Karl Baer, 86, stands next to the newly installed sewer line outside of the Baer residence on Orchard Parkway on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, in Morganville, N.J. Baer was sold on an $11,000 plus job to replace a sewer line that didn’t need replacing. (Tom Brenner | For NJ Advance Media) Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
The job would cost $11,501.
Baer thought he was doing the right thing based on the “strong suggestion” of the salesman, who also offered a spot fix of the clog for a significantly lower price.
Later, an employee familiar with the job reached out to Bamboozled with what the employee said was proof the company was “defrauding a senior.”
The employee, who asked to remain anonymous, provided copies of internal emails that show the foreman who did the work thought the salesman oversold the job.
“The salesman of this job should be ashamed of himself for taking advantage of this old man,” the foreman wrote in one email that was received by six other employees. “I hope he stub’s [sic.] his toe once a day for the rest of his life.”
The emails show the foreman believed there was a blockage at the end of the sewer pipe near the street, but the rest of the pipe was healthy.
“It was not cracked, crushed, bellied or damaged in any way,” the foreman said in the email. “It looked like the pipe was put in yesterday.”
The anonymous employee provided Bamboozled with photos of the removed pipe. It does not appear to be damaged. The employee also said a video existed of a snaked camera, or endoscope, running the length of the pipe.
Baer, the homeowner, hadn’t questioned the job until he was contacted by Bamboozled.
Baer said he called the company and paid $189 to unclog a blockage. The next day, a different rep came to run a camera through the sewer line.
“They showed me the blockage,” Baer said. “As he was withdrawing the camera, he said there’s a crack here and a crack here, and he strongly suggested I better get the whole pipe done.
“He said there is a lot of damage and if you don’t fix the whole line, we will only be back to fix it again. He gave me a choice but he strongly suggested that I do the whole pipeline because it would only be a matter of time,” Baer said.
We provided the internal emails and photographs to A.J. Perri general manager Jim Henkel, and asked him to review the case.
After speaking to the employees involved in the job, Henkel said the salesman reported he gave two options to Baer, and Baer chose to do the whole line.
When pressed about whether the customer was pressured to take the whole line option, Henkel said, “As far as the options discussed with Mr. Baer and his decision regarding the option he chose, I have no personal knowledge of that conversation.”
When the ground was opened but before the pipe was removed, the job’s foreman reported to the office that the pipe was in good shape, but he was told to do the job as it was sold, according to the emails and the anonymous employee. The foreman later emailed to the office photos of the “so-called cracked pipe.”
When asked about the foreman’s assessment of the pipe’s health, Henkel said, “The dig crew didn’t know the options that were given and he couldn’t understand why we were pulling out that pipe.”
We asked Henkel to review the video and give his opinion on whether replacing the entire pipe was needed. He said he saw the “obstruction/clog in the line and what appears to be a break.”
Henkel confirmed he did not see other breaks in the line — just the problem at the end near the clog.
We asked for a copy of the video so we could take it to an independent expert.
The expert said replacing the entire pipe was unnecessary.
“After looking at your supplied video and the pictures, my opinion is that the end of the piping should have been the only thing replaced,” said James Boral, president of the New Jersey State League of Master Plumbers, a trade group. “The drain line that was existing appears to be in good shape and a newer product that should not need replacement. The end of the piping where the blockage was did have a separation and needed to be addressed.”
After our conversations with A.J. Perri, Baer received several calls from a company rep.
Baer said they talked about the health of the pipe. A.J. Perri agreed to return Baer’s check for the original job, which had not yet been cashed, and Baer agreed to pay $2,000 for the repair at the end of the line.
The check was hand-delivered to Baer that night.
“They said it was a bad misunderstanding,” Baer said. “Naturally, they’re trying to cover their rear end.”
General manager Henkel said the company “takes great pride” in resolving the issue with the customer.
“We are very pleased that we have resolved any misunderstanding or questions Mr. Baer had regarding the work A.J. Perri performed at his home,” Henkel said. “A.J. Perri considers it an honor and a privilege to serve our customers as our neighbors. Our highest priority is to ensure that our customers have a positive experience with our company.”
Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller at Bamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KPMueller. Find Bamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Stay informed and sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com’s weekly e-newsletter.