Drain Cleaning

“Does Drano really work?” I wish that I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that question. My standard answer was “Every home I’m called to has an empty Drano bottle in the kitchen wastebasket.” Of course, nobody called me when it worked, only when it didn’t, so I really don’t know how often it works (if ever). But I’ve surely seen a truckload of cases where it didn’t.

Drain cleaning is sometimes called “roto rooting” because the Roto-Rooter company developed the procedure first back in the 1930s. Most drains are cleaned by running a steel cable through the pipe, cutting the stoppage up, and rinsing it clean with running water. Usually it is not at all as easy as it sounds. Some plumbers hate drain cleaning because it can be so tricky, and they refuse to do it. Some entire plumbing shops refuse to do it, and instead subcontract it out to a “rooter” company.

Because I cleaned drains for some big companies in Memphis for over eleven years, I happened to like the work. I was good at it, I had some excellent equipment, and I was cheap because I could do the work efficiently.

Many times there’s a better way to clean a drain, a way that will save a customer some money. But a service tech has to want to find the answer and his company has to want to save the customer’s money. Sadly, though, most companies are worried only about themselves and their stockholders (and the company bigwigs are the biggest stockholders), and they see the customer just the way a bird sees a grasshopper: “Hey hey, lunchtime!”

When I’d been in business only a few months, it was my privilege to charge a customer $70 for a job which would have cost him over $230 at my former employer’s company. Normally I would have charged $105 for that job, but several factors combined to make this visit unusually easy, so I cut the price and still made money. Prices have risen a lot since 2001, but the major factor that allows anyone to work cheaply is that he knows what he’s doing.

Some of my old co-workers used to just shake their heads when I told them what I was charging. They insisted that I should charge more. They simply could not understand the belief that the customer is more important than the service tech.