Dispelling the Myths of Plumbing Rip-Offs
Plumbing rip offs, in my opinion, are frequently emotive exaggerations bereft of facts from people whose only motive is not to pay their plumber’s bills.
In the realm of plumbing services, the notion of being ripped off often stems from misunderstandings or attempts to avoid paying a reasonable fee for services rendered.
It’s worth noting that the perceived deceit is, more often than not, perpetuated by other plumbers aiding unscrupulous individuals who are trying to avoid paying their bills.
The Reality of Client Expectations
Plumbing rip-offs, in many instances, are exaggerated claims devoid of substantial evidence, usually propelled by individuals looking to avoid settling their plumbing bills. Regrettably, most plumbing rip-offs are enacted not upon the customer but on the plumber, usually facilitated by other plumbers who naively assist con artists without receiving any payment in return.
Every week, we receive phone calls at our office practically demanding that we condemn another plumber’s work over the phone or affirm that they have been overcharged. These individuals never wish to pay for this advice or want the situation thoroughly investigated.
Unfortunately, many plumbers are completely gullible and fall prey to these baseless statements made over the phone by individuals they have never met, hoping to gain work and payment from this misguided agreement.
You are ripping me off because Joe Bumcrack Plumbing Service is half your price!
In the last 42 years, I’ve heard multiple variations of this excuse for not paying an account countless times.
Buyer’s regret is a constant issue for all businesses. I remain bewildered by people who turn to the bottom feeders of our industry and turn them into experts. These hobby businesses are frequently referred to as Joe Bumcrack plumbers for obvious reasons. Of course, Joe Bumcrack’s phone wasn’t answered, and he wasn’t available at 10 pm on a Saturday night to clear the blocked drain. But of course, his word counts because he told the customer what he wanted to hear concerning what price should have been charged and plumbing rip offs.
The reality is half the price of what?
We have never been interested in being the cheapest Gold Coast plumber. We are not interested in what other plumbers charge because every business differs regarding cost structures, overhead costs and productivity levels that are utilised to set a selling price for a business’s services.
Urban Myths of a Recommended Rate are Just That Myths
Notwithstanding the urban myth that there is a “going rate” or “recommended rate” for plumbers, it is illegal under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 for businesses to collude in setting prices or for there to be any set or recommended rates by master plumbers associations.
Here at Whywait Plumbing, we take pride in our industry’s best practice service levels. We endeavour without exception to deliver quality workmanship with expertise and long-lasting permanent solutions to complex plumbing problems that are fully compliant with the legal requirements of the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2018.
A recent e-mail I received with the following quote from Benjamin Franklin, “The Bitterness of Poor Quality Remains Long After the Sweetness of Low Price is Forgotten” always applies, and that is the lowest price is not still the best.
With plumbing problems, they are frequently reactive, and the practice of going back after the job is completed to Joe Bumcrack Plumbing Services for his expert opinion on what work should have been undertaken is counterproductive as you are not comparing apples with apples.
The Complexity of the Plumbing Industry
Plumbing is like everything else, with a plethora of solutions, methods and opinions to solve problems. This, in turn, creates multiple pricing solutions if you do not specify exactly what products you want to install with the result that you require. We accept that our customers are often in a situation where they are choosing between the price we must charge versus the quality of the service.
More and more, we are seeing where a customer has researched what he should budget for a job via Google and on websites such as Bunnings. The reality is they don’t have the expertise or knowledge to undertake the research, so end up with a superficial answer. This research then becomes the driving force in determining the price they think they should pay for our service.
It is our experience over 42 years that many clients fool themselves or their employer into choosing the lowest price service to fit within a budget that was flawed from the start. Typically this results in budget blowouts in the short term as the lowest-quality service and products have to be replaced long before they should have been.
Equally, the highest price does not always mean the highest quality service. Frequently the highest price and the lowest price for service are due to inefficiencies in the service delivery combined with there not being a specifically tailored specification.
When you are assessing a company to provide service delivery, please ignore Joe Bumcrack Plumbing Services and their constant cry that all their competitors are involved in plumbing rip offs. The ability of companies such as Whywait Plumbing, Oceanside Plumbing, Red Beard Plumbing or Waterfox Plumbing to meet your service and business requirements should be paramount in decisions.
Equally successful past performance is just as critical to ensuring quality service and installation take precedence over the enticement of low-priced service delivery.
The Misconception of Hourly Rates
No legitimate business works on hourly rates. In reality, most businesses charge a set price for a set service task. Even in the construction industry, businesses such as tilers and plasterers charge per m² or brickies per 100 or 1000 bricks laid.
The exception to this is far too many plumbers and electricians who won’t invest in quantity surveying software and the time to create task-based pricing. As a result, we have many Joe Bumcrack plumbers who work on hourly rates that do not cover the cost of wages and accuse all their competitors of engaging in plumbing rip offs.
Even for a solo operator plumber or electrician, their break-even points will be between $100 – $150 per hour, depending on their overhead costs. So if you engage a plumber who is telling you their hourly rate is $80, then you can guarantee they will be doubling up somewhere or charging for services that are not delivered.
Hourly rates are a meaningless component in the overall service cost, being utterly subjective to the point of being meaningless.
I’m well aware many people think an hourly rate for a plumber in excess of $100 is a plumbing rip off and extortionate. This is why hourly rates are meaningless because, within that price, countless expenses have to be covered, such as wages, superannuation, WorkCover, fuel, insurance, vehicle repairs, equipment repairs and replacement, travel time, and so the list goes on and on.
I can only repeat that labour is only one component of the cost when working through a task cost in quantity surveying software. The other components are overheads, materials and equipment.
Plumbers who charge using hourly rates frequently engage in charging base-to-base travel time or charging for apprentices who are really goffers or for making multiple trips to the merchants for materials.
The Infeasibility of Ballpark Phone Estimates
I repeat incessantly that no professional plumber can give you an estimate over the phone. This is due to the variability and complexity of plumbing issues. Solving plumbing problems over the phone with any degree of certainty is an absolute impossibility. Every plumbing problem is entirely variable and can change rapidly once you start working on it.
The most common price we are asked for over the phone is for replacing a hot water service. Sadly many plumbers will indulge people and give costs for replacing a hot water service over the phone based on “Like for Like” installation.
This is utterly deceptive, as there is no such thing as a like-for-like installation. Every replacement installation must be done in accordance with ASNZS 3500.4:2018, which requires substantial upgrades on the original installation, which is frequently over ten years old. Of course, once they get on-site, they discover you need all sorts of extras such as valves, insulation and drain installation.
To ensure a fair and accurate quote, insist on a comprehensive site inspection, which can reveal underlying issues that might not be apparent at the outset, providing a more accurate estimation of the costs involved. Even then, that can change as often once you start on the job, you can get a myriad of faults to show up that cannot be detected by a visual inspection.
Comparative Pricing and Quality of Service are All Relative
With the advent of Google, it’s become easier for individuals to set up inexpensive websites, promising a variety of services at reduced prices, hoping to lure customers in with the promise of discounted or free services.
These enticing promises of “No call out fee!”, “Free quotes!” and others create an illusion of value. However, as the saying goes, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”.
In an industry riddled with misconceptions and misinformation, our ongoing mission at Whywait Plumbing is to deliver services that uphold the highest quality and compliance standards. As we navigate the complex world of plumbing services, we encourage you to look beyond enticing offers and seek out providers prioritising quality and reliability over superficial discounts.