The Day I Almost Fell for a Big Scam

It started with my downstairs toilet not working. I’d always solved those problems with a plunger but this time I couldn’t get it going.

Soon my son took a shower upstairs and the drain backup got ugly. Water filled with shit rose in the bathroom shower and in the toilet.

My plumber, Dave Shelton, recommended Baird Drain Service, or some name like that. I found a company with that name on Google. But one thing Dave told me that didn’t register was the man who ran the company was George Baird. There was no George Baird associated with the Baird Drain Service I contacted.

A man named Jerry Garcia showed up. He joked about his name. Same as the star of the Grateful Dead. I later wondered if that was really his name. Maybe something he made up as a joke to disarm baby boomers he was trying to take for a ride.

Garcia took a short look at the pipes under the house, which he said were leaking, and they’d have to replace all the pipes and it would cost $4800. I was shocked at the price but said to myself, “Well, Dave recommended them so this must be legit.”

My dark secret. Nothing wrong with these pipes.

I don’t think I’m an overly trusting person. I don’t believe strangers who call me or send me letters saying I’ve just been chosen for an amazing deal or that I’ve just won a huge cash prize. Of course not. The reason I decided to trust these guys is this was a problem I’d never had before, so didn’t know my way around it, and I thought they were a company they were not.

I called Dave again the evening after I got the estimate to see if he could vouch for these guys one more time. But I couldn’t reach him and told Baird Drain Service to move ahead.

I finally heard from Dave the following morning. By that time the Baird crew had already shown up in a big white van and were suiting up for the work. He said something was very wrong.

“How do they know the pipes were bad? Did they camera them?” No, I said, they didn’t snake a camera into the pipes to check them from the inside.

I finally asked Deadhead Jerry to show me, one more time, the place where he said the pipes were leaking and broken. I went under the house with a flashlight and I saw no moisture stain on the ground and nothing leaking.  Finally, I sent the crew home and said they weren’t going to do the job.

I think that happy, normal people do, when in doubt, trust people. When you encounter someone, you think they’re are going to be considerate toward you and they’re going to tell you the truth. The only other option you have is to always walk around with an attitude. You know. You’re always ready for a fight and ready to suspect people of lying.

Most of us aren’t like that, and when someone is threatening to us, acting like an asshole or is telling brazen lies we’re taken aback and we may have a hard time believing what we’re seeing.

Baird Drain Service had already gotten away with my 10 percent down payment, and I called the company saying I wanted the $480 back.

The woman on the line (didn’t get her name) acted in a hostile way, claiming I didn’t hold up my end of the deal, caused tremendous inconvenience to the crew and she’d send me another bill for that, and if I didn’t pay it they would put a lien on my house.

You always think of the best thing to say later, right?

I should have told her if she wanted to take this case in front of a judge, I’d be happy to play along since I had a terrific story to tell. I never did get that bill and the case never went before a judge. I decided I didn’t want to take it to a small claims court.

I eventually hired a guy to clean out my sewer connection, which was all that was needed. In fact, the real George Baird showed up at my door. I had contacted his company at some point through a Yelp list of service providers.

George was a tall, skinny man around 70 years old with long hair. He gave me his business card and we talked for about ten minutes. He said this other “Baird” company was causing a problem for his business and ripping people off, but they’d never been officially called on it.

There’s a lot of money in plumbing. So much that it attracts a lot of predators.  I ultimately I had to get my sewer connection cleaned out a second time, and I called George Baird’s company to do it. It only cost me $80, and that included a $20 tip for the guy who did the job. I’ll remember them.

The moral of the story? I don’t think there is one. I guess you have to trust people, most of the time, and sometimes you get ripped off. Thankfully I was only ripped off for $480, not ten times that much.

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