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Author: KingHugh Three stars, 500 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 128953  
Subject: Plumbing Date: 2/7/2003 10:52 PM
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Hey all, In order for you to answer this maybe you will need my location, so I live in Upstate NY, near Albany.

Anyhow, I had a leaking toilet, it leaked for a while, nothing major, just a little seepage between the toilet and the floor. Negligable really. But, as little things do, it got worse with time. Now, I'm the kind of guy that needs to read the lightbulb box to see how to change the damn thing when it blows. So, needless to say I wasn't too crazy about the notion of taking the toilet apart to see where the water was coming from. I called a plumber, 2 greasy guys, one with no teeth, the other with a serious case of plumbers crack, FRONT & BACK, came over and evaluated the situation. The boss (with the frontandbackcrack) tells me that it's probably just the wax ring, and they can come back and fix it on Friday. This was on Wednesday. How much I say, he says after some thinking and getting down on all fours and looking at it again, about $150.00. He says, I need a new ring, and maybe a new flange and maybe some bolts...Me being the dope that I am says, well, Ok I guess. Sounded like some serious materials to me.

Well, I went to work and was talking to my buddy about it. He was floored...$150 for that? They'll be there 15 minutes....Their nuts, and your a Bigger Nut if you pay them that much... So what do I do I ask, he says change the wax ring yourself, I reminded him about the lightbulb box thing, and he says here...draws me a picture, and tells me what I need to do.

SO, I did it. Went to the hardware store and got a new wax ring ($1.77) and 2 new brass bolts ($2.39). Went home, and looked at it for a while. Then finally, decided to get started. That was at 12:00pm.

By 1:00pm (the same day) my toilet was back in business with no leak, and I was sitting at my kitchen table drinking coffee, feeling really proud of myself, and comtemplating how I was going to spend the $145.00+ that I had just saved.

So, a job that took me ,a NOVICE, even less than a Novice but I don't know what you would call LESS than a novice, Less than 1 hour to complete, AND clean up after. AND $4.16 worth of parts....was going to cost me $150.00 to have professionally done. That sounds crooked to me.

What would the going rate be for that type of a repair....? Was he ripping me off.....well that's a stupid question.....Would most plumbers who came to the house have charged me the same amount?? Any amount over $40.00 sounds to be highway robbery to me.

All pats on the back for doing it myself gladly accepted....


Later Dudes & Dudettes;

Darrin
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Author: ChrisBuehler Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31779 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/7/2003 11:10 PM
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SO, I did it. Went to the hardware store and got a new wax ring ($1.77) and 2 new brass bolts ($2.39). Went home, and looked at it for a while. Then finally, decided to get started. That was at 12:00pm.

By 1:00pm (the same day) my toilet was back in business with no leak, and I was sitting at my kitchen table drinking coffee, feeling really proud of myself, and comtemplating how I was going to spend the $145.00+ that I had just saved.

--------------

Darrin,

WAY TO GO!!!!

Chris

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Author: bpez Three stars, 500 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31782 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/8/2003 7:11 AM
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Any amount over $40.00 sounds to be highway robbery to me.

>>>>>>>

I just love the people that expect something for nothing. These guys drove to your house. The have a truck/van full of tools,equipment,etc. I can go on and on about auto insurance, liability insurance, health insurance, workers comp., fire/flood etc. They have families to feed and bills to pay just like everyone else.
This is their profession, not their hobby.

My brother runs a very successful plumbing and heating business. His rates are competitive and he has no problem looking the customer in the eye as he hands them the bill. What you view as a high bill really isn't much when it gets broken down. That's what it takes to stay in business. He does excellent work and stands behind everything he does. He very rarely gets a complaint about his prices. Most of his business is word of mouth and repeat customers. A professional image, new vans etc. go a long way. People are willing to pay for it.

There's also the saying "You get what you pay for". Just say you had a hack come over and change the wax ring for $40. Two weeks later your ceiling has water damage from the leaking wax ring you just had replaced. Think the hack will back up his work? You'll never see him again. Where's the savings now?

Hire the pros, feel good about paying for professional service. You'll never regret it.

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Author: Goofyhoofy Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Top Recommended Fools Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31784 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/8/2003 9:14 AM
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Was he ripping me off.....

Yes.

Any amount over $40.00 sounds to be highway robbery to me.

More like $75 would have been fair. You do have to pay for their time, and that includes time getting to and from the location, plus the 20 minutes the actual repair would take.

I don't understand why they didn't just do the job while they were there and charge you for an hour's work, for which $75 would be fair. The fact that for some reason "they had to come back" might ratchet that up, but I can't imagine that they don't keep a supply of wax rings in the truck; there are only a couple of sizes and it's a very common repair.

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31787 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/8/2003 10:19 AM
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<<So, a job that took me ,a NOVICE, even less than a Novice but I don't know what you would call LESS than a novice, Less than 1 hour to complete, AND clean up after. AND $4.16 worth of parts....was going to cost me $150.00 to have professionally done. That sounds crooked to me.

What would the going rate be for that type of a repair....? Was he ripping me off.....well that's a stupid question.....Would most plumbers who came to the house have charged me the same amount?? Any amount over $40.00 sounds to be highway robbery to me.

All pats on the back for doing it myself gladly accepted....


Later Dudes & Dudettes;

Darrin
>>


My minimum charge in my furnace repair business is $85 for an hour or less, plus any parts. Presumably the plumber and helper worked as a team, so you'd be paying for both. So it doesn't sound unreasonable to me, although why they dudn't have a wax ring, flange and bolts with them is rather odd.

What did you get charged to have the problem diagnosed?




Seattle Pioneer

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31788 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/8/2003 10:29 AM
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<<My brother runs a very successful plumbing and heating business. His rates are competitive and he has no problem looking the customer in the eye as he hands them the bill. What you view as a high bill really isn't much when it gets broken down. That's what it takes to stay in business. He does excellent work and stands behind everything he does. He very rarely gets a complaint about his prices. Most of his business is word of mouth and repeat customers. A professional image, new vans etc. go a long way. People are willing to pay for it.

There's also the saying "You get what you pay for". Just say you had a hack come over and change the wax ring for $40. Two weeks later your ceiling has water damage from the leaking wax ring you just had replaced. Think the hack will back up his work? You'll never see him again. Where's the savings now?

Hire the pros, feel good about paying for professional service. You'll never regret it.
>>


I agree with your post except the last sentence. The do it yourselfer who chooses jobs he can do properly can save good money, but the most important skill a do it yourselfer needs is to decide what NOT to do or attempt. The do it yourselfer also needs the patience to do things over two or three times if necessary until the job is done right, and be willing to call in experts if he just can't make it work right, or has doubts about it.

Perhaps the biggest weakness of do it yourselfers from my point of view as a furnace repairman is that they may correct one acute problem, but overlook other problems that they don't look for or recognize.

In this case, the writer had a diagnosis of the problem and no other problemns were apparently observed. Doing the repair was reasonable, in my view. Checking for possible leaks would also be smart, in my view.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31789 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/8/2003 10:41 AM
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<<Was he ripping me off.....

Yes.

Any amount over $40.00 sounds to be highway robbery to me.

More like $75 would have been fair. You do have to pay for their time, and that includes time getting to and from the location, plus the 20 minutes the actual repair would take.

I don't understand why they didn't just do the job while they were there and charge you for an hour's work, for which $75 would be fair. The fact that for some reason "they had to come back" might ratchet that up, but I can't imagine that they don't keep a supply of wax rings in the truck; there are only a couple of sizes and it's a very common repair.

>>


I'll agree that not having these parts on the truck sounds odd.

But the charges don't sound unreasonable for a plumber/helper team. Often construction work requires two people to do the job, or do it efficiently and safety, so a two man team doesn't sound unreasonable to me.

One reason that I charge for an hour minimum of my time is that I can't predict how long doing a job will take, so I have to budget 1 1/2 hours per job. If I finish a job in 15 minutes, I merely am left waiting around until the scheduled time for my next job.


Another reason that I charge the hour minimum is that I always explain my basic service charge to people who call for service, so I need something that's simple to explain and to understand. My theory is that 95% of people would like to know what they will be charged, but only about 10% or so will actually ask. So I volunteer that information in a form that people can understand, which means you have to keep it simple.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: Gnordo Two stars, 250 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31790 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/8/2003 1:28 PM
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.....I'm in complete agreement with Seattle- 150$ +/- is a likely fair price for the EXPECTED work, removal/replacement wax ring[s],bolts and flange.

If that was a fixed price, or a "not to exceed" price, by say not over 10%, he still would be at risk for the unkown/unseen, hidden but yet unremoved throne.

Let me add a few additional thoughts.
Lets say the undercarraige of the thrown had some damage, like a crack or chipped out section that was either the principal or secondary cause of the leak. Lets say the sewer pipe is improperly supported, allowing it to shift or move by vibration, or other cause. Lets say the thrown's floor supporting is either rotted out or inadequate, allowing the thrown to move relative to the wax ring. All such things would require additional work.

In the extreme, lets say the thrown was so severly damaged that it would be best/mandatory to replace it rather than affecting a patch/seal on the damge. If he did not have an escape clause in his bid,he would be stuck with the thrown replacement, although I think he would likely have tried to void the original price, since that possibilty was not mentioned in his expected "scope of work".

Although it seems to have been assumed the plumber did not have the necessary materials on hand to proceed, I wonder if that was the case. Possibly, he had another already scheduled job [ possibly more pressing/urgent] to attend to, and his stop over to your home was only to inspect and provide an estimate at the time.

Further, how is the plumber to cover, for the time spent on your job providing a FAIR estimate, with implied expectation, that a fair bid would put him in the running for getting the job, if not actually getting it.
His over head cost for such "non productive time" spent on your estimate, must be covered in any pricing for the jobs that he does get!!!

Now your cost comparison included only materials; there was no fair value placed on the time it took to for you and others to analyze the job, make the decision, go round up all the parts, cost of fuel/general auto wear, actual time of repair , other costs plus a profit to make a fair comparison as to whether or not 150$ was a rip off!
.....In my opinion, this "less than attractive" plumber was making a fair and honest effort to service you, while on your side, you ripped him off by picking his brain of the diagnosis, then shutting him out on any possibilty for receiving fair value for his knowledge.

.....Don't mean to come off too hard on you in that you were led to believe by another party it was a rip off, and further by the flawed analysis as to what a fair price is.

Let me end with a little bit of Plumbing Trade Humor"

Every plumber says- KEEP ON SH*T*NG, YOUR SH*T IS MY GOLD!!!

AND

When an apprentice plumber has learned that water, and waste flow s down hill, he passes his apprenticeship.
When he can reliably get the Hot on the Left, and Cold on the right with consistancy, he gets his journeymans papers.
If he survives to the point that he has learned NEVER TO CHEW HIS FINGER NAILS, he gets his Master Plumber ticket.

Gnordo



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Author: nnn12345 Three stars, 500 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31792 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/8/2003 2:12 PM
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The plumber i use charges $75 to come over for a visit, plus parts, for a standard type of repair such as this one.

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Author: KingHugh Three stars, 500 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31799 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/8/2003 8:51 PM
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I appreciate the varied points of view you all have shared with me. Even the ones that disagreed with my position.

One thing I'd like to clarify, and I really should have put this in my original post, I already had a very good idea of what the problem was with the toilet before I ever called the plumber. I didn't know at that time what the cost of the parts was, nor the procedure for changing them. When the plumber came I didn't ask him what was wrong, I told him what I thought was wrong. He did confirm my diagnosis. I didn't ask him to demonstrate the repair, or tell me where to get the parts. He came over, gave me a verbal price (by saying "Oh probably a buck, buck and a half". There was no written quote, nor even a promise that he'd be back on Friday, he said "We SHOULD be able to be back on Friday". Were he a little more professional, I may have been a little more receptive. A LITTLE.

No matter what you tell me I will never agree that $150.00 is a fair price for 15 minutes worth of work and less than $5 worth of parts. I don't have a problem paying for the time he actually spends at my house. But I refuse to be held responsible for the dead time he has between my job, and when his next one is scheduled for. At that rate, he is expecting to make $23,200.00 per week! Are you telling me that it costs him that much to run his business??

What if I were to go into business changing light bulbs. I've gotten pretty good at that. Would it be reasonable, or fair, for me to charge a little old lady who can't reach he light fixtures $150.00 to go over and spend 15 minutes at her house changing her lightbulbs. Or even an hour, is an hour of my time worth $150?? If so I gotta talk to my boss, because last I checked I'm not making anywhere near that, and I'm not allowed to let my ass hang out while I'm working.



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Author: KingHugh Three stars, 500 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31800 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/8/2003 9:05 PM
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So it doesn't sound unreasonable to me, although why they dudn't have a wax ring, flange and bolts with them is rather odd.


If he had, he would have had the job. Because at that point I had had no time to think about it, and to compare his price with the cost of the parts. He would have done the job, I would have wrote him a check for $150 and that would have been it. I would have been pissed afterwards, and would never have called him again, but he would have been paid for THIS job.

What did you get charged to have the problem diagnosed?

Nothing. Not yet anyhow. And if he does send me a bill he will likely not be paid, depending on the amount. As far as I'm concerned estimates are job interviews, and you don't usually get paid for going to a job interview. If a person expects to be paid for providing an estimate then they should make sure that it perfectly clear when an appointment is made. Then the customer has the opportunity to at least KNOW that the estimate is billable as well as the actual repair.

Wouldn't this make the case for WHY he had no ring or bolts on his truck. So he could make a SECOND visit and perhaps BILL for the second visit?

If this were some OTHER kind of problem, and the estimate required some WORK on his part then I wouldn't balk at all to pay him for the estimate. If he had to do some research, or leg work, or draw up plans, or ANYTHING other than dig in his ear with his pinkey and chew on a toothpick, that would be a totally different issue. This estimate only cost him 10 minutes of his time, and the effort it took for him to get on the floor and get up again.

I have no problem treating people fairly, and will pay what I feel is a fair price. But I will NOT be taken advantage of. I'll let the damn toilet leak first.

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31803 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/8/2003 11:39 PM
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<<When an apprentice plumber has learned that water, and waste flow s down hill, he passes his apprenticeship.
When he can reliably get the Hot on the Left, and Cold on the right with consistancy, he gets his journeymans papers.
If he survives to the point that he has learned NEVER TO CHEW HIS FINGER NAILS, he gets his Master Plumber ticket.

Gnordo
>>


Heh, heh! I was a Shop Steward in the plumber's union (UA) when I worked for a utility. If supervisors or management screwed up, we could make **** flow uphill.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31804 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/9/2003 12:02 AM
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<<What did you get charged to have the problem diagnosed?

Nothing. Not yet anyhow. And if he does send me a bill he will likely not be paid, depending on the amount. As far as I'm concerned estimates are job interviews, and you don't usually get paid for going to a job interview. If a person expects to be paid for providing an estimate then they should make sure that it perfectly clear when an appointment is made. Then the customer has the opportunity to at least KNOW that the estimate is billable as well as the actual repair.

Wouldn't this make the case for WHY he had no ring or bolts on his truck. So he could make a SECOND visit and perhaps BILL for the second visit?

If this were some OTHER kind of problem, and the estimate required some WORK on his part then I wouldn't balk at all to pay him for the estimate. If he had to do some research, or leg work, or draw up plans, or ANYTHING other than dig in his ear with his pinkey and chew on a toothpick, that would be a totally different issue. This estimate only cost him 10 minutes of his time, and the effort it took for him to get on the floor and get up again.

I have no problem treating people fairly, and will pay what I feel is a fair price. But I will NOT be taken advantage of. I'll let the damn toilet leak first.
>>


Your assumption that you can't be billed because you didn't agree to a price is false. Under the basic principles of contract law ("quantum merruit" is the legal doctrine I believe) a workman is deemed to be entitled to be paid for the services he renders if you agree to accept them or request them. How MUCH he is entitled to be paid absent a contract is a more complicated question.

But make the assumption that you are entitled to a "free estimate" as you do in your post. I always ask what I will be charged when I ask for a service, or if I wanted a free estimate I'd ask for that.

Frankly, it sounds to me like he was very interested in doing the job, and may not bother billing you or calling you back.

And I have to add that your contemptuous comments about this tradesman are out of place and offensive. He came over to your home at your request to help you when you needed help. He evaluated the problem and gave you information that may have allowed you to repair the problem and not even be billed for the time he spent. He was honest with you about the nature and solution to the problem, not making any attempt to make a big job out of a minor one.

As far as I can see, he was both honest and competent in his dealings with you. In my view, honesty and competence are by far the most important qualities to shop for in a service provider.

I hope you said, "Thank you for your help," when he left. If you do get a bill, I hope you will remember that you were given honest and competent service, and the luxury of deciding you wanted to do this work yourself without being pressured to have him do the repair.

There are more than a few service providers who are not honest or not competent. A dishonest one might have charged you $500 for the repair and left you smiling because he was a great guy into the bargain.

I'd say you were lucky.




Seattle Pioneer

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Author: LeftBlank Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31814 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/9/2003 11:47 PM
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Depends where you live of course. I would gladly pay someone in NYC the $150 to fix my two toilets that won't stop running. I suspect it will cost me three times that, or a day of frustration... I suppose I should do it now before the weather warms up.



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Author: hotfoot Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31838 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/10/2003 8:22 PM
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Amazing how often we are ready to vilify the guy willing to come in and dig into a problem then ask for pay to do it.

I wonder how fast the money would appear if the problem went beyond a simple repair that we suddenly realized we could not handle.

How often has this repairman been slapped up side the head by rookies who luck out and find they could do the job?
If you have the skills -- ok. If not -- pay those who have troubled themselves to gain the skills, take the abuse and do the job.
H.

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31841 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/10/2003 10:30 PM
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<<Depends where you live of course. I would gladly pay someone in NYC the $150 to fix my two toilets that won't stop running. I suspect it will cost me three times that, or a day of frustration... I suppose I should do it now before the weather warms up.
>>


I hope you find someone who repairs the plumbing problems you have and who treats you decently and charges you a reasonable price for the service, whatever that might be.

One of my jobs today was to repair the gas fireplace for a homeowner. The fireplace wouldn't turn on reliably, the flame would go down to half or less of normal after a while and only half or so of the burner would light. An amenity that only existed to be a pleasure was a pain in the neck.

I was able to correct all the problems, and rebuilt the fire in a way so that it was better than it had ever been. The guy concluded that he would be able to make this repair job a Valentine's Day gift to his wife.

He asked me what it would take to convert his propane barbecue to natural gas and install the few feet of gas piping needed. After looking at the job, I estimated two hours labor and some parts costs, which he said was A LOT less than the bid he'd been given by a plumber.

Oftentimes, DOING repair work is a dirty and frustrating mess. Equipment often seems to want to fight you. What makes it worthwhile for me is being able to provide a useful service for people, when they need it, and especially having that work valued and appreciated by the people who benefit from it.

The idea that this guy would make my work a Valentine's Day gift to his wife made my day.




Seattle Pioneer

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Author: LeftBlank Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31847 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/11/2003 9:42 AM
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That's cool. People ought to recognize that skills are worthy paying for. Too many people these days want something for nothing, or half-price, or whatever.

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31849 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/11/2003 12:42 PM
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<<That's cool. People ought to recognize that skills are worthy paying for. Too many people these days want something for nothing, or half-price, or whatever.>>


They often do, and they may find someone to sell it to them at half price. In the end they may pay four or six times as much as they bargained for.


A case in point are newspaper ads I see for cheap ($19.95) furnace inspections. An elaborate and apparently impressive list of inspections is listed.

But as I read that list, what the contractor is agreeing to do is goi out and make a list of the work that actually needs to be done, they don't actually DO any maintenance work. They will inspect the furnace filter, for example, but not change it. So people are going to get a bill for $19.95 plus a proposal to do maybe another hundred dollars or more of repairs and maintenance work, and very likely a suggestion that the whole furnace needs to be changed out ("just sign here and we'll take care of it for a low monthly payment").

People may very well be paying someone to give them a high pressure sales job!

This gets back to my theory that the two most important qualities to look for in a service provider are 1) honesty and 2) competence. Honesty is more important than competence, and honesty is more important than price, since an honest person can be depended upon to treat you fairly, while a dishonest person may quote you a low sucker price, confident that there are numerous ways to jack up the price later (see above example).



Seattle Pioneer




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Author: AngryPuppy Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31858 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/11/2003 4:12 PM
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...At that rate, he is expecting to make $23,200.00 per week! ...

That seems about right for plumbers :)

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Author: kristihern Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31954 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/13/2003 12:45 PM
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We keep a list of little peskies, so that when we do have to break down and have the plumber/electrician/etc come, we get our money's worth out of the fixed cost. You wouldn't call the plumber for the leaking laundryroom faucet, but if the main line backs up completely -- add it on!


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Author: earlmedwards Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31968 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/13/2003 1:49 PM
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Darrin,

You've already gotten some great responses to your question, with different viewpoints as from bpez and goofyhoofy. But I especially liked Gnordo's response.

I've had experience - among them the old family home built in the 1920s, and still has some original plumbing but getting replaced piece by piece. One visit, I decided saturday afternoon to replace the bathroom sink washers to save her a repair bill. Didn't count on the riser pipe to the faucet turning into a sieve when I touched it. After a waterless weekend, I paid the plumber what it was worth to repair what I wasn't smart enough to not mess with.

You need to find a reliable plumber that you trust. OK, not easy to do, but ask for recommendations from friends and neighbors. Then decide how much agony and frustration you want to take on yourself in order to save a few bucks. That's easier to do, if you first take inventory of your tool kit and skills.

Example, my washing machine drain needs rodding every year or two. Soap scum buildup. And trust me, Drano, Liquid Plumber, and all the other grocery store miracle remedies won't get the job done.

So it costs me $90 (Feb 2001) to get a real plumber with the right tools to do it. A very fair price IMNSHO. He uses a motorized, indusrial strength (and sized) snake, thast would probably cost me $300 to $400 to buy. In addition, he's the one who deals with that nasty thing and stays at it until the drain is clear.

It's acting up again, so I've got to call him again, but 2 years trouble free isn't bad.

Other jobs, I do myself. I have a fiberglass shower unit, no seams built into the bathroom. Seemed like a hidden leak, or careless grandson splashing water on the floor. Called my plumber who checked the supply line, found no problem, and replaced the shower valve assembly (one of those $5 parts) for only $80. Standard hourly rate and the job was done well and right.

But I still had that wet floor. Finally realized that there was a leak between the shower drain outlet and the in ground stub up pipe. Took the hair trap off and sealed it up with a cartridge of clear silicone that cost about $4. End of problem. But the alternate would have cost hundreds of dollars to tear through walls and/or remove and replace the fiberglass shower.

So I suggest you print a copy of some of these good responses and refer to them next time you have a repair situation. Each one is different and you'll learn by experience, but as some of the others indicated, don't overlook the "unknowns" and the "aggravation" costs. Life just isn't as simple as comparing $5 in parts with "free" labor to a $150 professional estimate.

Cheers
EarlM


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Author: earlmedwards Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31971 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/13/2003 2:06 PM
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Seattle Pioneer,

Your assumption that you can't be billed because you didn't agree to a price is false. Under the basic principles of contract law ("quantum merruit" is the legal doctrine I believe) a workman is deemed to be entitled to be paid for the services he renders if you agree to accept them or request them. How MUCH he is entitled to be paid absent a contract is a more complicated question.


You're right on target there. Seems like lots of assumptions are being made without full facts in this thread.

Going back to Darrin's original question, don't think I've ever called a plumber or repairman to come out (I'm in Tampa FL) that I wasn't told there is a flat charge, usually $35 to $50, for the call out with repairs being in addition. That's just how the business works. The days when a tradesman might come to your house to diagnose the problem AND give you a free estimate were probably back when gasoline was 29.9 cents a gallon, they checked the tires and water for free, wiped the windshield AND said "Thank You!"

The gentleman who thinks he's entitled to a free estimate should try that for his TV or VCR. "You bring it in, and there is a MINIMUM inspection charge of $35, and repairs are in addition to that.

There's very few free estimates anymore than there is a free lunch.

my 2 cents worth
EarlM


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Author: jamslore Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31974 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/13/2003 2:54 PM
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Good job Darrin!

You can fix most anything on a tolet for less than $10, except maybe replacing a tank or stool. Plumbers get high pay for simple repair we can do, IF you want to tackle them. Usually they charge a flat fee plus mileage and parts but not $150. Good luck with future repairs.

Jamslore

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Author: KingHugh Three stars, 500 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31997 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/13/2003 11:41 PM
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I guess many of us are just going to have to agree to disagree on this issue. Personally there is no way anybody will ever justify to me a $150 price tag for this repair. Maybe I'm being unfair, maybe he would have come, and made the quick repair, and said, "Phew, I thought this would be more involved, Give me $50.00 and we're square", but I doubt it. Just by the way he was building it up. I may have been born at night, but it wasn't last night. I smelled the BS when he made a big deal out of getting down on the floor to look at it TWICE. He made it SOUND like he needed some serious parts to complete this task, please less than $5.

Anyhow, a lot of this could have been avoided. Some of it on my part. Hey lifes a dance, you learn as you go. I'm not perfect. I could have tried to fix it myself before consulting a plumber. I could have described the problem over the phone and gotten an estimate. I could have just folded up and paid him the $150.00.

Some of it on his too. He could have been more professional. He could have provided a written quote, which included the scope of the work, the expected price, and when he was going to be there to do it. He could have quoted a fair price, or at least substantiated the price he gave me. He could have pulled his damn pants up.

I have a business myself. Not a big one, just something I do in my spare time to make a few extra bucks. A, there is no way I would ever charge somebody that kind of a price for such a simple project with that level of out of pocket expense. I couldn't live with myself, it's as good as stealing. Thus I won't allow it to be done to me. B, If I ever presented myself to a customer the way he presented himself to me, I would be CRAZY to expect to be hired, or if somebody who worked for me presented themself to one of my customers like that, I'd fire them on the spot.

I think I just got a poor example of the plumbing profession.

Somebody in a previous post indicated that I had offended them. For that I'm sorry. That was NOT my intent.





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Author: KentB2 One star, 50 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31998 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/13/2003 11:43 PM
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Congrats on the repair and the savings. But I have a different perspective for you.

I have several businesses, all with one employee - me. One of those is heating and air conditioning. I got my license back and started doing repairs when I figured out it was taking me MORE time to deal with many contractors than to just fix the problem.

When someone calls and asks for an estimate I tell them we are not taking new clients. I don't really have time for the friends and family who call me now. If someone wants an estimate (more than a ballpark number off the top of my head), I don't have time. And I don't want to add the cost of providing estimates for those people who are just shopping to my overhead which has to be paid by my clients.

Now if they tell me what it is doing wrong I can usually tell them if it may be something they can fix themselves. I give advice over the phone for free to anyone who calls. (I spend a lot of time in front of the computer writing reports.) Home Depot, Lowes, etc. all provide this type of advice.

If I go to their site (for anything other than warranty), there is a charge. If I tear into it to see what is wrong, I normally fix it then and there. If someone wants to "get other estimates", I tell them the contractors who consistently do good work. Then I cross that client off my list of clients.

As pointed out earlier, crackinfrontandback and noteeth did what you asked of them and they were honest about it. They didn't give you the high pressure sell or try to sell you something you didn't need. I hope you are so lucky next time. And next time you complain about crackinfrontandback not showing up on time, hope he is not out giving free estimates.

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Author: koralis Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 31999 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/13/2003 11:50 PM
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When someone calls and asks for an estimate I tell them we are not taking new clients. I don't really have time for the friends and family who call me now. If someone wants an estimate (more than a ballpark number off the top of my head), I don't have time. And I don't want to add the cost of providing estimates for those people who are just shopping to my overhead which has to be paid by my clients.


What a wonderful attitude. So basically you don't want any clients that won't pay you sight unseen?


I'm not saying that you'd rip them off, but you're basically asking these people to accept any bill you hand them. You could just as easily hand them a bill that's 4x the going rate.. how are they to know?



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Author: KentB2 One star, 50 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 32015 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/14/2003 11:46 AM
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Good point to my bad attitude (guess I shouldn't post late at night after a hard days work).

The point that I was trying to make is that there is a give and take of honesty and trust on both the customer and the service provider. If you suspect the plumber (in this case) will charge you 4x - call someone else. If a service provider gives you a bill or an estimate that seems excessive you should question it. If you don't feel you are being treated fairly - tell them and give them a chance to explain or make it right. If they can't or don't, take your business elsewhere.

If you want a 'not to exceed' estimate, you should be willing to pay for the cost of the estimate. In this case the plumber would have had to pull the toilet up to see if the toilet was damaged, or the flange, or ??? Or he could have done what he appeared to do which was to provide an estimate that included some allowance for hidden conditions. (Ask a lawyer to explain case law on hidden conditions if you want to know how 'firm' cost estimates really are.)

I agree that $150 for a wax ring appears high. I agree that it was strange that a plumber didn't have a wax ring on the truck. But were they asked to provide an estimate or estimate/repair on the same trip? IMHO, two trips for two people for $150 sounds like they were way, way below union rates.

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Author: wit10 Three stars, 500 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 32016 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/14/2003 11:53 AM
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What an interesting thread! I had forgotten about this board, even though I have it on my favorites list, until this post made the hot topics list.

A couple of random thoughts:

A web site that I find very helpful, and not just for home maintenance, is http://home.howstuffworks.com. They have a good article about toilets, as well as many links to other sites for toilet problems.

Regarding pricing, those of you who work in the field have a very valid point. There's a lot of overhead in any business. I have learned the hard way that doing it yourself just to save money is not a good idea, if you (or in my case, my spouse) don't know what you are doing, and don't have the proper tools.

A few weeks ago, I hired the son of a friend, who has several years experience in the construction business, to do some home repairs. He is currently in school, and I think he agreed to do the work because we are friends of his parents. At any rate, the work he did was top-notch, and I ended up paying him MORE than he asked, because I don't think he realized his true value.

Looking forward to more interesting discussions,
Peg

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 32020 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/14/2003 12:39 PM
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<<I guess many of us are just going to have to agree to disagree on this issue. Personally there is no way anybody will ever justify to me a $150 price tag for this repair. Maybe I'm being unfair, maybe he would have come, and made the quick repair, and said, "Phew, I thought this would be more involved, Give me $50.00 and we're square", but I doubt it. Just by the way he was building it up. I may have been born at night, but it wasn't last night. I smelled the BS when he made a big deal out of getting down on the floor to look at it TWICE. He made it SOUND like he needed some serious parts to complete this task, please less than $5.
>>


Has he billed you for the service call he made? It doesn't sound like it, and therefore you have been treated generously by a peach of a guy, in my opinion.


Based on the story you related, it sounds to me like he wasn't very interested in doing a small job like the one you had. A plumber & helper team is probably more suitable for doing a larger and more complicated job.




Seattle Pioneer

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 32021 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/14/2003 12:54 PM
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<<When someone calls and asks for an estimate I tell them we are not taking new clients. I don't really have time for the friends and family who call me now. If someone wants an estimate (more than a ballpark number off the top of my head), I don't have time. And I don't want to add the cost of providing estimates for those people who are just shopping to my overhead which has to be paid by my clients.


What a wonderful attitude. So basically you don't want any clients that won't pay you sight unseen?


I'm not saying that you'd rip them off, but you're basically asking these people to accept any bill you hand them. You could just as easily hand them a bill that's 4x the going rate.. how are they to know?

>>


My policies are almost exactly that of Kentb2.


If people know exactly what they need in terms of parts, I'll give them a price over the phone if I have the part in stock, but usually people don't know why their furnace isn't working.

I volunteer the price of a service call, whether people ask for a price or not, and I keep it simple so they have a chance of understanding the deal ($85 for an hour or less, plus any parts needed).

But it's really rather futile to shop for prices over the phone with contractors. Someone may give you a charge of $49.95 for a service call, but not many people are going to be persistant to find out exactly what that buys them or what additional charges may apply. The 49.95 might be the charge to show up at the door, with another $50 per quarter hour of labor.

A contractor or other service provider who has a mind to cheat you will probably find a way to do it, even if you are cautious. That's why I say that the MOST IMPORTANT thing to shop for is someone who is honest. Competence is the second most important thing, and I'd place price down the list a ways.

But an honest, competent person will always render you a fair bill, and you wont have to negotiate prices. And you may well get a cheaper bill in the end than the person who gave you a low ball bid to begin with, with the intent of using nuerously techniques for inflating the bill later.

The way to find an honest, competent person is to talk to friends, neighbors and relatives to find people who have treated them well.


How many times have I made this speech on this board, anyway?




Seattle Pioneer



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Author: koralis Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 32023 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/14/2003 1:16 PM
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If you suspect the plumber (in this case) will charge you 4x - call someone else.

"He's italian. we all know how slimy those italians are." The point is that there's no way to know until they hand it to you. Sure, if you just don't feel good about someone then obviously don't hire them. In most cases you're talking to them over the phone though (you didn't pay them to come out to meet, remember?)



If you don't feel you are being treated fairly - tell them and give them a chance to explain or make it right. If they can't or don't, take your business elsewhere.


Small satisfaction when you owe someone an extra $2k over the going rate for installing a furnace or something. Don't pay it? You get a lein on your house and land in court.




If you want a 'not to exceed' estimate, you should be willing to pay for the cost of the estimate. In this case the plumber would have had to pull the toilet up to see if the toilet was damaged, or the flange, or ??? Or he could have done what he appeared to do which was to provide an estimate that included some allowance for hidden conditions. (Ask a lawyer to explain case law on hidden conditions if you want to know how 'firm' cost estimates really are.)

I'd be happy with an hourly price schedule, declaration of parts markup, and a good faith estimate on how much time it's going to take. Yes, if you discover that the toilet needs to be replaced I wouldn't expect you to cover that cost. However, I want to know that you're not tripling the price for the part that I could buy at Home Depot too once you've got me over a barrel.



I agree that $150 for a wax ring appears high. I agree that it was strange that a plumber didn't have a wax ring on the truck. But were they asked to provide an estimate or estimate/repair on the same trip? IMHO, two trips for two people for $150 sounds like they were way, way below union rates.

Why in the world do they need two people to make an estimate or even look over the job (if they assumed it was a done deal?) They obviously weren't prepared to fix it right then and there. The second guy is of NO value on the first trip, and dubious value on the second. Did they tell him he was hiring a crew to fix the toilet? Tell him the hourly rate for their team?





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Author: jiml8 Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 32025 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/14/2003 1:42 PM
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How many times have I made this speech on this board, anyway?

Ohhh...

Once or twice, I suppose.

You're right, of course. But nonetheless it is sooooo hard to find an honest one - and when you do find one they're usually so busy you can't get them to respond to you.

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Author: rsprang Big gold star, 5000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 32030 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/14/2003 3:35 PM
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there is no way I would ever charge somebody that kind of a price for such a simple project with that level of out of pocket expense. I couldn't live with myself, it's as good as stealing.

I don't think it's stealing to charge market rate for a professional's time. You mention that you have a business, but I have to wonder if your business is profitable - many folks don't understand overhead and real business costs and lose net money on their "profitable businesses" every year.

Keep in mind the plumber has to pay for his truck, his helper, his insurance, maybe annual license fees, etc. In addition, he probably doesn't bill his travel time. For that and other reasons, he probably doesn't bill 2080 hours a year (ie 40 hours a week). If his overhead (trucks, tools, inventory, etc) is 100%, his gross income would be $75 an hour, if he billed the job as one hour ($150/2). Now, that's gross. Taxes will reduce that something like 40%, call it $30 in taxes, 15% FICA ($11), maybe $5 for medical disability insurance, and now your "overpaid" plumber is taking home maybe $29 an hour. If he could bill 2080 hours a year, that would be $60,320 a year - but, as noted above, he really can't bill 2080 hours a year. If he is netting $40,000 to $50,000 a year, he is probably doing pretty well. Of course, in most areas that would be lower middle class - in many areas, you can't even find a decent $125,000 home anymore (using the 2.5 times earnings rule of thumb).

Just trying to help you understand why the quote was fair. Doesn't mean the plumber wasn't trying to impress you, though.

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Author: rsprang Big gold star, 5000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 32033 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/14/2003 3:58 PM
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How many times have I made this speech on this board, anyway?

Not enough, apparently. You are right, of course, but I fear some folks will always look for the lowest apparent price, and won't ever 'get it'.

Another example. Took my truck to a dealer for the state inspection. Another dealer had a coupon to save $20 over my regular dealer. My regular dealer wouldn't take the coupon, so, thinking I was safe with a dealer, I took it to the other one. They insisted I needed a tire rotation ($8) and a wheel bearing adjustment (warranty) to pass inspection. Later found out neither was required to pass inspection, and I'm not sure they actually did either job they charged me for. What did I learn? Pay the $50 at the dealer I usually go to - they don't hassle me, do a good job, and don't try to 'upsell' me.


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Author: rsprang Big gold star, 5000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 32034 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/14/2003 4:01 PM
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Why in the world do they need two people to make an estimate or even look over the job (if they assumed it was a done deal?) They obviously weren't prepared to fix it right then and there. The second guy is of NO value on the first trip, and dubious value on the second.

Maybe the second guy was an apprentice - learning on the job. Might have even been paying for the privelege of being there.

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 32040 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/14/2003 11:13 PM
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<<I'd be happy with an hourly price schedule, declaration of parts markup, and a good faith estimate on how much time it's going to take. Yes, if you discover that the toilet needs to be replaced I wouldn't expect you to cover that cost. However, I want to know that you're not tripling the price for the part that I could buy at Home Depot too once you've got me over a barrel.

>>


If that's what you want, bud, why didn't you shop around for someone who would meet the conditions you desired? Moaning and groaning after the fact is pretty poor form.


And I'd imagine you'd be freezing in the dark with water up to your behind before you found a plumber electrician or furnace repairman who'd bother with all your conditions. I'd certainly hang up on you before you got half way through your list.

And rather often, my markup on parts is a good deal more than triple what you might pay at Home Depot, particularly for inexpensive parts. I provide a years warrentee on parts and labor, and any part I install might fail and cause me to go back to replace it at no charge. People pay for that guarantee through higher parts charges.


I again suggest that this duo was probably looking for larger scale jobs where two people were needed to do the work. I'm just guessing of course, but they may not have been very interested in doing the work and tossed off a high end estimate for that reason.


In the end, you got a sdervice call and valuable information from this pair which encouraged you to do the job yourself for a pittance ---and yet you moan and groan pitteously about how you were treated.


You don't have a clue about how the repair business works, and can't recognize someone who treated you well even when you looked them in the face. At least, you SHOULD have been looking them in the face, instead of worrying about their pants.




Seattle Pioneer

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Author: koralis Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 32041 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/14/2003 11:42 PM
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If that's what you want, bud, why didn't you shop around for someone who would meet the conditions you desired? Moaning and groaning after the fact is pretty poor form.


you're confusing me with the guy that started this thread. I'm just playing devils advocate to all of the repair guys here that seem to have an attitude with him being surprised by the outcome. :)




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Author: JacKitts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 32094 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/17/2003 1:31 PM
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Heck, guys,
Just send me the name of Mr Plumber's Butt and his phone number. Does he do Eastern Connecticut? I called three plumbers over a year ago and have yet to have anyone show up to do any work. Meanwhile I have worn out two "plumber's helpers."

One guy has called with numerous excuses for not showing up at all. Another one said I needed a new toilet and never returned my calls when I asked him to give me an estimate. The third one has been here three times--at unusual hours and still hasn't done anything. He showed up empty nhanded each time. (This last one showed up unannounced when I had a houseful of company for a picnic; the next time he came I had my oldest daughter, her fiancee, and grandchildren staying with me; and the third time he arrive in our driveway, we had the car packed and were leaving for the airport.)

I just wanna flush without the aid of a plunger!

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Author: KentB2 One star, 50 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 32594 of 128953
Subject: Re: Plumbing Date: 2/28/2003 11:57 PM
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What an interesting turn of events. For those who read this far into long (and old) threads, I posted a while back about two way trust between the service provider and the customer. I had two experiences this week that help me understand the general public's frustration.

In working with an insulation subcontractor I asked him to do LESS work using less materials and less labor. He immediately told me it was going to cost more. I asked him to explain. He gave me a load of bull about not meeting code and it would cost more. I asked him to explain how not meeting code would increase the cost. More bull. I told him that it would cost no more than his bid because he was going to do EXACTLY what was in his contract for EXACTLY what he bid. He called back later and said that he checked his numbers and could do the lesser work for the original cost. I blew up and told him that he could not and would not. He had blown my trust and would no longer work on any of my jobs. Thank goodness he had not started working yet or it would have been more difficult to void his contract. Point to all Fools - if you can't trust them - don't work with them.

The second event happened on another job. A different subcontractor did an installation two different ways. I pointed out that one was wrong and had to be corrected. He countered with that one was right and gave reasons why it shouldn't be done the other way. That exposed that NEITHER were right. He now has a LOT of rework to do. It will be interesting to see how he handles the rework. He has already been told that there will be no additional cost for the rework because neither one met the requirements of the contract. Point to all Fools - in the words of Ronald Reagan "Trust, but verify".

I should also add that any contract needs to specify what is to be done (including level of quality, materials, etc.), when it will be done, and only then what it will cost. If you are given a proposal which pretty much says that you agree to pay the contractor a certain price - you should rewrite the contract to include what the cost is for.

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