With summer plumbing season in full swing (drain clogs, sump pumps, and standing water are hot topics this summer), a quick review of how plumbers charge for service calls seems like a good topic. As a rule, there are 3 approaches that Cincinnati plumbers when billing out time to customers.

How do Service Call Fees Work?
There are typically three approaches to invoicing customers:

1. Charge a standard “trip charge”, no exceptions
 – In this approach, a flat fee (sometimes called a service fee) is added to the final bill, in addition to the labor and materials charge. Generally, trip charges cover the plumbing company’s cost of sending the plumbing team to your home or business. Trip charges are a common practice and service to solidify over-the-phone agreements between customers and plumbers.

2. The “no fee/no trip charge” approach – While this seems like a winner, consider that the cost of sending a trained plumber on a house call must be absorbed by the plumbing company, even if no work is performed once the plumber arrives on site. The customer may end up paying more, either in hidden fees, higher prices, or by having work performed by workers with a junior-level skill set. Be wary of this tactic.

3. The “Over the Phone Estimate” – In this scenario, the customer provides a description of the plumbing need (leaky pipes, flooded basement, overflowing toilet, etc.). The plumbing company provides an estimate over the phone. If the customer is agreeable to the phone estimate, an appointment is scheduled and the plumber travels to the job site.

This approach is considered favorable by many – customers have an idea of the job cost and the plumber is able to manage their billable time.

But what happens when the plumber arrives on-site and finds the job is much smaller (or much larger) than the estimate? A reputable plumber will give the customer an honest assessment of the “actual work.” From there, the customer can decide to proceed or decline moving forward with the job. Should a “decline” decision be made, the customer may be charged a trip fee to cover the plumber’s expenses of prepping/traveling to the job site.

The key word here is ‘honest’ – when a plumber travels to a job in good faith, only to find the job scope is much different than described, a trustworthy plumber will explain the situation to the customer in a friendly, professional manner.

Water You Waiting For? Plumbing is a business that depends on happy customers – Allied Reddi-Rooter has more than 60 years of satisfied customers. Ray and his team provide an accurate, no surprises estimates over the phone. Call today at (513) 396-5300 to obtain a free quote on your plumbing project. From high pressure water jet cleanings to toilet, sink, or garbage disposal repair and installation, Ray’s team is top-notch.

The following is a blog written by Janet Murphy, an Allied customer.

When looking for a tradesperson – plumber or other repair person – one of the number one questions is “Do you charge a service fee?” In our home, one of the hallmarks of a quality small business is when the business owner believes a “no service charge”, consultative approach is the best approach. Yes, he or she might get burned by customers only seeking information so they can do the job themselves. It happens. But in the long run, being consultative and charging a fair rate by-the-job lends itself to a relationship built on trust.

We like trust.

In the world of plumbing, a “the price you are quoted is the price you pay” approach is a win-win situation. The customer calls, explains the problem the plumber provides a fair and accurate quote over the phone. The customer agrees to the quote and an appointment is made. Upon satisfactory completion of the work, the customer pays the bill. If the customer agrees to the work, then backs out for any reason, the customer pays a “trip charge” to cover the cost of the plumber’s house call.

Here’s an example: Last Spring, our exterior faucet water line was leaking inside our basement. My husband Joe was sure it was a busted pipe. We called Allied Reddi Rooter and asked for a quote on installing a frost-free spigot. We accepted the quote – it was in the $300 range to have a new frost-free faucet installed. That day, the Allied plumber arrived, took one look at our exterior faucet and the leak and said “Lady, you already have a frost free faucet, so you don’t need one. Your pipe is not busted, either. The trouble is a tiny drainage valve that’s come loose over the years.”

With that, he pulled a screwdriver out of his pocket, tightened the valve, and charged me $94 for the service call. My husband kind of freaked at that rate, but let’s look at the facts:
· My husband was not going to get around to fixing that leak.
· Allied quoted a price based on my description of the problem; I agreed to the quote.
· Once on site, it became clear the work was significantly less than expected.
· I needed that leak fixed; the plumber was able to fix it.
· Because I had agreed to the original price quote and set up the appointment, I was going to receive a “trip charge” regardless of whether he tightened the screw or not. So, I let him do that work.
· The next time I see a leak on that pipe, I’ll know to tighten that screw on my own.

I am a happy customer – the Allied plumber was honest from the start and he fixed my leak. Because of that honesty, they are my go-to plumbing company. I trust them.

Forget the “high fee” plumbers who charge a fee just for showing up, then line item the additional labor and materials. Beware of the “no fee” plumbers who don’t charge a fee but can nickel and dime you in other areas. Look for the “right price quote” – the one you agree to over the phone.

Call the landlord first!

Q: I live in an apartment building. My toilet has clogs constantly and I also have lot of trouble with my kitchen drain. This is a multi-family unit and I’m sure we have sewer issues that require repair. I’ve called several plumbers but none seem willing to help. I am really frustrated. What gives?

A: Here’s the 411: As long as you are a tenant, finding tradespeople to do work at your residence will be a challenge. Reputable tradespeople, including plumbers, can only perform work with the permission of the property owner or management company. Typically, tenants are not authorized to hire anyone for even small repairs, so big repairs such as drain cleaning or unclogging main drain lines can quickly become a sanitation headache.

If you have reported your plumbing conditions to the landlord and your toilet/drain repairs are not made in a timely manner, you have some options:

· Keep records of your conversations with the landlord (documentation matters)
· Contact the local health department
· Put your rent in escrow until the repairs are made
· Find a new place to live

Generally speaking, as soon as a plumber learns that your address is an apartment building, they should advise that they can only proceed with the landlord’s permission. Good luck with your sanitation situation.

Q: The recent rains have left several wet spots in my yard and my window wells are holding water – I’m sure I saw mosquito larvae swimming in them. I don’t need a sump pump, but I’d really like an easy way to drain the water from low areas. Any suggestions?

A: Standing water in your yard and window wells is a sure way to grow a bumper crop of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are a health hazard. Plumbers detest health hazards. Ipso facto — a pump can really help you out. Our best tip is to invest in an good brand of utility pump (sometimes called a “transfer pump). These pumps are portable, less than 1 horse power, may be submersible, and they move water out of areas where you don’t want it. Many can be connected to a garden hose so that you can direct the water to a better place (such as from a rain barrel to the garden or flower boxes). Zoeller and Everbilt are two reputable brands; Amazon.com has a good selection, fair pricing and they deliver.