Deceptive Pricing Tactics in the Underslab Plumbing Industry

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Here at In-House Plumbing we promise “A” work for a “C” price. As nice as it would be to offer the lowest price in town, it’s just not realistic — especially when the lowest prices are usually a deceptive tactic used by many in the underslab plumbing industry.

Today I want to go over a couple of the most common ways you could get ripped off. I’m also going to tell you what you can ask to know if you’re dealing with a reputable and knowledgeable plumber.

Foot In the Door

Why Some Companies Charge So Little for Tests

Almost every job in the underslab plumbing industry starts with some kind of test whether it be to determine if you have a leak or to locate leaks.

We have a flat rate for all of our tests. Some of our competitors, however, quote an hourly rate and estimate their tests take about an hour. Typically many of the plumbers doing this will only run a sewer camera to find leaks.

And if you’ve read some of our blogs, you know that it’s impossible to find leaks using a sewer camera.

So one of two things is happening here.

One, by running a camera to “find” leaks, that plumber can’t give you an accurate test result.

Or two, if that plumber is low on appointments that week or month or just feels like making more money that day, suddenly after that one hour they tell you the test is taking longer than expected and they need more time. And now that one hour turns into two or three or four and the $100 or $200 dollars you were prepared to spend is a lot more.

A Shady Business Model

It is our policy to do everything we can to find every leak when we perform a leak location test. I will admit, though, sometimes that’s not possible. Until we get under the slab, it’s hard to know every time how many leaks there are. But our goal is to find every single leak to the best of our abilities.

However, there are some plumbing companies out there whose entire business model is to find ONE leak. They tell you you only have one leak and set up a time to come back for the repair knowing full well there might be more.

Why? Because once they are there and they’ve dug a tunnel under your home or punched a hole through the slab, you’re trapped. So when they tell you “Oh we found all these other leaks,” they’ve got you exactly where they want you.

What are your options? Tell them no and watch them drive away while you’re stuck with a big hole in your floor or a long tunnel under your home’s foundation? No, you’re going to pay them whatever they ask to repair the leaks.

I’ve even known companies to locate a leak, tunnel to where they said it was to find there is no leak there. Then they either backfill the tunnel and charge you for a leak that wasn’t there leaving you with a leak still somewhere. Or they tell you they repaired the leak, go find the real leak, and charge you for both repairs.

No Repair Estimate

While nobody, including us, can give an exact price with certainty for repairs, they should be able to give you a ballpark figure per leak area in a normal situation.

We do our best to let our customers know about how much they should expect to pay for repairs. But some of our competitors give absolutely no repair estimate. The idea here is to give the customer an extremely low price on the testing because once the repairs are made, the price is much higher than other companies.

So instead of considering the price of just the testing, you should look at the price for the entire process from the initial testing, the leak location testing, and the repairs. But this doesn’t mean you should use one company for testing and another for repairs.

I actually go into detail about why this is a bad idea in this post. Essentially it can turn into a he said/she said situation and in the end nobody wins, including you — in fact, most likely, especially you.

We believe whoever does the excavation is responsible for the leak being there. So if we tunnel to a leak and it’s not there, we won’t charge the customer for any unnecessary work. And we won’t make that guarantee if we weren’t the ones to say where the leak is.

But you should be wary of a company that agrees to repair a leak they didn’t locate. Oftentimes what ends up happening is they will dig to the leak, find nothing but tell you they did and charge you for a repair. Or tell you there was no leak but charge you for the work anyway. They didn’t locate the leak so they don’t feel responsible for it not being there.

Not to mention it would be stupid to use another company’s test results — a company they know nothing about. They have no idea about the experience (or lack of) for the plumbers, the business owner’s motives, the business model, etc. That is placing a lot of trust in a company they don’t work for and a job they had no involvement in.

What You Should Ask

So here’s what you can ask to help lessen the possibility of getting ripped off.

When you call around and talk to different plumbing companies always ask how they plan to locate leaks — what type of test they perform for both the initial test and the leak location test.

If they tell you they are going to use a sewer camera, do not go with that company. As I’ve explained before, a leak is water escaping out of a pipe. So a sewer camera inside the pipe won’t be able to see that. Just because something looks like a leak inside a pipe that’s been accumulating years of waste and other refuse doesn’t mean it is.

If they can’t answer the question at all, that’s just really bad. Hang up and don’t look back.

However, if they tell you for the initial test they perform a hydrostatic test and for the leak location a hydrostatic leak isolation test using test balls, we might have a winner. Remember, a hydrostatic leak isolation test aka using test balls to narrow down/isolate the leak location or locations is the only way to find leaks in an underslab sewer system.

So then if you’re comparison shopping our testing prices with another company’s hydrostatic tests, you are comparing apples to apples and not apples to oranges.

However, don’t forget about the repair estimates as well. If they can’t give you a ballpark estimate per leak location like we can, you may not be getting as good a deal as you thought once they come to you with the final price.

Why Free Isn’t Free

Let’s say you call three different companies.

Company A tells you it’s $100 for the initial test, $300 for the leak location test, and $1,600 for a single leak repair.

Company B charges $200 for the initial test, $600 for the leak location test, and $1,200 for a single leak repair.

And company C quotes $0 for the initial test, $400 for the leak location test, and $1,600 for a single leak repair.

At the end of the day, your total cost is $2,000 no matter which company you go with.

So you may think you’re getting a deal with that zero cost testing. But really nobody is getting a deal. You think you’re getting a deal with “free” testing but really nobody is giving you something for free. What you need to understand is that when someone in this industry says their tests are free, someone still ends up paying for it.

If you’re lucky and are dealing with one of the more honest companies, the testing is still not “free” because that cost gets passed on to other customers. When you consider we find zero leaks in 60 out of 100 tests, where do you think they make up for these “free” tests? It’s added onto the other services.

And if you’re not lucky and are dealing with one of the more dishonest companies in this field, you’re more than likely going to be paying for repairs on a nonexistent leak.

Nothing is free. It’s sleight of hand, it’s marketing, to get you to do what they want you to do. Everything that is “free” costs somebody something.

Give Us a Call

It’s an unfortunate truth that there are a lot of companies in this industry who are knowingly and unknowingly ripping people off. It’s one of the reasons why my wife and I started In-House Plumbing Company.

We do NOT play games. There’s no sleight of hand or sleazy marketing being done here.

Honesty and integrity are of the utmost importance to us. So we work everyday to make sure you get all the information you need to make an informed decision.

As always if you have any questions or concerns, give us a call at 972-494-1750. You can also email service@inhouseplumbingcompany.com and we’ll get back as soon as possible.

 

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