Think for Yourself: Never Ask a Barber if You Need a Haircut – LifeLesson #13

roto rooter truck

“Trust everyone, but always cut the cards.”

— Anon

The Roto-Rooter Christmas Grinch

Two days before Christmas, the sewer backed up in my house.

My brother suggested that I try Roto-Rooter (slogan: We’re #1 in the number 2 business!). They charged him $65 to clean out his clogged sewer pipe. My regular plumber charges $95.

I gave Roto-Rooter a call.

“Helloooo, this is Roto-Rooter, Susan speaking.”

“Hi Susan, my name is Terry, I have a backed up sewer and need it cleaned out. I understand that you charge $65.”

Several seconds passed with no response.

“Hello,” I said.

“Yes, well we don’t have a $65 service. That might be Rapid Rooter. I can send a plumber over to give you a free estimate.”

A red flag started waving in my mind.

I thought, I’ll let them do the free estimate. How much could a simple job like this cost?  

“Okay,” I said, “send him over for a free estimate.”

“How will you be paying for the service, by credit card, check or cash?”

Another red flag went up.

“Credit card,” I replied.

The plumber arrives in an official red, white and blue Roto-Rooter truck.

He said, “Hi I’m Frank,” as he smiled and shook my hand.

We exchanged pleasantries then he quickly inspected my sewer setup.


Today is your lucky day!

“I can clean out your main sewer drain for only $225.”

“That sounds a little high. It’s only a 10 minute job.”

“The $225 is actually a Christmas present we are giving to our customers. We normally charge $300.”

“Really? I’d call that more of a Christmas present that Roto-Rooter is giving to itself, at the expense of its customers.”

“Would you rather have sewer water in your house?”

“No, I’d rather call someone else who will charge a fair price.”

“Okay. Have a good day,” He said, but he was probably thinking,

There are plenty of other easy marks willing to pay the Christmas ‘special’ price.

I called my regular plumber and paid the $95 to have the sewer pipe cleaned.

I wondered how many other innocent victims fell for this Grinch-like mumbo jumbo.

Your Car Will Crash and Burn!

This Roto-Rooter ploy reminded the cross-country trip my family took when I was 10 years old.


The engine in our 1964 Chevy Station Wagon started making a funny noise near Wichita, Kansas. My father stopped at a garage to have it checked out.

After a twenty minute wait, a greasy mechanic, with the nametag “Bob,” came out. He said,

“You need to replace the thermostat and you need a balancing rod.”

My dad replied, “Just replace the thermostat, Bob.”

“I highly recommend a new balancing rod. I wouldn’t drive this car another mile without it.”

“No thanks.”

After the mechanic left, I said, “Dad, I’m worried, it sounds like we really need that balancing rod.”

“We’ll be okay.”

While waiting for our car, I heard the same mechanic tell another customer, “Your car needs a new balancing rod. I would be afraid drive that car without it.”

I was stunned. A mechanic would actually lie to someone about his car?

The Lesson

The next time I smell a rat like Frank or Bob, I will avoid that business the same way I avoid clichés – like the plague!

Authors note:

These stories are my attempt to glean insights from the seemingly mundane incidents that occur in every day life. My plan is to capture these “eureka moments” and squeeze all the illumination and inspiration from them, before they can slip through my fingers.

Like the storytelling of Abraham Lincoln, I think one’s own personal stories can transform both the listener and the speaker.

Upcoming Presentations: 

February 17, 2016, 1:30 pm. “Life of Abraham Lincoln.” St Cyril School , Tucson, Arizona.

March 21, 2016, 7:00 am. “Finding Stories in Your Hero’s Journey.” Aztec Toastmasters. Tucson, Arizona.

April 9, 2016. “Storytelling and The Hero’s Journey.” Cometitive Edge Toastmasters. Tucson, Arizona.

April 14, 2016, 12:30 to 1:30. “Use Stories to Touch Hearts, Minds & Funny Bones, Like Abraham LIncoln Did.” Moon Valley Women’s Club, Phoenix, Arizona.

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12 Responses to “Think for Yourself: Never Ask a Barber if You Need a Haircut – LifeLesson #13”

  1. […] Think for Yourself: Never Ask a Barber if You Need a Haircut – LifeLesson #13 […]

  2. Ron Pickle says:

    Very interesting headline and it says it all, you are so right, always be alert and give due importance to the red flags flashing when you talk to a contractor.

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