A friendly competitor called asking for advice on dealing with an irate customer. Have you ever been there – had to deal with that? Out of curiosity, I just visited a few of the online review sites to check on local PHVAC companies. As you might see from your own turfs, the reviews range all over the map with ones gushing about the outstanding service to ones throwing the firm under the bus. Some owners respond and some don’t. My friend told me they had responded for a clogged sewer on a Sunday night almost a year ago and had cut through a severe root infestation in order to get the line open and free-flowing again. They had removed a significant wad of paper towels, tampons, and wet-wipes while advising the client about not flushing anything but poo and toilet paper. Since they were there on overtime, the customer declined the additional charge to video inspect the line. He also said he’s clean up the mess that had overflowed from the basement cleanout.
What’s the issue, I asked? According to our now ex-customer, the line clogged again, and they had called in another plumber. The other plumber threw us under the bus and told the client we had not done the job properly! Based on what? They ran a camera down the line and there were tree roots present. Well duh, after almost a year of growth, of course there were new tree roots present! Were there more paper towels, tampons, and wipes too? Don’t know, but the ex-customer is threatening us and went crazy while on the phone with our secretary. Scared the hell out of her and she’s been answering our phones for more than 30-years: worst call she’s ever fielded. She’s literally afraid to keep our doors unlocked. This guy told her she had better write her a check for $300.00 to cover this latest plumber’s bill or else he was going to devote every minute of every day denigrating our firm on every review site he could find. She didn’t offer to write the check, so he said she had just cost her company another $300.00 and the cost was now $600.00 – or else. He also said the other plumber was willing to testify in court. So, I’m asking what do you think we should do?
No wonder your secretary was freaked out!
It’s called extortion! Best get together with your lawyer. He did, and the lawyer advised them to simply tell the client, if he called again, they were not talking with him any longer and refer him to the lawyer. The guy did call several more times and got more agitated with each call because they wouldn’t stay on the phone and did exactly as their lawyer had advised. The lawyer recommended a formal legal letter and my friend asked that they have it served on the client ASAP before he had time to start posting bad reviews. Meanwhile my friend would scour the review sites daily waiting for the hammer to drop on his firm’s reputation.
The law office sent a constable to serve the letter, which he taped to the door. That elicited the following response:
Yes my name is XXX. I just received a letter from your company. You’re representing XXX. I’m not sure why this letter wasn’t mailed to me but the reason for this reply is to state this I could care less that you all are attorneys and you know the law obviously more than me but I’m telling you as of this second that if you have any of your employees come to my property or come to my residence again I will press charges. It is known as harassment. You are not welcome here. I’m telling you now you are not welcome here. How your law office thinks you can send people around to people’s homes and duck tape s^%# to their door is beyond me. Duck tape damages paint. Duck tape damages different things. Besides the labor intensive of someone having to take Goof Off Goo Gone to get your duck tape off. You may be an attorney and you may know the law. There may be no legal recourse if you use duck tape on peoples’ home but you know that to duck tape something is wrong. Basically if there is no legal recourse you just being a di** to be di** and that’s ridiculous that’s ridiculous why the hell would you put duck tape on somebody’s door. There are other tapes there’s packing tape. Packing tape comes off. Do not use duck tape. You are basically stating we are being as#@$*es because we can. Don’t come to my property. You are being told right now based on the duck tape you are harassing me. Do not come to my property. You have my address. You can mail your damn letter. Have a Blessed day.
No wonder your secretary was freaked out! Get this, the guy works in a profession that requires a state-regulated license, which was suspended due to him having harassed his own clients. Our lawyer found it by Googling his name, so that’s a public record that would be admissible in court. In his letter, the lawyer advised him that we will immediately file suit if he makes any attempts to give us bad reviews on any online review sites. The craziest part of this whole episode is had he called us back to clear the second clog, and complained directly to me about the bills, we would have cut him a break. We would also suggest either regular sewer line maintenance or to dig up and replace the old terra cotta line with seamless PVC to eliminate any chances of roots regaining a foothold. What about the attempt to extort money from you? The lawyer told me that if we found it necessary to go to court, that would be the charge in addition to slander.
If the line was replaced with PVC, you know you’d be back to remove wipes, if nothing else, that didn’t belong in the line. That’s why we always start with a retriever head on the sewer machine so we can show the homeowner(s) if they’re flushing things that shouldn’t be flushed – no matter what the container says! If tree roots are present, then a cutter head is used on subsequent passes to chop off the roots.
Dave Yates material both in print and online is protected by Copyright 2017. Any reuse of this material (print or electronic) must have the express written permission of Dave Yates and CONTRACTOR magazine. Please contact via email at [email protected].