Is it any wonder I hate customers?

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by kordts, Feb 8, 2007.

  1. kordts

    kordts In the Trades

    exurban Chicago
    As most of you or may not know, Illinois has been in a deep freeze for about two weeks. I have been getting quite a few, not crazy amounts of freeze-up calls. One call, was for a toilet backing up into a tub. I get there today, after being off the last two days because of a bug my kid brought home from school. It's an old garage type building, with an apt. scabbed on upstairs. The water and waste hang on an outside wall. Most of the exposed parts were insulated. Some of the plumbing was boxed over and workbenches built there. A blind lady lives upstairs and it's squalor city. The aide said that they let water trickle to keep the pipes from freezing. Well, the trickle was fine, until the heat quit in the garage part and the cast iron froze solid. I was dealing with the owner's daughter, I told her the backup was caused by the heat failing, and I couldn't thaw the pipes without ripping all the stuff away from them. This would take a couple of hours, and then I had no idea how long it would take a salamander to heat things up. I was there for 1-1/2 hour and my helper was there for 2 hours. She said her brother would strip all the stuff away and thaw out the pipes. I said, okay, $250.00. I was being nice because I figured they had a long night ahead of them. She calls back and says that's too much, because I didn't fix the problem. The pipes are probably 60 foot long, and she wants it diagnosed and thawed for 250? I told her fine, you can stiff me now, but I'll never take another call from you as long as I live. She said, no, appreciate that your here in town there hasn't been a plumber for years, I'll pay you, but what I think it's worth. It would have been cheaper to pay me the money because I got a feeling that social services is going to hear about a blind woman with substandard plumbing causing raw sewge to back up and stand in the tub.
  2. I feel your pain

    Since I know you have this as a subscribed thread, check your email to the response I gave.

    I removed it but will surface in your email notification.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2007
  3. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    People like that just come with the territory. I have had my share and expect to run in to a few more B 4 life is over.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2007
  4. Cookie

    Cookie .

    Mark, sue the pants off of her.
  5. casman

    casman New Member

    New York
    How's he gonna do that? There was no mention of a contract or a fee for coming out, sounds like he went out for a free estimate, hung around way too long trying to be a nice guy, and then gets stiffed, barring any agreement to the contrary. Doesn't sound too complicated, patched up garage with no heat in sub zero weather, getting a lot of freeze up calls, seems like way too much time on that one.
  6. I gotta guy right now that calls me every 2 or 3 hours expecting me to cave-in.

    In our first 5 minutes of convo 3 or 4 days ago I told him I was too busy *off today until 4pm* it sounded like his pump is bad and sounded like it needed replacement, referred him to another plumber that was smart enough to say no as well. Well I guess since my referral didn't pan out, now it's all my fault he doesn't have water. When I said new pump, he proceeds to tell me that he goes to church with my dad, has had 4 hip replacements and a kidney, replaced. In other words he doesn't have a pot to piss in.

    I don't recall being his HMO, don't recall having a sign on my truck that says I do discounted work if you spill the beans of your health problems. I by no means am I healthy but I surely don't walk into people's homes and guilt them with my problems.

    After 9 calls with me not returning the calls I think he's finally getting the hint that there are 744 other plumbers that can fix his problem. He's just pinning after me because he's after a "poor me" charge.

    I did however do a small job in an urban part of kentucky towards the river; had the bank check for sufficient funds before I cashed it. :rolleyes: She was a nice woman but I felt a tinge of rubber when she handed me the check. LOL!!
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2007
  7. Cookie

    Cookie .

    Can't answer that.
  8. casman

    casman New Member

    New York
    I think I have the same guy. He's already wasted 2 hours of my time and also ran up my cell phone minutes trying to get free advise. I gave him a price and he proceeded to ask me 100 questions about the procedures for doing it himself and the success rates. I told this guy I had no way of knowing how he would do as I'm not there when people are trying to do things for themselves. I put him on the ban list and he's called every 2 hours for the past 2 days. Can I bill him?, absolutely, does he have to pay it? No, but it might stop the phone calls.
  9. Randyj

    Randyj Master Plumber

    Seems like I get stiffed by cafe's mostly. I drive up for breakfast then spend 2 hours working... they refuse to pay my already give-a-way price and offer me $40 or free food... nothing I can do because I'm not licensed in their city. One I told not to call me again... the other knows he will sign a contract before I break open my tool box next time.
  10. 250 minimun

    I have been chargeing 250 for the frozen pipe service call...

    250 for the first half hour ----then 150 per hour after that.....

    I tell them up front before I get of fthe phone.....

    they jump up and down , then hang up.......

    and then they usually call me back within a few minutes

    Telll them to keep the money as a gift... and never call me back again...
    that is the best way to get payback....

    I am going to need this weekend to thaw out
    with some Jack Daniles
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2007
  11. mike08201

    mike08201 New Member

    Absecon, NJ
    I feel bad for you folks (pros). A buddy of mine was a plumber, I used to help him on some jobs (thats where I learned how to solder a joint) and he always was cutting ppl breaks and they NEVER appreciated it, always wanted more. I felt bad for him.

    One job we had to dig by hand under the foundation from the kitchen to the street the whole waste line (easily 5' deep and 60'long) a trench so he could get to it. This was easily 15 years ago. We replaced the bad section of pipe and got her kitchen working again.

    Afterwards, they lady wanted the job for half price. She said it was HIS choice to make the job larger that it needed to be. I couldn't believe it. Never forgot that.
  12. Never cheat your plumber buddy

    its probably the same in every profession

    but their is one thing I know for sure.....

    If you got a plumber who is your freind and will
    come over and take care of your smal troubles for
    a beer and just to chat or for practically nothing .......

    you DO NOT want to do that fellow wrong..

    because some day you will be at the end of a
    plunger trying to unstop something very nasty
    or ankle deep in a flood in your basement......

    and guess what??

    your old buddy wont come running no more.......

    then you got to find a new buddy quick or
    pay dearly through the nose with some stranger.

    I have one or two "old buddies" out there right now
    that I have left out in the cold for the wolves to feed on.....
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2007
  13. How I earned stripes

    The first plumber I ever worked for back in 85...was a go getter and had horrible health problems (juvenile diabetes and a two pack of camels smoking habit) and he didn't take care of himself, which led to his demise.

    He went blind in the end, his wife left him years earlier for someone at her work. Would you believe she was the most emotional at the funeral? :snickers: < I'm sure the guilt was overwhelming, not the loss.

    This guy was the nicest guy you ever met, super friendly and good at his profession. He wouldn't take his medicine with him to cover him towards the end of the day and would turn into a fruitloop because his sugar levels would skyrocket.

    Sometimes he'd forget to bill his customers and they wouldn't tell him.

    Numerous times they'd approach him with 2 or 3 one-liners acting like a buddy....and then proceed to ask a favor of him. Mind you it mainly wasn't about money, favors is what they were driving at. I would know; I was the guy doing the work for him and not giving a bill by command of the boss.

    I watched this guy get taken advantage of so many times that it made me sick knowing how generous he was and how demanding of these so called "friends" that had no interest in him other than cheap or free plumbing work.

    That brought on a resentment I had towards him AND his customer base. I definitely had attitude towards some of his customers which I'm sure he didn't like, but tough; you hired me, deal with it. :D

    It's true, nice guys finish LAST. I wasn't made aware of his death until a few days later after he was buried but I heard all those people who took of him didn't show up, not that it matters.

    Even though his situation was troubling to watch and experience....that situation prevented me from dealing with people of that fabric and kind...I'm sure my sentiment rings out on here quite often.

    Beggars have their place, in the bible and in real life. Consider yourself lesser if you cater to their whims.

    RIP Ed Parrot

    Former Kentucky Master Plumber and great teacher. You've educated me well beyond the job and code book.
  14. Cal

    Cal New Member

    Northern Virginia
    Do I want to always have plenty of work ,,, YES ! Am I getting real tired of all the "Pity me"s " and self proclaimed "Buddies" of mine ,,,, HELL YES !

    I'm getting to a point were it's going to be either a friend whom I will NOT work for or a customer who pays full price !

    I've got a child who will be leaving for college this summer and I kick myself EVERYDAY cause I've always tried to be a nice guy , give lots of folks a break , make it MORE then just about money ,,,,,,,,,,,,

    What I've done is given away enough money that I could have paid for his college 2-3 times over !

    Were are those folks now ? NOT A SINGLR ONE OF THEM HAVE EVER DONE ME A FAVOR !!

    I'm a dumb-ass ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, not anymore

  15. Racer814

    Racer814 New Member

    I give price breaks every so often but it's always at my discretion....people that truly have no money but are good people that are trying as hard as they can won't ask for a discount...they will pay the bill and cut back somewhere else so they can afford it...I can usually tell when I pull up on the job and it's a elderly couple...old house...clunker car.....but always very nice and cordial.....these people get a price break and don't ever know about it...
    I have an elderly woman and a retarded man who lives with his sister since his parents passed...they are bordering on poverty.....I fix the material price down on the bill so that the total amount just covers my gas, helper and materials....if I told either that they were getting a freebie, they would raise hell and never call me back....
    I also used to put senior citizen discount in my yellow page ads and the customers who asked for it would have a couple Lexus in the garage.....and here I was a young man with two small kids to feed...I took that stuff out.,

    another thing I've noticed is that when I try to help people it usually ends up being a job from hell.....why is that?
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 12, 2007
  16. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Cal, when a friend asks you to do it cheap look them in the eye with a straight face and say

    "gee I thought because you were my friend you would be willing to pay me more than my going rate for doing the job"

    Then wait for their reaction.

    It has worked every time for me.
  17. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Cave Creek, Arizona

    The only "discounts" I give are to very good repeat customers if the job only took about 30 secongs, or it was something they wanted advice on, and even then it is very, very, seldom. When someone asks about a "senor discount", I tell them I AM a senior and noone gives me a discount.
  18. getting hosed

    Lifes hard lessons.....getting hosed by "freinds"

    like the god father to my first born son , he wanted to

    "BARTER and trade work " with me.....

    I admit that I was dumb enough to do it back in mid 90s....

    We palyed it pretty loose, and I did not really care too
    much because we .plumbed two houses for him ect... ect....

    but when the Bartering became a "free for all" for his

    5 brothers and sisters......

    "becasue the plumber owes me a bunch of money and just tell him to take it off the bill"

    I put my foot down in 03 and we both tallied up the bills together one day....turned out he owed me about 800.00

    (clerical error becasue of all the booze he was drinking)

    funny thing is I have never heard from him again....

    and he stood me up twice on pay-back "barter work"

    wound not even plow my office driveway to pay it off......
    awful mild winters you know......

    that was all back in 2003...

    They just got back from a cruise to the Bahamas too.....

    I got the bill in my office and I know that I should just turn it over to a bill collector.....for meanness and spite...

    but its sort of fun to run into this fellow at church
    and other functioins and see how fast he scoots
    out of my glare range......

    and when anyone asks why we dont do anything anymore

    I tell all our old freinds that he simply dont pay his bills......

    thats my way of collecting interest on the money ....LOL....

    that is my sad story..,, sob, sob.......
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2007
  19. Cal

    Cal New Member

    Northern Virginia
    All good advice fellas ! I have been at this LONG enough to know that even though I'm the one bitching ,,,,,,,,, I ALLOW myself to be the victim .

    It's up to all of us to name our price and stick to it . I know that if all the "buddies" out there were called on to help me or pay-back ,,,, It wouldn't happen .

    Older people and folks in dire straights ALWAYS GET A BREAK !!! And I don't know why WHENEVER YOU DO A FAVOR ,,,,IT IS THE JOB FROM HELL !!

  20. prashster

    prashster New Member

    As a person on the other side of the fence, I can say that $250 sounds high - AFTER the diagnosis has been made. It sounds like a great bargain BEFORE the diagnosis has been made.

    You guys are clearly in your right to charge what you're worth. But remember you're dealing with lay people like myself who have no CONCEPT what you're worth.

    IMHO, the best way to mitigate that is to explain everything beforehand and to set expectations of how high the cost can get.
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