Indy plumbers flush out common sales tactics
Whether it’s a fast food employee suggesting large fries or a department store offering a credit card, consumers typically face numerous opportunities to spend more money. The plumbing industry has its own common upsells, and as a consumer, it’s important to learn how to distinguish a needed repair from a money grab.
Jay Bedell, owner of highly rated Bedell Plumbing in Carmel, Indiana, says some companies hire plumbers that act as salesmen and work on commission. Bedell says a common upselling method is offering a vague service plan that doesn’t cover a specific need, but still gets them into the house once a year.
Bedell says these contracts can cost $100 to $500 a year, and the companies sell them expecting things to go wrong. “They can find things to fix every time they come out,” he says.
For more: Unnecessary Upsell or Needed Upgrade?
Although Bedell says residential service plans are typically not a good idea, there are exceptions. He says a good plan covers specific maintenance that will benefit the consumer. “If you have a need served by that plan and it’s within your budget [it’s a good plan].”
Russ Hertaus, owner of highly rated Cardinal Plumbing in Fortville, Indiana, says you should be aware of companies offering a free home analysis. “It allows them to go through the home and shop for things that may or may not need [to be] repaired,” he says. According to Hertaus, these “free” services could end up costing you anywhere from $100 to thousands of dollars.
Both Bedell and Hertaus say there are instances where additional work is necessary. If something truly needs attention or is unsafe, they’ll recommend it, but not push it on the homeowner. “I tell them the degree of hazard they’re dealing with and let them make the call,” Hertaus says. Bedell says his plumbers always educate homeowners on the problem and suggested repair. “We tell them everything we know so they’re as well-versed [about the problem] as we are,” he says.
Part of the challenge as a consumer is determining whether you’re being upsold or if the work is truly necessary. Broad Ripple member Patrick Zimmerman contacted highly rated Hope Plumbing of Indianapolis to look at the clogged lateral drain that runs from his house to the sewer system. Zimmerman says they suggested replacing the clay pipe with plastic piping.
Zimmerman says he previously had to have the pipe cleaned about three times a year on average due to tree roots that obstructed it, so he knew replacing the pipe was the right move. Zimmerman says it cost about $150 each time to remove the clog, and the new pipe cost $4,000. “You get to a point when you’re tired of paying to have someone unclog it,” he says, adding that he’s had no issue since Hope completed the repair.
Bedell says the best safeguard against unnecessary service is to do your research to gain a better understanding of the problem at hand. Find literature on the subject and comb the Internet to learn more about the problem. Hertaus says to trust your gut. “If it looks fishy and sounds fishy,” he says. “It probably is fish.”