Expensive Lesson Learned From Garbage Disposal Installation

DENVER (CBS4)– A Denver woman thought the price she paid for a plumber to replace her garbage disposal was too much. Jean Waite paid $856 for a new kitchen garbage disposal. She wasn’t over charged, but doing a few things differently could have saved her a lot of money.

Waite’s new disposal is a common brand, a Badger 5, ½ horsepower. 4 On Your Side Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks found the very same model on the shelf at Home Depot for $99.96. Home Depot charges $119 to install it. Sears also quoted a price of $99 for installation of a garbage disposal purchased anywhere.

Waite, 82, had a friend look at her bill.

“He goes ‘You got screwed’. And I said, ‘I know.’,” Waite said.

Her bill lists a trip charge of $98. The garbage disposal plus labor totaled $660.64. There’s an $85.83 charge for someone to bring the disposal to the service technician and a $12 environmental protection fee.

“It made me feel, well, angry and used,” Waite said.

She knew about the service call fee. The 4 On Your Side Investigation found that’s a common fee. Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks called around to try to get an estimate from private plumbers for a garbage disposal replacement. None of the businesses we called would give an estimate over the phone. All of them wanted to look at the situation before committing to a price, and all wanted to charge a service fee to come out. Brooks found only one plumber who would come out without charging.

Experts say you should get three estimates before you have any work done in your home, but you should budget in the cost of the service fee to get those estimates.

Beyond the service fee, Waite says money was never discussed. She admits that it was her mistake not to ask what the cost of the job would be. And when the work was done, she signed the bill agreeing to pay in full.

“I’m not a stupid woman, and I’m thinking where was my brain?” Waite said.

David Davia is the Executive Vice President & CEO of the Colorado Association of Mechanical and Plumbing Contractors. He called several of his member contractors to find out what a fair and reasonable price would be for a garbage disposal install.

“As inexpensive as $400-$500 and as expensive as $1,500,” he told CBS4.

Waite still feels like she was overcharged.

“How can you justify that for a garbage disposal,” she said.

The company Waited hired has an “A plus” rating with the Better Business Bureau and has been in business for 14 years. They didn’t do anything wrong, so CBS4 is not naming them. They didn’t want to discuss the charges. They stand behind their billing, but they didn’t like having a customer who was unsatisfied. The company agreed to refund $400 to Waite.

“I couldn’t have been happier if this had been a check for a million dollars,” Waite said.

Experts agree that getting everything in writing before you agree to the work is the best way to make sure there are no surprises at the end of the job.

–Written for the Web by CBS4 Special Projects Producer Libby Smith


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