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Splish Splash; Don’t Take A Financial Bath Don’t Get Ripped Off By Preying Plumbers
Brian A. Hampton Brian A. Hampton
Arlington, VA
Tuesday, June 8, 2021




    "Fear an ignorant man more than a lion." Turkish Proverb

     "Plumbing is the worst!"  "Plumbing is the bane of my existence."

These are two quotes from friends of mine; sound familiar?

     It's not really that plumbers are malicious or unethical, it's just that often they don't know what to do.  But of course, they do something anyway and often do the wrong thing.

  • You have a leaking pipe; they knock out the wrong drywall?
  • They snake a drain, break a pipe and cause a leak?
  • They say you need a new garbage disposal; a reset will do?
  • They come to fix a slow toilet flush; leave, then, no flush?
  •  A plumber messes up; you get another plumber over to fix the fix and they mess up too; back to square one!

What misadventures with plumbers have you had?  I will share some of mine and then get right to how to get the Best for the Least from plumbers.  Then, if worse comes to worse, I will share some remedies that I have used for redress from plumbing damages.

                            OH NO, HAVE TO CALL A PLUMBER

    Have you been fooled by a plumber? I most certainly have; maybe I can help spare you from some of the leaky business.  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  I remember a plumbing episode where I was getting ready to be fooled Three Times.

                                    Splish Splash, Don't Take a Financial Bath   2

     There is a leak on the kitchen ceiling, over the upstairs bathroom.   Plumber comes out to diagnose the problem.  Have to knock out the ceiling drywall and see what the problem is he says. (Less than one in 20 plumbers are women; perhaps the root of the problem, you think?) 

   Yep, leaky pipes right there.  Looks like the toilet is leaking; he fixes it he says.  Problem goes away but comes back in a couple months.  Another plumber says the last guy messed up.  Really!  Let me take a look; he has to knock out the ceiling drywall that had been replaced a couple months before.

     It's the shower he says; He'll fix the drain.  Problem goes away; drywall is fixed again.  A couple months later, it starts to leak again on the ceiling of the kitchen.  Plumber number three shows and starts calling me " Boss."

      That was my first inkling that things might not go well.  Do you like to be called boss? He says it is not the drain; it's the shower tiles. And if it continues to leak, the ceiling in the kitchen will be damaged.  "I didn't know that I said."  He didn't like me; he kind of stormed out without a goodbye.  I didn't like him. Goodbye and good luck.

               TURNING  SHOWER HEAD AND SAVED $2,000

  Like $2,000 for all new shower tiles?  Wait a minute said the slow-witted House Manager, that would be me.  The shower head is pointed against the shower wall and there is a leak.  How about I point it straight down rather than against the wall?  Bingo!  Ten minutes; no leaks.  Some people have to be told.  So, I sent Joe, the Plumbing Manager no less, I sent a nice text that very day.

                           Splish Splash, Don't Take a Financial Bath   3

 "Thanks for the diagnosis!  I adjusted the shower head straight ahead rather than against the wall.  10 minutes. No leak! Or need to redo the entire shower.  YOU are the Boss.  Many Thanks!"  I got no response, but I did get satisfaction.

  So, we need to live by our wits when it comes to plumbers.  It behooves us all to get the right plumber from the start.

     You like the plumber you have until you don't, but how to find a new one? First, shop online and pick out your top three choices and call them on the phone; YES the phone!  No live person or call center, forget about it.  Corporate culture starts at the top, if they are obtuse or cannot answer simple questions, move on.

     Ask how much for a visit alone or by the hour and then how much for an estimate of the work to be done to actually diagnose the problem of what has to be done.

                                $100 TO TAKE A BREATH?

      Carl the plumber used to charge $100 just to breathe in our house.  He would fix a leaky faucet, be there five minutes and charge $155.  What???  You were only here for five minutes!!!!!!!!  Carl, being a clever guy would say, "You are not paying for my time, but my expertise and knowing what washer thing to turn here."

                              Splish Splash, Don't Take a Financial Bath  4

             Plumbing Fiasco:  Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head   

     Take photos before, during and after the plumbing process.  Taking photos takes very little time and you can document what it was before they got started. For example, maybe you have limited damage to start, like a leak on your ceiling; get a photo.

     Maybe they rip parts of your walls apart and don't put back a towel rack, or grabber, a toothbrush stand or even a toilet paper spool.  You have to show that it was there in the first place,

     They WILL take photos to show all the mold, damaged pipes and whatever else to show all the work that had to be done. They say the photos prove their case, whatever it is.  Why?  Because they are photos, and they mean whatever they say they mean!  You need your own photos for the record; maybe they did more than needed to be done.  Make your own record, from the beginning and every day.

     The plumber comes to fix a clogged sink in the bathroom on the second floor.  He is supposed to arrive between 3:30 and 5:30; he gets there at ten minutes to six, no surprise.  He is there for about 20 minutes snaking out the sink and my wife and I, who are in the family room, hear raindrops.  There is no rain outside: it was coming from the kitchen ceiling; water cascading from leaks in the ceiling, dripping from ceiling light fixtures, all over the floor!!!###**

                                        Splish Splash, Don't Take a Financial Bath  5

       Bungling Plumbers Make a Bad Situation Worse   

      "Stop whatever you are doing!"  Thereupon ensues a spirited discussion about why this was happening.  He said it was probably the toilet; there was no water on the bathroom floor, and we had no leaks from the toilet before on the ceiling.  He snaked a hole in the pipes, which can happen in older houses with older pipes, but mostly caused by bungling plumbers.  Real pros will do it right.

   Then he wanted to knock out the drywall in the center of the ceiling to find the leaking pipes!  No way I pointed out; most all pipes are vertical and would be in the side wall, spraying water from the leaks.

     Thereupon transpired a full week of lies and obfuscation  from various representatives of the plumbing company; telling me what they would do before disappearing and becoming unreachable.

           You Have to Be Assertive or Be the Victim

          I had had enough and here is what I did that finally produced results; you can use one of these techniques yourself. Some well- placed assertiveness can save you a world of grief.   First of all, I checked on-line to find the name of the management top executives.  Then I reviewed the complaints that customers took to the Better Business Bureau.  There were 49 of them in about a five- month period.  Their COO had a kind of full-time job responding.

                                     Splish Splash, Don't Take a Financial Bath 6

    The BBB once really helped me with a credit card company that was really ripping me off, but in the case of plumbers, I knew that the state licensing authority was a far more powerful linchpin for bringing heat so they would see the light.

     Junkyard Dog Lawyer to Run TV Spots on Your Company!

    But I decided on a kind of pincer operation.  I finally got a customer service manager on the line and told her:  "Judy, gosh I told one of my friends about my situation with your company, with the 49 complaints to the BBB and all and they said the whole deal is ripe for a class action suit.  You know the kind where a junkyard dog lawyer runs these  TV ads rounding up aggrieved customers and then files a huge lawsuit."  Then I wished her a good day.  You are the nail or the hammer.

          Then I found that the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) was the licensing board that also received complaints. I called their hot line and they emailed me a complaint form.  Unsurprisingly, I found out that the upper management of the company were very secretive about how to contact them; no one would give out extensions or email addresses.

         Bertha, Tell Tony His License Could be Revoked

     But I finally finagled the name and extension of the Executive Assistant to the CEO.   I called the Assistant, got the voicemail and left a message.  I gave my name and number and said that she will want to get the message to Tony right away.

                                  Splish Splash, Don't Take a Financial Bath   7

       I said that as you know, the DPOR can take your license to do business away and that my last stop before filing a complaint was making this call.  Then in the voicemail I left a  short description of what had happened, and the names of the culprits.

    Another arrow for your quiver is to "make a record" as they say in the legal trade, by sending emails.  From my long experience in looking for the email addresses of "high ranking people" I have found that such folks don't want regular people to know.

    But here is a trick to figure out some of these obscure email addresses.  Google  email format (We Give Grief Corporation).  In many cases, you will see something like this:

             First initial last   JDoe @ WGGC@gmail.com        58%

             First last  joedoe                                                         28%

             Last first initial  doej                                                  18%

        It's a Warning and a Promise Don't Get Mad, Get Even!

     You combine this information with the names of the top executives, and you have a formula for getting your story out just the way you want.  You can employ the very inexpensive email tool called readnotify.com  You send three emails out to the executive and see which one, if any, opens your email.  Recipients Do Not Know you are using this software.

                                   Splish Splash, Don't Take a Financial Bath   8

     Never get mad, get even.  Positive things started to happen within hours after I left the message.  But remember only the prospect of filing a complaint is really going to provide leverage; once it's filed you don't have much leverage anymore.  And if someone asks you the age- old question:  "Are you threatening me?"  Your response is, "You can take it any way you want."  Or, another response is, "No, it's a warning and a promise."

     Another option for redress of vendor damages at your residence could be your homeowners' insurance, depending on your coverage and level of confidence in the carrier.

     With ongoing problems and damage caused by a plumber, you can get your homeowners insurance company to take over.  They can even collect from the insurance company of the plumbing company, through what is called subrogation.

          With plumbers, when you have to, be the hammer not the nail, be ready to play hardball!

              Brian Hampton         

               3706 25th St. N.

              Arlington, VA 22207



              MA in Communications Michigan State University

              Advanced Degree U. S. Army Command &General Staff College     




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