View Full Version : Need advice from professional
10-18-2005, 10:06 PM
I'm a do-it-yourselfer who has replumbed my whole house and installed a baseboard hot water heating system. However, on a couple occasions, I have called on the local plumber to do something I'm not capable of.
Recently, I wanted to cut into the second floor zone and create a separate zone for the bathroom. Being involved in another matter, I had this same plumber do the job. When I received the bill, I was dumbfounded. First, he padded his hours somewhat, but that's not the big issue. He is attempting to charge me almost double for parts over the retail price from which he gets a discount. For example, the zone valve which would cost me $49 is listed on the bill as $85. He paid less that that for it.
Question is, how to deal with the matter. He's a neighbor and has been reasonable in the past, but I'm not going to pay double for parts. I won't question his padding of the hours. How to resolve this without ending up in small claims court???
master plumber mark
10-18-2005, 10:47 PM
the best thing to do is tell him
and show him what you paid for parts and ask him
why he is chargeing you so much more money
fro that zone valve... this might be delicate..
Of course, letting neighbors do things for you can end up like this
if you want to keep things civil in the neighborhood it might be best
to just pay the bill and not use him anymore...
10-19-2005, 12:43 AM
It depends on what you call retail.
Often plumbing suppy houses give about the same discount for parts as some big box stores. It's hard to determine a true retail unless you have a copy of the manufactures pricing catalog.
We choose the supply houses, because we can call in ahead and have the order picked for us. Billing is at the end of the month. It's easier for our book keeping. It's a quicker check out too.
There is always a mark up on parts. How much, is different from shop to shop.
Without a markup of some sorts, nobody stays in business.
If a company were to charge only their cost, that would guarantee a loss at the end of the year.
There is always a loss of parts,
damaged parts and
forgetfullness when it comes to putting together the list of parts for billing.
Nobody works for a company that doesn't have a markup. Nobody.
I'm with Mark.
Pay this bill, and next time get a bid before the work starts.
Getting the bid ahead of time may not have made it less expensive, but you wouldn't have been surprised.
Most shops price upfront using a pricing book.
The car repair shops, doctors and restaurants have been doing it that way for years.
If you could buy that valve at a plumbing supply store for $45.00 tell the plumber so he will know not to buy things at that store again, if they are going to sell to consumers at the same price he pays. Double the price is the "going" price for many items. It depends on what it costs. For $45.00 you have to pick it up, install it, remove it if it is bad, take it back and get a new one, and install that one. For $85.00 he took the responsibility for all that, and it does not come free. If you had a "flat rate" plumber do the work, who uses a "blue book" for his pricing, you might have considered this plumber's invoice cheap, because they would have to assume you job was one of the worst they ever encountered in order not to lose money on the job, since they price all jobs the same even though they are all different.
10-19-2005, 08:48 AM
There have been many lengthy discussions on this and other forums on the topic of material prices. It is apples and oranges to compare what you paid for an item at the store and what a house-call professional has to charge you for it. In your price comparison, you did not include: the time it took you to go get it; the time cost of the money sitting in his truck in parts which he carries for weeks or months before they are needed, the fact that if the part is defective or fails within a reasonable time, he will provide the warranty service, etc.etc.etc.
10-19-2005, 10:31 AM
I'm with the others entirely. The biggest problem with these big box stores is the price they can afford to sell to consumers for. They are the Walmart of plumbing supply houses. It disappoints me that the Moens and Delta's out there even sell to them, because they know these stores are putting our local suppliers out of business (or at the least, seriously straining their operations). I always say to my clients "do you want to give your money to this monolithic corporate giant? Because you certainly can, but I personally prefer to give my money to my local plumbing wholesaler who is more expensive but only has 10 outlets in the province". I've not had one client say that they would rather go to HD... so proud of them!!!
10-19-2005, 10:09 PM
Thanks for your advice master plumber mark. It's what I'm going to do - dispute the bill and wait for his response. Actually, in the interests of brevity and not wishing to offend the professionals on this forum, I didn't set forth the complete story.
Just after he began, he fried the transformer to which the zone valves were connected by being careless with his torch. At the time, my wife was four feet away from him, feeding thermostat wire to me up the space next to the laundry chute. After expressing himself with a few four letter words, he tried to blame it on us claiming we must have pulled on a wire. No, Mr. plumber, you left the wire on which you melted the insulation, for me to tape up. Some of the hours for which he is billing me were spent fixing his own screw up.
The prices in question have nothing to do with box stores. I have purchased parts at the same plumbing supply house where he buys his stuff. Difference is that he gets a seat at the counter and a discount, but I don't. They quote me $49 for a zone valve, he gets it for less, and then wants to charge me $85. Should I consider myself lucky that he didn't ask for $150? If that valve should malfunction, I have no idea if it will be warranted. One thing's certain though. I've done it before, and I'll replace it myself. But speaking of box stores, stuff like this drives us into them.
10-19-2005, 10:19 PM
We would not defend a klutz, because he gives everyone a black eye.
But please accept our analysis of the pricing issue. It is certainly true that the big stores have made material available to Joe Homeower at very low prices. But there is a flip side. If there are quality issues ( and there ARE quality issues) all the inconvenience and wasted time is on YOU. They will be happy to exchange the part, but the labor is on you. Many homeowners are happy to accept this situation, because they get to do things on their own and if they have the time available, they don't mind that risk. My point again is that if you do choose to hire a professional, you get a lot more from him than just a part off the shelf, and you should expect to pay for that.
10-20-2005, 12:12 AM
Don't consider yorself lucky that you didn't pay 150, that's just business. Again, we have to markup stuff to cover our time to order and pick it up. Even if we have to leave the job to pick it up, and charge you for that time, ya still gotta pay a markup. That supply house didn't pay 49 bucks for it. They mark it up too.
10-20-2005, 08:33 PM
just because you can do some of this work yourself, doesn,t mean he can't mark up supplies.
when you bring in your volvo, do you question the dealer marking up your fuel injector? are you special?