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Getting fed up with homeowners

Wayco Wayne_2
Wayco Wayne_2 Member Posts: 2,472
in business I have a spidey sense that buzzes when near problem customers. Nah! Just kidding. I just try to be kind and look out for trouble. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I wish I could pull my lower lip over my head. :) You could try construction, but like Al says there may be frustrations and challenges there too. It's kinda pick your poison I guess. Good Luck what ever you do. (Even flower arrangers have to deal with the occaisionnal thorn.) WW

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  • Ken C.
    Ken C. Member Posts: 267
    Should I make a switch?

    I’ve been doing plumbing and heating about six years and am licensed; I do mostly service and repair.

    Lately, though, problems with unreasonable customers have me seriously considering a move to the construction/installation side of plumbing and heating.

    A few examples (just within one week!):

    * The customer with well water and corroded type M copper water pipe who needed a second-floor bathroom re-pipe with pex, but expected it done for the price of a repair, after another leak sprang further down the line during unavoidable pipe movement from the original repair. They said, “You broke it!” Never mind that the pipes were very weak in spots.

    * The customers whose basement flooded when an ancient brass stop-and-waste valve sprung a leak. The valve was spraying from the drain cap (which had deteriorated rubber). They had brass water pipe which was very pitted at the pipe and fittings. I told them I could do a temporary repair to the valve to get their water back on quickly, but the couple said, no, they wanted to replace all the brass pipe in the basement. So I scheduled a manager to stop by and give them an estimate that day. The couple asked if their homeowner’s insurance would cover it; I told them their insurer would probably pay for the water damage, but not to upgrade the plumbing. Then, this couple (they were elderly) wanted me to wait until their caregiver arrived so she could give them financial advice. I did, and the “adviser” asked to see the leak. She asked, why not replace the valve? I explained that it was very risky to disturb old brass pipe, and that changing the valve could result in new leaks. I added that there was a fair chance I could fix the leaking valve, at less cost, so why not try that first and see what happens? After much hemming and hawing by the customer and their caregiver, they gave the go-ahead to fix the valve. I fixed it by soldering the drain cap to the valve, and repacking the stem with graphite for good luck. The repair worked like charm. What frustrated me was I was there two hours for a 30-minute job because they couldn’t make up their minds. Oh yeah, to add insult to injury, they cancelled the estimate for a re-pipe.

    * The customer with water leaking into his basement. Apparently, it was leaking for quite a while, judging from the black, moldy towels on the basement floor and sewer flies. It was a cracked 4” cast iron drainage fitting in the basement ceiling. I gave him what I thought was a fair price, and he balked, saying he could find someone to do it for “$150 or $200.” That was bad enough, but what killed me was the Porsche in the driveway, along with another luxury SUV probably worth $60K+.

    Bottom line: I’m getting tired of dealing with customers who want the cheap way out, or want something for nothing. I’m getting tired of arguing over price (I work for a flat-rate company) or defending why my employer charges what it charges.

    I’m seriously thinking about switching to construction – no more dealing with homeowners, no more late-night emergency calls or being on-call (which is like having a cloud over your head). It'd be nice being on a regular schedule.

    True, construction/install has downsides – working outdoors in the cold is tough, and the work can be tedious.

    I’m curious, have any of you been in my shoes (switched from service plumbing/heating to construction/install)? How did the adjustment go? Any regrets or advice?
  • Al Letellier_9
    Al Letellier_9 Member Posts: 929
    switching to construction

    If you are tired of dealing with customers, wait until you start dealing with contractors who think it says "construction financing" on the side of your truck, architects who think function should follow design, and engineers who think you can stuff 500# of equipment into a 5 gallon bucket.
    Each market place has its pros and cons. I've got away from service simply because I'm getting too old for the hours and ups and downs with armloads of equipment and calls at all hours...I've paid my dues that way. Sounds like you've had a run of bad luck...we all have them. Take a good look at your attitude and approach to each situation and ask yourself how could you have handled it differently. Remember, in each one of those situations, you were the expert on site....and the one with the knowldege and ability to resolve the problem. Become a pro in your own mind and accept the fact that you are in control in that situation. Remember this....the customer is NOT always just have to make them think they are. Good luck in which ever path you chose....I for one miss a lot of my old customers.

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  • Ken D._2
    Ken D._2 Member Posts: 14

    The majority of our customers are good people. We run into shmucks every now and then. We will stand behind our work as all pros do. Often it is more cost effective just to take care of their problem (within reason!)and then we drop them like a hot potato. We don't deal with cheapskates. Not only do you never make money on them, you lose money, not to mention a few years off your life. People like that are not worth the effort.
  • bob young
    bob young Member Posts: 2,177
    customer technique

    when you run accross a difficult customer why not simply take them for a spin in your bucking bronco truck ? that should loosen them up for the kill.
  • Gene_3
    Gene_3 Member Posts: 289
    you may be burned out

    don't worry, I was, I survived, yoiu may need a change

    this is the great thing about our industry, YOU CAN MOVE AROUND

    I went into commercial/industrial after 18 years residential light commercial and learned more

    don't look back
  • frank_25
    frank_25 Member Posts: 202
    What Al says

    When you deal w/small customers you have small problems. [change a faucet, fix-my-leak] When you deal w/larger($) customers, you have larger($)problems, [didn't receive the change order, your 10 G check is in the mail]. No matter what you do..........the grass looks greener on the other side.
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