MILWAUKEE — When sewage is bubbling up in your basement, do you have a plumber you trust? Or, do you have to call around? Two homeowners say the plumber they called gave them the run around only to later discover he's not a licensed plumber at all.
Contact 6's Katrina Cravy approached Alan Barr on his property. Cravy was joined by Karen Crane and Judy Strobel. Before Cravy could say anything, Barr knew exactly why they were there.
"Is the about the $600?" Barr asked.
Crane and Strobel were not happy with Barr's business — ABarr Plumbing and Restoration Company.
Both women hired his company when they had water and sewage in their basements. They found the company in an advertisement in the Yellow Pages.
"First of all, the 24-hour emergency service that was right away. He had low rates bonded and insured," Crane said about hiring Barr.
But, Barr didn't come back the next day after paying him $600 in cash. So, Crane called the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau and Contact 6.
Barr told Cravy he tried to make things right with Crane.
"I was actually willing to give her a truck to end it..was I not?" Barr said.
"He offered you a truck?" Cravy asked Crane, but before Crane could respond — Barr chimed in.
"Yes, I did. I swear to God," Barr said.
"Do you understand how crazy that sound?" Cravy said to Barr.
"Because I have no money. I got in an accident and I haven't worked in quite a while," Barr said.
They are excuses both women had heard before.
Strobel says she was constantly calling him to get the job finished in her basement.
"He took this wall out for me and he had to put a new wall in because it was deteriorating," Strobel explained as she showed Cravy her basement.
Strobel says she paid Barr $43,000 — mostly in cash — and she won't know if it was done right until the next big rain.
Just like Crane, Strobel called the BBB.
The BBB then called Contact 6 about Barr.
Barr is not a licensed plumber. He doesn't have his contractor's license. Barr's business is not registered with the state and he has an F-rating with the BBB.
"We have complaints that people were generally paying in cash that the work was not started or finished to completion," said Jim Temmer, the President of the Wisconsin BBB.
Cravy asked Barr about not having the proper licenses.
" Yeah, a sewer drain you don't need a plumbing license for and that's mainly what I do. But, you still have to have a contractor;s license, which I work under and he's in jail. He got it for drunk driving," Barr explained.
Barr says he was going to put new tires on his car and get Crane's money.
Crane says she's been hearing that since May.
Cravy asked Barr if he had anyone to run him to grab the money to pay Crane. Barr said he probably could.
"You write the ending to this story," Cravy told Barr.
Thankfully, Barr made good on his promise and brought Cravy $600 in cash, which Cravy handed over to Crane the next morning.
"Very surprised. Very happy. Thank you," Crane said about getting her money back.
"What did you learn from this whole thing?" Cravy asked Crane.
"Not to pay cash — for one thing — and just be careful," Crane responded.
You can see why it's important to choose a plumber before you need one.
"Do your homework. Ask friends ask relatives for recommendation and please contact us at the BBB," Temmer advised.