Help Customers Avoid Faulty Products That Pervade the Plumbing Industry

You’ve seen the class-action lawsuits in the news that stem from low-quality materials. Customers don’t always know better, so it’s up to you to educate them.

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One of the goals in this industry is to protect the health and safety of our fellow citizens. Somewhere above company profits and our paychecks stands proud our commitment to provide people safe water and wastewater systems.

You and I know how to give them what they deserve. We know what we would install in our own homes, how we would make a repair, and what material we would put in. In the real world, however, the customer dictates what and how something is put in. But should they?

I hate to bring up the elephant in the room, but you and I both know that we are choosing to ignore certain modern aspects of the trade. We sometimes use certain materials because they are cheap and easy to install. They provide us a more significant profit margin and the customer a cheaper bill, which is what they want. But we know the ugly history of plumbing. Most don't. We know the history of the millions of people who have died in their own filth because of installation practices and types of materials of the past. We understand how one poorly installed fitting or arrangement behind a single kitchen sink can cause a sickness outbreak. We know that a lot of material being installed today is sketchy at best, and catastrophic at worst.

How many settled class-action lawsuits do we have to ignore before we decide to dissuade people from installing faulty products? We aren't talking about items that no one has ever heard of; we are talking about items we install every day of the week. We are the ones who are supposed to protect citizens, even if that means going against the grain and against what is easy for us as well as easy on the homeowners’ pocketbooks. They do not know the dangers of installing these items.

Some manufacturers are outsourcing everything they make and are cheapening products to the point of routine catastrophic failures. They are making so much money that they just settle the lawsuits and continue doing business as usual.

The lawsuits say things like, "components that contain defects," "manufacturing products that contain yellow brass of lowest quality," "fittings leak and cause property damage," "plastic nuts of flex connectors show consistent weaknesses," "known design flaws and low-quality materials, however still selling to the public." The list literally goes on forever. Many similar materials still sit on our shop shelves and in our wholesalers' stores ready to be bought and installed today.

Let me make a case for the proven alternatives, and then you can make up your mind. Get away from the thought of cheap and easy for a moment and focus solely on health and wellbeing. Throughout the last hundred years of our trade, there are few absolutes and constants. But in this world of variety, there still are undeniable constants like the value of solid piping — adequately supported, adequately installed, and made of quality material. My point is that old doesn’t always mean outdated, and new doesn’t always mean best. Within each class of materials there are good and bad products. We shouldn’t judge what we put in solely on a price objection or what is easiest to install.

Am I saying go back to the days of lead-pours? No. Am I saying avoid plastic? No. I'm saying stop ignoring scientific studies and class-action lawsuits where the manufacturer pleads guilty and recalls products. Make your own decision. Give your customer your valued personal opinion and let them make the final decision after they are well informed. Just putting in what is cheap, fast, and easy without presenting your full expertise is morally wrong and leads to catastrophic failures, unnecessary homeowner costs, and potential health issues. 

About the Author

Anthony Pacilla is a registered master plumber for McVehil Plumbing in Washington, Pennsylvania. He has 23 years' experience in the plumbing and HVAC trades, and has a bachelor’s in business and economics from Thiel College. 


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