MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — While we’re thinking turkey and shopping, it’s the plunger that symbolizes the holiday best for plumbers. That’s because Thanksgiving creates more clogs than any other day of the year.

Work for some plumbers is piling up as complaints drain business for one well-known company.

Some customers filed a class action lawsuit against Roto-Rooter last week for making what they call unnecessary repairs. Police are also investigating dozens of complaints.

There is hope the holiday season won’t bring the same stress that started in Missy Berggren’s basement this summer.

It was her son’s sixth birthday when the sewer backed up. She assumed a call to Roto-Rooter would remedy the problem.

“I suspected they’d come in do it be in and out in an hour. I figured it would be no big deal,” Berggren said.

It turned into a big deal. The plumber suspected a pipe broke and told Missy she needed a new system. She paid nearly $5,000 for crews to dig it up and do the work.

Reggie Crawford says he’s been called in after Roto-Rooter to at least 300 homes in the last 10 years.

“It’s been good for my business but it’s been bad because the homeowners don’t know who to trust,” Crawford said.

He says it’s the same situation every time an excavation is suggested when it’s not needed. Crawford said, in his opinion, they very rarely are.

“Maybe one out of every five years, if that,” Crawford said.

Since Missy went through with the repairs she was sure her problems were over.

“This last weekend, water started backing up in my pipes again and I was like you’ve got to be kidding me,” Berggren said.

Berggren can’t say for sure if she was scammed but she too is looking at legal action against Roto-Rooter.

A statement from Roto-Rooter says: “Over the course of the past 76 years as our business has ebbed and flowed, our commitment to customer satisfaction and conducting our business in a professional manner has not wavered. The Thanksgiving season is the busiest time of the year for us as we know our customers will be facing plumbing issues and clogs of all shapes and sizes. And when they call, we will be ready with the prompt, professional service.”

Comments (25)
  1. See BS says:

    Contractors get sued for not recommending repairs too, that’s why you’re suppose to get second or even 3rd opinions.

  2. Tom says:

    And away goes trouble down the drain…

    1. Johnny says:

      And away goes money down the drain peter rooter

  3. Flushin fine up North says:

    ‘just flush your troubles down the drain.(rotor rooter)

  4. Loser says:

    I’ve always had good results with Roto-Rooter. They come in, clean my pipline towards the street within an hour’s time. Very professional. $249.99 is all I ever paid and I was never pitched anything else.

    I get scammed at the quickie-oil places more than plumbers

    1. b says:

      If you paid that much you were ripped off. I only pay $125 once a year for a maintenance cleaning.

  5. KM says:

    They came into our home and told us that we needed to have a camera put down to check the line for the tune of around $200.00. I told the guy, NO WAY since I had heard about this baloney. Unfortunately we had a friend who had their yard torn up because they were told they had a broken pipe. Amazing how now all of a sudden there are so many homes with broken pipes that need to be replaced . I think every friend I know that’s had Roto-Rooter out to their house were told the same exact thing (and all live in different areas and cities).

    1. RJ says:

      I run a smal sewer&drain co and your right they tell people all over the place that they need digging. I had 2 jobs just last week where they had been there and told the owners that digging was needed when in fact it just took some extra work with the snake to fix the problem. But i would like people to know that there are still sewer companies out there they can trust and there mostly us small guys.

    2. connie says:

      I was told many years ago after a back up that I had a broken tile in our pipe and it needed to be replaced in the tune of 8k. I called the city and they said that was highly unlikely…..I never had roto rooter service my property again.

  6. Happy Customer says:

    Roto-Rooter has been amazing for me. We had a plumbing emergency at 10pm on a Sunday. They came out finished the work in less then a hour and didn’t charge any weekend or after hours charge. Great experience!

    1. Chris says:

      You got lucky…….

  7. josie says:

    Two years ago Roto-Rooter came in and cleaned my drain pipe. Within 6 mnths, their warranty, the drain was sluggish so I called them. Roto-Rooter said he needed a camera, and proceeded to inform me that I had a broken pipe under my finished basement floor maybe the middle of the basement. I didn’t have the dollars for the repair and today, it’s still draining. Was this a scam? Who knows.

    1. CJ says:

      Its not uncommon for cast iron pipes under the basement floor to rot at the seam. If its working cool, but if it is broken its probably creating a nice washout under the concrete.

      1. josie says:

        So if that washout were happening CJ, what would be the results?

  8. CJ says:

    I’ve been plumbing for 14 years now, licensed in MN, MPLS, St Paul and many other cities. I can count on one hand the number of sewers I’ve seen the actually required digging to be fixed. I saw none during the short time I worked for Roto-Rooter. Call a family owned local company for honest plumbing repairs.

  9. Jill says:

    If a broken pipe is suggested, then a camera SHOULD be sent down the pipe to confirm it before digging.

    Roto Rooter is expensive, they they’ve always done right by me.

  10. Chris says:

    I worked for Roto Rooter for a long time and what i seen there wasn’t good. They are very dishonest from every angle. I remember thinking someday they are going to be on the news for their ways and now it’s happened. Stick with the small company or one-man-band and you will be alright.

  11. William Blunt says:

    I had roto rooter out last year they sent a very young man to my house. he proceeded to send the snake down my drain as fast as he could, then he got the snake wrapped around itself. then he was revving the power snake forward and back trying to break it off because he could not get it out. the next thing I hear is him screaming and swearing in my basement. the mean time I have little kids in the house. I ran down the stairs to see what was going on and I find this guy with the snake wrapped around his fingers and you can see that they were broken. so I grabbed the snake spread it apart to get this guys hand out. Then he gets a cutter cuts the snake off and leaves. a day later they sent out a supervisor he could not get the snake out. He told me that I have a broken pipe and the snake went through the pipe and dug itself in the the ground. he said you will have to hammer up the floor to repair the pipe. I own a refrigeration company, so I decided to do this my self I went out rented a jack hammer hammered up the floor. started were he thought it might be broken and kept going after a 25 foot long trench 2feet wide by 3 feet deep later I still could not find a broken pipe. so I cut the pipe and found the snake wrapped around itself. removed the snake and the clog that i found past the snake. repaired the pipe filled it back in and cemented the floor back up. this all took 2 days. and I had to take time off work to do all of this. Then I tried contacting rotorooter with no response and no call back. still trying to get some kind of compensation from them!!!!!

    1. meghan says:

      Good luck with that!

  12. Tree Hugger says:

    I had rotor rooter come and check my home before I bought it. It cost $200 for them to give an estimate that reached over $10,000 in work. Needless to say, I did the work for less than 2 hours and $100. The guy that came out also smelled strongly of alcohol at 11:00am on a Tuesday. I don’t trust them, I call my handy man for stuff I can’t figure out and he has always changed fairly and done a great job.

  13. Fiber says:

    Eat your veggies!

  14. markH says:

    The headline is misleading; it should be “Plumbing calls” and NOT “Plumber calls”.

  15. reggie says:

    call freddysready for sewer needs 612-724-6069–651-633-6890

  16. Dave Summers says:

    Very good blog post. I always mention that a plumber was unknown until the upsurge of modern society in the nineteenth century, the same time that local health departments began insisting on better effluent disposal systems to be installed and the same time that plumbers in Cardiff started providing a modern, clean service. Before this the waste disposal system meant collection and deposition in the local waterways.

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