You’ve had a drain or, toilet back up and overflow then you called Roto Rooter to come and fix the problem. The mess was horrible! The basement bathroom had an overflowing shower and toilet, human waste was pouring out on the floor ,and smelled to high heavens.
The Roto Rooter drain cleaning technician arrived and put you right at ease saying, “We can fix this without any problem at all, we do it everyday.” Then noting your disgust at the horrible mess added, “In fact not only can I fix this problem but I can do a “Whole House Special” where I clean every drain in the house to ensure that this mess can’t happen again anywhere else in the house, and we guarantee it for 6 full months!” He then writes on his estimate a price close to $1,000 saying that it will take care of your problem, and insure that you don’t have any future problems, by cleaning every line in the house.
Doesn’t that give you tremendous peace of mind knowing that this mess can’t be repeated anywhere else in the home?
Enjoy the peace of mind because you sure didn’t get what you paid for!
The Roto Rooter “Whole House Special” is where a customer with a drain problem is pitched that the technician will clean every drain in the home for about the cost of snaking 3 lines and offer a 6 month guarantee that covers any line in the home that backs up. Of course a backed up drain can get ugly and the pitch is basically that “this service will prevent any of the drains from backing up.” What “Whole House Special” really does is prey on your revulsion of the terrible mess your home has just suffered!
Does The Whole House Special Prevent Future Messes?
The likelihood that this horrible mess would repeat itself is slim indeed as the problem was caused by a single sewer line backing up. Unfortunately it was the main sewer line exiting the house that carries all the waste from your home to the street. Naturally if this line is clogged, any waste that goes down the drain from fixtures higher up in the home will overflow from the lowest point before the clog. This is why the shower and toilet in the basement bath were overflowing. Simply cleaning this one line would fix the problem and most likely ensure that it does not happen again. While I have worked as a plumber cleaning drains, less than 1% of the lines I cleaned would clog again within Roto Rooter’s 6 month guarantee period. This alone pretty much ensures the problem will not happen again.
The added benefit of snaking every other line in the house is very questionable. The reason the drain in the basement overflowed and had such a horrible mess was that all the other drains in the home being used came up in the lowest drain before the clog. This is gravity at work doing its job! Unless this same line clogs again a mess like this will not ever happen!
If a drain up higher in the home was to clog in most cases it would be a single line that did not cause a problem anywhere else. You would see a sink that didn’t drain, a toilet that was clogged, a shower that left you standing in ankle deep water, and in most cases that would be the extent of the problem. You would know to stop using the fixture because it is backing up. In rare cases there might be a fixture on a lower floor that may overflow, but in most cases the house is plumbed and a manner where this does not happen, plus it is very unusual for a vertical drain in a home to plug up. Usually you would notice the fixture on the first floor draining slowly and get it fixed before the clog got bad enough that the fixture on the upper floor would cause an overflow. You might see telltale signs such as dirty water stains in the sink on the lower floor from the water coming up through the drain. This sales technique is just an up-selling that preys on your disgust at the mess your home suffered.
What Does The Consumer Receive With The Whole House Special?
Another problem with the Roto Rooter “Whole House Special” is that the technician is not going to clean any of the lines very well except the one that is actually backing up. The other lines will in most cases receive only a superficial cleaning using a small snake that is pushed through the trap on the sinks instead of removing the trap and using an effectively sized snake which would take considerably more time. If every drain was to be properly cleaned the technician would spend about a full day in the home working at cleaning the drains instead he will be there 3 hours or, less. One of the policies that was in place at the Roto Rooter branch where I worked years ago was that the drain cleaning technicians exposure for commission loss due to a callback under guarantee, was limited to the cost of one drain so only 1/3 of the commission from the sale could ever be lost on a callback. This policy ensuring most of the commission being kept by the original technician ensures that doing a good job of cleaning the line is not necessary. This policy also increases the likelihood for abuse by the technician, as it is harder for them to lose their commission on the job.
The most interesting case of abuse involving the “Whole House Special” was when I was sent to camera inspect the the 2nd floor drain lines in a home where the original complaint was that the toilet would clog. The technician had sold a “Whole House Special” when what was actually wrong was the toilet was old and the internal water passages of the toilet were clogged with mineral deposits causing a poor flush, what should have been sold was a replacement of the toilet. Unfortunately selling a “Whole House Special” took almost $1,000 out of the customer’s pocket before they were told that what they really needed was a new toilet. The camera inspection I was being sent to do was a completely unnecessary procedure, completely illogical, and just an attempt to appease an angry customer, that had paid a lot of money without their problem being solved. Unfortunately what was I going to do for the customer’s problem when the 1/3 of the commission that I could take would not cover the cost of me installing a toilet. Time to send that customer back to complaining to the manager who in typical Roto Rooter fashion is trying to keep the money they already have made and get some more on top!
Is The Whole House Special Ever A Good Deal?
The only time I could ever say the “Whole House Special” would be a good deal is if you had multiple separate lines clogged and the combined price of having those lines snaked added up to the price of the “Whole House Special.” Typically 3 separate lines would do that. Even then you would have the possibility that one clog can affect multiple fixtures that can only be determined by knowing how the fixtures are connected to the drain and an accurate diagnosis of the problem. I can say with a high degree of certainty that the Roto Rooter “Whole House Special” is just an unnecessary up-sell that is designed to increase the commission of the technician that seldom has a benefit to the customer. Avoid this scam and just have them take care of the problem you have!