Happy Economy Tales: Good Plumbing

It's the morning after that big Thanksgiving feast and the kitchen sink is clogged. This is good news for Kevin Shaw of Kevin Shaw Plumbing. The day after thanksgiving is the busiest day of the year for people in his line of work. NPR's Alex Cohen catches up with him between service calls.

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ALEX COHEN, host:

This Thanksgiving week, we've been offering a little respite from all the glum financial news. We have been checking in with people who are doing all right despite the bleak economy. This day after the big turkey feast, we hear from an industry almost guaranteed a boom in business. We're talking about plumbing. Kevin Shaw runs Kevin Shaw Plumbing here in southern California. Welcome to the program.

Mr. KEVIN SHAW (Kevin Shaw Plumbing): Glad to be with you.

COHEN: So I have heard that the day after Thanksgiving, plumbing companies can do as much as 50 percent more in business. Why is that? What is going on the day after?

Mr. SHAW: We see a big increase in the number of people that call us with a plugged-up kitchen sink or maybe the toilet has plugged up. Those are the two big plumbing calls that we'll get today.

COHEN: And so are you expecting a lot more calls today? What's it been like so far?

Mr. SHAW: It's been busy, definitely your traditional day after Thanksgiving where the phone starts ringing earlier in the day, and it just keeps on ringing. We're going to have a lot of people. They're going to have a lot of company over from yesterday and a lot of the people trying to be helpful in the kitchen, and they're going to put those potato peels down the drain and carrot peels and all the stuff that normally wouldn't go down the kitchen sink drain.

COHEN: Kevin, I've been one of those people before, a few years back. I actually had a busted kitchen sink on Thanksgiving Day, and I couldn't find anyone open that day. By the next day, I was in a panic. Do you get the panicked calls the day after?

Mr. SHAW: Oh, yeah. Yeah, definitely. You know, people, they're going to find out that a lot of the plumbers have not opened and that maybe their regular plumber that they call always is not going to answer their phone or say that they'll get right back to them. They get a voice machine or something.

COHEN: Because you can capitalize on people's need the day after Thanksgiving, do you charge any more today?

Mr. SHAW: No, we don't. To me, it's just another work day.

COHEN: Can you think back to last year, the day after Thanksgiving - what was the most interesting call you received?

Mr. SHAW: We had a customer call in Pasadena. Their kitchen sink drain was just completely plugged up. One of the guys was out there and he couldn't get it unstopped. So he called me and I came over, and no matter what we did - we would run the cable, it would seem to want to clear and then it would stop up again. And we ended up having to go underneath the house and cut a section of the drain line out. And it was incredible. The whole drain was just completely packed between turkey grease and potato peels. It was like mush in the drain and it just kept collapsing, and it was like a big sponge where the water - it would just expand.

COHEN: Kevin, I imagine doing what you do, you can't have much of an appetite for leftovers on a day like today.

Mr. SHAW: No, I probably will be eating a hamburger or something today.

COHEN: Well, I wish you a very good day, and thanks for taking the time to speak with us.

Mr. SHAW: Absolutely. Have a great time.

COHEN: You, too. That's plumber Kevin Shaw.

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