Well, it depends wholly on the business model of the contractor or
business. Trust me, you're paying for it whether it's an upfront
specified charge or buried in the proposal. It is a cost of doing
business, true, but as someone else has already pointed out in order to
remain in business one has to cover those costs in some fashion.
You can choose to only deal with businesses whose model is to make the
cost invisible to you, but you're still paying. While you may feel good
about "stiffing" the fella' who doesn't charge when he comes out, you
can be pretty sure he'll think again next time you call and that the
cost of window-shoppers is built into his fee schedule.
I know the cad drawing comes after from the computer. But what I was trying
to say was that the $100 did not produce any kind of formal write up just a
recording of the square feet in the flooring order department. The
resulting number would have inflated the materials cost and the labor cost
which at the time was $9 a square foot for boh.
We bought pergo at $2.50 a square foot and installed it ourselves using our
own measurements and ordering 10% more.
Dont bother with HomeDepot for any installation work. The measuring
fee is a ripoff palin and simple. I paid them $35 for measuring to
replace a front door. Guy game out, maybe five minutes and tape
measure and disappeared- wouldnt tell me anything. Went to store to
get "estimate" and of course they pull the "non standard
installation" and want $650 labor to install door and of course I had
to special order door for another $500. I ate the $35 and found a
guy who did work for inlaws. He told me what size standard door to
buy (nice fibreglass one $240) and installed for $300. He will be
doing our back door this week and guess who's getting first bid when
we redo main bath? Same with an electrician. I accidently cut wires
in ceilng . Inlaws gave name and he came out and fixed wiring plus
installed fan box for $120. REasonable to me. He will get called for
any other elictrical work
It's not hard to find good contractors. Just ask neighbors and
friends and cross off any sh***y ones that wont show up, cost too
much, bad attitudes, etc. This is why I do as much as I can myself.
If the chimney were lower I'd have put the cap up myself. Yeah I
could replace a door but the nuisance factor makes the price I got
reasonable to me.
Just shows what ripoff artists most contractors are- 2/3 the cost of
most jobs is labor. I will redo the 1/2 bath myself . If one of you
jokers wanted the job you'd probably charge $5k or more. I know I can
do it for under $1k- floor toilet sink and walls mirror so I will.
Nope. There's no up side to that. I don't know who the other guy is
and whether he's competent or not. The odds that I'd create the same
kitchen layout are entirely non-existent.
A guy I used to work with told me a story about a friend of his that
had a carpet business. The guy got sick of having the exact scenario
you described happen to him. Someone would take his written estimate,
with room measurements, and shop it around. In other words this guy
was doing the estimating work and people were taking advantage of
him. Know how he fixed that? He started deducting 2' from every
dimension on the written estimate. He actually had an owner call him
up screaming that his measurements were wrong! The owner had given it
to some other guy who never bothered checking the measurements,
ordered the carpet, went to install it and...oops!
20 years ago, designed and sold kitchen remodels for Sears. They advertised
free estimates and design. So most people would call us to come out,
measure, and design the kitchen remodel. They expected drawings which they
then took to Home Depot to order the cabinets. We got in the habit of
making up a separate drawing for them that had no cabinet sizes on it and
usually had one or more cabinets that weren't to scale so the Home Depot
couldn't take off our drawings. On the other hand, I recently designed a
kitchen remodel for my mother's basement kitchen. Simple, two walls, open
ended so cabinets didn't have to fit within end walls. I tried to order
cabinets from Home Depot and they flat out refused to order any cabinets
until I had their man come out and measure. I tried to explain my
credentials and the simplicity of the job but no way. It was their way or
hit the road. Menard's had no problem with my measurements. Home Depot
wouldn't order any cabinets even if I gave them the cabinet size numbers and
said "Order It". They would however let me buy the in stock one design
finished or unfinished cabinets they carried.
That's a good idea and frankly, it's better than deducting two inches
from each carpet measurment.
You know who caused this, of course? Home owner prima donnas and
whiners who measured wrong and then weren't man enough to pay for
their own mistakes.
Hmmm. Pot, kettle, black. I did that once myself. I was 24, and I
measured for my mother's 2 or 3 book shelves and told the lumber yard
a too short length, and found the mistake after they cut, and I let
them cut them again without my paying for the first boards. Which
they I'm sure had to sell at a loss.
I was just visiting from out of town and didn't have a saw to cut them
with. I've regretted this ever since, and I would just buy all 4 or 6
shelves now, and take the short ones home with me when I left.
In this case, I was just replacing the cabinets with the exact same
sizes, but I don't blame you for saying no. I'm glad I asked and I'll
assume everyone would tell me no.
It would still be only two estimating trips, one for the first guy,
and one for you or whoever was actually going to do the job.
If he charged 100 dollars, or even 30 dollars for the estimate, he
shouldn't have done that. But if it was free, and if the customer
said he was going to get the job, ok. If it's in the middle
somewhere, I can certainly see why he wanted to do it,....
Not the same thing at all, but when I was just a handy man, a friend
of a friend hired me to put in a bit of wiring. She made it clear, no
connecting to the fuse box in the basement of the apartment building
(she owned one apartment that she wanted to rent.) Before she'd paid
me everything, she started talking about my doing the run to the
basement and connecting to the fuse box. I could have discussed it
with her and said to her, "Just finish paying me for what I've done",
but I was suspicious, so I took money to buy materials for the second
part, that matched the amount she owed me for the first part, and then
called and told her I was done. She took it pretty well, didn't yell
at me or say anything bad to me. She might have said something to my
friend, but nothing terrible, and he's far sneakier on his nice days
than I am on my sneaky days, so he didn't think worse of me. (I
finally got sick of him and his sneaky and selfish ways.)
Well, I'm sending a copy of this to an old girlfriend of mine, who
might, even with the best of intenetions get an estimate from someone
and later decide to go with someone else. She's also smart enough to
probably double check the measurements, bur I'm reminding her and
myself to definitely do so.
In fact even if there is no hanky-panky going on, it wouldn't hurt to
double-check even a pro's meausurements. One doesn't want most of the
hosue done only to find out there is no more of that color for sale,
even if the carpet guy was going to pay for it.
I can't speak for anyone else. I'm sure you'd find people that would
take your gladly take your guarantee (more on this later).
Whether the kitchen was a direct replacement or not, whether the
layout was done yesterday or forty years ago, the odds are great that
it could be improved upon.
I don't know of any carpet installer, painter or fairly
"straightforward" trade that charges for estimates. There was an
architect I knew - didn't really like his work or his ways - that
would visit a client for the first time, then send them a contract in
the mail. If the owner didn't sign it without any questions, he
wouldn't answer their phone calls. It takes all types.
Effective, but I doubt either of you were happy with the way it turned
Guaranteed measurements are dangerous. If you guarantee a measurement
to the wrong guy, and the measurements turn out to have some problems,
the guy will take you to the cleaners. It's also dangerous for the
contractor. An error in the measurement means lost time. The owner
might just want to pay for the replacement cabinet, and ignore the
contractor's lost time. Obviously the contractor would have other
Construction is all about risk. If you are not thoroughly and
intimately familiar with construction, and all of the potential
pitfalls, you'd be nuts to willingly assume more risk to get a
slightly better price.
There are a couple of problems with that. First, if I got back the
written estimate from the carpet guy and it said my living room is 2'
shorter than it really is, I'd notice, and eliminate that carpet guy
from consideration, because I'd assume he is simply not competent to use
a measure, and so would not want him anywhere near my house.
Second, in this age of the internet, I'd probably blog about him, by
name, so that other people looking for a carpet guy would have a chance
of finding out that he can't even measure right.
Producing incorrect work is generally a bad thing to do, regardless of
whether it is on accident (because of incompetence) or on purpose (as
part of some sort of plan to keep people from using your work without
paying), because to the consumer of your work, the two cases are usually
Wow, Scott. I have absolutely no idea where you came up with any of
that. I never said that people shouldn't get bids and I never said
that someone who bids more is a better provider (whatever that is). I
also didn't say that more expensive equals better, although there is a
definite correlation between cheap being shoddy. Read what I wrote
again. Don't read into it, just read it.
A car is a commodity. You'll get the exact same car from any dealer.
The work I do is not a commodity. I am the exclusive worldwide
distributor of me and my work. Who else is supposed to determine how
I run my business? You? Some supposed competitor contractor?
I am also not a salesman. You are, of course, absolutely right that
word of mouth is the most effective advertising. I have a lot of
experience and a lot of work that speaks volumes without me saying a
word. That's why I haven't done any advertising in fifteen years.
I'm not trying to grow into some huge company where I'll be counting
beans and on the phone all day. I've found my niche, I've very happy
with it and see no reason to change.
Since I am not a salesman and have no need to sell myself or my work I
really don't have to deal with window shoppers. I'm sure that you'd
agree that the sooner that two people come to an understanding the
better. I am very clear from the beginning about everything I do.
I didn't mean this to be a personal attack on you so I apologize if it
seemed that way. I was simply trying to point out some difference of
opinions we apparently have.
Let me explain;
Your statement "Since you brought up the 3-5 bids, where does that come
from? Do you think that somehow gives you a better project or saves you
money? It doesn't work that way." leads me to believe that you think a
customer shouldn't shop around. (and BTW, if you look up provider in any
dictionary, you'll find it means something to the effect of someone that
provides a service ;-). You also said "My work is far above the norm and so
are my prices." which is where I inferred that you meant just by spending
more, your customers will get more and that, I will admit and apologize for,
was probably reading too much into your words.
Maybe I wasn't clear in my analogy between you and a car salesman. For
example, building an addition onto a house can be compared to buying a car.
Just because you're looking for a four door compact with good gas mileage
doesn't mean that a Chevy Colbalt is the same as a Toyota Corolla or Honda
Civic. Sure they both have four wheels and meet your other requirements but
they differ greatly in many areas such as quality, price, customer service
from the dealership, etc. etc. Just as adding a family room onto a house
adds space for living, not everyone that can swing a hammer or cut a board
will build it the same way. But either way, and I don't mean any offense,
to think that you are not (or were at one time when you were still building
your reputation) a salesman is... well.... foolish. You provide a service
and based upon what you said, a quality one, but you still have to sell it
to the customer or are we to believe that every one of your jobs (again,
even when you just started out) are asked for with blind trust from the home
owner that you wouldn't rip them off. I doubt it. I bet you had to "sell"
it to them by getting them to believe that you would do it in a quality
One area that I whole-heartedly to agree with most taking part in this
thread, providing detailed drawings and plans IS providing a service that
should be compensated for. But just to receive a bid for the job, which is
what I understood the OP to be talking about, is larceny, burglary, thievery
or whatever else you'd like to call it.
Again, I'm sorry if this looked to be a personal attack, it really wasn't
meant as such. It's just unfortunate that the world we live in today is
full or scoundrels and thieves. But, for those of us who don't hangout at
the local lumber yard, how else are we to know we're not being ripped off if
we don't shop and ask around.
I don't think you understand. There are some contractors that fall into a
different territory altogether. My stepfather was one. He had all the work
he could handle and never did any advertising or selling. People sought him
out and were willing to pay what he asked. There was no price negotiation.
He gave a price and that is what people paid and in all the years of doing
that, I don't recall a single job that was turned down because he was "high
priced". They were willing to pay for his considerable skills. They were
not out getting multiple bids because they knew what they wanted and they
knew who they wanted to do the work. He chose who he wanted to work for and
turned away a lot of work and maintained a 6 to 12 month backlog.
When businesses are bought and sold, there is often substantial
compensation for "goodwill". Your stepfather had it. It's insurance
against the lean times, and gravy in the fat times. It doesn't come
free, it has to be earned. It can only be earned by building a solid
reputation based on quality work, honesty and sound business
practices. It can't be deposited in a bank, but is often more
valuable than cash. It opens doors, alleviates tension and is good
for the health of all involved. Unfortunately it can't be bottled -
but maybe that's a good thing.
It cannot be handed down either. I don't have his skills. I used to work
with him on occasion, but could never do the fine work he was capable of.
Nor did I study architecture in Vienna as he did. Even if I did, getting
it translated from the brain to the hands is not the same.
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