Get comfortable as I’m about to share the amazing story of a simple toilet fault and the lengths I had to go through to get it fixed.
It’s a tale of incompetence and frustration. Oh, and a toilet cistern.
Just after Christmas, our downstairs toilet (which is the secondary toilet in the house, a narrow room consisting of just the toilet and a sink) started having problems flushing – you had to tug down on the handle a few times before it would flush.
Monday 30th December
On Monday, the 30th, I took off the cistern lid to see if I could see anything obviously wrong. At this point, I should add that I have some experience with plumbing and even that particular toilet, having fixed an issue with the ballcock in the past which a previous plumber had failed to do properly.
Anyway, I’m not sure what happened – I don’t know if the lid acts as some kind of limiter – but with the lid off, when I flushed the handle flew around and the c-link ended up in an awkward, twisted position. In an attempt to correct this, the clip on the top of the syphon broke off, giving the c-link nothing to connect to. In other words, it was now quite broken.
So, I decide a plumber is needed. I turned, as I tend to do these days, to MyBuilder.com where I quickly find a plumber, with 100% feedback, who’s even available to attend that day.
He comes in the evening and replaces the flush component (and as it’s physically broken, there’s no argument about that needing to be replaced!). He also showed me some tears on the old diaphragm, which would explain the flushing problems that we had before.
On the picture above, you may notice an odd blue tube – this was something that was added by Severn Trent recently to jury-rig a dual flush system (which hasn’t worked very well, if I’m honest). The good thing about the replacement flush unit was that it was a dual flush by default – great news.
The one issue was that the handle didn’t connect to the new unit very well. The plumber said that I’d need an extension piece, which he didn’t have and would pop back in the morning and fix it – it was a 5 minute job.
At this point I’d been more than happy with his work and him in general, so was happy to pay his bill – £80.
The plumber doesn’t turn up.
I message him through the MyBuilder.com site (he’d said the day before how easy it was for him to communicate with customers through the site) but get no reply. I also ring his phone number and nobody picks up. I do this a few times throughout the day but hear nothing.
Wednesday 1st January
It’s now 24 hours since he said he’d return and I’ve heard nothing from him. We still can’t use the toilet.
I decide to take further action.
First of all, I close off the job on MyBuilder.com, giving him negative feedback. I then create a new job on the site for a new plumber to come and finish the job – I explain as part of this what’s happened, including a photo of the cistern and flush, so that the next plumber will understand. Within 30 minutes I have 3 plumbers interested.
Let’s call the original plumber Plumber #1.
The first plumber I hear from today, Plumber #2, texts me to say he can attend the next day. However, he also asks for a photo of what’s wrong and general asks questions that shows he’s not read anything that I provided. That’s not a good sign.
Plumber #3 can attend on Friday. His profile is very promising.
Plumber #4 can attend that same day, so I say “yes” to him. In fact he’s there within the hour. He says it doesn’t need an extension to the handle but just a new handle, which he fits. But now it doesn’t flush first time – the exact same issue that I had. Plumber #4 suspects the new flush is faulty.
Whilst he’s doing all this, something happens – I heard back from Plumber #1. He’s very apologetic (although he doesn’t explain what happened to him) and asks if he can come the next day to finish the work off. If the new flush is at fault it makes sense for Plumber #1 to look at it, as he will need to replace it at his own cost. I explain what’s happened to Plumber #4 and ask him to put the old handle back on, so I can get the original plumber to re-attend. He’s happy to do this and I pay him £25 for his time.
However, I’m not happy with his work. I’m not confident he knows what he’s doing and he re-assembled the old handle incorrectly. When I pointed this out, he insisted that he was correct. When he left, I put it back to how it was (and photos I’d taken for that first plumber prove that I was right too).
I reply to Plumber #1 telling him what Plumber #3 found (so that he can make sure he attends with a replacement flush) and say I’d be happy for him to come the next day.
Now, here’s my plan of action…
I cancel Plumber #2 attending on Thursday – all those questions, that he should have known, didn’t fill me with confidence. However, I keep Plumber #4 on standby for Friday. If Plumber #1 doesn’t turn up Thursday, or complete the job, I still have him as a backup. If Plumber #1 gets everything sorted, I’ll cancel Plumber #4 and remove my negative feedback from his profile.
I didn’t hear back from Plumber #1 for many hours, at which point I get a number of messages, all sounding quite desperate to get everything sorted for me – I guess that negative feedback has had an impact.
My only aim at the moment is to rectify the review you have fairly given me. I am embarrassed, ashamed, and extremely disappointed in myself for forcing you to have to do something I don’t think you really wanted to have to do. If I was in your shoes I would off done the exact same!
I’d like to take the feedback down now but to do so may mean he loses interest again – and MyBuilder only lets you change your feedback once. So, thinking selfishly, I’d rather leave it until it’s all resolved.
Anyway, he’s promising to return in the early evening (around 4-6pm), which is not brilliant as only my wife will be around, but she knows what’s happening.
Another message from Plumber #1 in the afternoon – this time to say his wife has messed him around and he can’t get to mine until 8pm. That’s fine – I’ll at least be around then.
I promise I’ll get to u today, I’ve got to have the kids till 7:30 now which has annoyed me as my Mrs knew I had to get to u! So I’ll be with u at 8pm
Meanwhile, around 3:30pm, I get a phone call from MyPlumber, as they’d noticed the negative feedback on a relatively new plumber to the site. I explained the situation and they asked me to update them on what happens.
Then, another message from the plumber…
My Mrs is on her way back now, she said she will be back by 8pm [at] the latest
Bearing in mind that he lives 35 minutes away from me, it gets to 9pm – my daughter is in bed (in the room above where the downstairs toilet is) and we’re trying to settle down for the evening. And the plumber hasn’t arrived.
It’s at this point, I finally give up. I text him to let me know not to now bother. I’m surprised that he reads it and replies straight away (he should have been driving at this point!)
I’m sorry, ok I understand, I don’t have to watch my kids tomorrow, may I please [later]? I can be there at 12-2pm???
I tell him not – I’ve had enough now and he’s messed me around enough. Now, we get to see his feelings a little more…
Ok firstly I did tell you I had to watch my children today..
Which is correct. He also told me he’d be at mine by 8pm. And then he was leaving his house by 8pm. And then never turned up.
He tells me how far he got on his journey that evening but, my estimated, he was half way here. That means he’d left around 8:40pm at the earliest – all without bothering to advise me that he was running late. As a lack of communication had been the issue here all along, this isn’t good.
2nd i replaced the part that needed changing 100%, in ur toilet, for you or another plumber to accuse me off installing the wrong or dodgy part was unjustified, you watched me remove the packaging, you also saw the tear in the flap off ur old siphon,, that is a top off the range , quality siphon.
He’s taken the fact that another plumber thought the part was faulty quite personally – even brand new items can be faulty straight out of the packet. And, to be honest, I’ve seen these parts at Screwfix – they’re cheap and cheerful items.
But, now the best line…
I have tried to stay in contact as best I could today, this week is difficult for any tradesman.
Quite unbelievable. This tells me that he hasn’t actually learnt anything – he wasn’t in contact AT ALL, which was the entire issue.
I told him I didn’t want to argue about it any further and not to message me any more. I have to admit, I’m now concerned as his tone is a lot more confrontational than apologetic now – he has my address after all. My aim now is to try and calm down the situation so when he asks about refunding me, I turn him down.
Now we’re down to Plumber #3, who’s due tomorrow. I texted him to tell him that the existing flush may be faulty and he replied…
I picked up a whole new syphon (flush part) anyway as it’s not possible to get an extension piece. I thought the syphon that was fitted looked funny as those types have a reputation for breaking before they’re even fitted.
He even believes that the handle doesn’t require an extension – it’s just the wrong flush that’s the problem. Words fail me.
Around 10am I get a follow-up phone call from MyBuilder. I explain what happened the previous evening and they ask me if I’d be happy for them to contact him to talk about what happened. Again, in the name of keeping the situation calm, I asked them not to. It’s time to move on.
Soon after I get a confirmation email from them, which includes this reassuring information…
The concerns that you raised are noted internally on the tradesperson’s account and any further complaints or negative feedback that he receives may lead to an account review. Should that be the case, your concerns will be taken into account when our monitoring team makes a decision as to whether or not to allow the tradesperson to continue to source work with MyBuilder.
Plumber #3 turns up at 11am on the dot (the time he said he would be). He immediately takes out the flush that Plumber #1 put in and puts in his own – this is a really small, slimline unit that immediately looks better made. It also uses a cable mechanism to connect it to the handle, which means angles between the two mechanisms aren’t an issue (it looks to be similar to a bike’s brake cable).
He spots a small scratch on the handle and leaves to replace it. I thought he was going to his car but, in fact, he took it back to where he bought it (the local Screwfix, I suspect – he lives locally and I know they sell these flush units). It turns out they don’t have any replacements and he promises to return next week with a new handle – personally I’m not bothered by the scratch and tell him that won’t be necessary. But full marks for attention to detail here.
Soon he hits a problem – after both he and Plumber #1 have taken the cistern off, the aged doughnut washer starts leaking. Another trip to the local plumbers merchant and that’s sorted. In total he’s an hour and 45 minutes but the end result is a flushing toilet.
The handle makes dual flushing really easy – pull it up for a short flush and push it down for a full one. It’s easy to use, with just a short pull on the lever required. The only issue is that the new seal makes the cistern lean slightly further forward – they should be secured to the wall but the false wall behind it means that this has never been the case. Now the cistern wobbles a bit – Plumber #3 says he’s happy to resolve it but he’s happy that it won’t cause any issues so I accept his advice and leave it as-is.
The end bill – £60. A bargain. Hopefully, that’s the end of this saga.
The toilet is leaking. The cold water inlet into the cistern is leaking and, as luck would have it, it’s before the valve that I could use to turn off water just for the toilet.
I contacted the plumber who can’t re-attend until tomorrow morning. It’s not leaking dramatically, so I’ll keep it at bay with a cloth for now and then just off another valve overnight – there’s one further back in the pipework, but that will also turn off all the water for the toilet, sink and the entire kitchen.
The plumber didn’t turn up when he expected – he was on another job and got delayed but, unlike Plumber #1, at least he communicates with me!
He’s away Sunday but says he’ll re-attend on Monday.
Meanwhile, I’ve actually found there is a bigger leak from the bottom of the cistern. Having put some cloths down, any potential problems are being kept in-check for now.
He comes in the afternoon and, taking the cistern out again, he thinks the doughnut washer that he fitted was at fault. He leaves for a short while to get a replacement.
The new one has a flat side, with the other rounded. The original was rounded both sides. Once fitted and the cistern put back on, the cistern no longer wobbles and, after 10 minutes since re-filling, no leak can be detected. Of course, it may be longer before it will be fully known…
And a week later…
Still no leaks. All is now well.
So, the last plumber was good. And although there was a minor issue after, he came and sorted it on time and without complaint. He was always eager to rush out to replace any part that wasn’t 100%, which was always encouraging.
I have his business card and he’ll be my first port of call in future.