Any tricks for getting "contractor" discount on supplies?

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Now that the Internet has made pricing so transparent, it gets even more frustrating to walk into a local supply house and realize that you are not getting the same deal that contractors get.
- Any tricks on how best to get "contractor discounts" from the local suppy house?
- How big are the discounts typically to their parallel off-the-street retail (not list) price?
- Is the discount typically the same for plumbing vs. electrical vs. building materials vs. gardening/landscaping, etc.?
- What about for "finished" fixtures (e.g., lamps, fawcetts, cabinets) vs. basic materials (e.g., wire, pipe, lumber)?
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Register as a business, get the proper tax ID number and do the reporting required by licensed businesses. Some suppliers require a minimum purchase per order or per year to qualify. I can take you to places that will not even let you in the showroom unless you are a contractor or are with a contractor.

Varies from 10% to 40% Can vary with volume also.

No
Varies Use the spell checker. Its "faucet"
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It's NOT "faucet" if your first name is "Farrah".
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Do you take your eggs to the resteraunt to have them cooked?
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reporting
purchase
unless
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scribbled this interesting note:

I once saw a fellow hand a couple of eggs to the server at a Braums Ice Cream store for them to put in his milk shake! So yes, sometimes people take their eggs to the restaurant to have them prepared!:~)
-- John Willis (Remove the Primes before e-mailing me)
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John,
Braum's has a pretty limited area. Where are you?
Dan in Oklahoma City
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Keep the whole world singing . . . . DanG (remove the sevens) snipped-for-privacy@7cox.net

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Contractors discount is mostly myth these days at the modest end of the business. I haven't seen much better than 10% in a long time, and plumbing and electrical forget it. Costco and the Borgs are generally as cheap. Volume in lumber sales will get you a cheaper price but if you shop around, drive a hard bargain you can even get those deals. But if all you are building is a sundeck most places are going to charge you more.
But if you are in the high end market ($400 toilets, etc) designers and builders can get deep discounts.
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Do a decent volume of business with them over a period of six to 18 months so that they know you're really a contractor and not just somebody looking for a ride.
But hey. I could be wrong.
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This is Turtle.
What your asking here is how to get a contractor's discount on product and not be a contractor. First let me tell you a little secret here. If you get a wholesale warehouse to sell to you as a customer / John Q. Public at contractor's rates and the other contractors find out about it. Your going to cost that warehouse about a 100 times in lost sales to real contractor that they would ever hope to sell to you. If they sold you say $500.00 of wholesale goods they would loose about $50,000.00 to $500,000.00 worth of equipment that the contractor would have bought without knowing about the sale to you. The Wholesale suppliers would have to be water headed to sell to you with that big of a lost they are looking at.
Nothing is free in this world ! Go get you a contractor licences, Contractor Liability insurance, and a Sales tax number and start buying wholesale. You can then brag about being a wholesale buyer and everybody will be happy. I buy maybe $300K of wholesale goods in my HVAC business a year and get a pretty good discount. If you could buy say $10K of good from them a year. They would give you pretty close to my discount on goods. The more you buy the more the discount grows.
The only other choice it to suck up to a contractor and let you buy off his account for a discount.
TURTLE
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This is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard, more reminiscent of the old Soviet system than the current Internet-enabled world with ever more transparent and competitive pricing.
Why would the contractor care (other than indirectly) if I saved a couple of dollars on a project that I am going to do myself anyway, particularly if I could always get the items at the same or better pricing on the Internet or maybe even at Home Depot?
In fact, I would turn your argument on its face -- if a contractor is getting good service, selection, and pricing at his/her current supplier, why would he ever consider risking pricing and service on $500,000 of spend just because I saved a couple of dimes on some switch or a couple of bucks on some fixture.
Globalization, the Internet, and increasing competition are changing the face of business forever, making pricing more competitive and transparent than ever before. Now that pricing can be looked up and compared on the Internet, it is a lot harder for suppliers to price discriminate between retail and wholesale customers except on the basis of true volume efficiencies (e.g., buying pallets or cases) or when the purchaser has dominant purchasing power (think Walmart). The differential between wholesale and retail pricing erodes as big box retailers push down the retail price while Internet-suppliers (and others) allow individuals access to contractor-like pricing. Those who can't adapt to this reality are not going to survive.

Each supplier is free to decide what discount is required to maximize its profit (volume x margin). If a supplier believes that selling to enough people like me at a discount brings them more profit and prevents me from going to the Home Center or Internet then by all means they should sell to me at or near the contractor discount. If they believe that they need to give you more of a discount to retain your business or that you are cheaper to serve due to your volume then maybe you will get a bigger discount. However, in this day of multi-billion dollar purchasers (like Walmart), your power as a volume buyer is a lot closer to my thousands of dollars a year than to Home Depot or Walmart's purchasing power.
Finally, from a "moral" viewpoint, I have always thought it to be borderline sleazy that contractors make an additional *hidden* margin by marking up the price of materials. I am happy to pay a fair and competitive hourly labor rate and to pay a delivery charge on materials, but I fail to see why a contractor should make an additional hidden profit by marking up materials due to the old "cozy" relationship between suppliers and contractors. I now use the Internet all the time to challenge contractors on marked-up materials pricing thereby avoiding being gouged and getting a better sense of my labor vs. materials cost. In fact, this is no different from the uproar over hospitals marking up the price of Tylenol (beyond the cost of goods and administration) or government contractors marking up the cost of toilet seats.

Sounds like you have a case of bitterness here. If I can get contractor-like pricing without doing the above than all the power to me. Since you weren't going to get that business from me anyway, it doesn't really hurt you, except perhaps your ego that some "layman" like me is getting competitive pricing without belonging to the "guild".

That is of course another tried-and-true alternative :)
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Well I guess you know it all......so why did you even ask????? If you think Home Depot has good pricing you are living in a fantasy world.
just my .02
cm
writes:

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writes:

<snip>
> Why pay the contractors price? Why don't you find out how much the supplier is paying from the manufacturer and ask to pay that price?
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On Tue, 02 Nov 2004 13:31:13 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@consult.pretender (Jeffrey J. Kosowsky) scribbled this interesting note:

Then I suppose it is ok with you when we get lower prices on shingles when we buy by the truck-load as compared to buying by the shingle like you can at Home Depot?

Wal-Mart doesn't carry anything that will help most contractors in their day-to-day business. Even Home Depot is only marginal when it comes to carrying good, quality product and tools. These are "consumer" oriented stores, not stores that really cater to contractors.

We don't mark up the cost of our materials. Not all contractors do. But I understand the reasoning. Look, you will end up paying the contractor you hire the same amount, regardless. Contractors have what are known as fixed expenses. You know, things like licenses, liability insurance, worker's compensation insurance, health insurance, insurance on trucks, equipment expenses, and other overhead expenses. These expenses must be met. Then there is labor that must be paid; yet another expense that must be met. After all these items have been satisfied then, and only then does the contractor pay himself. Would it help you to feel better if the bill you received showed the price paid by the contractor for materials as being the price paid by you and the rest of what you seem to think of as an inflated price charged to you as "profit?" (Although you don't know what the true profit is since you don't know what that particular contractor's operational overhead is.)

Who has a case of bitterness here? Take the time to learn how to service your own HAVC without killing yourself. Learn how to do concrete work, framing, drywall work, electrical, plumbing, finish carpentry, tree trimming, irrigation systems, appliance repair, masonry, etc. There are countless things you need to know and buy when working on people's houses. Learn all these things, get all the required paperwork, do enough business (although you probably won't come close to any kind of volume to warrant economies of scale discounts) and you too can get discounts at real supply houses.
BTW, the "discounts" places like Home Depot give to contractors? That is still higher than what real contractors pay at real supply houses. And the materials and equipment you buy at place like Home Depot is usually of inferior quality since they like to squeeze their suppliers for every penny they can and charge the customer just as much as they can get away with.
-- John Willis (Remove the Primes before e-mailing me)
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I have no problems with discounts -- the "market" will typically decide the most efficient and profitable way for suppliers to price. The only thing I was opposing was the entitlement atitude that somehow a license entitles a contractor to a god-given right to special pricing unavailable to homeowners. Volume is obviously one reason for better pricing, but the usediscounts depends on the volume, on the margins, on the volume efficiencies, and on the relative power of buyer vs. seller.

WalMart and HomeDepot are only examples of how purchasing and pricing power is shifting. Obviously, I wasn't saying one should buy specialty electrical supplies from Walmart

I fully understand that the business only works if the homeowner covers the cost of licenses, liability, workers comp, health, etc. I just think it is more straightforward if that is built into the cost of labor rather than as a hidden materials markup. After all, we all know that if I am paying $40/hour for an assistant, that assistant is not taking home $40/hour. However, I would prefer the price of materials to be equal to the actual cost plus a small markup for reasonable pickup & delivery charges.

What I am saying is that licenses have nothing to do with pricing in a free market. Volume is another story, but in the current more efficient supplier marketplace, pricing is much less sensitive to volume than people think (as evidenced by Internet pricing and big box stores).
I am not bitter because I trust the market and know that I have many ways of learning the actual pricing and getting a reasonable mark-up over cost.

I agree, but Home Depot has still forced many smaller hardware stores and supply stores to lower the price that they charge consumers since otherwise they will lose all the consumer business and even some of the small-time contractor business (despite the quality issues at Home Depot).

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I agree that a business has to cover overheads, but many want to cover the overheads twice over: once by marking up the materials, and again by marking up the labor charge.
When we lived in Taiwan, I never paid labor charges to get my car fixed: the markup on the parts covered the workers' wages. In NY I paid retail price for the parts PLUS $90/hr. labor charge.
MB
Whether you vote Democrat or Republican today, the country will still be run from boardrooms in the USA and elsewhere, not by your elected representatives.
On 11/02/04 10:04 am Jeffrey J. Kosowsky put fingers to keyboard and launched the following message into cyberspace:

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It's all the same in the end: zero markup on labor plus ten dollars markup on parts, ten dollars markup on labor plus zero on parts, or five on each, all add up to the same thing. The contractor has to make his profit somehow. Why quarrel over what he chooses to call it?

Well, duh! Mechanics in NY get paid a bit more than mechanics in Taiwan. If the service stations in NY adopted the same pricing structure as you describe in Taiwan, they'd have to charge a *much* higher markup on the parts in order to make their profit -- and then you'd be screaming about the outrageously high markup on parts.
It's all the same in the end.
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On 11/02/04 11:39 am Doug Miller put fingers to keyboard and launched the following message into cyberspace:

I was thinking the other way round: that charging $90/hr for labor should mean that they don't have to charge retail for the parts -- just as Jeff (to whom I was reponding) said.
MB
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It doesn't matter how you look at it, they're going to make their profit one way or another. Why argue about what label they choose to put on it?
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snipped-for-privacy@milmac.com (Doug Miller) writes:

Because pricing transparency is more fair and market efficient. People and contractors can make better (and fairer) decisions when the pricing is not distorted and each party can make an informed decision based on true costs and true benefits. Same reason that laws call for truth in labelling.
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Kosowsky) wrote:

The only thing that really matters is the total cost of the job. Assuming that the quality of materials and workmanship are equal in both cases, what difference does it make if one guy charges $100 for materials and $400 for labor, and another guy charges $200 for materials and $300 for labor? The final cost is the same either way. If you maintain that one bid is "better" than the other because the cost breakdown goes one way instead of another, this would seem to me to indicate a need for therapy.
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