THE FEARLESS CONSUMER- Absolutely similar: Another plumbing job goes awry

"I couldn't believe my eyes," Lynn Childers wrote, "when I saw your recent article on Absolute Plumbing"– not only because she had a similar experience with Absolute, but because the consumer I wrote about is also named Lynn. 

In that case ["Absolute conflict," March 8], Lynn Ward met with Absolute service manager Randy Jacobs when her first-floor toilet was stopped up. He surveyed the situation and concluded that her septic system was the culprit. She says he estimated repairs would cost no more than $4,000; Jacob said the upper limit was $5,000. He did not give her a written estimate, which might have prevented at least some of the confusion that ensued. Ward believed the estimate included the cost of fixing a potential problem with the drain field; Jacobs claims that wasn't the case. 

The next day Jacobs and his crew made some repairs, but then, according to Ward, couldn't be reached and would not return messages. But he turned up unexpectedly a few days later, asking for $4,886, and she wrote a post-dated check and okayed the next round of work.

However, after talking with me, Ward stopped payment on her check and instructed Absolute to cease. She also consulted another plumber, who declines to be named or quoted, but who, she claims, told her she had been overcharged. 

Now for Lynn #2's experience. Childers is a Charlottesville police officer with a horse farm in Orange County. When she woke up to dry pipes one Friday in January, the prospect of a weekend without water spurred her to prompt action. Like Ward, she went to the Yellow Pages where, she says, she "made the unfortunate mistake" of calling Absolute. 

Jacobs showed up with three employees, inspected the well pump, and, Childers claims, told her she needed a new pump and 400 feet of wiring. As with Ward, there was no estimate– and so when Jacobs later handed her a bill for $4,100, she says, she "just about fell over." 

Like Ward, Childers claims Jacobs insisted on being paid that day– even though his crew had not yet buried the 100 feet of wiring from the well to the house. She paid, but after talking with another plumber, she concluded that she had been "ripped off" and, like Ward, stopped payment. 

In the end, Absolute accepted Childers' offer to pay $2,000. Even though Childers claims that Jacobs had promised, when presenting his original bill, that his crew would return within two weeks and bury the last 100 feet of wire, the work was never completed. So now, she says, she's "stuck with burying the wire myself." 

I spoke with Absolute owner Carol Cline, who says she'd heard only Jacobs' side of both disputes. In Childers' case, however, Cline claims Jacobs "gave the impression" that burying the wire would have been a separate job– and that Childers had said she'd do it herself.

Cline agrees that Jacobs should have given both women written estimates. As for the payment terms, she says they always expect residential customers to pay on completion– but agrees this would be a problem if the work, as Childers claims, had yet to be finished. 

Cline volunteered that hearing two such similar complaints warranted further investigation, and said she would "get to the bottom of this." And she did: She dispatched a crew to bury the rest of the wire, which Childers pronounced a "huge relief."

Do you have a consumer problem or question? Email the Fearless Consumer or write her at 100 Second Street NW, Charlottesville 22902.



I'm not suprised to hear that Absolute Plumbing is the topic of your discussion. I have also had an issue with them. I had a problem with the sewer lines backing up and called them. They came out and "cleaned out the lines." I felt I was charged a lot for that job, but not knowing what it typically cost didn't protest. But a month later when my sewer backed up again, I wasn't too pleased. I called them and asked if this was typical. Their reply was yes and they could come out again, but of course it would cost me. I then called another plumber who came out and informed me that I had tree roots in the line. He doesn't know how they did not know this. I contacted Absolute, but they were very unresponsive. My second plumber cost was HALF that of Absolute. I hope that your article causes consumers to think twice about using them.

Barbara's initial column on Absolute Plumbing detailed my dispute and was published prior to any resolution. Since then, I had another plumber look at the job. His first comment was that I had been significantly overcharged. Then he looked at the work that had been done. He pointed out various aspects of the work that were problematic and noted that several parts of the system were not functioning properly. He recommended I have the health department inspect the work. Josh Kirtley from the health department came out, inspected the work, and told me that it did not meet code and that he could not approve it. He said it would have to be corrected. He also called Randy Jacobs at Absolute and told him the same thing. By then I had decided I didn't want Absolute to do any other work for me - that the work would be done by someone more reputable and more reasonably priced. I spoke to Randy Jacobs at Absolute and told him to come out there and pull their equipment out. That I would have someone else do the work. We also agreed that I would pay Absolute nothing - a fair price for a totally botched job!

Do you have any more complaints about Absolute Plumbing either before or after?


Sorry to be SO SLOW to chime in here! No, I didn't write about Absolute again.

I recently had some problems with my septic system and decided to call the health department in charlottesville. The young man who arrived at my house was knowledgeable and was able to determine the problem to be minor one. He explained to me exactly what the problem was and the inner workings of how the system works.

I would recommend that anybody with septic problems call the health dept. first before possibly being scammed! Suprisingly, there is no fee for them to evaluate your septic system.