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  • #31
    Re: Flat Rate Pricing

    Originally posted by DuckButter View Post
    Good call, a KS replacement, disposal, toilet, CI flange, DW, WH, silcock replace, shower valve stem replace, etc...all standard.
    One of the most seemingly overlooked factors in this topic are the unknown variables.
    When a call comes in for a wet spot on the ceiling below a bathroom, whats the flat rate if it's not under any specific fixture?
    How many hours will that take?
    This scenario doesn't advocate either practice, just a curveball I get thrown alot.

    There is a diagnostic fee, I use my micro to find leaks now, then I apply the diagnostic fee to the est given, if the customer does the work, great, if they chose not to, then I collect the diagnostic fee and leave Leaks don't usually take any longer then an hour to find, usually 30 mins
    sigpic

    Robert

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    • #32
      Re: Flat Rate Pricing

      Originally posted by drtyhands View Post
      the flat rate plumbers all charge extra for unseen issues.



      This may be true for some companies, I don't do this. I have been doing service work for a long time and once I look at the job, I know what it's going to take to complete the job.

      Every once in awhile a suprise may pop up, I will just take the lose then, you can't win them all every time.
      sigpic

      Robert

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      • #33
        Re: Flat Rate Pricing

        Originally posted by DuckButter
        One of the most seemingly overlooked factors in this topic are the unknown variables.
        When a call comes in for a wet spot on the ceiling below a bathroom, whats the flat rate if it's not under any specific fixture?
        How many hours will that take?
        This scenario doesn't advocate either practice, just a curveball I get thrown alot.
        When you have a wet spot in a ceiling, you diagnose the problem. If it isn't something obvious, like a toilet or bathtub leaking on the floor above, you bid the time to find the problem. You can't bid what you can't see. Then, when you've either opened the ceiling or made a hole for your SeeSnake, and you know what the problem is, you bid it. It's unfortunate we don't have X-ray vision yet, but there you go.

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        • #34
          Re: Flat Rate Pricing

          Are you service guys really going to start this argument again? I'm starting to believe this new guy is a plant, after all this is an old argument. He seemed to find it. We have had disgruntled members lately. I'm not saying he is one, but think about it.
          the dog

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          • #35
            Re: Flat Rate Pricing

            Dog, why are you surprised? I'm not. Apparently this is a topic that can be argued in circles for years and years

            I can name all the flat rate guys and all the t&m guys in alphabetical order now

            I did notice it was an old thread the other day, but this topic just gets people's juices going even if they are repeating themselves.
            I love my plumber

            "My Hero"

            Welcome, Phoebe Jacqueline!

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            • #36
              Re: Flat Rate Pricing

              Dog, so far nobody's arguing....I hope.

              I just think this topic shouldn't be such a taboo here, I like to think this forum is just for this type discussion.
              I also think the regulars here are more than mature enough to have differences without making it personal or insultive. (well, ok, maybe not me..but I'll try)

              Robert, in a wet spot on ceiling scenario I wimp out and go hourly, I tell the customer my first hour is fixed regardless how long I'm there...IF - I can't get them to recall when it first showed or what fixture was used when it showed.
              It's usually a flange leak, w/overflow or caulking leak.
              If it turns out to be something small I'll ask if they want me to look at anything else while I'm there, as they pay for the hour.
              One job turned out to be the first of a large number of corrosions on the hidden copper water pipe in the ceiling.
              It wound up becoming a bath remodel/repipe, as they decided to just do it while the pipes were exposed, I used the first charge toward the overall estimate.

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              • #37
                Gotta Ask

                But when has service plumbing been cut and dry?


                Just for example, a tour of my recent week in service plumbing:


                Disposal replacement, switching to Evolutions series which totally changes the end outlet waste completely, basket strainer nut completely shot, unexpectedly found when wiggling the pipe loose from the disposal. The nut was pot metal and the basket strainer had been leaking for awhile.


                Toilet I set friday had a plastic flange that snapped by barely tightening the bolts, had to pull it back up and use a spanner as that's all I had on a friday evening and knew it would work.


                Icemaker filter replacement that has embedded john guest fittings that would not stop leaking whatsoever, had to reinstall the old filter as I couldn't abandon the water supply to the fridge.


                Sump pump replacement that had the last 90 turning to go vertical was a contaminated solvent weld joint from years ago.....I found it when I "carefully" raised the piping as it was loose tethered with strapping heading out the back wall. That 90 snapped and you could tell the solvent weld joint was garbage. I was actually glad it broke then and there than later.


                Monday and wednesday were 2 Delta shower valve replacements in the walls, going from 1500 series to 1700 series, the second went quite a deal quicker than the first as the second one was a shower only. That first one was a real SOB on many levels and took longer than expected, 4 hours.



                In summary, the only customer that I gave a general price on was the disposal and I warned her of the possibility of it not matching up. I've had this exact type of customer that wants set pricing over the phone....only to find out that when you get there its a whole different ballgame.

                I'm going back this week to rework that entire sink drain and replace the strainer, collect on the 1.5 I had replacing the disposal. << Encountered problems wiring that new disposal as well.

                I know you all have seen the situation when you put your hands inside the tank of a toilet and replace that flapper....the fill valve is at the same age or older. You're taking a huge chance that fill valve malfunctions, and even if it doesn't, you'll get blamed for it if it happens shortly after you have been inside that tank.

                Unless you're work detail covers full replacement of everything in the tank, you'll be out of that loop entirely.


                A customer can become highly offended if they have a leaking shutoff valve to their toilet and you give them a price to replace everything down to the tank to bowl bolts to that toilet with that price. Are you fixing the problem or are you baiting the work with adding more that needs to be done?

                Last I checked, I go and get my windshield wipers changed on my truck and didn't get forced to spend money on new floor mats and oil change, filter. It wasn't a package deal to get the wipers.

                I bought what I needed, not what came prepackaged as a take it or leave it scenario.

                You already know where I am on this gammut and I do very well on my charges. I've been doing this long enough to guesstimate what it'll take to do the work...and if it takes longer? I'm covered as the rolling clock covers that extra effort involves.


                The majority of people understand that circumstances with difficult jobs or unexpected happenings can really change what they spend.

                Thanks to Roto-Rooter......you're personal loan plumber *you'll need a personal loan to pay them off* , their flat rate system sends their clientell into my open arms wanting to spend money only on what they need money spent on, not a specified chart of what makes the plumber a sizeable profit notated by some company that doesn't care how much you make.


                I can see flat rate working in some instances....but I've never seen service plumbing go in simplistic fashion where every job is the same without any additional work add-ons. Never.
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                • #38
                  Re: Flat Rate Pricing

                  Thank you Dunbar,
                  When the flat rate is given the customer is under the impression that it is the bottom line.What they don't know is 75% of the time there is inevitably going to be extra charges.Like the toilet Dunbar is talking about,What's the flat rate to change a supply stop $85.00.What's the price to change a flange,$175.00.To change a ballcock assembly,$90.00.So what are we looking at here realisticly.Worst case scenario,"Well ma'am $800.00 should cover me going through everything on your toilet and giving you the final product you want.

                  No disrespect to the honest plumbers who use flat rate.This is my opinion only.I have a friend who uses flat rate and have no problem poking him with a cattle prod

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                  • #39
                    Re: Flat Rate Pricing

                    Originally posted by Dunbar
                    But when has service plumbing been cut and dry?
                    It never is, and that's why there's creativity needed in putting together a flat rate price.

                    Your plumbing scenarios are no different than the kind I run into.

                    You're taking a huge chance that fill valve malfunctions, and even if it doesn't, you'll get blamed for it if it happens shortly after you have been inside that tank.
                    Yeah - and it's embarrassing when the customer calls and says, "Why didn't you replace that while you were here?" When you protest that you were trying to save them money, they complain that it's going to cost more to get you back out than if you did it while you were there. It's always a good idea to replace a fill valve if it's cheap or more than a couple of years old.

                    A customer can become highly offended if they have a leaking shutoff valve to their toilet and you give them a price to replace everything down to the tank to bowl bolts to that toilet with that price. Are you fixing the problem or are you baiting the work with adding more that needs to be done?
                    But the flat rate book has prices for minor tank rebuild, major tank rebuild, changing a flapper, a fill valve, a supply tube or any single part. All the prices in the book are not just for complete rebuilds.

                    Last I checked, I go and get my windshield wipers changed on my truck and didn't get forced to spend money on new floor mats and oil change, filter. It wasn't a package deal to get the wipers.
                    And yet mechanics are almost always flat rate. Hmm.

                    But go somewhere to get your vehicle "serviced" and you'll get plugs, points, condenser, oil change, filter changes, and so on. All for one "low" price.

                    You seem to be arguing that if you're flat rate, you have to charge for a large collection of problems rather than doing a simple repair. Yet, when charging by the hour it's not uncommon to say, "That was a simple job, and you've got time left - is there anything else I can do while I'm here?"

                    There are flat rate companies that pay commission and train their "techs" to upsell as much as they can. But not all flat rate companies are like that. (I'm certainly not.) However, it would be irresponsible to work for someone and not tell them that they need some preventative maintenance. People don't schedule a new toilet flapper every three years, though perhaps they should. A swollen flapper can flood a house if the fill valve fails. An undetected leak can destroy a cabinet and a floor.

                    Auto manufacturers and oil change shops do schedule preventative maintenance. Flat rate service contracts give at least a yearly inspection of the plumbing to detect those leaks and problems, and usually at a very low price.

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                    • #40
                      Re: Flat Rate Pricing

                      Herk,
                      You nailed it bro'

                      "CREATIVE ESTIMATING"

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                      • #41
                        Re: Flat Rate Pricing

                        Originally posted by Dirtyhands
                        What's the flat rate to change a supply stop $85.00.What's the price to change a flange,$175.00.To change a ballcock assembly,$90.00.So what are we looking at here realisticly.Worst case scenario,"Well ma'am $800.00 should cover me going through everything on your toilet and giving you the final product you want.
                        I know what you mean. I ran into a toilet about a year ago that had been done by an out-of-town flat rater. The lady had called me because the flush lever hadn't been replaced. When I told her it was also leaking between the tank and bowl, she irately exclaimed: "It better not be! I paid that plumber $380 to repair that toilet! And he had to get a part from Salt Lake!"

                        The plumber, if he was a plumber, had replaced the tank-to-bowl set and the flapper, using a thin vinyl OEM aftermarket washer and smearing it with silicone for good measure. He had also used cad-plated bolts, something I would never have done.

                        I replaced the trip lever, the bolts, and used a foam Am. Std washer with the ridge cut off from the truck, and no silicone, and I'll warrant that seal for ten years if necessary. Essentially, I replaced all the parts he replaced and came in at less than half his cost.

                        My FR book's price for a non-brass major toilet rebuild comes in at about a quarter of the $800 you imagined. But then, I adjusted the prices in the book to reflect the area I'm in. If the bottom line doesn't increase, I may regret it. :-)

                        No disrespect to the honest plumbers who use flat rate.
                        Thanks. I hope I'm one of them. But just as my small-town customers depend on me when they have a problem, I depend on them to make enough money to run the business, and competing with the local $65 - $70 per hour t&m guys isn't going to keep the tank filled.

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                        • #42
                          Oh really?

                          Originally posted by Herk View Post



                          Yeah - and it's embarrassing when the customer calls and says, "Why didn't you replace that while you were here?" When you protest that you were trying to save them money, they complain that it's going to cost more to get you back out than if you did it while you were there. It's always a good idea to replace a fill valve if it's cheap or more than a couple of years old.
                          And with that note you open yourself to more liability because the fill valve is connected to a supply line that "most" will replace knowing the fact it'll leak if reused. Also, you're now messing with a valve that hasn't been turned off in years and not all packing nuts turn to reset the packing gland due to age. I always replace flappers with the toilet running with the fill valve held up if need be in regards to Mansfields. 400A's have less of a risk of interruptive damage when done in this fashion, unlike the old ballcocks that are sensitive to any unusual movement due to those upper/lower discs having memories.

                          Who's the judge on whether that fill valve is a necessary expenditure to the customer? All the customer understands is that it was working before you got there. Suggestive upselling in a flat rate book open in front of a customer can have disturbing results, especially when a time and material guy is charging materials and maybe 15-30 minutes more time. The customer understands it in both scenarios, one is significantly higher in price though.

                          Had a friend in florida have a toilet reset which was $300, $200 to replace the shutoff that was leaking, $90 for the trip charge less than 6 miles from her home. Almost $600 for the reset of an existing toilet because the husband blew the wax ring out accidentally.

                          The female friend of mine called me crying, wanting to know why it was so expensive and why it cost so much, knowing the repair was 1.35 hours to complete the task, 2 hours if you want the service tech's time from the shop to his local eatery sitting in a van munching his lunch down before he gets there.


                          But the flat rate book has prices for minor tank rebuild, major tank rebuild, changing a flapper, a fill valve, a supply tube or any single part. All the prices in the book are not just for complete rebuilds.

                          But in the mind of a flat rater, you upsell and charge as much as you can because you know the more product you touch, the more you make and that is the general consensus that most national plumbing companies follow since they are guided by 25 and 30% margins above and beyond what they charge. That's why I hear of Roto-Rooter guys charging $1200 to replace a toilet and the closet bend back to the stack and was there 2 hours and gone. Hourly rate at that go is around $500/hour and of course, you're making money.

                          Here's the way the mentality of most flat raters follow in this business on the spectrum that they are worrying about the T&M guys are going out of business?

                          "Get in, Get out, charge as much as you can because you're not coming back."

                          A local plumbing shop went flat rate 2 years ago and he lost all his repeat customers, lost all his lead/best service plumbers because charging $250 to rebuild a toilet that cost $100 to the same customer years prior is highway robbery.




                          And yet mechanics are almost always flat rate. Hmm.
                          What else do you compare yourself to? I don't fit that mold when we are talking differences of professions across the line. Compare yourself to another plumber to have some credibility to your statement.

                          But go somewhere to get your vehicle "serviced" and you'll get plugs, points, condenser, oil change, filter changes, and so on. All for one "low" price.
                          And I'm still waiting to see the buckling customer who had work done by a flat rate plumber who actually agreed with the inflated pricing and spoke highly of the experience. Mainly, there's a reason now why they're talking to me because I'm performing the work at a higher level of respect and professionalism without trying to buy the new 454 chevy motor for my cigar boat I entertain myself and the ladies on the weekend with.


                          You seem to be arguing that if you're flat rate, you have to charge for a large collection of problems rather than doing a simple repair. Yet, when charging by the hour it's not uncommon to say, "That was a simple job, and you've got time left - is there anything else I can do while I'm here?"
                          I'm going solely by the consistency and reputation of those who flat rate jobs and keep building the tab like they're pulling the bar at a slot machine at a gambling boat that keeps paying out. There's a point where you leave your reputation as a plumber and now become a victimizer in your attitude that "I deserve more than anyone in charging you for these repairs."


                          There are flat rate companies that pay commission and train their "techs" to upsell as much as they can. But not all flat rate companies are like that. (I'm certainly not.)
                          Oh, of course not.

                          However, it would be irresponsible to work for someone and not tell them that they need some preventative maintenance.
                          We all do that but it usually doesn't surround $100 bills like flat raters are notorious for doing so.


                          People don't schedule a new toilet flapper every three years, though perhaps they should. A swollen flapper can flood a house if the fill valve fails. An undetected leak can destroy a cabinet and a floor
                          .

                          Are you a plumber? Explain how a flapper when leaking floods a house, especially when the contents of the tank is draining into a 2.5" S trap with no obstruction. We all understand the leak theory but when you throw your danger hat on with your flat rate book in front of them discussing all the upcharges they are embarking upon, you know the routine. I don't have to repeat. It's called controlled buying and if you impose the ritual of scare tactics to feed your economic desires, you are no match on my intellect.


                          Auto manufacturers and oil change shops do schedule preventative maintenance. Flat rate service contracts give at least a yearly inspection of the plumbing to detect those leaks and problems, and usually at a very low price.
                          And to see that you purposely left out that "very low price"....it's very telling of your agenda of probably why you're here and how you practice your profession of plumbing.

                          Keep your responses coming as you're my entertainment for today on this subject matter. Nothing worse than greed acting out their intentions to justify the means that it's okay to rip the customer off. And if you're the first flat rater to NOT rip a customer off or leave them with a sore *** after you've blungeoned their checkbook, well....you're special in you're own sort of way. I bet you're one of them fellows that joins plumbing forums with a book to sell "How I make money Flat Rating" so they flock to your idea. Why else would you start here drudging up a nearly 3 year old thread.

                          Remember, guys like you keep me employed just like unlicensed handymen/plumbers. I bet that feels good being categorized just like you're trying to match a plumber with a auto mechanic. Pfffft.

                          Continue..
                          Last edited by DUNBAR PLUMBING; 10-15-2007, 10:38 AM.
                          Northern Kentucky Plumbers Twitter Feed | Plumbing Videos

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                          • #43
                            Re: Flat Rate Pricing

                            I have told this forum this story before,
                            About 10 years ago when a guy who could not hang in construction because he was not productive enough went to one of the big book service outfits he found himself frustrated because they quit paging him to go to customers houses to replace toilets that needed flappers only.He quit because he could not get himself to do this.

                            "If I don't rip-em off someone else will.I'm gonna tap this well till it runs dry"
                            A good buddy told me he quit a company because of this type of view.
                            gear junkie

                            This is only the worst horror story.There are an equal amount of hourly plumbers milking the homeowner base

                            I.M.H.O.

                            I am glad This forum can show the readers both sides of this highly debated issue.

                            Adam

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                            • #44
                              Re: Flat Rate Pricing

                              Dunbar,
                              I think you and I need to go and get a DNA test.Even though you are better spoken than I

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                              • #45
                                Re: Flat Rate Pricing

                                Originally posted by Dunbar
                                Had a friend in florida have a toilet reset which was $300, $200 to replace the shutoff that was leaking, $90 for the trip charge less than 6 miles from her home. Almost $600 for the reset of an existing toilet because the husband blew the wax ring out accidentally.
                                I can't speak to what the cost of doing business is for the Florida company. I've seen articles about Florida companies and the supertrucks and so on, and yet, I have a hard time imagining any company charging that much for resetting a toilet.

                                But in the mind of a flat rater, you upsell and charge as much as you can because you know the more product you touch, the more you make and that is the general consensus that most national plumbing companies follow since they are guided by 25 and 30% margins above and beyond what they charge.
                                I suppose that's why I'm not rich - I've always been one to undersell and then give more than I bid. And when in T&M I would often knock off an hour or two from the 5 - 6 hour bill.

                                "Get in, Get out, charge as much as you can because you're not coming back."
                                I heard exactly those words from a Mr. Rooter guy at the counter. It only took him about three years to go bankrupt.

                                A local plumbing shop went flat rate 2 years ago and he lost all his repeat customers, lost all his lead/best service plumbers because charging $250 to rebuild a toilet that cost $100 to the same customer years prior is highway robbery.
                                If the expense was too much, I would always offer the option to replace the toilet instead. But when you're sometimes dealing with toilets that are nearly a hundred years old and still have the tank screwed to the wall, the job can get hairy - and take hours. Add up hours and parts, and what does it come to? Add mileage, too, while you're at it. It's been a number of years since I read Frank Blau asking anyone charging less than a hundred an hour to show him his books and prove he was actually making money.

                                What else do you compare yourself to?
                                S'cuse me, but you were the one who brought up the windshield wipers. I didn't compare myself to them, but they do use flat rate, as does McDonald's, Albertson's, Techlawn, and most turnkey businesses you'd care to name.

                                And I'm still waiting to see the buckling customer who had work done by a flat rate plumber who actually agreed with the inflated pricing and spoke highly of the experience.
                                Well then, do a search for Flat Rate Plumbing on Google, look at the testimonials of customers at the plumbing websites. Somebody must like it.

                                I'm going solely by the consistency and reputation of those who flat rate jobs and keep building the tab like they're pulling the bar at a slot machine at a gambling boat that keeps paying out. There's a point where you leave your reputation as a plumber and now become a victimizer in your attitude that "I deserve more than anyone in charging you for these repairs."
                                So why do all the flat rate companies I've seen start out with the dictum that you need to know what it costs you to operate? And why does the DEX phone advertising service say that plumbers are the second-worst people to collect money from? Are they all doing as well as you?

                                Are you a plumber? Explain how a flapper when leaking floods a house, especially when the contents of the tank is draining into a 2.5" S trap with no obstruction.
                                Yes, I'm a plumber, and I've been in for repairs when a swollen flapper ruined new floors. Please read what I write and don't claim I say things that I don't. I did not say LEAKING flapper, now, did I? I said SWOLLEN. When they swell to plug the overflow at the bottom, and they can and do, and the fill valve sticks, there's no place for the water to go but out. It wouldn't matter if you had a 15" trapway if the water couldn't get to it. Next time you see an old black rubber flapper sunken into the Douglas valve and it's gotten soft and swollen, imagine how that swollen bulb can plug the rectangular hole at the base of the tube.

                                Keep your responses coming as you're my entertainment for today on this subject matter. Nothing worse than greed acting out their intentions to justify the means that it's okay to rip the customer off. And if you're the first flat rater to NOT rip a customer off or leave them with a sore *** after you've blungeoned their checkbook, well....you're special in you're own sort of way. I bet you're one of them fellows that joins plumbing forums with a book to sell "How I make money Flat Rating" so they flock to your idea. Why else would you start here drudging up a nearly 3 year old thread.
                                The reason I am here is what I stated earlier - doing research into flat rate pricing. I've been reading everything I can find on it on the internet for months and I followed a flat rate link to this forum (as well as several others.)

                                If you think that a one-man shop plumber who lives in a town of 10,000 people and had a personal income around $10k last year is out to get rich writing a book, then enjoy your imaginary world. Nor am I out to destroy my business by charging rates that make my customers' eyes pop. But I do believe, unquestionably, that if I don't do something to make a wee bit more income, I'll soon be on the street corner selling pencils or worse.

                                After over thirty years in business, you'll be hard-pressed to find a customer who thinks I ripped them off, or who wouldn't hire me again. This morning, I went on a call and charged a $38 deployment fee to stop a leak that the local drain cleaner couldn't find. Oh, but you should have seen the tears in that customer's eyes when I handed him the bad news.

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