Beware of the Roto Rooter Free Sewer Camera Inspection

411 plumb Roto Rooter offers a “Free Camera Inspection” of the sewer line to many of their customers especially when a drain cleaning technician thinks the line has a problem or, the customer has experienced a “Callback” under the guarantee. The camera inspection is an excellent thing to have done on your sewer line when it is done objectively, however in Roto Rooter’s case an objective inspection may not always be performed, the original drain cleaning technician will be protected against commission loss if the camera inspection ends with a repair or, replacement proposal, and the drain cleaning technician may also do a shoddy job of cleaning roots out of the pipe hoping the inspection will result in a replacement proposal. The inspection allows an inside the pipe view of the sewer line and allows any defects in the pipe can be viewed on the monitor and recorded, which is a good thing to do on any sewer line that has clogged. The customer should realize is that the camera is also a very effective selling tool that can show the customer problems in the line that should be repaired. The problems found require some judgement by the camera operator as to the severity of the problem, and if it really requires repair or, is just a minor defect that can be ignored with little or, no consequence. The customer should also realize there is no such thing as “Free” and any company saying the inspection is free is really banking on making money “Up-selling” additional work.

In Roto Rooter’s case the “Objectively” done sewer camera inspection has many things going against it. The Roto Rooter camera technician has a vested interest in selling additional work, he is paid on a commission basis so the financial incentive to sell additional work is there, he is also judged on his close rate for selling additional work by the company. The sewer inspection cameras are quite an expensive tool and they are in short supply so the camera technicians who supply their own work van and pay for the operating costs of their own van are forced to travel quite extensively to the customers getting these “Free” camera inspections. In my last conversation with a local Roto Rooter sewer camera technician there was no compensation for doing a “Free” sewer camera inspection where additional work was not sold, and when additional work was sold a sales commission was paid in the neighborhood of 2% or, about $200. In addition to the commission paid they may also work on the excavation crew and make additional money from that. Customers should realize that the “Objective” sewer camera inspection is being done by a technician that is faced with the choice of being “Broke & Starving” or, “Rolling in the Dough & Eating Fillet Mignon,” with the added factor of the company looking at his “Close Rate” and only giving the sewer cameras as a reward to the “Top Producers.”

Are you starting to worry about the Rip Off Potential? Read on!

Always Witness The Sewer Camera Inspection

You should always witness this inspection and watch the monitor viewing the pipe for yourself. Never just blindly accept the technicians word that the sewer pipe is bad and needs repair or, replacement. See it for yourself! If you do not witness the inspection it is possible that a unscrupulous sewer camera technician could substitute a recording of a completely different sewer line with major defects in order to sell unnecessary work. I have never seen this done, and do not know of any instances where it was done, but it would be very easy to do, witnessing the inspection removes this possibility as you would see things like the camera moving on the screen when it isn’t being moved by the technician.

You should also talk to the camera operator about what you are seeing while witnessing the inspection, and what it means while watching the inspection. The camera inspection is quite simple and really is a case of what you see, is what you have. In the course of talking to him try to evaluate his credibility on what he is saying, the more you keep him talking the more you have to judge his credibility. The pipe should be smooth and all connections should be smooth with sweeping turns and no areas that hold deep puddles of water. The inside of the line should be somewhat like a water ride at the amusement park. If you see anything different you should ask what it is that you are seeing and his explanation should make perfect sense to you. If what he is saying does not make sense you should seek a 2nd opinion from another company and see what they say about the same area of your sewer line. The thing to realize is replacement of a sewer line is a very costly proposal, and a 2nd opinion is not a bad idea rather than immediately rushing into doing the work. When you are shopping for a new car do you look at more than one car at one dealership? Why should replacement of your sewer line be any different?

Sewer Line Problems You May See

When watching the sewer camera inspection there may be small amounts of roots present in the line after cleaning which you will see on the camera. There should be nothing more than a twig or, two that the cutter on the snake could not get. These roots are very flexible and soak in water regularly so it is impossible to get them all. But If you see massive clumps almost blocking the pipe I would be concerned that the line was not cleaned properly and you should demand that they properly clean the line as that is what you have already paid to have done. Of course you need to have some judgement in this as well. If the original drain cleaning technician spent very little time cleaning the line, pulling back a small amount of roots, but did manage to get the water level in the clogged pipe to drop, and then announced the free camera was coming I would demand a better job be done. If the original drain cleaning technician spent a long time working very hard, while pulling back large amounts of roots, with a massive amount coming in at every joint on an old clay pipe, it would indeed be time to consider repairs or, replacement work. In a sewer line with minor root problems, at least consider a yearly application of Root-X foaming root killer which may keep the root problem ay bay, roots are not always a reason to repair or, replace the sewer pipe unless they are extensive or, have damaged the pipe.

One of the things found in many pipes during a camera inspection is an area that is not pitched correctly which is often referred to as a belly in the pipe. One thing the consumer should realize is that the camera on its own can be submerged in water that is as little as 1/2” deep. A centering tool should be used on the camera head to hold the camera up off the bottom of the pipe so that the depth of the belly may be evaluated and water should not be running during the inspection when evaluating a belly. A short length shallow belly of 3′ and 1/2” depth will have little consequence on the reliability of the pipe however, an area that is 10′ long with the pipe almost completely filled with water or, completely filled, is a clog that is guaranteed to happen. Make sure that the centering tool is used on the camera when there is a belly being evaluated.

You may also see areas of the pipe where the pipe is broken with pieces missing from the pipe or a section that has collapsed, in these areas at a minimum a repair should be done. Sometimes the bottom of a cast iron or, concrete pipe may have rotted or, rusted away allowing the liquids in the waste to drain away, in these lines clogging will occur from solid waste piling up so replacement is required. Orangeburg pipe and Bermico pipe is a substandard pipe that if it has deformed or, broken would require replacement of the line the pipe is too brittle to be able to make repairs on. Vitrified clay pipes easily recognized by a joint every few feet will often have many small defects such as minor misalignments at the joints, roots coming in at joints, and minor bellies or, back pitched areas. The defects in a vitrified clay pipe are largely a judgement call in whether or not repairs or, replacement is required with the determination being made by how many problems there are and the severity of those problems. There is no such thing as a perfect vitrified clay pipe but there are many that work quite well and will continue to do so.

Consumers Be Cautious

Many of the Roto Rooter technicians performing the free camera inspections may be great guys that inspect the lines well and maintain objectivity in their inspections, saying that what they are seeing on a good line with small defects is of no consequence, and shouldn’t be a concern to the customer or, looking at major problems and saying repair or, replacement is required. However, as always there are also many that will attempt to sell a major repair or, complete replacement on every “Free Camera Inspection” they go to with the camera, in an effort to increase their commission pay. The company certainly likes the technician that often sells the major excavation work, as they are a “Top Producer” and less than honest sales techniques will be overlooked unless a consumer complaint is lodged forcing the company to take action, in that case the technician will be labeled as a “Rogue Operator” and take the fall for the company.

If you are a consumer that has been offered a “Free Camera Inspection” of your sewer line by Roto Rooter I would certainly take advantage of the offer. I would however proceed cautiously before rushing into additional work and solicit a 2nd opinion if you have any doubts. Not all Roto Rooter camera technicians are bad guys but given the “Commission Based Pay,” the company management watching the “Close Rate” for additional work sold, and the fact that only the “Top Producers” who may not have their sales techniques closely monitored by management are given the cameras the consumer should practice “Buyer Beware” when having a “Free Sewer Inspection” performed.

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