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Franchises and chains of all kinds seem prone to padding and gouging

Last week my drains became afflicted with tree roots resulting from a dry summer and warm/non winter here. I called a couple of old reliable plumbers but found they were both retired so I called one of the nationally known root/sewer cleaners who sent a young man over who appeared to be capable and willing and when he finished and handed me the BILL he recited a sales pitch on running a camera down the line to find and permanently clear up the problem. As I handed him my check and thanked him I expressed my hope that further work was not necessary. But then yesterday, with laundry being done, it became apparent that the problem wasn’t solved so I called the rooter asking for a return visit but I was informed that if there is no complaint within 24 hours of their service they have no warranty and strongly advised that I opt for the internal inspection and repair that they could schedule for the next day. I bit my tongue and declined and called around to neighbors and found a local plumbing contractor who had a crew who came by late in the afternoon. Without knowing they were following behind their competition the men went to work and within 10 feet of the clean out they hit roots and pulled them out, then went back in, hitting more roots, pulling them out and repeating several times. Of course, there may still be more roots in there, but the BIG NAME root cleaner was totally inadequate and refused to stand behind his work and to top it all off the NO NAME local company charged half what the BIG NAME company charged.

Not surprising. When we had a similar problem we luckily talked to a neighbor, who told us to have the city come out first to inspect their line. Turns out it was their problem, right at the connection with the city line. So they fixed it.

@texases Good thinking; always call the utility first. We had a vibration in our waterline where it enters the basement. I called the city department and they sent out an inspecter (no charge), who determined there was a leak in the line under the street, and it cause the vibration. The water was subsequently shut off and a temporary water supply truck arrived. They had to dig one lane of the street up, and it took two days to get everything back together. The city thanked us for our quick call, since the leak would have gotten worse quickly.

Actually, in the Minneapolis area, there was an article on problems with one of these franchises. High pressure tactics and so on. The thing with all of these franchises is that you pay big money to be part of them. They have their “proven” sales techniques and training that everyone has to follow. So you get the same old blah blah blah whether you talk to a brake shop, plumber, transmission shop, etc. Plus they have to increase sales in order to pay the franchise fee.

Not saying they are all bad because some provide excellent marketing and business analysis and pretty much insure success, but for a lot of them, they have just found a way to squeeze between the producer and consumer. The result is the franchiser makes a lot of money, the franchisee works his tail off or resorts to high pressure sales, and the consumer pays the total.

Once in the spring, and once in the fall flush Root Kill down the toilet as long as its allowed for use in your area. http://www.homedepot.com/buy/zep-2-lb-root-kill-zroot24.html#.UQ1s6qUTvw4

Or treated with RootX by a professional

I’ve had the same experience over the years with about every national chain company. Stopped using ALL of them for any type of service.

As an FYI, a number of plumbers around here recommend pouring plain old salt into the drain now and then to kill off roots.

Big companies like these are training grounds for new workers. Think of them as the quick lubes of plumbing, electrical, or HVAC.

Reminds me when we just moved in our current house we were having plumbing issues and not knowing ANYBODY we called one of these companies as a last resort. The guy showed up and my wife noticed that he was constantly appraising our house/cars and belongings and not paying attention to what the plumbing issue was. She send the kid off and I asked someone I knew to drive 60 miles to my place; good help is precious these days.

The apparent effort to set me up for the video inspection and repair tied to the 24 hour cut off for a call back galled me. It was just so evident that the man was not thorough in his work but very thorough in his set up for the big hit. For years two plumbers were regular customers at the shop and both have retired as have most of the old independents. Now the yellow pages show 2 drain/sewer cleaners and the first one I called hit the jackpot here and was looking for more. And just to keep the record straight it was Mr Rooter that hammered me, not Roto-Rooter which no longer has a franchise locally.

That’s why I do all the work on my own house, cars, etc. I can screw it up four times for the money for equal incompetence. Tradesmen act like plumbing, capentry, electrical work is somehow magic. It isnt with the right info and tools.
Not sure what I’ll do when I get old and won’t be able to do it anymore but it works for me for now.

I have more then once lugged home a sewer machine from a rental place to unclog either my house or a family members house sewer back up. Not fun but sometimes its just better to do things yourself.

I priced a sewer snake machine at Harbor Freight for less than $150 but it only had a 50 foot cable and I am running out of room in my shop. The commercial machines must weight over 400 pounds and take up the space of a go kart. I may look into a rental though. If a commercial sized model with 100 feet of cable is available as a towable unit for less than $100 it could be worth the price and effort to know the job is thoroughly done.

The franchise does give a business television advertising, but my brother, who has a plumbing company believes that word of mouth advertising is better. One time, he recevied a call about a leaking faucet. He patiently explained to the customer how to replace the parts in the faucet and told him what repair kit to purchase at the local home supply store. He then told the caller that if this didn’t solve the problem to call him back and he wouild come out. When I told my brother that he just lost money by not making a service call, my brother responded by saying “This is my advertising. The caller knows that I am not out to gouge people and this builds my reputation. The lost service call by explaining to the customer how to do a simple faucet repair will reap benefits in the long run”.
Another time he told me about a real gamble that he took. He received a call from a woman who was having a dinner party. She had no water and was on a well. Her residence was in a wealthy subdivision. My brother told the woman that his firm didn’t do well or pump work. She said she was desperate and had called all the pump and well people in the book and nobody would come out. My brother said he would come out and see what he could do. He did find the problem in the pressure switch for the pump and managed to make a temporary repair to get the pump going and the water back on. He not only got a big tip on top of his service call charge, but was asked if he would come back to make a permanent repair. He returned the next day with a new pressure switch and received another large tip. He also gained a lot of new customers in that neighborhood. In my opinion, if you build up a customer base through honesty and competent service, you don’t need a franchise.

RodKnox, I rented one of those sewer snakes a few weeks ago for a sewer line clog rather than wait forever for a plumber as I live kind of out in the sticks. It cost me a bit over 50 dollars for 24 hours of use and was a 100 foot cable model. It weighed a few hundred pounds and I loaded and unloaded it myself into a trailer. This one was on a 2-wheeled dolly and stood upright.

The physically toughest part, to me anyway, was getting all of that cable back out of the line. As per the usual, the clog was apparently near the main line or possibly in it and I had about 95 feet of the cable unrolled. The cable spirals help to pull it along going in but coming back out was a bit more demanding even with the machine on reverse.

RemcoW,when I get the " techno king" treatment I either do it myself or go elsewhwere,I love to be able to pay a competent shop to do things correctly and fortunately the hucksters usually disapear pretty quick around here-Kevin

The time that you need a boroscope is when a pipe joint breaks or the pipe is completely severed. Apparently, terra cotta pipes come loose from the fitting on the house with some frequency. The camera is a good positive ID of this. No amount of rooting will help this, and it’s good to know before you start digging up the front yard where the break is.

I try to stay as far away as I can from bigger companies, and always research local service providers. When you use a local guy, they project is much more personal. Ease of communication and their flexibility attracts me. Local guys are usually cheaper too.

I think the high franchise fees drive these places to drum up income any way they can.