Well this is my first eve. on this site. Saw this thread earlier and another on a different line that prompted me to come back and join this evening. Hello Gentlemen.
Having worked in the Plumbing and construction trades for a bit over three decades it has been my obsevation and experience that flat rate pricing is a fabulous deal for a shop full of salesmen. T&M is still the fairest way for honest tradespeople to deal with customers on the service side of HVAC and Plumbing. Most flat rate programs base all pricing as if each job were the only one to be done on a trip. For instance if a plumber is called out to rebuild a toilet and the flat rate is 150 bucks for that job and the customer asks him to change a flapper in another bathroom, that serviceman has to charge as if he made another entire seperate trip for that job. That becomes 300 dollars for about 45 minutes work and 30 bucks worth of parts. Its not fair to the plumber to put him in the position of gouging a customer while looking him in the eye. And its certainly not fair to the consumer.
Though I seldom do residential service work anymore I never did have a problem when a good faith estimate ran over by a bit. If there were unforseen circumstances that caused a good faith estimate to be inaccurate by more than a small amount an honest explantion of that circumstance, before the work went any farther, always eliminated at least 98% of any customer complaints. Even the ones who did complain called me back for other work so I know they didnt really think they were being taken.
I worked for a shop that went to flat rate pricing about fifteen years ago. It was a rip off of the customer sold as a fair deal. Within a week this plumber said no thanks. I liked to look my customers in the eye when I saw them in a store or at social occasions like sporting events and the like. To this day it was a decision I do not regret. That contractor closed a few years ago and his name is not worth phlegm throughout an entire half of a State. No one in the trade will have anything to do with the guy.
If you do good work and treat people fair you will be prosperous and successful.
Work hard, Play hard, Sleep easy.