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Thread: The age-old septic question: Additives.....?

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    Default The age-old septic question: Additives.....?

    As you septic guys all know, we always get asked on pumping jobs, "Is there anything I can put in my tank....?" Or they will say, "We put in RidX every month, do you think it does any good?"

    We have always been very reluctant to endorse or encourage the use of any additives at all. Rather we tell them to do the math and figure out how often they could pump their tank out for what they are spending on additives. We suggest pumping more often if they wish to be proactive with their septic maintenance. In fact, in our septic informational brochure we hand out we very much discourage the use of additives. However, this approach could be a turnoff for some customers as it would appear that we are trying to sell more pumping and don't want the additives cutting into our sales.

    On the other side of the coin, to actually endorse a product has been hard, since we all know that there are 10 fly-by-night septic snake oil phone solicitor septic additive companies for every reputable outfit. How would one decide what product is safe and beneficial?

    Over the course of several years we have been on a quest to find a product that we could trust enough to stock and sell to customers to keep them from wasting money on worthless products. After a lot of looking, reading, studying, learning basic microbiology, how the products actually work, etc., we stumbled upon a customer who was using a product that appeared to work well, as he had a very large family and had not pumped for 5 years and his tank looked very clean, he had a filtered pump vault and the filters were fairly clean, all in all it looked good. I called the company and learned what I could about the product, which is unique in comparison with any other bacterial product on the market in several respects. It made sense and they have a history of government work, treatment plants, pond and lagoon restoration, etc.

    We ordered some and have sold a few doses to customers. We do not actively sell the product, but when someone asks the question we simply answer that we stock a product we feel comfortable with. It sells itself to those that ask, and at this point the only time I would sell it to someone who didn't ask is if they had really bad habits that were contributing to premature solids accumulation in the tank, specifically the floating scum layer.

    I know there are numerous septic guys on here. I have some questions for you.
    1. Do you stock bacterial products?
    2. How hard do you sell them?
    3. How did you decide what product to recommend, and what is different or unique about it that makes you trust it?
    4. Do you understand the microbiology enough to be able to explain why your product works better than the Lowe's or Home Depot varieties?
    5. Do you feel that it cuts into your pumping sales, like if somebody uses your "good" additive do they pump less often?


    I am told that homeowners who use additives are much more likely to pump their tanks. First of all, they are proactive about maintenance in the first place, and second they do something every month or two that reminds them of their system, whereas others fall into the "out of sight, out of mind" philosophy.

    I'm just asking since I am still not quite wrapped around this whole additive mindset. It's a 180 degree switch from our previous viewpoint and I want to make sure we are doing the right thing. Plus I don't feel like rewriting the brochure.
    Kendall
    www.westseptic.com

    "Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and their politicians as a joke." Will Rogers

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    DRAINSMITH (07-27-2012)

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    Why couldn't you schedule a maintenance/inspection? If there is nothing to pump, it shows it works. Whether it needs to be pumped or not, it still needs to be inspected. With this, could you not make it on both ends. Could you sell a cheaper inspection if you don't have to pump? Without an inspection I would be hesitant because I see the HO trying to go after you should something happen....stuff didn't work, they waited too long to open it up.... Just curious.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gettinit View Post
    Without an inspection I would be hesitant because I see the HO trying to go after you should something happen....stuff didn't work, they waited too long to open it up.... Just curious.
    That would be a long shot for any homeowner. At every pumpout our inspection report/invoice has a section where we place our recommended service interval, plus they get a magnet with their next recommended pump date on it, plus they get a reminder via phone or mail when their tank comes due on our calendar. We are not lengthening our recommended service intervals with the use of bacteria.
    Kendall
    www.westseptic.com

    "Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and their politicians as a joke." Will Rogers

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    My feeling is they can waste their money on whatever they want to waste it on...
    If they want it I should provide it...
    "99% of Being Smart...
    Is Knowing What You're Dumb At"


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    Kendall, we've had a relationship with Cape Cod Biochemical for 30 years. They are straight shooters and have supported our industry since they began. Weather their product is superior to others, I don't know. I stock a case or two of the CCLS bacteria and recomend it when a customer is on Chemo or heavy antibiotics.

    The thing I worry about with bacteria is the customer figuring if a little is good, a lot is better. Consider this, you have a heavy paper user and you sell them some bacteria. They decide to add "just a litte more". Now instead of breaking down the scum mat a little better, they have casued it to semi liquify and disperse itself into the whole clear zone in the middle of the tank. Pretty soon everything is backing up in the house because all of that stuff has either plugged the bio filter prematurely, or has the drainfield full of goo.

    I've seen it happen to a competitors customer. I jetted the drainfield and got it operational again. The whole thing was full of what looked like wet paper towels.

    I really wish I felt better about selling bacteria because it is an easy sell and has a good profit margin. I just can't do it and I don't recomend that you do it with the exceptions of extreme cases such as I do. Good luck in your decision, I know it's a tough one.

    By the way, I have to upmost respect for you and your way of doing business. I'm glad you are carefully exploring all of your options. It says a lot about you as a business man and a person in general!
    Clinkscales Portable Toilets
    & Septic Service

    http://www.ClinkscalesSeptic.com
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    SewerRat (07-28-2012)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Redwood View Post
    My feeling is they can waste their money on whatever they want to waste it on...
    If they want it I should provide it...
    Well, that's a little bit why we are starting. Soooooo many people ask the question, and if we just discourage all use of additives it sort of looks like we are trying to get more pumping which could be bad. On top of that, the people with the additive mindset will most likely purchase something to use anyway, so in one sense for us to provide a product that is at the very minimum safe and will not damage their system, and at the maximum will actually make their system last longer. Furthermore, if they want it and I don't have it I'm leaving money on the table, right?
    Kendall
    www.westseptic.com

    "Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and their politicians as a joke." Will Rogers

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gettinit View Post
    Why couldn't you schedule a maintenance/inspection? If there is nothing to pump, it shows it works. Whether it needs to be pumped or not, it still needs to be inspected. With this, could you not make it on both ends. Could you sell a cheaper inspection if you don't have to pump? Without an inspection I would be hesitant because I see the HO trying to go after you should something happen....stuff didn't work, they waited too long to open it up.... Just curious.
    I have a couple of places that have risers that I'll go check on once a year. I take my sludge judge, dip the tank and recomend pumping or not. I'll charge them a discounted service call because it only takes a couple of minutes to do. They are happy, I'm happy and the septic system is happy!
    Clinkscales Portable Toilets
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    http://www.ClinkscalesSeptic.com
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    Gettinit (07-28-2012)

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    agree; ccls

    I don't push it. I keep a case in the shop and if someone wants something that is what I recommend. I've (kind of surprisingly) had some success using it to sweeten up particularly foul smelling tanks.

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    Trent, what product was your competitor selling? I can see that happening with a product that has a lot of enzymes versus actual live bacteria. The product I found I have not seen advertised in trade publications, but it would be hard to overdose. I has an initial quart that you apply after pumping (liquid), then a packet they flush down once a month. It is sold in a kit that is a year's supply. Plus it is 100% bacteria, no enzymes. The other alternative is a quart of the liquid every 6 months. Basically if I don't sell it to them, they can't add it.

    I am with you on being careful. I have almost no faith in RidX, Roebic, or the other popular box store varieties as they are mostly enzyme based with a small concentration of some basic bacillus bacteria. CCLS was right at the top of my list due to the reputation of the company.

    I had a customer cancel us the other day because he found an additive that he had utmost faith in. It had poison warning labels all over the bucket, and it said to only mix it in a steel bucket or a plastic bucket with the numbers 3 or 5 in the triangle on the bottom. NEVER mix in a galvanized bucket as chemical reaction will occur. Product will get VERY HOT when mixed with water. It sounded like an all-out chemical warfare on the septic biology.
    Kendall
    www.westseptic.com

    "Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and their politicians as a joke." Will Rogers

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    Kendall, I'm sorry but I don't know what it was. It could have been something the HO had bought themselves.
    Clinkscales Portable Toilets
    & Septic Service

    http://www.ClinkscalesSeptic.com
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