TAMPA, Florida -- If the shower over flows, if the disposal doesn't work or the toilet clogs, you usually need a plumber.
Senior citizen Peggy Mister says the toilet in her half bathroom stopped up when she had company visiting. Her husband saw an ad for Plumbing Rescue. The company sent out a crew with a drain camera to inspect her pipes.
According to Mister, "The man from Plumbing Rescue came in with this bill and it was like $8,000."
Mister says she agreed to the price because Plumbing Rescue offered a 10-year guarantee, and within a week she says the toilet clogged again. Once again, the toilet was fixed but it clogged again a week later. This time, Mister says, the company told her it would take more work to fix the problem.
She says she was told, "They would do that bathroom alone for $5,000." That was in addition to the $8,000 she had already spent. According to Mister, when she said she wanted to get other opinions, Plumbing Rescue tried to pressure her.
An estimate from a second plumber was several thousand dollars less.
Frank Stein says Plumbing Rescue told him his pipes were collapsed and it would cost $8,200 to fix a shower clog. He says he got a second estimate from another plumber who not only gave him a $1,200 estimate, but the plumber also used a camera on the line and found no evidence of collapsed pipes.
Roy Stacey, who left Plumbing Rescue because he says the company was more interested in increasing sales instead of fixing plumbing problems, says, "The main objective was to up sell every single job and, obviously, make them the most money."
Stacey isn't alone. Another plumber who we'll call "Jose" says he left the company for the same reason.
"If they can get in the door, it is sales, high pressure sales, and giving people more than they need," he says
10 News checked state records that say an investigation by the Division of Insurance Fraud revealed multiple complaints against the company. There were accounts of deceptive practices, allegations of unnecessary repairs using scare tactics, and false statements.
Checking online sites that rate plumbers, we found multiple complaints against the company, often alleging that Plumbing Rescue pushed expensive and unneeded repairs.
We wanted to put Plumbing Rescue to the test ourselves. So we flipped the breaker on the garbage disposal in a home one of our producers was trying to rent. We called in veteran plumber Bill Jackson to check it out. He said in a case like this it is plumbing 101 to check the breaker box. He found the break was off, flipped it, and the disposal worked like new.
Next we had our producer call Plumbing Rescue, which sent out a technician to check out the garbage disposal. After less than 10 minutes, he told our producer there was only one solution: the disposal would have to be replaced. At that point, we walked in and asked the technician if his diagnosis was that the garbage disposal was shot.
The tech, David Craft, told us, "We have a special right now, so the only other thing to do would be take it apart and it would cost more."
When we asked Craft if he ever thought about checking the breaker box he said, "I honestly didn't think about that."
And when we walked over to the breaker box, flipped the breaker, and then turned on the disposal, it worked. Craft was so impressed he had to try it a couple of times. But still he tried to convince us he was giving our producer a great deal.
"We're running a special for $79. What it cost us in gas to come out here, for $79, we're not looking to make a bunch of money."
We reminded Craft there was nothing wrong with the disposal, and if we hadn't been there he would have sold the disposal and labor charges adding up to $150 to $175 for a disposal our producer didn't need.
But our former Plumbing Rescue employee wasn't surprised by what we found. He says, "Some of the tactics that are used are basically a come-on and it's a hook."
Plumbing Rescue owner Jim Myers didn't want to talk with us on camera, but he told us admits his company is not perfect, and says they are trying to improve.
But former employees we spoke to say the pressure to meet Plumbing Rescue quotas, that average out to $1,000 per call,drive technicians to charge big money.
Peggy Mister says she just wants them stopped.
But part of the problem is that when someone from Plumbing Rescue comes out on a call there is a good chance they are not a plumber. They are working as a technician under the owner's license.
For example, David Craft, who didn't check the breaker box, isn't a licensed plumber, but as long as the technicians are allowed to do plumbers' jobs, the chance for problems increases.
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