How to Choose a Plumber

Short answer: call me.  It streamlines the process.

Longer answer: don’t use the phone book.  That was easy, I know.  Nobody uses the phone book any more.  I have to remind myself often that my own kids are in their thirties and there’s a multitude out there who grew up doing things differently than my generation.  So let’s generalize the principle: don’t respond to advertising.

Ads, by and large, are intended to deceive you.  They aren’t trying so much to convey accurate and useful information as they are trying to make you think things that will move you to call the phone number.  If the truth would do it, that’d be great.  If the truth wouldn’t do it, then they’ll show you something else.  For instance, they might show you a service tech who is clean, white, and slightly gray-haired, not too fat or thin.  He won’t look like a plumber in Memphis, in other words.  And who can blame a plumbing company for hiring models to deceive potential customers?

Remember, ads cost a lot of money and somebody’s got to pay for them.  The plumbing company doesn’t intend to bear that cost; they intend for you to bear that cost.  That’s why you’ll pay them double or triple what you’d pay me.

Ads also feed you a lot of *ahem* fertilizer.  They show you various phone numbers for different parts of town — but they all ring the same phone.  They show you a special number if you need emergency service — but it, too, rings the same phone.  They offer discounts and coupons, but no way to verify that they haven’t made up the difference by slightly adjusting the price upward first, which can be accomplished in any of fourteen different ways.

Ask any receptionist at a plumbing shop, “What question does a customer ask the most?”  Every receptionist, without exception, will answer instantly “What does it cost?”  There are about 3,000 counties in America, and every one has at least one plumbing shop; some have fifty.  Two hundred thousand receptionists answering the phones five days a week, and they will all give you the same answer.  So what does every shop say in its ads?  “Fair, reasonable pricing,” or something to that effect.  “You know the price before we start.”  That, my friends, is no comfort.  They want you to think good things about the cost so you will call them instead of a competitor, but what you read or saw in the ad has nothing to do with how they price their services.

They may claim to answer the phone around the clock, but that is farmed out to an answering service, and it may be in an office a thousand miles away.  I’m serious!  The operator will make an appointment and then call some dude in your town who’s totally asleep, wake him up, and give him the bad news that a job has come in.   He’s likely to call you back and explain that he has two jobs ahead of you and can’t get there for three more hours.  Then he goes back to sleep.

How do you choose a plumber?  Ask your friends, your coworkers, your car mechanic, or any other sentient life form that might have had some dealings with plumbing repairs.  In short, get a referral.  I’ve seen online recommendations for companies I’d never recommend, so I’m afraid a satisfied customer whom you don’t know is not automatically a reliable source.  On the other hand, I have gotten quite a few customers who found me listed on their neighborhood’s web site.  I haven’t examined those sites (one usually has to be a member to gain access), but they seem to be more reliable because the people involved know one another.

I’d guess that 95%-98% of my new customers find me through word-of-mouth.  Maybe four a year find me through this web site and maybe ten through neighborhood web sites.  My Yelp listing (which is free) pulls zero most years.  I don’t craft my reputation, I just allow it to be what it is.  Look for a plumber who doesn’t have to advertise.