Plumbing contractor price gouging stories are not too difficult to find, unfortunately.
We got a call from a soft-voiced woman who asked for a quote on some plumbing work. She needed a new kitchen faucet and a water heater replacement. We gave her a quote. There was silence on the other end of the phone, a sigh and then some sniffles. It turns out, this soft-spoken woman was the 92-year-old mother of a regular client. She lives alone and needed plumbing work done. She called a plumbing contractor who regularly advertises on local TV. They promptly came out and gave her a quote of over $3,700 to do these simple repairs. Concerned, she called her son who directed her to call us because the price was outrageous and, in his opinion, they were price gouging. Our price was 56% less than the other company and unfortunately, it was too late to change plumbing companies; she had already committed to the work.
There are dishonest contractors, and there are well-meaning contractors who aren’t great businesspeople. For the most part, there are many contractors out to provide a service and make a fair living doing it. Many of them are part of the small business entrepreneurial culture in this country, improving everyone’s life while they support their families, their employees, and their business. So how do consumers prevent plumbing contractor price gouging?
Time and Materials or Cost-Plus Pricing: High Risk
Time and materials estimates leave too much to chance. Here are some estimated costs from Home Advisor on the faucet and water heater purchase and install that our client’s Mom requested:
- Installing a water heater costs $804 to $1,551, or an average of $1,165, including the unit and labor. The length of the job averages 2 to 3 hours.
- The faucet quoted by the other company was a simple inexpensive, stock faucet. Home Advisor says faucet installation costs $120 to $300 on average, including removing and replacing an old faucet and adjusting the water lines. The labor cost to install or replace a kitchen, bathroom, or bathtub faucet is $45 to $150 per hour, with plumbers charging for an hour or two. Faucet prices alone average $100 to $350 (Grupa 2020).
So, do the math. How can the other company’s price be so different from ours? Some companies use commissioned sales technicians who will come out to do a quote and then once the quote is accepted, service technicians come to your home for the repair work. It is a bad policy for home service companies to do this as the idea is to charge the highest possible price to realize a nice cushy commission for the plumbing company. In this case, they saw an opportunity to gouge and ran with it.
Questions to Ask Your Plumbing Contractor Before Hiring Them
- Will I get itemized pricing?
- Is this an Estimate or a Firm Quote?
- How long have you been in business?
- Who are your main suppliers?
- Ask for a business card with an address, not a PO Box.
- Who is doing the work?
- Do you clean up your mess?
- Are you licensed, bonded and insured?
- What is your warranty?
- Do you get a commission or bonus on this sale?
Check references online in places like Google Reviews, the Better Business Bureau and NextDoor. They are a good barometer for how other homeowners perceived their installation, repair, and customer service experience.
Hard-working homeowners and the elderly deserve fair pricing and honest work. Contractor character matters. If you are not internet savvy, involve a neighbor or family member to help examine the price and qualifications of the contractor. Don’t take the first price if it seems too high. Another word of advice; know how to turn your water off to the house in case of an emergency to prevent flooding. Have bottled water on hand for drinking, temporary flushing, and hand washing.
If you have an elderly parent living alone, make sure they know these things and prepare a home emergency checklist and hang it somewhere accessible so that the intensity of the moment won’t add insult to injury. Add the numbers of other contractors for plumbing, A/C, lawn and garden, tree trimming, and first responders. Our parents and loved ones are living longer than ever and want to keep their independence. You can help them, and help yourself, by having peace of mind that they’ll be prepared in a home emergency.
Download Our Handy Checklist
We’ve created a downloadable toolkit for you that includes the questions above and also handy numbers to call in the event of a household repair or storm-related emergency. TDT Plumbing won’t rush you into a decision and will give you the best possible price and workmanship on our installation and repair work. We also work on gas and sewer lines. We’ve been in business for over 25 years, are family-owned. We have won multiple BBB awards, including the coveted Pinnacle Award, are a NextDoor App 2019 Neighborhood Award Winner, and our Google ratings are 4.6. You can find us at tdtplumbing.com or call (713) 697-2088 for fair pricing and non-commissioned fabulous technicians who put the customer first.
Contact TDT Plumbing: Website Contact
Stone, M. (2020, August 17). Gouging? Retrieved November 07, 2020, from https://www.markupandprofit.com/articles/gouging/
Declerico, D. (2020, April 16). Learn how much it costs to Install a Water Heater. Retrieved November 07, 2020, from https://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/plumbing/install-a-water-heater/
Grupa, T. (2020, September 9). 2020 Cost To Install / Replace Faucet: Kitchen, Bathroom & Bathtub. Retrieved November 07, 2020, from https://homeguide.com/costs/faucet-installation-cost