On Friday January 6, 2017, we had a snowstorm here in Nashville; schools closed, businesses closed, and many of us were snowed in. That was a lousy day for the plumbing in my house to back up, but back up it did... into the bathtubs even, to where we could even hear it in the kitchen sink and washing machine. I did everything a normal non-plumber could do; plunged it, snaked it, Drainoed it, poured gallons of water into the basin to pressure the clog out, but nothing worked. We couldn't use our own bathroom, our family of five, in a snowstorm. So my wife jumped on the computer and phone and tried to get someone out. Our regular guy was out of town. Others were snowed in. The only person who said he'd come out was some guy named Stephen Craig from Clarksville, (615) 693-5334. We thought we'd scored. But the ice was too dangerous, so after an hour or two he called back and said he couldn't make it, but would come the next morning.
On Saturday morning around ten, Stephen arrived with a friend, in an unmarked, non-company vehicle, in torn camouflage clothing, reeking of cigarettes, looking more like deer hunters than plumbers--but, hey, there were there, right? They checked out the toilets and moved on to the drain cleanout outside. Their conclusion was that there was dirt in the cleanout that could only have been intentionally placed there to sabotage my system. Reasonable, right? Though that seemed unlikely to be the only explanation, they said they could fix it, but that it would take longer and cost more than what they'd expected, said they'd have to dig up and replace a piece of the cleanout, and that would fix it, but it would cost $450 (which the friend said was a bargain, that a professional would charge $1500 to do the same). I was hesitant, so I asked, "Now, are you sure that will fix the problem? What if you do all that and...." Stephen cut me off, "Oh, you'll be flowing when we're done, you don't need to worry about that." So reluctantly I agreed. They immediately asked if I have a shovel they could borrow, so I loaned them my two shovels, which they said saved me money because they wouldn't have to buy one.
I left for work as they began, then my wife called later to say she was nervous because they wanted to follow her to the bank to get cash for their work--which she wisely did not allow, but instead sent them for lunch while she ran to the bank with the kids. They "finished", but then told us not to flush toilet paper for at least three days. That sounded absurd to me, but I'm an accommodating and generous man, so I threw my soiled bath tissue away in wrapped plastic bags, even flushed the commode twice through each "sitting", because I like to be sure nothing is my fault. Mind you, we got no receipt, no warranty, no assurance that our worries were over, only paranoia following. The next night, Sunday the 9th, the toilets and tubs backed up again. I don't like seeing fecal matter where I stand to get clean or where the children sit to bathe, so my wife called Stephen back. Several times. Eventually he promised to come out, but didn't make it until Wednesday, the 11th, only after I texted to ask for a refund so I could hire someone else to fix the problem. This time, they cleaned out a few small roots and claimed that was the problem, but admitted that they weren't a large enough company to own a camera to look at the pipes and know for sure. They again said it should be fine as long as we don't flush toilet paper (is that a fix?), but also said that if it happened again we'd need to hire someone with a camera, that they weren't a large enough company to handle that, and that they couldn't just keep coming out to do the same thing. That was not satisfactory, but I was so disappointed that I was eager for them to leave, since it was clear they couldn't handle the job.
Lo and behold, two days later, the plumbing backed up again. Since there was no snowstorm anymore and real companies were available to come out, my wife called several plumbers to shop around. Mind you, I was doing my business into a child's potty lined with plastic bags to be immediately wrapped and disposed of, and that was no pleasant way to live. Roto-Rooter came to give an estimate on the 17th, and Drain Doctor came out on the 18th and honored their quote of $140 for the whole visit. What Drain Doctor did for that small amount of money was incredible; they removed the commode and cleared the pipe with some sort of loud instrument, cut out a significant root that Stephen and friend had missed, resealed the commode, swept the line from house to street and vice versa, advised that the cleanout currently there (the one Stephen and friend charged me for) needed to be replaced with a two-way so he could sweep toward the house instead of only toward the street, and advised that there was likely a break in the pipe that would eventually need repair, but that Riddex could stave off the fix in the meantime. He accepted a check, gave a receipt and a written 30-day warranty--about 4 hours of work, all for $140.
That fix actually solved the problem, so on Tuesday the 24th (once I was sure), I texted Stephen to ask once again for a refund--but only a partial one, because I wanted him compensated for his effort... but not for misdiagnosing the problem and fixing something that didn't solve it. He defended his work and maintained the assertion that someone had intentionally filled my cleanout with dirt, unable to even conceive that there might be dirt there because roots had broken a pipe, which is most likely because the foundation of the house is noticeably in need of repair (which I pointed out to them the second time, and the friend said, "Oh yeah, I didn't even notice that; I guarantee that's it!")
I gave Stephen a chance to issue a partial refund on the basis of misdiagnosing and treating a symptom rather than the problem, on the basis of not fixing the problem he said he would fix, and he stopped replying. Which means my $310 is worth more to him than his reputation.