This customer called on a Friday afternoon explaining they had drainage/back up issues with one of their toilets and wanted us to come inspect the lines.
Our dispatcher discussed our first hour and regular rate as well as the charge for a camera investigation. It is true that the charge for sewer cleaning equipment was not discussed. This is due to not knowing what the job would actually entail at the time of the original phone call ( Not unusual in service plumbing). We sent one of our best journeyman plumbers to the scene with a camera and drain cleaning equipment (just in case it would be needed). It was also discussed with the plumber and this customer that we would only be able to provide enough time for a camera investigation and if severe issues were found, they would likely have to be taken care of after the weekend. They happily agreed to this as they were still able to use fixtures, with the exception of one toilet causing them concern.
An hour and a half into the inspection, we found a massive root ball which was completely blocking the inside of their sewer line. In the interest of taking care of them, we pushed our other appointments and made time for them. This was all approved and the customer was very happy that we could do the work.
As the customer requested we be "gentle" with their pipes, our technician started with a 3/8 auger (our smallest piece of equipment) . After attempting to remove the root ball with the 3/8 auger, he had to start using a k75 to remove the roots from the system. He spent two and a half to three hours on-site clearing this root ball until he could establish good flow in the line. All of the time which he has billed for was necessary in order to do the job. We have plenty of work coming our way and it does not benefit us to have our plumber biding his time on site when he could be earning income elsewhere. This conversation that happened between the customer and our plumber was 100% related to the job at hand. He explained to the lady of the house that the piping is quite dated and warned that they would most likely continue to have issues with root blockages. He showed her our video footage and the pictures of the blockage. He gave recommendations for how to prevent these root blockages from recurring. All of this is considered billable time as we were giving valuable advice to this customer specifically related to their system. This was not a pointless friendly chat, but rather a productive conversation and it was not a half hour long as this customer claims. It is standard to spend ten or fifteen minutes after a job is complete to discuss said job with the customer.
Three days after our invoice was sent, our dispatcher received a call from this customer claiming that they were unhappy with their bill. They thought that it was too high for clearing a sewer main and wanted us to take another look. Our immediate response was one of understanding and flexibility. We promised to take a closer analysis of the job and give a deduction if warranted. It is also worth mentioning that the $45 equipment charge was not mentioned by the customer during this conversation and so they did not give us a chance to make any changes in this regard. After speaking with our plumber, it became very clear to us that this is not a case of over-billing, but rather, a client not understanding how long this kind of service call should take and what should be required. A quick Google search will show you that a severe root blockage can take upwards of a grand to clear so for this kind of job, our bill was not high.
Instead of simply denying this customer a deduction without any explanation, we explained the reasoning behind our decision and went over every aspect of the job in terms of billing. The conversation was quite pleasant and the customer paid their bill of $628.95 in full. From a customer service perspective, this was dealt with professionally and efficiently. We always do our best to hear our customers out and give them deductions when necessary. This was simply a case where, after going over every aspect of this job and following up on every concern the customer voiced, we could not find any reason to lower the bill.