I know this is not a flat rate vs hourly discussion but it reminds me of what happened last summer. I needed 50 feet x 5 feet deep trenched out in sandy loam (no roots, no rocks, no concrete, on a front lawn, no weird narrow digging between tight places, no electric wires, no back filling needed). I called this one guy a freind recommended and he starts out with all these break down fees.....50 bucks to float the mini excavator on and off...275 bucks for the first hour and then 200 bucks for the following hours and its more during the week and less on weekends. I told the guy: "look, I don't want to hear all this...how much is it gonna cost?" He said he couldn't/wouldn't say....same old..."doesn't know each job is different...blah... blah... blah..."...OK, I respect that and said thank you very much, goodbye. Called another guy from a landscape flyer...didn't know the guy. Told him my situtation, explained everything to him. And he sez "if the job is as you tell me, and I will see it as soon as I get there, then gimme $250". When I arrived at the property, the mini excavator was already off his little trailer, and he was moving into position (job was all marked). He wanted to see my "locates sheet" and he dug it out...this guy was real good, knew how to operate that machine. Was done in under an hour. My wife brought some sandwiches and Coke...he didnt want any...gave him the $250 cash and off he went. Funny thing was he said that if I got the pipe in by the next Friday, he would be down the street on another job with a Bobcat and would come and back fill N/C...which he did!!!! (he said it would take 10 mins to push the dirt in I wasnt there when he did it).
In the follwing weeks the first guy I called, called me back 3 times...I didn't return any of his calls. Sometimes things don't have to be so complicated.