Customer not satisfied with unlicensed plumbers

By Lee Peck - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Her mother's home has had plumbing problems for years, but the recent cold snap was too much for the old pipes.

"This year they busted and when I came to town they were running all over the place from the cold weather," said Connie Gawith.

Having done business with Lake Charles Roto Rooter in the past, Gawith gave them a call. She said they gave her a bid of nearly $500.

"I told them I was sorry I wasted their time but I wasn't going to pay $500 when I intend to repipe the house later," said Gawith.

Gawith said Roto Rooter then came out and said they could do it for $246. Desperate for a solution -- she agreed, only to discover more problems.

"They came back again and said there's a new leak in the pipe and we're going to charge you $200 to go look at the leak to give you an estimate. I was furious," recalled Gawith.

Without even going underneath the home, Gawith was given an additional $500 dollar estimate to fix the second leak.

"And the response to me was I figure it will take about 20 bucks worth of material and my time has to be worth something the house is wet underneath," said Gawith.

Gawith said she later found out neither of the two men employed by Roto Rooter were licensed plumbers. She refused to pay the $246 for work done and said her call to the owner of the local Roto Rooter franchise fell on deaf ears.

"He told me that I can file a complaint with the state contractor's board. It will be just a slap on the hand and business as usual. That's unacceptable," said Gawith.

With no other options, Gawith filed a complaint with her state representative, her city councilman and now she is taking her concerns to the Better Business Bureau.

"The Better Business Bureau is the place to go to when a complaint starts. And we're the first place to go to and try and resolve it before going to court," explained Carmen Million.

According to Million, in the last three years Roto Rooter of Lake Charles has had five registered complaints.

"That doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad thing. And it's an opportunity for a company to verify it's their customer and work with the BBB and try to resolve the complaint and that is reflected in their record," said Million.

In Roto Rooter's case they've not responded to two of the complaints filed - giving them an "F" rating. Million said an easy way for them to better their rating is to respond and resolve the registered complaints.

Meanwhile Million urges clients to check their free services at the BBB before entering contract work, something Gawith also recommends.

"Find you a reputable company and use them and make them show you their license when they come out," said Gawith.

Darren Stidham, owner of Lake Charles Roto Rooter, did return our call late Tuesday. He did not deny that his plumber in question isn't licensed. According to him the man has 17,000 plumbing hours under his belt, when the state only requires 8,000. He simply can't pass the licensing test.

Stidham said he has six licensed plumbers working for him and several apprentices. He said that particular day it was extremely cold and they had a lot of calls and needed to get the work done. Stidham also said he stands by the prices he quoted Gawith for repairing leaks at her mother's house and their agreement was fulfilled when they repaired the first leak.

"The first price was given at $500. She asked us to leave and she wasn't going to spend that kind of money. We went back - tried to reassess it just to get her water on. We brought it down to $249 or whatever the cents was and got the ok. Gave her the price up front... Started the work... Put the water on... Another leak under the house. We went back to assess the situation with another price to continue the repair," said Stidham.

Stidham said in most cases, they would return the customer's money when they're not satisfied but in this case they weren't paid for the work. Stidham estimates his company has responded to thousands of calls with few complaints.

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