I called ABC Plumbing early this week and their representative, Sam, came out to provide a quote for the leak with my underground PVC pipe. Unfortunately, the current pipe is leaking underneath the sidewalk and it appeared he didn't want to address the actual issue. Instead, he suggested running a new line from my sump pump to the middle of my front yard, a distance of about 60 feet.
He spent about 10 minutes surveying the situation before he gave me a quote from his tablet of $3,600. I reacted with facial "sticker shock" and he artfully glanced back to his tablet and mumbled something and the price was dropped down to $2,698. I still thought it was quite expensive based on the amount of work required. He sheepishly said it's roughly 75% for labor and 25% for materials and said a quote would be forthcoming via email.
Within a day or two, I received an email quote for $2,698 to completely redo my underground sump pump drainage system. However, ABC Plumbing did not provide any itemized charges.
Let me do a little math. 25% of $2,698 is for materials, which is roughly $675 so I'd like the materials further itemized. For example, how much for gravel, how much for PVC pipe, how much for glue, additional materials, etc? I have no idea. All I know is the PVC pipe is relatively inexpensive; the most retail materials should cost for this type of job is $150. If they purchase in volume or through their wholesale supplier, materials maybe $100.
Let's move on to labor. I had asked Sam about the labor hours required to complete this job. His reply was 4-6 hours for two men so I guess it will take around 10 total hours. If my math is correct, he's estimating that labor will cost me $2,000 for the project, or $200 per hour per person.
This is not aerospace engineering, you have two guys who will digit a 60-foot trench at the depth of two feet where PVC pipe will reside and will be capped by a French drain at $200 per hour. I know it's getting cold in the Midwest in early November but it's lucrative work if you can find it. Imagine digging ditches and connecting PVC pipes and making 6 figures?
I know they bid high because they don't know what they'll find so they are protecting themselves. I get it, why not charge me $50 per hour per person and track the hours worked? I'd be in much more in favor of that. If there are issues and the project takes 20 hours instead of 10 at an agreed amount of $50 per hour, I'll pay $1,000 in labor instead of $500. Why can't both sides feel it's a value proposition?
Top Tec, another plumbing provider gave me a quote a few days later. The job was going to be half as labor-intensive as the drain would be rerouted to my backyard, the quote was $675. It's less because of half the materials and half the labor. If Top Tec charged me the same rate as ABC, it would be around $1350, so the bid from Top Tec is much more reasonable but again, not itemized. How much for labor, how much for materials? I'm assuming materials will be $75, a generous guess and $575 for labor. I'm guessing it will take 7 hours for one person to do. But then again, I'm only guessing at the break-out costs.
I may be accused of being too particular when it comes negotiating a service cost. Other consumers just want to know the final cost. Why not give the consumer the option when negotiating?
Imagine if your dentist charges $250 per visit without itemization. You'd wonder how much were those bite wings, how much for the cleaning, how much for an oral exam. Even if you like your dentist, without a breakout of prices, how can you be a diligent consumer and do price comparisons with other dentists?
Yesterday, I purchased glasses at Costco Optical. The lenses were $159 and the frames were $49. The lenses amount included my standard options, UV protection, anti-reflective, and scratch-resistant. However, they were not itemized as they were bundled together. This may result in issues with my vision insurer as the form requests that I break out the actual costs for the UV protection, anti-reflective and scratch protection. Lisa, at Costco Optical, said most people prefer those options as standard so they've recently bundled those costs together. Time will tell if my insurer will balk without itemization.
I have no issue with businesses trying to make a good profit through their work. I get it, they are not in business to be altruistic, and they have inventory and business costs, loans, employees to compensate, etc. However, when a good or service exceeds $100-200, make this a win-win with the consumer by providing a more detailed outline of the key costs involved. A little more work by the company but much more consumer friendly. We don't have to get into the minutiae per se, but a better idea for the consumer to make a viable decision when shopping for goods and services.