Free or Fee: Do You Charge for Video Inspections?

These drain cleaning and plumbing pros offer their rationale for video inspection fees — or a lack thereof.
Free or Fee: Do You Charge for Video Inspections?
Do you offer free video inspections?

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At first glance, it might seem to be bad business to give away a valuable service that involves the built-in costs of both modern equipment and man-hours. But there are many plumbers and drain cleaning contractors who see the practice as a win-win situation. 

For customers, a free video inspection lets them see exactly what is going on with their sewer and drainlines, particularly when the lines are blocked and waste is backing up. For drain cleaners and plumbers, the ability to show customers the tree roots, broken pipes or other underground problems helps confirm the need for sewer repairs rather than sewer maintenance. 

David Marsh, owner of NuPipe Plumbing in Pontiac, Michigan, says his business does not charge anything for residential or light commercial video inspections. “We stand by the belief that in order to give a proper estimate, we have to be able to see what we’re quoting,” he says. 

The bottom line, he says, is that his crews are better able to tackle exactly what the customer needs thanks to the availability of video inspection systems. “And we’ve been very successful because of that. I’d say we have a 95 percent close rate.” 

Bill Heinselman, owner of Express Sewer & Drain in Rancho Cordova, California, says he offers a free video inspection with any service. For customers who decide to have major repairs completed, before and after videos are available. Heinselman, who writes a blog for Express Sewer & Drain’s website, believes a well-informed customer is a customer most likely to be satisfied with his business’ services. 

“When you video for people, you show them what is causing their problems,” Heinselman says. “If you show them why they need to spend the money to do serious repairs they are more likely to do so. You may still get one out of five people who will go on to get a second or third opinion.” Those customers may find a company that will simply quote a cleaning when repairs are needed, Heinselman says. And a year later, they may have the same line backing up. 

Instead of offering stopgap solutions, Heinselman says he wants his customers to know that their goal is to fix the problem correctly. 

Russell Williams, a retired plumber who now works part-time for Williams Plumbing & Drain in Tulsa, Oklahoma, says the business owned by his relative does charge for video inspections. 

“We love to work,” he says, “But we don’t like to do it for free.” Inspection fees are based on labor and equipment fees. 

The veteran plumber says he is concerned about the advice given by employees in the field who may get paid less if they go on a free call but don’t get a paying job. 

Williams sees the value in video inspections and says the Tulsa business has been offering them for more than 10 years. He says it helps when the customers can see what is happening in their drainlines. “When we do it, we’ll let them watch it with us.”

Do you offer free video inspections? Post a comment below!


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