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LwnmwnMan2

Plumbing question - Charges???

19 posts in this topic

My parents had a leak in a shower. They tore out part of the wall to get to the leak, found it, but could not fix it themselves.

They then called a plumber. I'm pretty sure there's got to be a plumber here or two, and I don't care about how much anyone charges, just do charges like this sound right???

They were charged $85 for a service call (understand).

They were charged $15 for the part (understand).

They were charged $85 for an hour of labor (not understood).

Shouldn't the first hour of labor be included in the service call?? Especially if they have the guy do the job. He was there about 15 minutes, and in that 15 minutes my dad had to go to the garage twice to get wreches for the guy to fix the problem, didn't have them with him.

So, basically they ended up with a $200 bill for 15 minutes worth of work, $15 part. Is this the way it's done now?? Or did they get taken??

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That's the way it works for me. My house is 4 years old and I've had 7 sevice calls in 4 years for the furnace, water heater, and air conditioner. There's a trip charge and there's an hourly fee, and they charge for a full hour the first hour regardless of how long it takes. I keep thinking this stuff should be covered under warrantly but by some strange coincidence it's never been covered under warranty yet. But hey, what else would you expect from a bunch of crooks that do crappy work?

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I won't disagree that the price sounds high but what someone charges for work and what they get can be two different things. The point is, you can always call someone else. And forget the crap that they are all in cohoots and charge the same unless you can prove it and if so you have a viable case for a price fixing and anti-trust suit.

We all fall into the trap that whatever someone charges we "have to pay." Fortunately, in the state of Minnesota we still have the right to do our own plumbing repairs and if we are willing to take the time to do the research to learn how we can do it. Who knows, we might even discover that we have new calling. But to call them crooks because we don't like what they charge is a bit extreme. I wonder what our employers think of us every time we ask for a raise or do you suppose our employers call us crooks for what we charge?

Everybody but me is a crook because I am the only one that charges a fair price for an honest day's work. It may suck, but the price is what it is because that is what the consumers (that be us) have been willing to pay.

Don't buy it if it is priced too high.

Case in point. I needed some work done on my submersible well. The person I hired came out, worked for about 2 hours, replaced a check valve, and charged me $50. The next closest estimate would have been $70 just to get to my place plus $50/hour for the work done plus parts. Granted, the replacement valve was a used one because that's all he had with him so he didn't charge for the valve, but his totaly fee was less than the cost just to get another driller to my place. Shop around.

Case #2. A neighbor of mine recently started a tree trimming/removal service. He made the comment the other day that either his competition charges way too much or he has really failed to consider some expenses that he needs to. He recently bid $3,000 on a job to remove a tree. He later discovered that his next closest bidder came in at $7,500 to remove the same tree. Shop around.

Bob

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Dunno. So far I've been lucky enough to be able to fix plumbing issues myself.

However, I would not be happy if I did call a "professional" but had to use my tools and be the gopher because said professional came to the job unprepared.

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I make service calls for printing equipment at work and we get the same deal. The destination charge is automatic. It is suppose to cover the travel from one job to the next. The guy may have to go 1 mile or 50 miles however the charge is still the same. If the mechanic finishes the job in under an hour I find other stuff on the machine to do till the one hour is done. After I sign the bill I drill him for information as long as I can till he leaves. What you experienced is pretty much standard when making service calls. Some places have a lower hourly wage then others.

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That sounds right to me, I get billed out at $82 an hour, but don't get paid all of that. Out of that we have to pay the shop heat and other operating bills, pay the secratary, accountant and owner and I get whats left.

The show up charge covers what it cost to opperate the service vehicle with $3 gas and the driving time to your location.

Lets not forget that most shops with a reputation to withold cost a little more but do higher quality work, and they take care of their employees with retirement and vacation packages. Some of the small one man shops will cost less (do to a very small overhead) but you could also get what you pay for. Is it worth the risk to save a few bucks but maybe have to tear the wall apart twice or just pay and have it done?

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I had a small plumbing job done last fall. The service call is what they charge to knock on your door and included the first 15 minutes. My job was billed at $75 per hr., but was rounded to the nearest 15 minutes. The total bill was $102.00. Seeing as I hate plumbing (It always requires at least 3 trips to the store) more than going to a dentist it seemed like a fair price.

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I personally think its high and unfair! I think what I would do is call the owner and discuss it calmly with him. He may just knock some of it off for you! Then again he may not. But in any case its worth the cost of a phone call, to atleast let him know " Calmly" that you feel that you were ripped off! At least this is what I would do!

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That's a fair price. It's not high nor is it on the low end, either.

In the future you can ask what the estimated bill will be. This way budgeting can be done and sticker shock will be reduced.

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Other than the borrowing of tools I'd say you got lucky with a bad pipe in your wall your fortunate you didn't need A master Plumber for multile hours which would have been a lot more cash....

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I guess us landscaping / lawn care / snowplowing guys are going to have to start changing the way we charge too??

I've always been one that's included the first hour in a trip charge, then charged hourly after that.

Guess times are passing us "old-timers" up.

I'm all of 35. grin.gif

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With small jobs like that you tend to pay more. Your day gets fragmented with a lot of running around. By the end of the day you have to have made so much money. Now if the same plumber was there all day the roughing you'd get a bigger bang for your buck. Leaking water is a priority so its like an emergency house call. You'll pay more for that.

Also union scale and skilled tradesmen aren't cheap.

About the tools. When you get into repairs you never know what your getting into. Sure you bring the tools you think you'll need. Having more then one job going at the same time is common and its likely this guy was pulled from a job to get your parents leak fixed. So those tools were probably in use at another job or van.

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Anyone who owns a service business will tell you that bidding a job is the hardest part of it. Simple job you make good money and a surprise job finds you losing money. The Fudge factor of charging for a service call and then labor on top of it is pretty common. Being able to drive a few miles between jobs would be great but does not always happen. You are also paying for experience, what may take an hour for hired trained help may take you a day and you will still end up calling for help later. Anyone in the business knows that it's all of things you don't see that add up. For a plumber there are tools, truck, inventory, shop costs, office cost. Plumbing is not one of the easiest trades either. I used to work for a Master plumber in a retail setting, He told me never to tell a customer good-bye, just "see ya later"

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Quote:

With small jobs like that you tend to pay more. Your day gets fragmented with a lot of running around. By the end of the day you have to have made so much money. Now if the same plumber was there all day the roughing you'd get a bigger bang for your buck. Leaking water is a priority so its like an emergency house call. You'll pay more for that.

Also union scale and skilled tradesmen aren't cheap.

About the tools. When you get into repairs you never know what your getting into. Sure you bring the tools you think you'll need. Having more then one job going at the same time is common and its likely this guy was pulled from a job to get your parents leak fixed. So those tools were probably in use at another job or van.


About, about the tools. My dad had to get him a 7/8" & 9/16" wrench, about as common as one would need.

As for the driving around. I'm in the service industry as well. If I were do mow person A's yard, then mow person B's yard, do you think person B is going to pay me $20-30-40-80 just because I had to drive there?? Even when I get a call that's not normally on the list, or someone wants a bid.

Will I start having to charge people to come to their house to tell them how much it will be to mow?? $30 to cover fuel and time?

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When bidding I usually eat the cost of a bid, my travel and time then factor it in to the bid. If I get the job I get paid if I don't then I don't get paid. One of those fudge factors that someone else ends up paying for my time. In the spring I do a lot of tilling, I may only be actually tilling for 20 minutes but I have to charge for cleanup time. Like I say it is not the gas that runs the tiller that costs but the gas to get the little red truck with the tiller to the job. Very tuff to mow with the rising costs of fuel. For the most part I just eat the gas increase but gas will be more likely the reason that makes me stop mowing for customers. Mowing up here is such a seasonal thing, busy In the spring and almost nothing with the last two dry summers. You find very few mowers last more then a few years unless you have something else that you can provide.

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To answer your question Lnmower, I don't know if you have anybody working for you but if you do do you pay them to drive from job to job or do they do it for free? Another thing to consider is just because you hire a guy from town "X" dosne't mean that where he is working. Our shop is in Crystal and I've never worked within 20 miles of that town.

I don't want to tell you how to run your business but maybe you should revisit how things get billed out, or maybe realize that your travel time is already included in your contracts. I, as a skilled tradesman have a contract with the shop, they pay me from 7-3:30, driving from job to job or working, I get paid the same. The shop has a contract with you, the customer and they get paid either by a set bid price for a big job, or they get "time and material" from the customer for small service calls. Period.

I'm not saying it's right or wrong but it's just the way that business is done now days. If you think about it, it kind of goes like this. Everybody wants to make as much money as possible but balks when they have to pay someone who wants to make as much money as possible.

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Quote:

To answer your question Lnmower, I don't know if you have anybody working for you but if you do do you pay them to drive from job to job or do they do it for free? Another thing to consider is just because you hire a guy from town "X" dosne't mean that where he is working. Our shop is in Crystal and I've never worked within 20 miles of that town.

I don't want to tell you how to run your business but maybe you should revisit how things get billed out, or maybe realize that your travel time is already included in your contracts. I, as a skilled tradesman have a contract with the shop, they pay me from 7-3:30, driving from job to job or working, I get paid the same. The shop has a contract with you, the customer and they get paid either by a set bid price for a big job, or they get "time and material" from the customer for small service calls. Period.

I'm not saying it's right or wrong but it's just the way that business is done now days. If you think about it, it kind of goes like this. Everybody wants to make as much money as possible but balks when they have to pay someone who wants to make as much money as possible.


Okay, so what you're saying is, that basically the $82 trip charge is the "shop's fee" and the $82 labor charge is the "technicians fee"????

Yes, I do have people that work for me, but only on big jobs that we're at one, at most 2 locations all day. I understand about paying employees to drive from job to job.

This is what I don't understand. I by no means am ragging on plumbers, please don't take it this way, just trying to understand charges.

The shop was local, within 5 miles of my parent's house. Plumber guy drives over, don't know who he was, whether an employee, or owner/op. $82 "trip fee". Okay, whatever. I understand that you've got to get money to drive over and look, usually by the time you leave your house / shop, look things over and return, you're going to have an hour, and that's if you're close.

Now, here's the part I don't understand. The $82 labor fee. I'm only 35 and remember times when, if you looked at a job, and the customer agreed to it, the trip fee was either erased, or at least included 1/2 hour of labor.

Even today, if I drive to the auto dealer for service, they'll charge me $50 to diagnose the problem, but if they perform the service, that fee is erased. I completely agree, or else you just have a bunch of people bouncing ideas off of you (much like this board grin.gif) and then going home with a buddy and fixing it themselves.

I think this is my problem.... my hangup....

Instead of having line items for each thing, why not just say the first hour is $170 / hour, then $85 / hour for each after, with a one hour minimum??

Now the customer knows that it's going to be at least $170 + materials, and doesn't see the charges broken down and start wondering why they're paying $82 for a guy to drive 5 miles??

At least that's how I do it. No one ever sees an itemized bill, unless there's materials involved, and even then just "materials..... $xxx.xx", along with a total labor charge.

I suppose, it's no difference than adding a fuel surcharge. Why not just raise your hourly rate $1?? At least it doesn't look like you're nickel and diming a customer.

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You have a very valid point on how the first hour should get charged and I don't have an answer. There are probably many circumstances that neither one of us know that have led to how this all gets charged out. I can't speak for every shop out there but I'm pretty sure they are all done the same way regardless of trade.

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Even today, if I drive to the auto dealer for service, they'll charge me $50 to diagnose the problem, but if they perform the service, that fee is erased.


Not to many places do that any more! In fact I have never worked for a shop in the metro area in the last 12 + years that has ever done that. One of the perks of living in a smaller community (insert fog horn here - the GL'rs will get that).

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