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Discussion Starter #1
I have recently started my own business and things have been trickling in so far with a little bit of service work, but it looks like I'll be busy soon with a nice 5 bath remodel! That news put a nice skip in my step until I got a call this morning from a customer, that was a referal, about a bill for the dishwasher I installed. She says that she was floored when she got it and called around to other plumbers to see if it was inline with what they would charge.

First of all I am T&M (soon to change) as are all the plumbers in my area and my hourly is right in the middle of my competition. This woman says that I was twice as much as anyone eles, so I pull up the bill and remember that i sat in her driveway for 35 min. waiting for her and finally passed on the road as I was leaving. I turned around she lets me in and I start removing the old DW and as she leaving for work asks if "I'll send her a bill" which I agree to do.

The job goes faily smoothly except for when I go to turn the water back on the gate valve going to the DW starts spewing water through the handle i try to tighten the packing nut, but no go. This valve is in such a position that it will be faster just to replace. I shut the ball valve at the water heater and drain it down as best I can, the house sits on a slab, but water is leaking by the ball valve so I have to find the well tank which is a different location to shut off the water at the main. So after emptying a closet of all its contents which probably haven't seen the light of day for 15yrs I get to the shut off. Finally I'm able to sweat on a new stop put everything back into the closet. DW working like a charm...

So. I thought I did pretty good to get that done in three hours and thats including sitting in her driveway for thirty five min. but she says the quote she got for installing a DW were between 1-2 labor. I tell her if you can find someone to remove an old DW install a new one in an hour and have it actually sit in the cabinet then that should be your plumber. She then wants to know why it took me so long, I explain to her about sitting in the driveway and the gate valve... and ask did you ask these other plumbers if their price included the extra 1/2 hour of van time or the replacing of a valve? She says "that's the price of doing business". So then she says that she won't be rfering me to anyone and that's when I did something that I am regretting I knocked off 1 1/4 hrs of labor.

I know she'll never refer me and the bill was totally fair and I did call her back to let her know that the reduction in the labor was a loss to me and not a reflexion of a inflated bill. She was still a B***h.

So I guess this is one the resons for flat rate.

If anyone has any suggestions on a better way of handling this kind of situation in the future. Please let me know because this is really eating at me.
 

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If anyone has any suggestions on a better way of handling this kind of situation in the future. Please let me know because this is really eating at me.
No Credit!
Payment on completion!
 

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It was a good lesson, learn from it. Customer always gets a total price up front, forget about t&m. You don't need any fancy flat rate books either. Just give the customer a price up front, have them sign it before you start.
If there is any extra work make sure you get approval BEFORE doing it!
I also have a policy of not doing ANY work for a service customer unless they are there or they have someone there that can make decisions for them.
I tell all my customers the cost up front and then tell them we accept visa, mc, checks or cash and we will be collecting on the spot when the job is done.
 

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Plumber, Totally
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It was a good lesson, learn from it. Customer always gets a total price up front, forget about t&m. You don't need any fancy flat rate books either. Just give the customer a price up front, have them sign it before you start.
If there is any extra work make sure you get approval BEFORE doing it!
I also have a policy of not doing ANY work for a service customer unless they are there or they have someone there that can make decisions for them.
I tell all my customers the cost up front and then tell them we accept visa, mc, checks or cash and we will be collecting on the spot when the job is done.

Perfect advice! Forget T&M! Quote a flat rate upfront, get a signiature, go to work.

Here's the important part...once you encounter additional, unforseen work necessary to complete the job, STOP WORKING. Explain why it's necessary, and repeat steps 1 and 2 (quote upfront for additional work, get signiature), go to work.

Customers will always (never say always) be grateful for honest upfront communication. They may not enjoy their circumstance, but after all, it's their circumstance, not yours. Honest pricing and good work with a guarantee will always (never say always) reward you in the end.
I truly believe that most disagreements in this world are due to poor communication!

I feel your pain, though. Customers that complain eat away at me personally, and it's hard to let it go. I really feel for you!

Good luck!

Total
 

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Oh yea that reminds me...
Flat rate signed go ahead...
I thought everyone did that!

Sure beats having the customer trying to negotiate after the fact with you...:thumbup:

Of course Mr. Patal is always going to do it anyhow...:furious:
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks everyone for the advice! Ive known for awhile now that flat rate is the way to go for both me and the customer, but I guess I needed the slap in the face to get me moving.

My question is if you don't have a price book do you just give the price on the spot after be let in the door? and if so do you charge a diagnostic fee?

Those of you that do flat rate how many use a price book and how many don't and why do feel this is better?

Thanks again
 

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Well, the're people that just give the customer an upfront flatrate without a book and some that open up a book. The reason a book is good is because it reminds you of what you NEED to charge for a set job plus the customer sees that you didn'y just pull it out of your butt. A flatrate book can be as simple or as complicated as you like.



Plumber Jim
 

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My question is if you don't have a price book do you just give the price on the spot after be let in the door? and if so do you charge a diagnostic fee?

Those of you that do flat rate how many use a price book and how many don't and why do feel this is better?
If the job is simple, straightforward and does not require diagnosis they get a free flatrate estimate.

If the diagnosis requires time to reach there is a diagnostic fee. Walls and ceilings are not opened for free and I don't spend 45 minutes chasing water dripping out of the kitchen light to a leaking volume spool on a symmons valve in the upstairs shower for free either.

The labor is flat rate and the parts are additional. There is a big difference between replacing a Kohler #39669 and a fluidmaster 400A. Like a cost difference of about $455.



You do have to communicate the fact that they will be getting charged a diagnostic fee and have them sign for it.
 

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I didn't see anything about communication. Did you call her and tell her of all the extra work? Did she approve it? Man, if the extra work wasn't approved, I would have told you to stuff it, too.

I never, ever, ever bill. I take credit and debit cards over the phone.
 

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Oh yea that reminds me...
Flat rate signed go ahead...
I thought everyone did that!

Sure beats having the customer trying to negotiate after the fact with you...:thumbup:

Of course Mr. Patal is always going to do it anyhow...:furious:
You got that right!:laughing::laughing::laughing::furious::laughing:
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I agree that is another place I went wrong:whistling2: I should have gotten her work # befor she left incase anything happened, but instead I was just focused on getting it done right and to my next call.

No excuse just my frame of mind.
 

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Different strokes for different folks i guess.

We have been doing T&M for over 30 years now and not had any issues. We also dont take CC (might soon change). Alot of our billing is done through the mail.

We dont advertise anywhere and we have a very loyal client base. And our phone consistantly rings. I dont think there is one set way of running a plumbing company. You gotta do what works for you, and the area you work in, and what type of clients you are trying to reach.
 

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Never EVER trust a multi-turn shut off valve. We don't touch them unless we're replacing them with ball valves, and even those sometimes fail.
 

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SPH,I must be working for your bosses twin,we do just about the same thing,didn't start collecting till about four years ago and most of our clients I've watched their children grow up.
 

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Communication is key. We work for some customers that trust us completely to do the right thing for them and to make decisions in their best interest. (Ex. - no need to call me with the little details, just take care of it and send me the bill).

Other customers trust us, but want to be kept in the loop and make all decisions about money regardless of the amount.

Personally, I like dealing with the customer who is kept in the loop and makes the final decision.

The other day, had a customer who wanted several lav. faucets changed out. Very wealthy customer. She paid $8,500.00 for her front door. She let us install 'No Burst' supplies on the lav. faucets, but she wants to check with her husband before letting us replace the rest of the nylon supplies in her home. :eek: If this was customer #1, we would have replaced all the builder's grade, inferior supplies. It never seeks to amaze me how someone will risk so much to save a little money.

Back to OP - COMMUNICATION no matter what system you use! Also, keep to a minimum working in homes where the HO is not present. If they cannot find something of value, they will start to think about who had access to their home. It can create doubt where there shouldn't be.

We will only work in a home unsupervised where we already have an established relationship with the HO. It's not just a matter of them trusting us as it is us trusting them.

Trust takes time to establish.
 

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I'm with PlumbCrazy. I will only work in a clients home alone if they are reg customers. Just consider this that you are poorer but wiser and move on. Also pour some insta-set in the outside main cleanout. The revenge feels good and it helps to stimulate the economy. Just kidding
 

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I would of never changed the bill, I would of told her that I don't need referrals, and my time has a value, period.


If this was a flat rate situation, and you putting your hand on that valve caused it to leak....how is upfront pricing going to stop that situation from existing.



I'm on a job right now where it has expanded dramatically, and no flat rate quote would of caught the problems incurring.

The hourly rate is mending itself along the way, knowing that my time is covered for the confusion.

No matter what, I'm making twice as much as before and lovin' it.

Stuff like taking things out of cabinets, putting it back...that stuff adds up. I'd rather blow snot bubbles than work for free.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I'm on a job right now where it has expanded dramatically, and no flat rate quote would of caught the problems incurring.

This is a good point what do Flat Rate Plumbers do in this situation? Pull out the price book and give the customer the price for the extra work and doe's this get sticky when you come across those jobs that seem to just open up like a can of worms. Do customers ever say "you said it would be this much and your telling me I need this and that"?
 

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I had a lady call me a few weeks ago. The builder gave her my number since I did the plumbing on it like 3 years ago. Anyway, she said her masterbath lav was clogged and wanted to know when I could come fix it. She never asked a price or anything.
Well, she met me there at the scheduled time, so I go in and look at the pop up is full of hair. So this whole time I remove this fuzz ball ( discusting ) she is looking over my shoulder saying she wanted to see how it was done so she could maybe fix it herself next time.
I did have to remove the trap, dumped out the crud , while she looked on, put it all back together and showed her how good it drained and she then said " oh, the faucet drips, can you fix that too? "
Well, back to the truck for a delta repair kit, what 2.50 at ace hardware?
Go back in, tear the faucet down, install the kit, put it back together, show her how it no longer drips and she is happy. THEN>>>>>> She asks me how much and I tell her 85.00.
Was there only like 30 minutes, most of that time spent getting sh++t out of the cabinet and putting it back. She said " WHAT? 85.00 ? I am an old lady , I can't pay that!!!
Old softy left with a check for 50.00 bucks. And I promise to all of you people, I will never do service again. I will pick up aluminum cans before I argue with an elderly person. Sorry, just my way.
Ok, now yall can bash me... :surrender: :help:
 

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I had a lady call me a few weeks ago. The builder gave her my number since I did the plumbing on it like 3 years ago. Anyway, she said her masterbath lav was clogged and wanted to know when I could come fix it. She never asked a price or anything.
Well, she met me there at the scheduled time, so I go in and look at the pop up is full of hair. So this whole time I remove this fuzz ball ( discusting ) she is looking over my shoulder saying she wanted to see how it was done so she could maybe fix it herself next time.
I did have to remove the trap, dumped out the crud , while she looked on, put it all back together and showed her how good it drained and she then said " oh, the faucet drips, can you fix that too? "
Well, back to the truck for a delta repair kit, what 2.50 at ace hardware?
Go back in, tear the faucet down, install the kit, put it back together, show her how it no longer drips and she is happy. THEN>>>>>> She asks me how much and I tell her 85.00.
Was there only like 30 minutes, most of that time spent getting sh++t out of the cabinet and putting it back. She said " WHAT? 85.00 ? I am an old lady , I can't pay that!!!
Old softy left with a check for 50.00 bucks. And I promise to all of you people, I will never do service again. I will pick up aluminum cans before I argue with an elderly person. Sorry, just my way.
Ok, now yall can bash me... :surrender: :help:
She's laughing her rich old butt off right now.

Check it out: 3 year old house, master bathroom, has the builder's attention...alll that screams money. Poor old people do not have master bathrooms, dude. :laughing:
 
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