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yet another long-winded flatrate debate

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  • Re: yet another long-winded flatrate debate

    Originally posted by Plumber Rick
    i charge for the 2 flexes and my time. if it under a 1/2 hour, they will pay for a partial call. if over a 1/2 hour they pay for the hour.
    That's not a very good answer, but I understand not wanting to give prices on the internet. But what I suppose I really was asking was: if you go out to a job and do nothing but replace two flexes, what is the cost for the job? If you're going out and doing work for under $65 per trip, then I have to wonder how you can afford so many tools.

    it must be working as i've never spent a dime on advertising and i have over 1300 customers.
    Well, comparing the number of customers doesn't work well. Chances are pretty good that you live in a much higher-populated area and that you serve a larger age demographic. Here, since most are do-it-yourselfers, I tend to have a lot of elderly customers. Hint: they die. I've never bothered to count how many I've had.

    making money is not an overnight lottery. 33 years of doing this and i enjoy working. my customers refer me to their friends and i'm used by other contractors on a regular basis.
    Keep in mind I've been doing it for 43 years - 33 in my own business.

    i don't need to charge a fortune to my customers. even though they can afford it.
    No one is suggesting that you are. But I'm attempting to compare apples to apples. You say $65 per flex is enough. Now, everybody has a different approach to doing business. Your way may work fine for you and that's great. I'm using flat rate. I think the most important point I'm trying to make here is that flat rate does not always equal a rip off or a higher cost. I do not know of a flat rate system that does not recommend you know your own cost of doing business and then apply it to the prices. I also realize that there a number of flat-raters who see it as an opportunity to rake in the big bucks.

    So, for the purpose of elucidation, I'll quote the prices from my own book for a pair of flexes and a second pair of flexes on the same trip. Feel free to compare those prices with what you might charge for the same job.

    No-Burst supply risers, pair regular price: $65 contract price: $58

    Second pair: regular price: $35 contract price: $31

    If I'm there to install a faucet, then that becomes the primary price and both sets would be charged out at the second rate. I'm seriously thinking of raising these prices because even here in low-budget Idaho that really isn't enough. One hopes that I was there to replace a faucet or it simply wasn't enough money to make it worth starting the truck. The only time I make serious money is if I have several jobs to do at the same time. I tend to charge more for drain cleaning than some of my competition, too. One guy is flat-rating his main sewer cleaning only for $75 to a property manager he's trying to get away from me, while charging $120 per hour everywhere else. I have no intention of cleaning main drains for only $75. Another drain cleaner who isn't a plumber was charging $65 per hour, but I believe he's actually raised it to $95. The company is owned by his father and he gets about half of what he charges for himself.

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    • Re: yet another long-winded flatrate debate

      I just charge hourly and $6 a ss flex supply line.


      So, A call to a customer's home is my hourly rate, 2 supply lines.

      Nothing more nothing less.


      The goal is get as close to $100 as possible on the first hour, that's attainable after hours and one weekends for me.
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      • Re: yet another long-winded flatrate debate

        Originally posted by DUNBAR View Post
        I just charge hourly and $6 a ss flex supply line.


        So, A call to a customer's home is my hourly rate, 2 supply lines.

        Nothing more nothing less.


        The goal is get as close to $100 as possible on the first hour, that's attainable after hours and one weekends for me.
        Reading your posts, it seems you and I are not too far apart in what we charge. Except I use my flatrate book, and you use an hourly method plus materials. Sometimes, I think it sounds pretty good the way you do it.
        Question: How do you start your hourly? When you arrive at the job? Whne you start your truck at your shop? When you pick up a tool?

        And how do you stop the hourly? When work is finished? When you are done writing the invoice? I am just curious. I haven't been hourly in years, so I almost forgot what it is like. The main thing I hated about it is the ambiguity of it. Such as when exactly "the clock" starts and stops. The nice thing about flat rate is that there is no need for clock-watching. The price is the price no matter the time.
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        • Re: yet another long-winded flatrate debate

          Originally posted by Dunbar
          I just charge hourly and $6 a ss flex supply line.
          When I was still T & M, I had raised my price to $95 per billable hour. Compare that as a minimum, add $6, and then check the prices I quoted in the above post to Rick. In that case, flat rate is cheaper. I'd be doing the entire job, including the trip out, for a mere $65 for a set of flexes.

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          • Re: yet another long-winded flatrate debate

            Originally posted by Service Guy View Post
            Reading your posts, it seems you and I are not too far apart in what we charge. Except I use my flatrate book, and you use an hourly method plus materials. Sometimes, I think it sounds pretty good the way you do it.
            Question: How do you start your hourly? When you arrive at the job? Whne you start your truck at your shop? When you pick up a tool?

            And how do you stop the hourly? When work is finished? When you are done writing the invoice? I am just curious. I haven't been hourly in years, so I almost forgot what it is like. The main thing I hated about it is the ambiguity of it. Such as when exactly "the clock" starts and stops. The nice thing about flat rate is that there is no need for clock-watching. The price is the price no matter the time.


            Here's how I do hourly, even though I do flat-rate numerous things in plumbing:



            My time starts when the vehicle parks in the driveway, it stops when I go to the truck and write the bill. Everything inbetween is a charge.

            Before I go to the truck, I ask if they are paying by check or credit card and I charge "more" if paying by credit card. Not a whole lot, just enough to catch those recurring fees they create.

            "Sometimes" I'll count my time writing the bill if I'm only 10-15 minutes. The reason it takes me this long and sometimes a half hour, is I'm catching up on all my phone calls, eating, resting, you name it. It's my safe haven once I know the job is done and if I just installed a water heater I want that cycle to near it's completion to see if any problems are created.

            If I'm not right on time, and I know this is a bad habit of mine, I will "lose" time as a plea offer and move it to the next 15 minute interval, and I'll make it look like my time spent in the truck writing the bill was non-chargeable.

            For the most part, it is all chargeable and the number of items used against the time spent is sort of a mix up of sorts. I always mark my materials up, I always now add a $10 surcharge which indirectly is bumping my hourly rate.

            So, first hour most times for plumbing work is $85, a good 15 minutes most times is discussion before going for the tools. Rarely do I have anyone trying to pin me on "Well you didn't start till this time" and I've had people instantly count my time of noticing my quit time.

            The way I write that bill, I'm already covered for this type of customer. Of course, certain jobs will always be of the nature where you can't get that movement in the numbers.

            There are jobs I do that have 1.5 to 2 hours involved that sometimes for the talent and effort, should be significantly higher, but then a number of calls will come through that the hour charge and 20 minutes later you're gone, it all balances back out.

            Being in the business for a number of years there's an average that you try to keep around to keep inline with competition and morals. Of course, you start getting into a $300 plus visit for 50 minutes at the home fixing one or two fixtures with minimal materials, some people are going to feel compromised by their own buying decision.

            At least in my opinion, when the customer can count the number of hours against the task at hand or what the plumber is explaining step by step of the situation, you almost embed the value of their spending by knowing that hey, that wasn't easy after all.

            Some customers can get very upset watching someone speed through a job, only to slow down after the work is done. I by no means move "real" slow but I can rebuild a toilet in 10-15 minutes, replace a disposal in straight changeout in 20-35 minutes, toilet from box to old one out at the street in 1.25 hours with no flange problems. Sump pumps less than an hour.

            Faucet rebuild 15 minutes. All of these jobs constitute a 1 hour charge and I can't tell you how many times I've been sitting in that truck getting paid as I'm driving down the street to the next call.

            My former boss strived on that; get in as many driveways you can, because those check off that 1st hour charge, add to it if you stay longer or can upsell a product off the truck, no matter what it is.

            A gray area becomes possible when you're called for a drain cleaning call and then they have you do something else while you're there.

            You just kinda wing it, and sometimes I'll do the whole thing by hourly and drop a $30-$50 machine charge into the mix, explaining that the flat rate would of cost them more money. It's not a falsehood, it's just imposing the nature of the call and that I tried to help them on the bill.

            All in all,

            I've stuck to the hourly measure of work as my movements would keep me where the rest of my competition gauges their spending. There's a ton of variables you can throw to make a sale, and I sometimes knock myself out of the job just by what I say over the phone in just a few short minutes.

            But, I can't tell people, "We give free estimates, and we'll give you a price when we get there." That obligates the customer, that will keep you running all over god's creation and you draw an entirely different genre of customers.

            My phone rings constantly, but it's enough to keep just me busy. I deal with new customers every week, and that's crucial to opening the doors to repeat biz. There's people I worked for years ago that had an excellent experience with me, but like me to them, I can't remember their name, their phone number, nothing. I "can" however drive by their property and take a number down, then backtrack and send a flyer, but when the phone is ringing every single day, do you or don't you.

            Working for repeat customers are easier/more comfortable for sure, but some wear thin and it's time to go. I did this to quite a few last year just because I didn't like the relationship or felt I was getting the short end of the stick.

            Sometimes a customer can cross me wrong just by trying to take out their plumbing problems on me...big effing mistake. I'm the answer man, not the dr. phil grief counselor.

            Two weeks ago I sent an email to a fellow offering "free" water heater drainings for 2 heaters I charged $1400.00 to replace. Both were emergency calls and both were with PRV/EXP tank installs, major reworks of the piping system.

            The first year after I did those heaters, I got one of them tickets to a 4th of july event with free food and that was awesome; I still work for the guy's sister and we have a good work relationship. But the "other" couple turned down the opportunity to go to the event, thanked me anyway.

            But I haven't received a response "yet" for those two free drain cleanings, which either I have a bad email addy or they simply can't get together on the idea, or maybe don't even see the necessity. It is a good offer from me, and it would bring to the customer a "work for free" antic that hey, if there's a leaking 2 handle Delta faucet, fix the damn thing and don't charge. Or put a flapper on that toilet costing them money.

            I'm going to find those customer's names and addresses. I'm going to direct mail them and see what response I get from them then. If I don't ever hear from them again, then I would venture to say that the work relationship has ended by what I charged, or they have a plumber that is serving their needs. Both jobs were difficult and I had almost 5-7 hours in each one, all of which was top notch work when it was done. No one could take that away from the install.


            Awe god I love my customers too much.
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            • Re: yet another long-winded flatrate debate

              Originally posted by Herk View Post
              When I was still T & M, I had raised my price to $95 per billable hour. Compare that as a minimum, add $6, and then check the prices I quoted in the above post to Rick. In that case, flat rate is cheaper. I'd be doing the entire job, including the trip out, for a mere $65 for a set of flexes.


              I think between the two it all balances out. If I go and unclog a laundry tub drain that takes 4 minutes, almost like I need to jam it back up to clog it back up just to justify the charge.....there's 4 to that one where I work my nuts off trying to get the damn thing open.
              Northern Kentucky Plumbers Twitter Feed | Plumbing Videos

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              • Re: yet another long-winded flatrate debate

                or how 'bout "Dewey, Cheetem & Howe"
                no, that was the Three Stooges, and they were lawyers!

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