Plumber blues

I am gunuinely interested in what you, dear reader, would do.

A couple of days ago a plumber came to our house. He was recommended by a friend, but we knew little about him.

Our hot water heater has been leaking for some time. He took a look, said we needed a new compression tank and a valve. “Not a big job,” he said. “the tank’s around $60, the valve is $30.” He had to come back the next day, which he did. The wife was home. He went downstairs, fixed the heater, handed her a bill for $510—$285 parts, $225 labor.

“What the hell?” I asked the wife.

She hadn’t been there for Day 1, so she was unaware of the original estimate. We haven’t paid him yet, but I’m irked/annoyed/frustrated. This happens all the time in home ownership—guys overcharging, coming up with mystery parts, etc. I’m not saying he necessarily ripped us off, but if you say one thing, then do another—well, I’m not happy.

When we spoke via phone (see above video), he said he’d take $50 off. I told him I’d talk to the wife and call back, just to think this over. I’m thinking of sending him a check for $300 (still too much) with a note.

What would you do?

PS: Music by DJ White Owl.

11 thoughts on “Plumber blues”

  1. If the bill was going to be anything over what he originaly quoted he should have come to you/your wife and informed you that he found a new problem and that it was going to be more than he first estimated. He should have checked with you that it was ok to proceed with the job at the new price. Not very professional in my opinion. I would dispute it.

  2. I had my water heater looked at a few months ago. It ended up taking the guy 10 to 15 minutes but he had to charge a minimum of 1 hour @ $100/hr with no parts needed. So after tax I was out $113.

    The labor sounds avg. I would only pay what was quoted for parts plus labor.

  3. I totally agree with Pat & Theresa. The parts quote was the parts quote. Once he knew it would cost more, he should have asked your permission to continue. I’d send him a check for a partial amount, along with a note explaining your reasoning.

  4. Call him back and ask why he didn’t call you the minute the first quote was no longer going to be accurate so that you could sign off on the new quote or bail on the project and hire a credible professional. The lesson for next time is to tell these crooks that you’re holding him to the quote and if it’s off by more than $10 or whatever then he is to call you to get your permission, etc…

  5. Should you pay that? Hell. No. Sounded like on the first day it would be like $100-$150 or $200 at the most. Now he wants almost 3 times that? Hell no. Give him a call back & call him out on his BS

  6. I’m a corporate-employed accountant, not a service professional, so I’m not biased. But I think I side w/ the plumber on this one.

    He should have told you there was more to be done than he originally thought before he went ahead and did it, but like he said, the parts cost what they cost and he can’t not charge for those. He can offer $50 off the labor b/c service professionals charge a ludicrous hourly rate, and that gives them some wiggle room to try to make someone happy (you) when they screw up (him, by not consulting you when the original quote turned out to be wrong). If he was feeling bad/generous, he could’ve knocked the $50 off right away w/ an explanation/apology for exceeding the original estimate, but he probably didn’t give it a second thought at the time.

    Just sending $300 would only cover the parts, and it’s not fair that he should be expected to do the job for free.

    In summary: Plumber needs to be more customer-oriented/professional, you need to suck it up and pay the man (but I don’t think you’re out of line to complain).

  7. The parts probably did not cost what the bill said. Many contractors get price A on a part, add a premimum and then charge the customer price B.
    This guy sounds like a con man.
    It depends on how far you want to take it but you could ask for documentation of how much the parts actually cost and negotiate on that.
    Unfortunately it doesn’t sound like the quote was on paper so you may be screwed.
    These people exist in every profession. My kid broke her arm. In addition to the insurance payment and the ER bill the doc sent me a bill for 4000.00 for the 12 minutes he spent with her. After alot of back and forth I sent him a check for half and that seemed to resolve it. Of course why would he dispute it, he still made out like a bandit. Maybe he is related to Jerry Jones.

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