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The Price is Wrong, B*%@^

AKA Happy Gilmore!

Here's my standard response to querries regarding what "the other guy" charged or how the work was done.

I wasn't there when he did the work, so I can't possibly speak about how reasonable the time was it took to do the work. Just because it's different from how we would do the work does not make what was done incorrect.

I don't know their pricing policies and I sure don't know what their overhead might be, so I'm not qualified to determine if theirs was a fair price. I can only be responsible for pricing that we give to our customers.

Recently, a local plumber made the papers by charging something like $800.00 to repair two water closets. He had quoted the work & she had agreed to the price. Later, she came to the conclusion she'd been ripped off for the two hours of time and she went to the papers. She's supposed to be suing him, but I haven't heard what the outcome may have been. She called here, but we refused to become involved. If she was truly ripped off, the judge will be bright enough to know that.


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  • Heatermon
    Heatermon Member Posts: 119
    Buyer's Remorse

    will always be around, but good companies know how to turn it into a positive and keep their customers satisfied. That's why you keep seeing those "if you find it for less, we'll double the difference" guarantees from the electronics retailers. However, it seems strange that people in our industry (in general) won't give their peers the "benefit of the doubt" and are quick to label them a "rip off". Have any of you ever run across a doctor who has told you "Yea, that other doctor is a quack. I could've fixed you up in half the time for 1/4 of what he charged"? The only time I've ever seen "professionals" rip into each other is when they're being PAID to provide conflicting testimony in court cases (Kinda makes you wonder?). Now as far as your story goes PAH, the fact that the local plumber let the story of that situation make the local headlines, shows they got a way to go in learning how to handle customer service. Unless of course, they suscribe to the theory of "No publicity is bad publicity".

    Tryng to stay on the high road,

    I om the heatermon

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  • Heatermon
    Heatermon Member Posts: 119
    This also reminds me ...

    of the only time our company was ever accused in court of "price gouging". It was back in the early 80's when I was just "promoted" to executive V.P. (it meant I had to sign papers and handle problems like these, in addition to working out in the field). We provided a service call to replace a burned out heating element on a water heater for a lady who called. Nothing really out of the ordinary, the bill was around 100 bucks. When her husband got home and found out what happened, he came unglued and refused to pay the bill because he thought the charges were excessive. Well, we kicked it around for a couple of months (he was willing to go 1/2 the price, but that was it) and we finally decided to go to small claims court, with me representing the company (our state, Ca., doesn't allow lawers in small claims court). Well, we go in and I explain to the judge our side, "We were called, we delivered, we billed, we're waiting for payment". He gets up, hat in hand, and goes into a long diatribe "I'm an old retired man ... he was only here for 10 minutes ... these charges are more than I made in a week back in the day ... the heating element costs less than 10 dollars ... I just think some kind of reduction is warranted. I was getting a little worried about how this was making our company look when the judge spoke up. "Sir, this man provided a service to you and deserves to get paid what he wants, not what you want to pay him. If you had a problem with his charges, you should have spoken up before you requested the service. What you made early on in your career has no merit on what you pay for things today. By the way, would you like to compare what this gentleman charges to your salary today, or maybe even that of your highest paid employee? I find for the defendant." You see, the judge recognized the "poor old gentleman". He was the general manager of a major league ball team and is a hall of famer himself to boot. The only reason we didn't back down was because his attitude was so condensending to our trade. Funny thing is, we continued to provide service to his family for many years afterwards. Of couse it was always his wife calling, and paying C.O.D., that kept us going back. Ballplayers, they're a funny breed. I wonder if A-Rod paid $900 for his water heater and thought he was ripped off?

    From the bleachers,

    I om the heatermon

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  • masterplumb
    masterplumb Member Posts: 93
    $800.00 Toilet Rebuild

    Maybe it was an American Standard Vent-Away. I wouldn't do a major rebuild on one for $1000.00.(jk).I remember the first time I ever had to repair one.I saw the inside of it and thought I was gonna have to call in NASA for assistance rebuilding it. Chris
  • Dave Yates (PAH)
    Dave Yates (PAH) Member Posts: 2,162
    Now lookie heah

    My parents have a vent-away AS WC that continues to work - sometimes(G).

    In fact, I had to invest a large sum of money into a replacement seat when our youngest let the old one slip. Cracked it. No prob me thinks. Yup, no problem alright - so long as you've got $85 bucks! Youch.

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  • Mad Dog
    Mad Dog Member Posts: 2,595
    We do $900.00 water heaters all the time

    Sure!!!!!! They can ALWAYS get it for less, but...we give them two, new american-made Apollo ball valves, two new brass unions, all-new flue pipe (increased to 4" if necessary), check and clean out the chimney base, do a carbon monoxide and draft test, supply a new gas cock, 10 year warranteed water heater, and cart the old heater and all debris away. Nobody else in our area does all this. I can't tell you hom many botch jobs we see - many outright criminal. we document these via digital camera and show the potential clients why we charge more. Furthermore, I explain that our men have clean records, speak English, and will be a pleasure to deal with....and, in the end, they always agree. The really satisfying jobs are the ones where the people are skeptical, but we win them over in the end. We don't get every water heater call that comes in, but then again, we can't plumb the whole neighborhood!!! Many times, we can sell a WAGS valve and pan, or a thermal expansion tank, bringing the bill well over $1200.00. Mad Dog
  • Mad Dog
    Mad Dog Member Posts: 2,595
    Yes! It all depends on the type of toilet

    The one-piece kohlers and how about rebuilding an old wall-hangar with the flush elbow and all that other stuff. It does really get tiring having to justify our prices, but eventually you will build a customer-base that appreciates you and you won't even have to bother with the price-shoppers. We are at the point where we only work for folks who come recommended or give us the impression that they want a quality job first. Mad Dog

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  • Bill_14
    Bill_14 Member Posts: 345
    Totally agree

    with you 100%...these discussions are like comparing apples and oranges. Add to the your list raising the new heater 18" to meet code and getting an inspection from the city...$900 to $1200 is about average. They used to cost $200 to $400 in the 60's, but plumbers were making under $6 per hour, etc.

    Good comments Mad Dog!!

  • Frank_17
    Frank_17 Member Posts: 107
    competitors pricing

    This summer I lost two jobs that come to mind on this topic.#1 a boiler installation- HO showed me the other guys quote. HO's cost was less than my cost of materials!!!
    Did the HO get the same boiler or quality?NO is he going to have problems ? YES Do I have to worry about call backs from him? NO
    #2 central air in new house. I was $1000 higher. Ho called me up when it was 92 outside and 85 inside. other contractor couldn't fix it. Piping , supply and return air was sized wrong. Ho asked what I could do about it. Told him I'd sit in my 70 degree living room and wait for his call when the system was removed so I could install a system that would work. now I'm $1500 higher.
    people can get ripped off, but they also get what they pay for more oft than not.
  • nick z.
    nick z. Member Posts: 157
    Speaking of H2o heaters

    One of my very steady custmers who I have done thousands of dollars of work for called with a leaking 50 gal. L.P.
    She told me she was going to Home Depot and get one.A week laer she calls abck and says H.D.didn't ahve one could I get her a price on one. I added a 100$ to my cost.She said my price was to high. then she asked if she went to H.D. and got aNat. gas heater I could convert it. I said No. I suggested she called her gas supplier. Now she calls back ,says she wants to get a 60 gal instaed of a 50.She also says in her message."My husaband took some measurments, and if we knock the blocks out from under it, set the new on the floor, we'll only have to move the vent a little bit."
    I think I'm goig to tell her to let her gas co. install it. Notice how I said steady custmer, not good.
  • Mark J Strawcutter
    Mark J Strawcutter Member Posts: 625
    punitive pricing

    > #2 central air in new house. I was $1000

    > higher. Ho called me up when it was 92 outside

    > and 85 inside. other contractor couldn't fix it.

    > Piping , supply and return air was sized wrong.

    > Ho asked what I could do about it. Told him I'd

    > sit in my 70 degree living room and wait for his

    > call when the system was removed so I could

    > install a system that would work. now I'm $1500

    > higher.

    Punitive pricing, how professional.

  • Richard Rascati
    Richard Rascati Member Posts: 4

    I have been the facilities manager for a 35, 000 sq ft. Laboratory for the past 15 years and have been employed by the lab since 1970. Since the early 60’s we have used the same HVAC contractor for both maintenance and new equipment. In 1992 the Laboratory went through a major renovation with a number of changes in boilers, roof top units, ductwork etc. Our contractor did submit a bid to the general contractor but he was 30% higher than the low bidder. This has been the most expensive 30% savings I have ever seen. Classic example was a 5 TON RTU and a 3 Ton RTU, they managed to put them in backwards. Had to come back with a crane and now we have two 5 Ton units. I could go on for two pages with problems we have encountered. Point is YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. I know what our HVAC contractor pays his mechanics (they are union), they all have a fully equipped company truck, and they respond within hours of any emergency call. For all the good contractors that have to listen to complaints about why your estimate may be higher there are some of us who would like to say thanks for the great job you did.


    Richard Rascati
    John B. Pierce Laboratory
    New Haven, CT
  • Richard Miller_2
    Richard Miller_2 Member Posts: 139

    I price according to my costs. If you prove to be a pain you will cost me more and I justifiably will price higher. Maybe that is what happened.
  • Richard Miller_2
    Richard Miller_2 Member Posts: 139

    Thank you sir. I feel humbled by your comments.
  • Mad Dog
    Mad Dog Member Posts: 2,595
    Punitive pricing????????????

    We are all human, and have our thresholds on the aggravation scale. The guy's being honest. "Professionalism" today often crosses over in to the politically-correct realm...."oh no! we are not annoyed that we were over your house three times, while you made up changed your mind on what and where you wanted things....and, no, we also don't mind that we spent 5-6 hours researching your project and putting together a portfolio complete with pictures, references, and several options with equipment and set ups....and the 20 or so phone calls that go back and forth." THEN!!!!! YOU CALL TO TELL US THAT WE HAVE TO DO BETTER ON OUR PRICE!!!!!! Because the other guy is 10-15% lower..I don't know a person in the world that wouldn't be annoyed to very angry when this happens. They may not admit it, but if that job came back to them after the other guy screwed it up, anyone is going to add a little "upcharge" for aggravation and time (and in many cases money) spent bidding that job. That's reality, Mark. Mark

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  • Mark J Strawcutter
    Mark J Strawcutter Member Posts: 625
    would your costs be any different

    if that customer had accepted your bid? It doesn't sound like it. All the time/money/aggravation was spent before they hired the "other guy".

    Now if you have to go back and rip out someone else's work, or even just correct someone else's work, I can see where it would likely be more expensive.

    But in this case he said "once you get everything removed call me back" and it was $500 more.


    ps - I usually end up in trouble for _not_ being politically correct :-)
  • Floyd
    Floyd Member Posts: 429
    It's called a \"PITA\" charge!!!!

    If you work with the public for very long... your bound to have one!!!!
    Otherwise there are those people that will just take advantage of your goodness!!!!
    I don't mind being good to little old ladies and widows, etc... but people that chose to
    try and work you down and then complain when the "other guy's" stuff don't work.....

    Yes, he's gonna get charged a premium to get it done right then!!!!!

    It's a free country and that's "my right" to do that!!!!!!

    Wish you could come out "in the field" and work with us for a while, Mark
    Your attitude would change rapidly!!!!!

  • Mad Dog
    Mad Dog Member Posts: 2,595
    Call it a penalty charge if you want......because I guess that's

    what it is - nothing personal...its just business...and what business are you in Mark??????? Uncle Floyd made a good point...walk in our shoes for a while and you might see the light. Mad Dog

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  • Frank_17
    Frank_17 Member Posts: 107
    not punitive

    Now I have to change my designed system to try to fill the holes in the ceiling that the other guy put there. use his return hole and also add one in the right place. more aggrevation. Cant leave a big hole in the poor saps wall.
  • PJO
    PJO Member Posts: 140
    A different \"H.O.\"'s opinion...

    You can call it whatever you want, guys. I will merely add this fact; if you don't get the extra "aggravation" monies duly owed to you in the front end, it would be human nature to cut corners to get something back anyway towards the end of the job.

    This happens all the time...all kinds of works/deals/etc. I would rather pay for an agreed-upon job at a fair price up front than find out I have been bamboozled after I have paid it off. If you don't like the price, then work together to see if you could possibly do some labor, maybe substitute a different boiler, etc. but it has to be agreed upon up front. Been on both sides of this issue...I don't feel I'm a pain (too much!), and I do not haggle with my tech's pricing AT ALL because we are honest with each other. I feel bad for others who disagree...

    Just my thoughts, PJO
  • Mark J Strawcutter
    Mark J Strawcutter Member Posts: 625
    You need to read what I was objecting to

    I never claimed you didn't need a "grief and aggravation" surcharge or "hazardous duty" pay. What I was objecting to was capriciously tacking on $500 just because the guy went with someone else. Based on what Frank said, everything was back to original condition.

    Now Frank has clarified that conditions indeed changed, he had additional work to do that wouldn't have been necessary the first time, so he's charging for that work. I've got no problem with that.

    It's like a discussion a while ago (here, or perhaps alt.hvac or hvac-talk.com) where someone automatically bumped his rates when the customer was a doctor or lawyer. I don't think that's good business either.

    For those who asked - yes I encounter the same sort of people when I do consulting. Phone calls looking for "advice" - at some point you just say "this is too complicated to deal with on the phone, when would you like me to come over". Sometimes they respond "I'll call you back". Sound familiar? :-)

    But if someone asks me what it will cost for a project, then hires someone cheaper, who screws it up, I have no problem coming in on time/materials basis to clean things up. I don't raise my hourly rate - and usually end up making more than if they'd accepted the original proposal. Sound familiar? :-)

    Lastly, like Patrick I have several techs (my roofer comes to mind) where I just call them and tell them the problem or what I need done. They do it and bill me. Usually no discussion of $ up front - unless it's one of _them_ saying "are you sure you want to do this, it's gonna be pretty expensive" :-)

  • Mark J Strawcutter
    Mark J Strawcutter Member Posts: 625
    see my comments above (nm)

  • Frank_17
    Frank_17 Member Posts: 107
    point made

    your attitude changed when you heared the whole story. We can't judge or comment on others pricing unless we were there first hand. and then it's not professional to tell the HO she was ripped off. maybe she was , but we were not on the job. thats all this guy wants to hear. I for one will not say that. move on and call this dead
This discussion has been closed.