crew 4 hours longer than they’d estimated for, they didn’t charge me a penny extra.

    I understand how frustrating it is to pay a small fortune for an easy job, but if that 3 minute job had lasted for 6 hours, they probably still would have charged $200.

  25. dantsea says:

    Rochelle was probably hoping to create a big enough stink to get a freebie. Personally, I’m disappointed the company didn’t go with an even smaller token refund just to get the point of “up yours” across to her.

    • Rachacha says:

      Or better yet, offer to come out to her house for free and undo the repair and refund her the money she paid for the repair.

  26. The Porkchop Express says:

    is she the one that had her line cut by somebody? didn’t people think she should have had the at fault party pay anyway?

    Also, she is lucky that they gave her anything.

  27. LHH says:

    This is such a non issue. How is this even a story. I just went through this. Had a clogged drain that I couldn’t unclog myself. Called 4 different places until I found one that charged what I was willing to pay.

    Last year had an emergency with a broken pipe. Shut the water off and did the same. Called around until I found one that charged what I was willing to pay.

    Just because she couldn’t be bothered with doing what most would consider to be basic steps she does not deserve a discount. She shouldn’t even have gotten the $30 discount.

    Tired of people who piss and moan because they can’t be bothered with doing something as simple as opening the yellow pages and calling for different quotes or at least find out what the charges are before hand. Then cry foul when presented with the bill. Pfft. Whatever.

    • LHH says:

      And shame on you consumerist for giving this person any more attention.

    • hoi-polloi says:

      Exactly. Rochelle had no problem calling around after the fact to see what other plumbers would have charged. I realized she was probably stressed and feeling rushed under the circumstances, but an extra minute on the phone with Roto-Rooter and an extra 15 minutes to call other plumbers would have given her all the information she needed.

    • Clyde Barrow says:

      I agree and plumbers are not cheap. Most folks do not want to deal with this because it sometimes involves human waste. I mean really, what did she expect? I know it’s expensive. My plumber costs about $250.00 to clean out the clean-out from my house to the street. However, when I had my truck I went to Home Depot and rented the clean-out machine for $65.00 for four hours.
      It isn’t difficult to learn these things to do yourself also. The rooter for the clean-up is a bit difficult and painful if you’re not familiar with how it works, but it’s cheaper.

  28. guroth says:

    Tapping engine block with hammer: $1
    Knowing where to tap engine block, and how hard: $399

  29. Scoobatz says:

    Someone needs to tell Rochelle to read our comments and to stop her bitching.

    BTW — In the dead of Winter, my gas furnace broke. The temperature inside my house was quickly dropping from 68 degrees to 55 degrees. I called an HVAC mechanic to come over to fix it at 10 PM. He was in my house within an hour. While I was watiing for him, I quickly diagnosed the problem and discovered a faulty ignition switch. Of course, it’s not the type of product I can quickly go out and buy at Lowe’s. For one, they don’t sell this brand, and two, even if they did, the store closed about an hour ago.

    The guy arrived, spent about 3 minutes replacing the switch (a $7 part I discovered through a quick on-line search), and my heater was up and running again. Got a bill for $180. But, did I complain? Hell, no. My house now had heat, and I wasn’t worrying about what to do when the temperatures dropped into the 40′s.

    This woman should be thankful that her broken pipe didn’t turn into $15,000 worth of water damage and be thankful it is fixed. She also needs to get a lesson on how the real world works.

  30. Big Mama Pain says:

    OP’s lack of understanding the value of the service kind of speaks to the reason she needed a plumber to begin with.

  31. Klay says:

    Sung:

    “….and away goes money, down the drain!”

  32. FranktasticVoyage says:

    Posts like this are why companies start to hate consumers.

    Roto Rooter did nothing wrong. The consumer was to blame as many noted. They still gave this girl $30. Now she continues to complain and you give her a platform as if the company should be doing more?

    Consumers and providers are a partnership. We expect companies to act a certain way, and companies expect us to act a certain way. People like “Rochelle” are turning it into an antagonistic battle, where OF COURSE companies have to fight back with things like add-on fees, shrink rays and the like.

    If we want better companies, we should be better consumers.

    • milty456 says:

      Spoken like a true Company CEO

      • DrLumen says:

        No, he’s right to a certain extent. If we, as consumers, aren’t willing to be REASONABLE then what incentive is there for companies to provide us with a REASONABLE price.

        Even if you get something for free, you end up paying for it in the long run. Insurance may be a bad example but if you go to the doctor for X-Rays and consultations every time you stump your toe then eventually we all end up paying higher rates.

        • Rachacha says:

          Couldn’t agree more. I used to work in a service industry that was business to business. We had several customers who tended to be more trouble than they were worth. They would complain about pricing, complain about the time it took to finish the project, complain that the free lunch we gave them when they were visiting our office was five minutes late, and complain that the toilet tissue in the restroom was not 2-ply. We prided ourselves on bending over backwards for the customer at the risk of losing profits.
          Somehow, someone convinced upper management that there were some customers that simply were not worth keeping happy at any expense because they were the customers that if you gave them an inch, they would never be satisfied and would keep asking for the mile, so we began the process of “Firing” some of our customers.
          We raised our prices only for them, we stopped giving them discounts, we stopped offering to work a bit later to finish their project in record time. Some of these customers left and went to our competition (and kept shopping around when they didn’t get the level of service that we were STILL providing), but others stopped asking for the moon and became more reasonable and understood that we needed to cover our costs and could not offer 75% discounts, or realized that they were complaining that the lunch that we bought them was late and how rude that was, and management found that rather than giving massive discounts, we simply had to explain to the customer why our rates/project completion times were fair.

  33. jefeloco says:

    $30 more than they should have offered. I agree that the price was too much and she could have shopped around, but this is an excellent example of a life lesson for the OP.

    The title of the followup should have read “Roto-Rooter Offers Tiny Refund That Was Neither Necessary Nor Appreciated To Customer Who Spent $200 For 3-Minute Visit”

  34. milty456 says:

    Roto Rooter is a rip off:
    2 examples:
    1. My garbage disposal locked up. The guy came over. Checked the switch. Jammed his hammer handle in the disposal and forcible moved it. Done. It worked Total Charge for 45 second repair: $280

    2. We had them do an estimate for a home and Main line repipe: $10,000. Our other estimates from people were in the 3,800-4,500 range.

    I don’t trust Roto Rooter anymore.

  35. sopmodm14 says:

    i say let them have their $200

    won’t do them much good when the run out of business

  36. sopmodm14 says:

    arn’t they required by law to provide a written estimate or something ? (like car repair shops)

    if her contractor works with roto-rooter, i’d drop them also

  37. Gulliver says:

    People need to get the idea of being paid by the hour out of their head and learn that you pay by the job.
    If my doctor does an appendectomy in ten minutes, would I get upset versus the doctor who took 2 hours and the other doctor charged more? You are paying for the SERVICE, not for time. The truck fee was a flat fee, the job was to fix her issue. They did their job. This woman is an unreasonable woman, and ROTOROOTER should be glad to be rid of her. Tell her we are offering $30. She says no. They say, ok we are offering you zero. BYE.

  38. Simon Barsinister says:

    Years ago I was in my first rental house after graduating college. I had a washing machine in the basement. I went away for a two week vacation, and went I got back the washing machine wouldn’t work. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. It would make a groaning noise but no water would come in. I called a service guy to fix it.

    He took one look at it and told me, “You understand that just for my visit you have to pay an $80 fee. No matter what I do, it’s $80. My company won’t let me touch it without at least that charge. If you want to, you can cancel this call right now and I’ll leave and you can fix it yourself. You really should do that.”

    I told him I appreciated what he was trying to do, but that I really had tried everything and couldn’t fix it. I agreed to paying the $80 even though I get from what he was saying that it was something easy. He sighed and turned the water back on. I had shut it off before I left for my vacation. He apologized and charged me $80.

    I didn’t complain. He tried.

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

    (cue Benny Hill music)
    Roto-Rooter charged $200 for a 3 minute job?

    How big a refund would have satisfied the customer? $50,100,150,200?

  40. Amy says:

    I had a clogged bathtub drain about a year ago. I am not the type to call a heavily marketed national chain in such situations, but it was a weekend, the water wasn’t going anywhere, and I needed it fixed. I called Roto Rooter knowing it was going to cost me more than it “should”. The guy showed up 7:30 at night (right when he said he would), and he was very pleasant. I had confirmed on the phone there was no charge until the guy looked at the problem and I agreed to the service. So the guy looked at the problem, said he needed to use a special tool (which I had seen in Home Depot, looked like a bike pump), and said it would be $300, and that would include a guarantee (I think several weeks). I told him it was not worth $300 to me (because it just wasn’t) and said I was sorry to waste his time. He offered to charge just $150, but without a guarantee. I said as long as you only charge the $150 after successfully clearing the drain, then we have a deal. And it worked out great. So, (a) even if your situation is a little desperate, you are not a victim, and you can turn down a bad deal, and (b) once you aren’t so desperate you are in a better position to negotiate, or to find a more holistic, and reasonable, plumbing service later on a non-emergency basis.

  41. banmojo says:

    RR did a big job for me last year, and the pricing was quite fair. However, the boys they used damaged several of my trees, potentially fatally, and when I called to point this out, the franchise owner came out himself to inspect the damage and ultimately gave me a 50% discount. The trees did not die, and the damage, although ugly, is turned away from most points of view so I was overall satisfied with their response to my problem, and refer my colleagues to RR to this day.

  42. Roto-Rooter says:

    These headlines are awfully misleading. I’ve checked this out thoroughly. The local Roto-Rooter independent contractor in Vancouver reviewed their GPS log and found that our plumber was at the customer’s home for 17 minutes, not three minutes, as she claims. This plumber is very experienced and knows how to work quickly and effectively.
    The customer initially called us stating she had an emergency because her building contractor cut one of her pipes and the water supply had to be turned off. The customer lives pretty far from our Vancouver office so there was significant travel time and we were very busy that day.
    The customer was not home when our plumber arrived but she told us that ahead of time and asked us to explain to her building contractor what needed to be done. So we completed the work and charged our standard rate for the first hour of work (second and third hours are discounted accordingly).
    The customer had every right to call other plumbers for price quotes and choose the one offering her the lowest price. But instead she called us and when you call Roto-Rooter you don’t get a random guy who works out of his house with zero overhead. Roto-Rooter is licensed and fully insured. Our service technicians are uniformed and they drive clearly marked vehicles. They must go through a criminal background check before they are hired and they submit to random drug screenings and driving record checks to make sure they are safe and trustworthy. Furthermore, we pay our plumbers decent middle-class wages so they can support their families and build a decent life. All of these things cost money but they give our customers peace of mind that they may not get from some cut-rate plumbers.
    We gave the customer a $30 refund after she called us back stating that she called a competitor and was quoted a lower price of $170. We felt that matching the price of the competitor would be a friendly gesture that might make her feel better about the service call and could result in her calling us again the next time she needed a plumber. But clearly she feels that a 15% refund is “a tiny discount,” as the headline claims. We feel this refund was quite fair and have determined that any additional discount is unwarranted.

  43. Roto-Rooter says:

    These headlines are awfully misleading. I’ve checked this out thoroughly. The local Roto-Rooter independent contractor in Vancouver reviewed their GPS log and found that our plumber was at the customer’s home for 17 minutes, not three minutes, as she claims. This plumber is very experienced and knows how to work quickly and effectively.
    The customer initially called us stating she had an emergency because her building contractor cut one of her pipes and the water supply had to be turned off. The customer lives pretty far from our Vancouver office so there was significant travel time and we were very busy that day.
    The customer was not home when our plumber arrived but she told us that ahead of time and asked us to explain to her building contractor what needed to be done. So we completed the work and charged our standard rate for the first hour of work (second and third hours are discounted accordingly).
    The customer had every right to call other plumbers for price quotes and choose the one offering her the lowest price. But instead she called us and when you call Roto-Rooter you don’t get a random guy who works out of his house with zero overhead. Roto-Rooter is licensed and fully insured. Our service technicians are uniformed and they drive clearly marked vehicles. They must go through a criminal background check before they are hired and they submit to random drug screenings and driving record checks to make sure they are safe and trustworthy. Furthermore, we pay our plumbers decent middle-class wages so they can support their families and build a decent life. All of these things cost money but they give our customers peace of mind that they may not get from some cut-rate plumbers.
    We gave the customer a $30 refund after she called us back stating that she called a competitor and was quoted a lower price of $170. We felt that matching the price of the competitor would be a friendly gesture that might make her feel better about the service call and could result in her calling us again the next time she needed a plumber. But clearly she feels that a 15% refund is “a tiny discount,” as the headline claims. We feel this refund was quite fair and have determined that any additional discount is unwarranted.

  44. pot_roast says:

    Awesome response from Roto-Rooter, and the ‘customer’ is a jackass. They matched a competitors price and she’s still whining?

    Get over it, lady. Really.

  45. fr34k says:

    I have to say I am with Roto Rooter, It appears she was aware of the charges before the work was done but later decided she wasn’t happy with it. As said she should have shopped around before agreeing to the work. I feel the $30 gesture was unneeded but a very nice gesture.