Denver’s $99 Sewer Scope Scam

Denver’s $99 Sewer Scope Scam

Sewer scopes are not glamorous, but they are necessary.

Although I’m not one to use scare tactics nor over-exaggerate, there is a noticeable and alarming trend in the sewer scope (video pipeline inspection) industry, especially in Denver’s Mile High City and the metro area, that every consumer, home buyer, and Denver area REALTOR® should know…

$99 or discount sewer scope companies are undercutting the market and misleading consumers, home buyers, home owners and REALTORS®

<img alt-"sewer scope companies video pipeline inspection">

These companies claim to be “unbiased” in their advertisements and offerings when in fact, their website(s) clearly indicate they perform drain or sewer maintenance and sewer repair services! Are they truly an unbiased, no conflict of interest service contractor?

Especially when purchasing a home or if you’re having sewer problems, the question is, “Is cheaper better?” Sometimes! However, in the sewer scope industry, “Buyer beware!” there are fraudulent scams out there.

This happens in every service industry. Amateurs with little to no experience, large conglomerations or fly-by-night cheap rate companies enter the marketplace reflecting both the upside and downside of our free enterprise system, but none the less, their too good to be true, get-in-the-door tactics, cheap up-front service call rates as well as misleading marketing should be an alert to every consumer…

Not all sewer scope companies are honest or reputable and are daily taking advantage of consumers who don’t know nor understand their sewer systems nor these company’s tactics IN AN UNREGULATED INDUSTRY.

You may call around to get a sewer scope or video pipeline inspection for your residential or commercial property mainline sewer only to discover a wide disparity in price. Why is that? Well, my observations were recently confirmed in May 2013, when Denver CBS4 Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks uncovered first-hand what’s going on in Denver’s sewer scope video pipeline industry. Watch this video:

Wide Disparity In Sewer Estimates Prompts 4 On Your Side Consumer Investigation

With more and more plumbers and excavators acquiring camera systems, we have seen an increase demand to provide second opinion scopes.  Approximately 80% (by far the majority) of our findings differ from the original scope. These original scopes are usually performed by a company with a direct conflict of interest. The technicians appear to be very good in developing a convincing narrative during the inspection showing that an otherwise good sewer line needs replacement — even while the customer is watching the video screen with the technician.

Reza Kazemian, Director of Denver Wastewater Management, a division of Denver Public Works, told Denver CBS4 Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks, “More than half of the tapes [sewer scope videos] we review don’t need to be replaced.” 

After over ten years in this industry, this is what I have observed as well.

I recommend consumers, home buyers, home owners, and Denver area REALTORS® consider the following when looking for and obtaining a sewer scope or video pipeline inspection company or contractor for a residential or commercial property:

  1. Obtain a sewer video pipe inspection from a reputable, truly unbiased source; a company with “no skin in the game”, that receives no financial kickbacks or referral fees, but gives a professional, honest opinion of the sewer pipeline condition.
    • Why? By obtaining an honest evaluation of the sewer pipe work’s condition, you can make informed, non-pressured decisions. If in fact tree infiltration is to the point that it needs to be addressed, you can be in the driver’s seat and work within your time-line and budget.
  2. Avoid having “the cheaper or discount sewer guys” come out and take a look at your sewer pipeline.
    • Why?  Because these types of companies or individuals usually benefit more by charging less upfront and finding a “problem” so they can make up for the “cheap” sewer scope by doing the repair work themselves or referring the repair job with a kickback to an excavation company.
  3. Beware of plumbing or sewer scope companies that advertise as “unbiased”.
    • Why?  First, are they really and truly an “unbiased” source if they perform repair work? We see advertising all the time with the word “unbiased” or “no conflict of interest”, but yet when you dig a little deeper (like their website), it is apparent they perform repairs.
    • Again, these types of companies or individuals usually benefit more by charging less upfront. By finding a “problem” they can make up for the “cheap” sewer scope by doing the repair work themselves or referring the repair job to an excavation company and receiving a referral fee.
  4. Avoid high-pressure sales tactics to repair an over-exaggerated and untruthful diagnosis of the sewer line.
    • Why? Because there is an alternative! Not in all markets, but especially in the mile high city of Denver and metro area, you can have an honest conversation about your sewer’s condition with the right company, rather than a sales pitch. Savvy consumers and REALTORS® know that they are not necessarily experts when it comes to their sewer right!? That’s why it’s important to find out the facts (good, bad and ugly) from an expert with integrity.
  5. Beware of low quality, sub-par camera equipment.
    • Why? Not all cameras are the same. Generally, less cheap-rate sewer scope companies, if they are not part of a plumbing company (NOT Unbiased!), have lower-quality cameras and substandard camera equipment.
      • <img alt="bailey dolian realtor">A licensed REALTOR® recently pointed this out,“…Numerous are the times we’ve hired Pipe Spies to re-scope a line for one of our listings that was first scoped by a discount contractor who utilized sub-par equipment and misinterpreted the inspection results. As a real estate broker, I have to feel confident in the contractors I recommend to my clients, and referring our clients to Pipe Spies is a no-brainer for us.” — Bailey Dolian, Licensed Real Estate Broker, Laurie Erb & the Erb Team, RE/MAX of Cherry Creek
  6. Find out about the company.
    • Why? Many companies have recently entered this industry with very little experience in accurately diagnosing potential problems versus a common condition. They simply form an opinion that is inaccurate or misinterpret the condition or even exaggerate the condition. Some operate on a tight, shoestring budget because their business model lacks margin and they may then be tempted to cut corners.
  7. Some additional questions to consider asking:
    • How long have they been in business?
    • Are they properly insured?
    • Do they complete a background check and drug screen their technicians?
    • Do they leave a clean work space and clean up after themselves?
    • Do they explain the report in an understandable manner?
    • Do they provide a computer generated, easy to read report or is it hand written and difficult to understand?
    • Do they charge a cheap fee upfront and then add on numerous up-charge fees?
    • Does what they advertise or promote add up with what their website claims?

So if you think, “Cheaper is always better,” go ahead and roll the dice and take a gamble with one of the largest purchases and investments most consumers will ever make.

<img alt="warren rickford pipes spies">Warren Rickford is a blogger and the founder/owner and operator of Pipe Spies, Inc.® He is considered an expert in the sewer scope video pipeline industry, and his company was awarded the 2015 Best Businesses of Littleton Award in the Plumbing category by the Best Businesses of Littleton Award Program and voted 2015 Best Video Pipe Inspectors in Colorado with the Experience Pros Radio Show.  After having been vetted across a 16-layer accreditation process, Pipe Spies, Inc.® was approved from a customer service point of view to be listed in the Experience Pros Extreme Customer Service Directory. Warren can be contacted at warren@pipespies.com and you can also connect at:

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