Phone Quotes – Becoming Less of an Option

Along with customer service, phone quotes are apparently becoming a thing of the past.

Yesterday my boss gave me an impromptu assignment. Find a plumber that could roto-root out our kitchen plumbing. Apparently one of our volunteers put a gallon or so of cooked asparagus down the disposal.  Asparagus is very fibrous and it wreaked havoc in our old pipes.  Our kitchen passes inspection regularly, but the building is old, and the pipes periodically give us trouble.

So I got onto my computer, and starting looking for plumbers in our area. Amazingly, I hit the jackpot with the first place I called, as they were able to give me an estimate for services. $140 for standard cabling, $265 if they had to use the hydro-jetter.

But the resulting calls after this first one only served to frustrate me more and more. For you see, the art of “ball park figure” quotes are apparently going the way of customer service. The third place I called, I asked them with much annoyance in my tone, “Look, how can you not give me a ball park figure? I know it won’t cost a MILLION dollars. It probably won’t cost $1000, and maybe not even $500. Can’t you tell me how much you charge by the hour, or a low estimate of the best case scenario, and the high end?”

Nope. They cannot give any inkling of an idea how much it might cost.

One place said they can send a technician out free of charge to give us a written estimate. Another place would charge $49.95 for someone to come out, and if we had them do the work they’d apply it to the invoice. One website said they would give an estimate over the phone if you call their 800 number. But when I got them on the phone, they said they could have a technician call me back.

I went back to my boss, with the news. She is an older woman and she remembers how it used to be thirty, even twenty years ago.

Can you guess who we hired to unclog our drain? The guys who gave us an estimate. And guess what? They couldn’t get it unclogged. So guess who might get to dig up our kitchen and be paid thousands of dollars to fix our pipes? The people who managed to give us an estimate at the start. We know the condition of our kitchen pipes, but there was no way to determine if it was just clog, or a bigger problem. We understood that, and I told the other companies we understood that.

I told the guy when I hired him, that we hired him specifically because he was able to give us an idea of how much it might cost to unclog the drain. We also thought he might have more experience since he advertises that he specializes in restaurant plumbing. They did manage to get our plumbing fixed and we are happily back to work in the kitchen.

Have you had any recent run ins with customer service being less than satisfactory?  Share your experiences in the comments.

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2 thoughts on “Phone Quotes – Becoming Less of an Option

  1. I’d have done the same thing. It bugs me to no end when people won’t communicate. I figure it’s their loss and part ways if they won’t play the game.


  2. Very frustrating! The guy ended up discovering that our 5″ wide pipes are squished down to about 1″ so we had to actually have pipes replaced. $4000!!!! So in the end, he really made out. All because he was willing to give us an idea of what it would cost to unclog our drains. The building is over 50 years old and we’ve had issues before, so it wasn’t that he was scamming us. One of our cooks was there to witness the entire repair job. What a mess. My boss says she’ll be closing the kitchen down the next time it happens. Only she’s 68 years old, so that will probably be after she retires. Thanks for commenting, Mr. D!


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