Leslie Plumbing Company
I greeted the elderly man behind the counter at Leslie Plumbing Sales Co., just around the corner -- eight-tenths of a mile -- from my home. "I am Mrs. Wier. Do you remember my husband, Jack? He was a neighborhood handyman for 17 years before he died 9 years ago. He bought a lot of plumbing parts here for small repair jobs."
"Yes," the man replied. "I remember Jack."
"Well, I have several small plumbing repairs I'd like done…no big jobs. Jack could have done them! We purchased two American Standard Roma Vent-away toilets from you. One won't flush unless you hold the actuator (flusher) in and count to 8. The seat on the other is loose and needs the hinge tightened or replaced." The man began writing down the list of items as I spoke. "One bathroom wash basin metal stopper stays down, holding water; needs fixing. The screens on the end of the nozzle in the other wash basin need cleaning so water will flow better. The cold water handle in the bath tub is hard to turn on. The hot water handle in the half-bath is froze up. I can't turn it on. The fixtures in the garage sink do not turn on easily. I would like five outside water handles replaced. Just piddling things! Can someone do these?"
"Oh, yes. I'll send someone over tomorrow."
Jim arrived the next morning. We toured the areas as I explained the needed repairs in both bathrooms, the half-bath and sink in the garage and handles to be replaced on five outside hydrants. "One crumbled and fell off when Ronnie tried to turn ON the water. I'm thankful it didn't happen when turning OFF the water. Might as well replace them all, since all are old."
After working about 30 minutes, Jim left to get some parts. While he was away, I noticed the lid was off the tank in the master bathroom toilet. I wondered why, since he was told to only tighten the hinge on the seat. I was busy in the den working on a "Happenings" mail-out. When he returned, I heard the flushing of this toilet, and then the loud grinding noise as if it was in a bind. He had flushed it too quickly the second time, and it was struggling to finish the first cycle. WHY? I asked myself. It was in perfect working order before Jim came along.
Jim worked fast, finishing all the repairs in less than two hours. He presented me with an itemized bill for $396.88! I was shocked! I surely did not foresee this much. Must have needed a lot of parts, I thought, as I wrote out a check. I was expecting a bill for "materials plus labor."
Analyzing the bill after Jim left, I realized the $2.97 sales tax would be for about $36.00 in materials -- probably for the five outside water faucet handles. It appears he charged me $200.00 per hour for labor. (Copy of his bill enclosed, along with all past invoices).
Item #4 "Repair toilet & tighten seat"--no repairs were ordered, or necessary. The charge was $59.50, same as for fixing the toilet with the flushing problem.
Item #5 "Take apart and lubricate tub valve" $35.00. Same problem with the garage sink and half-bath wash basin, but charges were $48.50 each for these. He used the term "repair" instead of "take apart and lubricate." To oil those three hydrants cost me $132.00! The five outside water faucets required unscrewing the old and screwing on the new at $27.50 each.
I did not think to discuss the price before he started, and he didn't mention it. After all, the plumbing work had been reasonable the past 25 years! In October, 2003, they repaired my kitchen faucet. The bill, as usual, was for "labor plus parts."
I was ill in every ounce of my being. I was enraged. I felt scammed; taken advantage of...like I gave him a blank check when he began the work and he filled it in. I reasoned that he saw my big 3,000 sq. ft. home, and a Cadillac Brougham in my garage, and thought I was a wealthy 84-year-old widow. Did he see my 1947 refrigerator? Most of my furniture from the 40's & 50's? My car is a 1992 with 133,000 miles? He must have! From his bill of $415.50 plus $7.50 Truck Service and $2.97 sales tax, he deducted $29.09 as a humiliating Senior Discount!
That night, I discovered the toilet in the master bath would not flush! He definitely messed around with the insides of the tank and broke my toilet; then charged me for doing it!
I called Leslie Plumbing and reported this. Jim came over. He tinkered in the tank. He said, "I adjusted the water level," and walked out. He did not flush the toilet. Later, I discovered it still would not flush! I reported this again. Jim returned. He looked in the tank and told me I needed new parts which would cost $300-$400! I didn't know what to do.
EVERY night, when I tried to go to sleep, I'd be telling Jim and the owner of Leslie Plumbing Company my feelings over and over again, a thousand times. I kept asking Jim WHY did you break my toilet? Why wasn't price discussed before the work? Tossing and turning, I could not turn off my mind. Two hours would pass, before I'd finally fall asleep.
I dreaded a confrontation. I kept asking myself, "What am I going to do about this?" On two days, I had doctor's appointments. My brother Jerry and I took a trip to Henderson, TX to visit Son, our oldest brother. I had out of town company; Monday afternoon prayer meetings at Church; Wednesdays, I help my brother with his ranch books. Days committed to my writing projects. Other weekdays, I didn't feel well, or didn't want the hassle with the plumbing problem. But every night, when I went to bed, there was all this turmoil; feelings of injustice; intensity of frustration; the agitation of furor. Three tumultuous weeks passed.
Then, I told myself, "You are getting into trouble. This is what they call 'stress'…which the cardiologist cautioned you was one of the three things you MUST avoid to prevent cardiac arrest." I recalled articles I had read, "Stress can kill you." "Stress--the silent killer." This problem has taken away my JOY; my peace. I've lost my inspiration to write. I'm not happy.
I went to Leslie Plumbing Company and asked to talk to the owner. I confirmed with Mr. Leslie, after he acknowledged remembering my husband, that Jack had installed "gen-air" (I'll have to look up the spelling later) kitchen ranges for Leslie Plumbing customers during the 17 years following his retirement; and purchased parts for small plumbing repairs in his business as a handyman. "We purchased our dishwasher ($368.00) from you. We purchased two American Standard Roma Vent-away toilets, costing $2,l89.16 (includes $200. labor). I have five more plumbing bills -- all record materials and labor. (I spread these out on the counter to show him). This last bill where Jim did some minor plumbing repairs is outrageously priced."
Mr. Leslie said, "There's nothing I can do about that. I've already paid him. You should have asked him how much it would cost before he did the work."
I asked if Jim was in. He wasn't. I said, "There's a big sign in front of your building that states, your price before we start. I called on your company because of past relations which were always reasonable. I expected an honest job at a fair price of labor plus parts. I got neither."
He said, "I can't help you. I'll talk to Jim and call you."
I thought if I observed the flushing mechanics of #1 toilet, then compared it to the #2 toilet which Jim messed up so it only flushes if the actuator is held in to the count of 8, I would know what was wrong with it. Never before had I seen any toilet flushing action inside of the tank. By pushing in the actuator, a little white "door" that was against it, fell forward while the actuator regained its position. As I watched the water completely descend, suddenly and quickly a little white "leg" popped up and kicked this little white "door" back in place against the actuator. I laughed hysterically, thinking "Mouse Trap Game!" It was so funny, I flushed three more times, trying to see where that "leg" disappeared to wait for the next cue to shut the "door." Then water flowed around a beaded chain to refill the tank and overflow into a corner cubical housing the orange ball, which rose with the water filling in this area. This was hilarious!
Five days passed. My sleep habits had not improved and now I was getting shooting pains like a needle passing through my brains. I went back to Leslie Plumbing. Mr. Leslie said, "I talked to Jim. He said the invoice price was right."
I said, "I tried to figure out why the toilet in the master bathroom would not flush whereas the other one would. Soon as I removed the top from the tank in the one Jim fixed, I saw the drip…two drips per second. The toilet that was working fine before Jim messed with it has a stream of water flowing all the time, and water shoots up two inches when flushed. It will flush if you hold the actuator in and count to 8. Jim broke my toilet."
We were standing just a few feet from the open door to the office. A big mirror beside it was a see-through glass from inside. To my surprise, Jim appeared in the doorway. Mr. Leslie walked away. Jim said, "I did not touch that ballcock!" I'm thinking, is that what he broke?
I said, "I can't understand why you even took the lid off the toilet tank when all you were told to do was tighten the hinges. I took the lid off the other toilet and it is dripping." Jim was impolite. He kept interrupting; wouldn't let me finish sentences. I asked about the leaks. He rolled his eyes up to the ceiling and said, again, "I did not touch that ballcock! You have OLD toilets. The insides need replacing. I'm not going to buy $500. worth of parts to fix them."
"How could they be over-used when, since they were installed, two of us lived in the house six years and I've lived alone 10 years? I heard the loud noise from the master toilet you were not supposed to work on. Also, I can't believe you charged me $48.50 each for oiling and cleaning the two faucets in my garage. I could have purchased new fixtures for $30."
Jim replied, "No you couldn't."
"You have them right here on display for $29.95!"
"But it would cost you $l00. to install them. You are NOT going to get any money back! You had about 10 things for me to do. I had to keep turning the water off and on. I made two FREE trips to your house!" He turned his back on me and walked into the office, out of sight… a rude dismissal! I left the building. He made two FREE trips to my house? For what? He didn't fix anything. Is 8/10th of a mile a "trip"?
Of course it would cost me $100. to have a new fixture installed. How long would it take to remove the old fixture and install the new one? 30 minutes? That's $200. per hour for labor! For certain, LESLIE PLUMBING HAS LOST ME AS A CUSTOMER. Mr. Leslie won't care!
When I retired that night, another pain shot through my brain. How do people handle stress? Mine is almost too small to mention, when compared to acts on TV news or in the paper. Horrible, tragic injustice abounds. How do they ever turn their minds off life's tragedies?
Woah!! This has got to stop. All this time, I've been trying to deal with my problem. I've been to prayer meetings; said prayers at home. Last night, I prayed for everyone on our church prayer list. But not ONCE have I mentioned my plumbing problem to God. I shut Him out. Yet He was there in the background, patiently waiting. In my sleepless nights, didn't I wish to talk to Jim? Then, I returned to his place of business at a time he was in! God cares!
I began to pray in earnest seriousness through tears asking God to forgive me. I've been out of fellowship with Him. I was repentant, recalling times He had been there for me…beyond a doubt, walking beside me, ahead of me, clearing my pathway. I poured out all my feelings and acknowledged my assurance that He was in charge of my life. This time, I had asked, "what am I going to do?" instead of "what are we going to do?" How many years does it take for me to get it right? "Help me, God. I'm still learning Forgive me. I need Your guidance. Your comfort."
I'll try to explain the feeling I had when I said, "Amen." Immediately, my blood felt like it was two degrees warmer. My body was restful. Dull, tired feeling in my brain disappeared. Not one sharp pain since! I knew that "peace of God that passeth all understanding" (Phil.4:7). I turned Leslie Plumbing completely over to God. He will deal with them. I had the most peaceful sleep that night, and I awoke with unbelievable joy. God was right beside me, waiting for my confession. "All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).
The next night, I was listening to Channel 14, Christian TV. The preacher said, "You do not say, 'This stick is crooked. This stick is crooked. This stick is crooked! You just place a straight stick beside it."
That morning, I had gone to another neighborhood plumbing company, Clayton Lee's on 20th Street. I presented Jason with the list I had given to Leslie Plumbing, and asked what it would cost to get those repairs done. They handle American Standard Plumbing toilets and were familiar with the Roma Vent-away. Their charges would be $85.00 per first hour, minimum; $42.50 per each 30 minutes thereafter…plus parts. They were my straight stick!
I still remember when Bill, Jack's handyman business partner, first tried out our $1000-Vent-Away. A few minutes later, he called Jack for help, saying, "I don't know what's wrong. I pulled this knob out and instead of flushing, it is just gurgling!"
Jack explained: "You push it IN to flush. Pulling it OUT takes away the smell if you pooped. You won't stink up the bathroom! No more buying air freshener!"
"I never heard of that! If it's so smart, why doesn't it just flush itself when I'm finished?"
That was 16 years ago. Today, toilets do just that. I visited the restroom at the Aquarium Restaurant downtown. I searched all over that stall and could not find anything to push, pull, twist or turn to flush the toilet! While pulling up my clothes, it flushed itself! Don't ask me HOW! I thought maybe leaving the seat activated it…but if so, what happens in the Men's room? Makes one wonder what they'll think of next. I laughed at that thought. It's already been invented by the French. They call it a "bidet!" Incidentally, if you dine at the Aquarium, go to the restroom whether you need to or not. The décor is out-of-this-world beautiful! Unique!
In a Tinseltown movie restroom, I just put my hands under the faucet and the water comes on. Take them away, and it cuts off! That was a surprise! Nancy, my niece, told me that at the airport, you hold your hands in front of the paper towel dispenser, and out comes a towel.
The next day, in my mail was an advertising brochure from Consumer's Report, and they rated the Jenn-Air dishwasher! I was thrilled at this needed information! Jack installed Jenn-Air ranges for Leslie Plumbing! I hadn't seen that name, ever, that I remember…only the sound from my husband. God tells me to write, and supplies all I need to carry out His plan! Submit- ting control of all our problems to God is the only way we can receive the full portion of His loving leadership. God is faithful…always helping us in life's highs and lows.
Saturday (Aug. 6, 2005), I attended a writing seminar from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Many publishing companies give away samples of their publications and writer's guidelines, inviting students to send them stories. I was glancing through one and came across this message:
"Don't be victimized by mistakes of yesterday. It is passed permanently beyond your control. No turning back to undo or erase a single word or act. Let it go. Tomorrow is also beyond your control. Let it go as you would let go of a balloon that is carried swiftly away by the wind. That leaves TODAY. Anyone can deal with the challenges of today! Resolve to journey through life one day at a time."
God directed someone to write those words. I needed them. God is good every day. I have been through a terrible ordeal. I hate for things to break down in my home because I am so inexperienced in handling those matters. Jack took care of everything. I have learned not to be so trusting next time. Always get more than one opinion and price. Even though we can't prevent these unwelcome events which life throws our way, we can choose our response. We have options. Everyone I've told this happening to has been enraged. I've received advice from "tell Marvin Zindler" to "see a lawyer dealing with deceptive trade practices" (Leslie violated 4 of the 25 laws). A lot of people who sue just want to give voice to their outrage. The Bible says, "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" (Matthew 6:34) which means today's trouble is enough for today.
A lot of my friends who will read this will laugh about my advice when they were in a bitter situation. I would tell them, "You are your own best friend. Don't worry and make yourself sick over the past. It's gone. This is a new day. Only do things that make YOU happy. Be good to yourself….etc." I needed someone to tell me those words. Someone did! Only through God can a spiritual blessing be derived from an unhappy experience. Thank You, Lord!
Rabbi Nochman said, "Growing spiritually can be like a roller coaster ride. Take comfort in the knowledge that the way down is only preparation for the way up."
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