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  • Writer's pictureCollin Campbell


Updated: Nov 25, 2020

These days, many of us try to fix anything we can ourselves. I know I do. Save money, work on your own schedule, and have that satisfaction that comes with success. Of course, success isn't always the end result. Sometimes the end result is a bigger mess, higher blood pressure, and walls that would be blushing if they had ears.

So in the situations where we can't, won't, or don't want to fix things ourselves, we have to hire somebody. It seems this can be as daunting a task as fixing it ourselves! Who do we call? How do we choose? How do we know we can trust someone? What assurances do we have that our houses won't be destroyed? How do we know that they know what the heck they're doing? How do we know we won't be overcharged, or convinced we need unnecessary work done? Bleh... it's exhausting, right?

Well, being one who needs to hire people from time to time and is hired by people from time to time, I have a pretty helpful perspective in this matter. I know what I like to see in a service company, what customers expect to see in me, and what schemes less reputable companies have pulled. Most of us have heard service horror stories, and many of us have experienced some ourselves!

Here are a few things to look for to get you on the right track:


The best way to know that a company is going to stick around (to honor guarantees, continue maintenance contracts, or just be there when you need them) is to see how long they've been around. A company with a few decades under its belt is more likely to know how to take care of customers' ever-changing needs through ever-changing times. Running a business is no easy feat, and no business survives long if they don't know how to gain and maintain clientele. You can pretty safely assume a business that has run for decades knows how to take care of customers' problems fairly and efficiently. That's not to say a new company isn't a good one, but new businesses come and go every year and a warranty isn't worth much if the business won't be around to honor it.


Internet reviews can be a very helpful source. The problem is, as most of us are aware, the internet isn't exclusive to completely reliable information. Who wrote those reviews? How do I know its legit? Reviews can be a valuable tool if you read between the lies. That's not a typo. To find truth in the reviews, your best approach is to read bad ones and see how the company responds. Read the good ones with a grain of salt. Let's be real, no company can please everyone all the time. That's just not the way the world works, especially in the service industry. A company with all five star reviews makes me mighty suspicious. I read a five star review once that said “The company was awful, I'm just giving them five stars for the $50 off my bill.” On top of that, a bad review isn't always a fair complaint but can still hurt the overall rating. For instance, I read one where a customer loved the company's products and service, but the company had to move to a new location (due to reasons beyond their control) and the customer didn't find the new location to be convenient. The rating? One star. A customer may review the wrong company by mistake. An employee of a competing company might give a bad review just to hurt their competition. Companies may bribe individuals or create fake profiles to gain more positive reviews. It happens all the time, unfortunately.


You've probably heard companies brag about being licensed and insured. But what does that mean? Basically, we (the human race) have developed in accordance to the mantra of trial and error. Over many years, in the process of building societies, many disasters have taken place. As these occurred, smart folks recorded the cause and determined new tactics. These have accumulated over the years and have been collected into codes. These codes are then adopted by districts that enforce them with inspectors. Simply put, an inspector's job is to stop the human race from repeating mistakes that we've learned lead directly to disasters. Service technicians are required to learn these codes and pass a test to become licensed to perform these services in a way that prevents disasters. Make sense? So “licensed” basically means “way less likely to screw something up.” You are all familiar with insurance. You want a company who is insured in the unlikely event that disaster does occur, so they will make it right again. A company who is licensed is way less likely to need the insurance, but a good company will always have both.


Look for a company that doesn't hide from you. Make sure they have a physical location in your area. Feel free to stop by and talk to the owner or manager. A company who has nothing to hide will gladly receive you. Ask for pricing upfront. Now, many will tell you they can't give you a solid price without seeing the issue. This is perfectly normal and fair. They have to know what the issue truly is before they can tell you what the solution costs. BUT! If they won't share with you their pricing structure, or give you examples of cost for specific tasks, or offer free estimates, I wouldn't even bother with them. They're hoping to trap you into either paying a high service charge for coming out (and doing nothing), or going ahead and letting them do the work while they're there before you have a chance to shop around or sleep on it. Those kinds of pushy sales tactics are far too common these days.

Here are some of the more common service company species to avoid:

The Snake Oil Salesman – A wheeler and a dealer, has the “very best” thing you've never heard of and knows with concrete certainty that you just completely need whatever it is that they are pushing.

How to identify: They will often try to use industry jargon to simultaneously convince you of their vast “knowledge” of the subject while speaking in terms you don't quite understand in an effort to make you feel you need their help to make sense of this “complex” problem you have. They will also push for an immediate answer. The SOS doesn't want to give you time to fact-check or ask around. They want to fix your problem immediately (and may even exaggerate the urgency) so they get your money and leave before you know what happened.

Protection methods: The SOS can be very convincing. They have usually mastered the art of deception. To protect yourself, ask them for specific descriptions that you can write down and do some research on first. A reputable company, offering honest service, will gladly give you the opportunity to think on it before committing.

The Fly-By-Night – A rover and a wanderer, has the uncanny ability to show up when disaster strikes. Often offering some almost-too-good-to-be-true incentive to use them over the competition.

How to identify: One dead give-away is that they cold call you before you ever even reached out about your issue. They very likely have no physical location, or at least not a local one. They may not have a very official-looking vehicle, maybe not marked with any company name at all. Their hope is to swoop in, dazzle you with a great deal, do sub-par work, and disappear... never to be heard from again.

To weed them out: Good ol' fashioned detective work is one way. Look them up online, find their physical location. Research them on the Better Business Bureau website. Ask for references and check up with them. A solid business will have left a solid trail, whereas the FBN will be as easy to track as a shadow at midnight.

The Jack-of-all-Trades – I'm a plumber! I'm a mechanic! I'm a carpenter! I'm a magician! The business who puts diversification above specified skill. Like the superstore of services, of all their skills, they've mastered none.

How to identify: Identify them from their lack of identity. The company performs various services that stem from completely unrelated fields. They market it as convenience, but logic dictates that the technician they send to your house for an electrical issue is not also going to have all the tools and knowledge of a dedicated plumber and landscaper and machine tech too. He's going to know at best a little bit about each, and he's not going to be able to fix everything properly. I'll bet he'll still charge like he did, though.

What to do: Being a JOAT is fine. Hiring a JOAT company will typically lead to a half-solved problem and a headache. Just call a company that dedicates itself to a craft. They will be much more able to solve your problem properly, the first time. If you're not sure what your problem is, and what type of company to call, make your best guess and call someone reputable. They'll be able to help you determine if its something they can solve, or help you figure out what type of company you need to call to solve it. Most times just over the phone.

The Half-Cost Handyman – A guy and his truck. A handful of tools, elbow grease, and duct tape are all he needs. He can do anything those bigger companies can do at half the cost, or at least that's what he'll tell you.

How to identify: HCHs have a tendency to think they can do anything, and if they can't, it “can't be done.” (Yes it can. I do it all time.) They are also often quick to relegating a problem to “you don't need to worry about that” status. Typically because they just don't wanna do it, or can't. They often don't carry proper licenses and insurance, because that stuff is expensive. They can be very handy, but you're paying half as much money for half as much service, quality, and safety

Handling Handymen: An HCH can be a great resource for taking care of odds and ends around the house. When it comes to some jobs, not having the specific knowledge and training of that trade could lead to unknowingly using incorrect materials or installing devices improperly causing bigger problems down the road (or immediately). More times than I could count, a simple sewer cleaning became an expensive beast of a job because of the incorrect installation of fittings and clean outs.

Let's summarize:

When you need to hire someone to take care of problems in your home or business, look for a company who is local, licensed, insured, forthcoming, and has been around a while. Avoid the salesmen who push you into a corner, the handymen who underplay the importance of code regulation, the traveling scams-men, and the all-your-services-under-one-roof-done-wrong businesses.

As cynical as this article may seem, there's a ray of hope. In Wichita, there are good honest businesses in every industry. Hopefully this helps you sort past the others and find them. I've dealt with knowledgeable, hard-working, trustworthy serviceman on a number of occasions, but most of the time had to sift through quite a few undesirable ones to find them.

Roto-Rooter has been in business a long time, over eighty years in fact. We've seen all sorts of tricks and traps devised by dishonest companies over the years, and have fought hard to keep an honest vein in the industry. We're not your only choice for plumbing and sewer cleaning services, but as long as we're around you'll always have a good one.

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