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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
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    service call sticker shock

    I appreciate skilled tradesmen because they can do things I can't. I also think they should be rewarded handsomely for their labor, but after a recent experience, I'm thinking there's a freaking limit. Idk if this post is a #3 forum rules violation or not, I'm not asking anyone what should have been charged for this job, but I'd sure be interested on opinions as to whether or not my figurative financial butt-hurt is justified. My brother's approximately 1,000 sq.ft. zero lot house sustained a couple of busted copper water pipes during the cold snap that swept across the country several days back. No one was living in the house at the time and the water was shut off at the main. Additionally, the furnace did not work. My brother was unexpectedly due back in town, so I sent a relative over to check out the house. After turning on the water and discovering the leaks, a local company was called and the following day a plumber and heat tech both came to the house. The plumber found a busted pipe in the attic, which he repaired in about 20 minutes. Another busted pipe was found in a wall of the garage, where he cut a hole in the drywall and made the repair. Some cutting, copper and brazing and his work was done. Meanwhile, the heat tech found the furnace to have a bad igniter, which he replaced with a Honeywell Q3200U. He also said the thermostat was bad. When questioned what was bad about it, he just stated it was an old mercury type and was just bad. A new Honeywell FocusPRO 5000 TH5220D1003 was installed. His work was done. Both guys were onsite for 1.5 hours. The total invoice was equivalent to approximately $$$$. The plumber generated the extra $$. When shock was expressed at the cost, they seemed a little miffed, replying "we don't set our company's prices" and "we're journeymen". What do you do at that point, go tell 'em to remove the parts and re-break the pipes??? My relative wrote them a check. I looked the igniter and thermostat up online; chump change. Not sure what a few feet of half inch copper cost. The entire parts and materials cost couldn't have been more than high two figures. Oh, and we refused their offer to replace the kitchen sink waste disposal; north of $$!!! People used to want their kids to be doctors and lawyers. The trades are lookin' pretty good from where I'm standing. I'm heading to the company's office next week just to see if someone can look me in the face and tell me they feel good about themselves.
    Last edited by beenthere; 01-19-2014 at 08:28 AM. Reason: Price references

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Prata di Pordenone
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    7,652
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    Did they give you the price before the work was done .
    Go Trump

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Southold, NY
    Posts
    25,634
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    Try not to confuse what a tech in the field makes and what a company has to charge.

    We don’t dictate government regulations and insurance requirements.

    As far as a Dr. is concerned We Still Make House Calls!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Central Indiana
    Posts
    619
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    I just did some adding based on prices my company would charge. I cant see your prices, because thats against the rules of this forum and I wont tell you my exact price but it was approaching 4 figures. You had 2 highly skilled guys at the house for and hour and a half and each of them needs paid. At my shop, you would be billed for 3 hour of labor. I dont know if the plumber and the HVAC mechanic had different labor rates but where I'm at, 3 hours is close to 3 bills. Now add in a trip charge, and depending on how they run their business, that may mean a trip charge for each guy and there's another 2 bills or more. Add in parts and your in the ball park.

    Were running businesses here, that means there is overhead to cover. Trucks, tool, insurance, licensing, training, the heat for the shop, the invoice paper, the ink for the printer, the phone lines, the secretary, the internet service, the gas to run the trucks, the oil change for the truck. All of these are costs that have to be covered. You can complain all you want but the reality of it is, your being charged to cover those costs.

    Next time you go to the grocery store, go up to the manager and have them look you in the face and explain why a 25 cent loaf of bread costs 2.50. Thats a 1000% mark up. I dont mark up my parts like that, and neither does any heating and cooling company but you throw a fit about an ignitor costing more than you can get it online.
    The only true knowledge is the pursuit of knowledge

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Austin, TX
    Posts
    1,381
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    Always get a quote before they preform the work.

    You probably didn't need a thermostat and most likely they marked it up 300%. My company has a 2 hour minimum for both techs. We have to do that to pay for the cost of rolling the truck. that alone would have cost in the half of 4 digits.

    You can't go by what an igniter or thermostat costs on a random website. I have seen igniters for some boilers that cost almost 4 digits.

    You didn't mention it but I am assuming the plumber cut the hole, repaired the pipe, and then replaced the drywall.

    I am also guessing that the company was using a flat rate which is always more expensive but always preferred over time and materials by the customers.

    A 4 digit price does not shock me. Unfortunately the cost of keeping a business running is increasing faster then the customers see. Go back 15 years and I would be shocked too.
    If you're too "open" minded, your brains will fall out.
    Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Broomall, PA
    Posts
    2,882
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    The price does seem high, emphasis on seem. But you appear to have 2 highly qualified people come out to your house the next day, and quickly find and repair all your problems. The fact that they did it so quickly and efficiency is even more of a testament to their skill and experience. Another company may have had 2 guys out there for 6 hours to do the same work, would that have made you feel any better?
    Like the others said, a better course of action would have been to have them tell you (or you ask them) what kind of prices, how long etc. But it was emergency work.
    Even if you asked, they might have said, figure out leaks--2 guys @ XXX/hour. Fix pipes--XXX/hour + parts, diagnose heater--XX, fix heater--XXX/hour + parts.
    You probably made out better your way. Just follow the first line of your post:
    I appreciate skilled tradesmen because they can do things I can't. I also think they should be rewarded handsomely for their labor

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Palm Beach,Fl.
    Posts
    1,066
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    Doctors and lawyers don't keep have a tenth of the overhead that contractors have. We make a decent living but most of us aren't flying down the road in our Mercedes to our 8 am tee time on a week day.
    Quote Originally Posted by k-fridge View Post
    The laws of physics know no brand names.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Sarasota. Fl
    Posts
    1,496
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    I do not sell parts. I sell service.

    The cost of a part has almost nothing to do with the price in my price book.
    It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.

    ~Albert Camus

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    West Monroe, LA
    Posts
    1,590
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    It sounds like a typical repair cost for (2) techs one plumber & one hvac tech... The prices charged might seem high at first but as you stated you coundnt't do the repairs!

    So my lawyer, doctor accountant etc.... Has the same business of doing something that I can't and guarantees the results. We never question them but the service people that come to your homes always get the how much did you say?

    It will cost x amount to professional fix the problems! You agree and we make the repairs. My company does both plumbing and hvac so I have seen this before. One thing you have to realize is the cost to do business had increased on both sides so the amount charged has to increase for the jobs to done properly.

    Always get a upfront price before the work is done and either except or or not its your choose. We all have to make a living along with the company making profit same as you with your job.

    Someone can always do the job cheaper after the fact because the probelm or problems was found by us that takes hafe the time. Had you prefer that someone comes out and charges you less and does it wrong then you call us out to fix it right? Then you pay even more! I understand you concern and not trying to belittle you just saying they charged you what it took to the job correctly and everything or fixed right? Spend a little more now then lots latter comes to mind seen that shoot done that for customers that want cheap and who ends up paying more in the long run the customer.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    514
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    One of my service trucks is using almost 700 a month is diesel fuel. The dr drives his prius to the office and stays there all day. He may even get a chance to eat lunch

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Maine
    Posts
    8,146
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    Yes, but you seem to forget. They are only practicing. And they guarantee NOTHING....
    PS; My Dr. drives a Bently and also is "practicing" law.
    Quote Originally Posted by Al Gregory View Post
    One of my service trucks is using almost 700 a month is diesel fuel. The dr drives his prius to the office and stays there all day. He may even get a chance to eat lunch

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2001
    Location
    Moore, Oklahoma, United States
    Posts
    4,648
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    Quote Originally Posted by SoFlaDave View Post
    Doctors and lawyers don't keep have a tenth of the overhead that contractors have. We make a decent living but most of us aren't flying down the road in our Mercedes to our 8 am tee time on a week day.
    Doctors and lawyers overbook their office to maximize billable hours.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Cleveland, OH
    Posts
    3,670
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    service call sticker shock

    I hear this more and more from customers. "I looked online and the parts only cost $XX." Why do you think it's OK to tell me what I should charge? How on Earth could you possibly know what my overhead is? You're paying for the part, the labor, my 22 years of experience, gas, truck costs, shop,costs, insurance, government taxes and fees, licensing, etc etc.

    That being said, you made a few mistakes. First, you have right to an estimate before work begins. You should've gotten the prices BEFORE you OK'd the work. If they fixed it without asking you then absolutely tell them rip it out and leave. You probably didn't need the thermostat, I suspect you had a "sales tech" at your place that gets paid commission for selling extra stuff you don't need. If you really needed a stat the answer to what was wrong with it should've been something like "it's not sending a signal to the unit", not "I dunno, it just IS". Don't be hard sold - mercury thermostats are still perfectly legal to own and are not "hazardous".

    Yes, you probably got ripped off, but you are partially to blame for not getting the pricing up front.
    Good? Bad? I'm the guy with the gun.

    Statements made by me are strictly my opinions and do not reflect the opinions of my employer. I am not authorized to make any official statements on behalf of my employer.
    Any technical advice offered by me is for educational purposes only, all HVAC related repairs should only be attempted by qualified personnel.

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