Yes, I can make that statement after 15 years. After 15 years you would think I would be able to find at least one decent, reliable plumber who would keep his appointments and do his job without trying to cheat you. I have been able to find a regular electrician, roofer, carpenter, etc, pretty much I am all set with all contractors except plumbers and lawyers who are also a piece of work. Talking about lawyers there is no other contractor who comes to you and with a straight face tells you “The job will most likely cost $1,000. I want you to pay me not 1/3 down or 1/2 down, I want you to pay me in full in advance plus I want you to pay me another $4,000 in advance. We call that a Retainer”. Can you imagine if a doctor, a dentist, a roofer or an electrician did this? They do this because the Government does not regulate lawyers at all. They are the only “self-regulated” profession. Anyway, I don’t want to get off-track here.
I did have a plumber for several years until one day I caught him not telling me the truth. He said that he needed to install a new part, billed me for $300 without knowing that I had gone to the site beforehand and seen that the real problem was not the part which he claims had to be changed (which was never changed by him, by the way), it was the fact that he hadn’t connected two pipes correctly and water was shooting all over the floor. No wonder the appliance would not work. So anyway he lied to me and I did not pay him the $300 for the part he never replaced and I never called him again.
Nothing in this story is exaggerated. It is all true. I will spare the names of these losers and the towns they worked in because I don’t want to get sued and even though they can’t win because it is all true, I still don’t want my time wasted.
Here is the story:
I was working on one of my houses and I hired a plumber who was reasonably priced to remove the old plumbing and install a new plumbing. On a couple of occasions he would not show up for work but I was willing to wait for him as I was there having to work myself anyway. One day the gas boiler in another building started to leak and so I offered the job to install a new boiler to the same plumber. He accepted and worked one full day on the new boiler and then another half a day. I paid him at the end of each workday and we scheduled an appointment for another day and time to continue. I drove 30 min to get there and he did not show up. He was not replying to texts or voice mail. I had to go back. This issue with him stopping all kinds of communication was not new. Sometimes he would not show up for work and when I texted him he would tell me that he “fell sick”. When I asked him how come he would not even send me a text to tell me he would not show up for work, he had no answer. I was able to overlook this because my time was not wasted because I had other things to do at the same location but in the case of this new boiler installation, first, my tenant was without hot water and second, I had to drive to this new location specifically to meet the plumber so I was not happy.
I had to fire him from both projects. In my experience his lack of reliability was consistent with someone who was doing drugs. Who knows.
I found a 2nd plumber for the building that needed 100% new plumbing and he was working ok but only between 4pm and 7pm. Instead of carrying forward the charge from the old permit to the new plumbing permit that the new plumber had to pull, the town charged me again $325 or so for the “new plumbing permit” even though they had to make no extra inspections. Clearly double-dipping. They ignored my objections.
I found a 3rd plumber for the apartment that needed the new boiler. I had also noticed that the toilet was leaking into the basement. I asked the plumber to install a new toilet first and then continue on the boiler. I went to buy the new toilet and by the time I had come back, the plumber had removed the old toilet and left it aside. The plumber was not there. It was about 10:30am. When I texted him to check where he was, he told me he went for lunch. He never came back from “lunch” and ignored my texts and calls. He just left probably just being a Diva not willing to get his hands dirty. I had to call my father to help me install the new toilet as the tenant was left without a toilet as the old was removed. It is one thing to change your mind because maybe the job was dirtier than you thought but at least have the decency to install the new toilet and then apologize and then go rather than disappearing like that.
I found a 4th plumber and we set a date when we would meet and continue with the installation of the boiler. He came, worked for a day, I paid him what he wanted and we scheduled another appointment the next day. He told me that there were 2-3 hours left to get it all done. I drove 30 min to open the door. Six minutes before our appointment I get a text message from him saying: “Wont be there today aint worth it to me”. Did he want more money or did this Diva object to working conditions I would never know. All I know is that my tenant is without hot water. I couldn’t believe that people can be so unprofessional. I filed a Complaint with the Plumbing Board. That was 4 months ago. Of course, no response from the Plumbing Board. I am not even sure if this was a complaint about this plumber or the previous one. In any case, the complaint was ignored.
I found a 5th plumber and we set up a date to come and continue to work on the project. Keep in mind that it is getting harder to find plumbers to take on someone else’s job and permit because they rightfully think that if you have to go thru so many plumbers then there is something wrong with you, maybe you are not paying them or something else so they are reluctant to come. Thankfully he agreed to start. I confirmed the appointment over text as he wanted. The day before and on the scheduled day I called to remind him. I drove there for 30 min and he did not show up. (Gee, why am I even surprised at this point?). I sent him a text saying “I can’t believe that you schedule an appointment, make me wait for 4-5 days instead of having the courtesy to call me in advance to ask for more time or to cancel”. He called to say he was “out of the area” and hung up.
Since I could not install the new boiler because I couldn’t find anyone reliable to do it, we fixed up the old boiler and for several months the tenant was OK…until the old boiler caught fire and kicked the bucket completely. I gave the tenant two heaters because it was now beginning to get cold. No hot water again.
I found a 6th plumber. The 6th plumber came to see the project with the new boiler. Agreed to finish it. Pulled a 3rd permit. Of course, the City (that’s a different city from the one where the building that needed brand new plumbing was) charged me for the permit again. That shouldn’t be happening either and it is most likely illegal to do but I had bigger problems since my tenant has been without hot water and heat for over a week. The first thing the 6th plumber did was steal all the copper, the water heater coil from the old boiler which was newly installed and the valves from the old boiler and told me that is what we had agreed to and that he always gets “the copper” from the old boiler as part of these jobs. That was not what we had agreed but I let it go. He worked for a day and finished the new boiler. Yes!!! Finally!!! But this time I paid the plumber only 1/2 of what I owed him that day. I had learned from my mistake where I pay these plumbers in full and they never come back and told him that he would get the other half after the boiler is fully approved by the inspector and working.
The next day the tenant calls me – no heat and hot water again. I go there and there is an error code. I call the plumber. Before he shows up the Plumbing Inspector comes to inspect. He looks at the side of the boiler and says that this is a 200,000 BTU boiler and so it requires a 1″ gas pipe – all the 3/4 gas pipe that the plumber installed must be removed and replaced with 1″ and that’s that. He leaves. The plumber comes, tells me that the Plumbing Inspector doesn’t like me because I have changed all these plumbers and that he won’t talk to me. Hmm, that’s strange because I was always polite with him, no reason for him to hate me or not want to talk with me. In any case, the plumber starts to measure the piping to tell me what new gas pipe I need to buy to comply with the Inspector. By some chance I glance at the side cover of the new boiler and don’t see anywhere a number close to 200,000 BTU. The highest number I see there is 89,000 BTU. I pointed that curious fact to the plumber and he had to leave a message to the “Inspector” regarding the fact that this boiler is 89,000 BTU not 200,000 BTU. As far as the error code and the reason the boiler stopped working, he told me he knew what the problem was but he was not going to fix it until I paid him the 2nd half of what I owed him from the day before. I told him that, first, he needs to fix my boiler, I need to have a fully working and safe boiler and then I would gladly pay him the 2nd half. After much yelling and screaming and I really mean yelling and screaming because at that point I had enough with Plumbers and Plumbing Inspectors I told him he would not a see a dime from me until he makes sure the new boiler is fully functional. He backed down. Said that it needed a CO analyzer which he had to go from home to get. An hour later (even though he lives 15 min away) he came back with the analyzer and adjusted the CO and the boiler started to work. Another problem was that he hadn’t unrolled the condensation plastic pipe as he was required to do and now it was full with water and still inside the boiler. It is a good thing the water did not damage any electrical parts as it splattered all over the place as he was pulling it down. The boiler was finally working. I paid him what I owed him from the other day plus what he wanted for today (to come and fix his own mistakes!). The inspector also came and approved it saying he thought it was 200,000 BTU because he didn’t have his glasses but next time he would remember to have them with him when he does inspections. Yeah, sure, whatever…
By the way, if you are wondering why I simply didn’t ask plumber #2 to come do the boiler, I did ask him. He said that he had agreed to do the big project building that needed 100% new plumbing for a lower rate (which was more than his day employer was paying him, my comment) but now that it was over if I want to give him new projects he wants a higher rate plus he wants to add 20-30% over the materials and he wants to buy them only from Plumbing Supply Stores (My comment: where they cost twice or three times more than at Lowe’s or Home Depot and where they take their sweet time to bring them to the counter). I agreed to pay him more as an hourly wage but I would not agree to allow him to add a surcharge over the materials plus I would want him to buy the materials mainly from Home Depot and Lowe’s and from the plumbing supply stores only if there were not sold there first. He said that he is a “professional” and the “stuff” Home Depot and Lowe’s sell is “low quality” and refused my offer to do new projects for me.
During this project I must have contacted over 100 plumbers. They are too busy. Only a few respond.
Now, let me just quickly say why I think Plumbers in MA are such losers. Is it because they are ignorant-uneducated-blue-collar-one-tooth-country-bunkins? No, even though that’s a big part of it. The real reason I think is the system they are allowed to operate in. Did you know that you almost need to go to school as much to become a doctor or an architect as to become a plumber. To become a plumber in MA you need 5 years of “School” and 5 years of “Practice”. This is not a coincidence in my opinion. It is designed in such a way so that the entry to the profession is prohibitive to most people so that there are not as many plumbers as the demand so that their hourly wages stay high. Basically all this “schooling” is nothing more than a protectionist measure to keep their hourly wages at $70-125/hour. No one needs to go to that much school to be taught how to install a sink, a toilet, a bath and a plumbing stack. Six months of school and 6 months of practice should do the trick. I am talking about most plumbers here. I am not talking about urban planning plumbers who lay pipes for the Cities under the street, etc. They require more advanced training. They can study 5 years if they want, I don’t care. I am talking about residential plumbers. There is no consumer-based justification for this inflated “schooling” and “practice” requirement. And as far as the Practice requirement, it is also screwed up. I am not saying that there should be no Practice requirement but the way it is set up in the Plumbing industry is just wrong. Before a doctor can operate on people they need to spend a couple of years working for a hospital as an intern/apprentice, if you will. That’s fine. But the plumbers call it an “apprenticeship” and the way it works is you need to find another plumber who is willing to take you “under his wing” for 5 years and in exchange you need to agree to get paid close to nothing and do his dirty work so you can pay your dues. If we put aside the question what kind of person would be willing to work for one other person and clean up their messes and do their dirty work for 5 years, the real issue is that this kind of setup encourages racism and discrimination. Because people choose other people that are similar to them (that is, other uneducated and ignorant losers or their family) they pick up people who are like them. In 15 years I have never seen a woman plumber or a plumber with a foreign accent or a Black plumber. Do you think that is a coincidence? I don’t think so.
So until the system in MA changes where it is easier to become a registered residential plumber, the MA consumer will have to overpay, have their time wasted and will have difficulty finding a plumber when they need them because the supply of plumbers is just too low for MA and, of course, the Discrimination against people who want to register as Plumbers in MA will continue. Our elected officials must change the law on how and who becomes a plumber…but they must be too busy unplugging their own toilets which are full of their excuses of why they are not protecting the MA Consumer.