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.