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  • Spring is Here! And so are the Price-shopping Guys!

    Every year around this time, we get a bunch of calls from "customers" shopping price. A few years back, it was, "How much do you charge to install a garbage disposal?" Well, it seems this year's question is, "How much do you charge to install a dishwasher?"

    Every call is exactly the same. No "Hello," never a "Good morning," nothing but the question. Here's what I think is going on: All those plumbers out there who don't understand their costs of doing business, don't know cash flow, or profit margin, or anything at all except how to get the phone to ring, start calling around to see what the competition is charging. They don't establish their pricing based on past experience, or job-costing, or anything other than, "Hey, call that guy next town over. See what HE charges, and we'll charge five bucks less."

    Anyone else get these calls? I've started handling them in a couple ways. My first answer is a question: What's your address? (That seems to stump them. "Why do you need my address?" Oh, because we're plumbing INSTALLERS, and we INSTALL the item your calling about. Without your address, we will never be able to do our job!)

    The other way is to say, "Oh, that typically runs fourteen dollars and seventy-six cents." (***crickets*** on the other end) "What?" THEN I ask for their number so I can call them RIGHT back. They never give me a number. Because they aren't customers. They are the nephew of, or the wife of, or some college kid hired by the guy shopping his competition to figure out his pricing scheme. (I once got this call while driving, and I asked the guy for his address, which he wouldn't give, then his town, which he DID give. "I'm driving in your town right now! I'll stop over, no charge, and give you that price in writing! NO obligation!" Dead phone line. Click.)

    I would like to know how the rest of you folks handle these calls.

  • #2
    Re: Spring is Here! And so are the Price-shopping Guys!

    I'm tossing all my price shoppers to a guy who just got in business. Going to break him in just right.
    Northern Kentucky Plumbers Twitter Feed | Plumbing Videos

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    • #3
      Re: Spring is Here! And so are the Price-shopping Guys!

      If the price shoppers bother you so much just tell them what your hourly rate is and that the job will take as long as it takes plus the unknown material costs will be added to the labor bill. It's just insane that anyone would expect to want to know what something will cost before they buy it. The next thing you know they'll want you to guarantee your work.
      Teach your kids about taxes..........eat 30 percent of their ice cream.

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      • #4
        Re: Spring is Here! And so are the Price-shopping Guys!

        Originally posted by BadgerDave View Post
        If the price shoppers bother you so much just tell them what your hourly rate is and that the job will take as long as it takes plus the unknown material costs will be added to the labor bill. It's just insane that anyone would expect to want to know what something will cost before they buy it. The next thing you know they'll want you to guarantee your work.
        What are you trying to say B/D

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        • #5
          Re: Spring is Here! And so are the Price-shopping Guys!

          Originally posted by BadgerDave View Post
          If the price shoppers bother you so much just tell them what your hourly rate is and that the job will take as long as it takes plus the unknown material costs will be added to the labor bill. It's just insane that anyone would expect to want to know what something will cost before they buy it. The next thing you know they'll want you to guarantee your work.
          Okay, I'll bite. What's YOUR hourly rate?

          And how much will it cost to install a dishwasher?

          And how much will it cost to install a garbage disposal?

          And why don't you know the costs of materials?

          And, just so I learn something, do you guarantee the work AND the price you're quoting me over the phone?

          Oh, I live out in Lone Rock. You don't charge travel time, do you?

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          • #6
            Re: Spring is Here! And so are the Price-shopping Guys!

            damn wr, that's an hour. what if ole bd lives in the eastern part of mad town county and the rube lives just a bit out of town in lonely rock. just a bit ya know. good shot. if they will not give info i give then a low, low, low ball price. did i say low. no one has called back yet to ask me to make it good. if they do, i will tell them that i don't know who they called, but it wasn't me i have no record of call. what name is that again let me look, nope not here. sorry we don't give phone estimates. we come out for a service charge and sell you an exact. breid................

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            • #7
              Re: Spring is Here! And so are the Price-shopping Guys!

              I am somewhat with Western. I keep a clipboard with "phone quote" forms on it. Any call I receive, I get name, phone, address before a quote. I explain I need this info to keep track of our estimates and keep their info on file.....weeds out some.
              The form is more for me as many are legit and my memory may not be as dependable as my Ridgid tools.

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              • #8
                Re: Spring is Here! And so are the Price-shopping Guys!

                Originally posted by RDW920 View Post
                I am somewhat with Western. I keep a clipboard with "phone quote" forms on it. Any call I receive, I get name, phone, address before a quote. I explain I need this info to keep track of our estimates and keep their info on file.....weeds out some.
                The form is more for me as many are legit and my memory may not be as dependable as my Ridgid tools.
                I wasn't really addressing customer calls, in the original post. I was thinking about other plumbing company calls, looking for information about how to price their own services. If you're willing to tell someone your hourly rate, what good does that do the caller? You send out your nephew, who is just starting apprenticeship school, and it takes him five hours. Or, you go out yourself, and it takes you a half hour. Will you charge your hourly rate both times? Or will you charge the SAME, each time? And when you quote an hourly rate, but not the materials, or the travel, or anything else that goes into a job, like a permit, or a disposal fee, or whatever, you've given the customer a bargaining chip, and received nothing in return.

                I'm not saying that T & M has no place, or that flat-rate is the best, or anything; just wondered how you folks deal with the "secret shopper!" (I have yet to find a legitimate customer who won't give their address or phone. They understand that they are hiring me to come THERE to do the work!)

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                • #9
                  Re: Spring is Here! And so are the Price-shopping Guys!

                  This post is funny to me because I actually called a couple of plumbing companies to find out what they charge and set up a scenario. I'm new to the area I'm opening a plumbing business and have no idea what to charge.

                  How do you decide what to charge if not by checking around?

                  I've been plumbing for 16 years and have always wanted to go out on my own but have been intimidated but finally decided to take the plunge. Any help would be appreciated in the pricing area.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Spring is Here! And so are the Price-shopping Guys!

                    If I was moving to a new area, I'd take a job with someone for a year or so to feel out the area. Where do I want to work, where do I want to avoid, where do I never go, which are the good supply houses, what's the driving and parking like so what kind of vehicle do I want, is theft an issue, etc etc etc.

                    One thing I've learned by talking to folks across the country here is that a lot of techinique (at least in drain cleaning) is situational. Things that make good sense in one area are just plain silly in others.

                    And, as we all know, pricing varies wildly by area.


                    And as for the price fixers, I just don't really get much of that... only had one that I can remember, and it caught me off guard and I answered before I figured out what it was.
                    This is my reminder to myself that no good will ever come from discussing politics or religion with anyone, ever.

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                    • #11
                      dz

                      you need to figure out what it costs to run YOUR business not someone elses. breid....................

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                      • #12
                        Re: Spring is Here! And so are the Price-shopping Guys!

                        If your doing a job and your not sure what to charge and you call another plumbing company it's not always a bad idea. If you charge $200. for a job and someone does the same job for $ 80. because he doesn't know what the going rate is. (And yes he still makes money because he works out of his house and has no employes.) wouldn't it be better if he would have called around other plumbing companies to see what their making on that job. So instead of charging $80. now he charges $190. Don't they do the same thing in the diamond business. It sets A standerd

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                        • #13
                          Re: Spring is Here! And so are the Price-shopping Guys!

                          My first thought was to work for someone for a year. I am in an unusual situation for a little bit where my bills are minimal staying with a family member. Having said that it seemed liked the best time to jump in and get started as from what I hear it takes at least a year typically to get somewhat busy and with a family to support I don't want them to go hungry.

                          So right now what it cost is just parts and gas, vehicle upkeep and the small rent and meal ticket i'm paying right now, well plus uncle sam.

                          I don't want to whore myself out yet when i charge someone I want to know I can stand my ground when they complain about the price.

                          So Breid, It barely cost me anything to run my business <compared to someone with a shop or house payment or whatever>.......It comes down to how much I want in my pocket when it's said and done.

                          I guess I can just go out cheap as heck till I get busy and then raise my pricing

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                          • #14
                            Re: Spring is Here! And so are the Price-shopping Guys!

                            the problem with always being the low price... thats the kind of customers you will always get. and say you do raise your price latter on you will loose all your cheap cutomers and have to start all over again.
                            i market to the middle to upper end base. it has served me well for 17 years. before that i was cheap under cutting everyone. guess what i was running around and not really making any money. it looked like i was making money but the reality was i was not.
                            i would rather do one job for $200 then 2 jobs for $100
                            the only dumb question is the one that is not asked!

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                            • #15
                              Re: Spring is Here! And so are the Price-shopping Guys!

                              Many years ago, a customer told me: "You just work out of your house so you can afford to charge a lot less!"

                              It took me a while to figure out the answer: "What makes you think I WANT to work out of my house?"

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