Bamboozled: Dripping faucet, big confusion

Lillian Horner Jamar was having trouble with a bathroom faucet in her Plainfield home.

She had a hard time shutting off the faucet. It would leak or drip unless the handle was turned and turned and turned again into the off position, and even then, water would sometimes continue to come out.

Jamar, 84, said it wasn’t easy for her, and her water bills were creeping higher.

She decided to call a plumber – A.J. Perri, a Tinton Falls company that’s been in business for more than 40 years, according to its web site.

“I got an advertisement in the mail. I called… and they said they’d send someone the next day,” Jamar said in a letter to Bamboozled.

When the plumber arrived, Jamar said, she explained the trouble and took him to the faucet in question.

“He took the top of the faucet off, and he showed me a washer with a screw in it. He said it just needed to be replaced,” Jamar said, noting that he did not quote her a repair cost before he did the work.

The inspection of the faucet and the washer replacement took about five minutes, Jamar said. Then she said the plumber returned to his truck to get a contract for her to sign. That’s when she was presented with a bill for $407.67.

Jamar paid the bill with a credit card. She thought the price was high, so she decided to call the company to complain.

“I called them before I wrote to you, but I didn’t hear back from them,” she said. “I told them that if they didn’t take care of it I was going to call Bamboozled.”

We received the letter from Jamar on July 18.

“I need help because I feel he overcharged me,” she wrote. “Is that true? $407.67 for one washer? It only took five minutes for him to fix.”

Seeking Explanations
We called Jamar the next day to learn more about her experience, and she had an update.

A rep from A.J. Perri called her the day before.

“First she told me that she was going to refund me $300, and I would pay $107.67,” Jamar said. “She asked if I was satisfied and I said I wasn’t. Then she said they’d give me everything back.”

We asked Jamar if the rep explained the reason for the $407.67 bill, but Jamar said no.

We were grateful that this customer was given a refund, but still, we found the pricing of the job to be curious. Also, the repair description on the invoice said “Rebuild Lav Faucet,” which didn’t sound accurate if one washer was replaced.

We called a couple of plumbing experts and described the job and the bill. While both plumbers said that while they have not inspected the faucet and they were not there when the work was performed, it sounded like a high price for one washer. And if the faucet was rebuilt as the invoice said – especially if it was an older model – it would probably take some time to order the correct parts. Plus, it would take far longer than five minutes to rebuild the faucet if those parts were even available anymore.

One plumber took a quick look at pricing for new faucets similar to the one Jamar currently has. Those prices ran between $140 and $160, he said.

Back to A.J. Perri. It has an “A+” rating from the Better Business Bureau, and there are no pending complaints against the company with the Division of Consumer Affairs.

The company’s plumbing license and home improvement contractor (HIC) registration with the state are also in good standing, but the company may have a problem with the way its HIC registration is presented on invoices. More on that later.

We reached out to the company for an explanation of the charge.

For the better part of an hour, we talked to two company reps who insisted Jamar’s accounting of the day’s events were not accurate.

“We were there for more than five minutes,” a company rep said.

We asked if they had talked to the plumber who went to the home to get his side of the story. They said they did not. They were unable to explain what of Jamar’s accounting of the job was not accurate.

We asked what the normal pricing would be on a washer replacement, but they didn’t answer the question. They did say it’s company policy for a rep to give a customer a price before work was done, but Jamar said that didn’t happen.

We asked if it was possible the plumber made an error on the bill, or that he somehow mischarged Jamar.

“What [the customer] is saying was done is not accurate, and let’s say the pricing could have been off a little bit,” the rep said, but he was unable to offer any additional details about the job. “We offer a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. If you’re not happy for any reason we will do whatever it takes to make it right, no questions asked.”

We thanked the company for giving Jamar a refund, and the company said it would look into the pricing on that job. We invited them to call us back after they talked to the plumber who did the job, but we haven’t heard anything yet.

We told Jamar what the company said, and she still insists the plumber worked for only five minutes in her home.

“He didn’t rebuild anything. They can come and see that it’s the same old plumbing that was in there before – except for that washer,” she said.

While Jamar did get her refund, she said the faucet fix doesn’t seem to be working.

“[The plumber] told me that eventually it will be okay, and after a while it will stop, but hasn’t stopped yet. I have to do the same thing I had to do before to shut it,” she said. “I think I’m going to have to get a whole new unit, and I bet it won’t cost $407.”

Before You Hire Someone
During the conversation with A.J. Perri, we explained the problem with the HIC registration number on the invoice.

On the invoice, the company lists only a five digit number, which is a partial number. Full registration numbers begin with “13VH” and are followed by eight other numbers. Per the Contractors’ Registration Act (NJSA 56:8-136), those numbers must appear on company paperwork.

This is different from plumbing licenses, for example, which are specifically permitted by the state to be abbreviated.

Are we making a big deal about a partial number? Maybe. But when we visited Consumer Affairs’ public database to search for information on the partial number listed on the A.J. Perri paperwork, we were unable to find the number because it was incomplete. A call to Consumer Affairs cleared that up – but the complete number would have answered questions immediately.

The complete number does appear on the company’s web site.

Consumer Affairs did say the plumbing license associated with the company, held by Michael Perri, saw some trouble in 2010. Perri paid a $500 fine after a settlement with Consumer Affairs because the license number was not put on advertisements. That fine was paid in full and the matter was closed.

Before you hire any kind of contractor, make sure to check them out. State license and registration numbers are a great place to start. You can check those online at, or you can call Consumer Affairs at (800) 242-5846.

While you’re at it, ask Consumer Affairs if it has any complaints about the business you’re looking into, and for good measure, also check with the Better Business Bureau at or call (609) 588-0808.