I was asked to find a licensed and insured plumber for a dishwasher installation at an old condo. My trusted former plumber moved away, so he's no longer available to do work in this area, and I had to find an alternative.
A highly respected customer of mine with many years of experience in construction project management referred me to Rick at New Water Plumbing. He said that it had been a few years since he last dealt with Rick, but he said that all of his past experience had been excellent.
I called New Water Plumbing and asked for Rick. Someone told me that Rick was away, so I spoke with Dave instead.
I described the work order to Dave. I said that this was a new installation for a dishwasher at an old condo, and that this condo had never had a dishwasher. I said that the pipes under the kitchen sink would have to be modified, and that someone would have to drill through the cabinet to accommodate the supply line and the drainage hose. I also gave him some important information about parking.
Dave told me that their price is $150 for the first hour, and then $40 for each additional half hour. He said that this doesn't include parts or tax, so those cost extra.
I asked Dave if he wanted me to send him any photographs, diagrams, or any other information about this job. Dave told me that this wouldn't be necessary, and he seemed to know what he was talking about, so I didn't. We booked a date, and he said that a plumber would arrive between 09:00 and 13:00 on that date.
On the date that I booked with Dave, Kyle the plumber arrived at 09:13. He had brought up a huge selection of parts and tools, but he apparently didn't get my important information about parking, so he risked getting ticketed and/or towed. Luckily for him, he was neither ticketed or towed.
I showed Kyle what had to be done, and he told me that he was sent there to replace an existing dishwasher, not to install the hookups for a new installation. I told him that I was very clear with Dave about what was required, and Kyle told me that he didn't bring a drill.
I was quite surprised that Kyle didn't bring a drill, but I happened to know that the owner of this condo had one somewhere, so I said that I'd call the owner to locate theirs. Kyle asked if they had a 2.5-inch bit, and I told him that I didn't think so, but then Kyle said that he had one in his truck. Kyle went to his truck to get the bit and some other things he needed, and I called the condo owner to ask where they kept their drill.
I called the owner of the condo who was away at the time, and they told me where to find their cordless drill, but they warned me that it wasn't charged. I found it, and surely enough, its battery was drained, so I immediately began charging it.
It takes five minutes to walk from this condo to where Kyle was parked and back, or less than three minutes if you're a fast walker who takes the stairs. At least five minutes had passed, so I looked out the window to see how Kyle was faring, and he was still in the truck.
About twenty minutes later, I saw Kyle returning from his truck, and it looked like he had an awkward load, so I went down to help. It turns out that all he had with him was a propane tank on a dolly with some bungee cables holding it in place, and a case of drill bits. I really don't understand why it took at least twenty minutes to fetch these from his truck.
As Kyle got started, it became clear to me that he's a very slow worker. Working slowly doesn't necessarily make someone a bad worker, and I hoped that his inefficiency wasn't indicative of other problems.
When Kyle was ready to begin soldering, he told me that he'd have to go back to his truck because he forgot to bring up his protective cover for the cabinetry. I told him to go ahead, and I soon saw him out the window walking across the parking lot to his truck. I sat down with some reading material, hoping that fetching a cover wouldn't take him twenty minutes, but then he returned on time, approximately five minutes after he left.
"I forgot my keys.", Kyle said as he came back inside. This astounded me, and he spent another five minutes going to his truck and back.
Kyle warned me that the soldering would produce some foul fumes, so I turned on a fan, and I provided as much ventilation as I could. I told him I was concerned that he wasn't wearing or using any personal protective equipment, and he said he wasn't worried about it.
With the soldering complete, he was ready to drill a hole in the cabinet. He connected one of its bits to the drill, connected the battery, and then began drilling. About two millimetres in, the battery died because it hadn't been charging for nearly long enough, and my mind began to race, thinking of alternative ways that I could get this hole drilled as soon as possible.
"I think I have a drill in my truck.", Kyle then told me. But I thought he said he didn't bring a drill! Five minutes later, he was back with a drill, and he drilled the hole.
Measuring the drainage hose that came with the dishwasher, Kyle said that he didn't think it was long enough. I asked him to try it anyway, and indeed, it was too short by approximately ten centimetres. I asked him if he had an extension, and he said that he didn't, so I said that I'd take care of this myself.
Kyle pulled out the supply line that he brought, and without measuring it first, he began connecting it to the dishwasher. About thirty centimetres or so from the pipe under the sink, he discovered that the supply line he brought was too short, and he didn't have an extension, so he disconnected it and put it back in his toolbox. Approximately ten more minutes wasted. I told him that I'd take care of this myself.
Kyle finished at 11:50, which meant he'd been there for 2 hours and 37 minutes. I estimate that he wasted at least 45 minutes on things that he never should have had to do, so I was willing to accept a bill for 2 hours (1 hour and 54 minutes rounded up), and I thought about how unacceptable it would be if he charged for 2.5 hours. And then he handed me a bill for 3 hours, saying that he arrived at 09:00 and finished at 12:00.
As a gesture of good faith toward New Water Plumbing, I signed the work order, paid it, and decided to dispute this with company management. I did this because I didn't want them to be without the portion of the money that they legitimately earned, and me arguing this with Kyle would delay him getting to his next appointment. On a personal and professional level, I didn't want New Water Plumbing to think that my customer who referred me to them was someone who refers unreasonable people who don't pay their bills.
Kyle packed up his stuff, and when he was ready to go, I asked if he had everything. He said yes, and then took everything out to his truck. A few minutes later, he called me from his truck to say that he'd forgotten his headphones in the condo, so I found them, and then carried them out to him.
I'm not a plumber, but to me, the work that Kyle completed seems good. His efficiency and preparedness, however, were quite awful. I believe that my former plumber could have done at least as good of a job, but in less than one hour.
In hindsight, I don't know if Kyle was wasting time deliberately, if he was hungover or otherwise inebriated from the night before, or if he was simply a very inefficient worker. Whatever the case, I wasn't impressed, and I immediately reported it to the company with a detailed letter and a telephone call. They have a service provider who answers their calls outside of business hours, and they told me that they'd deliver my concerns at the beginning of the next business day.
Two business days later, I hadn't received a reply to my letter or my telephone call, so I called and asked for Dave. Dave said that he read my letter, and he was waiting for a GPS report and for feedback from his manager. He said that he'd call me back after he has those things.
I asked Dave why Kyle didn't receive all the important details that I'd provided in advance to Dave. Dave said that they post their new work orders on a board at their office, and sometimes their plumbers don't read all the details.
In my opinion, the GPS report is useless because it probably tracks their vehicle movements only, and not the movements and activities of their workers. If their intention is to argue that Kyle arrived around 09:00 and left around 12:00, then they'd have no argument from me because I handed Kyle his headphones as he was driving away at 12:12, but I don't consider more than two of those hours to be billable.
In my opinion, none of the following time is billable:
1. Anything before 09:13 because 09:13 was when he arrived.
2. At least 20 minutes at his truck to get a propane tank, a dolly, bungee cables, and a case of drill bits.
3. 10 minutes to retrieve a protective cover that he'd forgotten in his truck, including an extra trip because he forgot his keys.
4. 5 minutes to get a drill from his truck that he originally said he hadn't brought.
5. Up to 10 minutes for trying to hook up a supply line he brought that was too short, and that he should have spent less than one minute measuring first.
6. About 10 minutes or so to write the bill, including time he spent calling his office to ask for their prices of various parts he used. I hired New Water Plumbing to do plumbing, not to do paperwork.
7. About 5 minutes for reloading his truck and calling me to say that he'd forgotten his headphones.
8. About 5 minutes for waiting for me to find and return his headphones.
Several days later, I still hadn't received a response from New Water Plumbing, and my customer who referred me to them asked me to follow-up with Rick. I wrote a letter to ask for an update, and I called to speak with Rick. Margery told me that Rick was away on vacation, but that she'd forward my message and my letter to him, and she gave me an estimate about when I should try calling him again.
I called New Water Plumbing on the date that Margery suggested, and I asked to speak with Rick. Someone told me that Rick was out of the office, and they forwarded me to his voicemail. I left a message, but I never received a response.
In my letters and in my calls, I asked New Water Plumbing to refund the last two half hours that they overcharged for this work order. I believe that I've been fair and very reasonable, but they've demonstrated zero willingness to issue this partial refund, to apologize, or even to acknowledge my concerns.
As for the prices of the parts and materials that Kyle used, New Water Plumbing's pricing is more than double what I'm seeing at local retail plumbing supply stores. I understand that it costs them money to stock and haul around these materials, and I understand their desire to markup their prices accordingly, but this is rather excessive. I won't dispute these prices, but I do consider them unreasonable and unfair for people who estimate the costs of their projects in advance.
I reported this incident to my customer who referred me to New Water Plumbing. He told me that he's very disappointed, and that he'll no longer be hiring them for his own projects, nor will he refer them to anyone else.
New Water Plumbing, if you're reading this, I'd be willing to post an update to this review if you issue the partial refund that I've requested and/or offer an apology. You've given me no reason to want to hire you again for anything, and the way you conduct yourselves is unethical by my standards, but I'm open to the possibility that you can restore the trust you've lost.