I am writing this to inform the consumer about the deception regarding flat rate pricing in the plumbing industry.
First of all, if you look at the advertising campaigns by companies on flat rate systems (local yellow pages, television, radio ads, etc.) you will notice they have the biggest, boldest, hit-you-in-the-face ads to attract your attention. Who do you think is paying for the thousands of dollars a year they spend on advertising? Surely it’s not you the unsuspecting customers…don’t kid yourself, it’s being accounted for in your job costs!
They say that you will be given a free written estimate (usually day or night) with no overtime charges. So you may as well call them after hours because you can be sure that you’re getting hit with a rate that is double or triple of that of a good reputable plumber.
I also laugh at the fact that they call their workers “Technicians”. Last time I checked my licence it said “Plumber”. This is used because chances are that the person coming through your door is a helper or apprentice with little experience.
Flat rate companies like to compare the so called “old” way of pricing by time and materials with their pay one flat price for the job, regardless of how long it takes.
When you receive your invoice at the completion of the job, there is no separation for labour and materials so you have no idea how much a specific part costs or how much of your bill is labour….hmmm sixty, seventy, one hundred dollars an hour? Take a guess. Most flat rate companies are charging upwards of three hundred dollars an hour, and is that ten-dollar part they just installed costing you forty, fifty dollars or more?
Think about it for a minute. You call a flat rate company for a plugged drain. They arrive and have you agree to a flat price and sign a contract for the job. How are they to know ahead of time how long it will take to clear the drain as there could be a number of factors affecting the drain (grease, roots, broken line under the floor, etc.)? They have to allow for the worst case scenario, so you pay large! They also limit what is covered in the cost so if they find a broken pipe while clearing the drain then they will have you sign for more money as it is considered above and beyond what you agreed on initially.
Flat rate company employees are usually paid a low base salary and receive commission bonuses based on upselling. In other words, you may be paying for plumbing repairs and/or installations that are not needed.
I believe in charging a fair hourly rate and mark-up on materials that will hopefully gain us repeat business and referrals. Quotes are always encouraged for larger more involved jobs as long as the price is fair and not gouging the customer.
Jason Hill (Licenced Master Plumber)