So You Want a Plumbing Quote Over the Phone – Careful What You Ask For!

Something happened to your plumbing system. The water heater is out or leaking, the toilet is plugged, the shower faucet is dripping or a pump is humming (or not).

So you think “Well I don’t have any idea what this is going to cost so I’m going to call around and get some estimates, and I’ll pick the one that sounds best.” Good idea, right? Better think twice!

Why you shouldn’t trust a plumbing quote given over the phone

It is our considerable experience after having participated in the Plumbing Industry for 24 + years that the only “contractors” who will give you a “price” over the phone are the ones who know exactly what you want to hear and are willing to say it in order to get you to “get their foot in the door”. These folks are extremely polished salesmen (not the good kind, either) who are experts at leaving just enough unsaid to allow them to never install an item for the quoted price.

Additionally, they exploit the fact that a lot of consumers believe that all plumbers and plumbing items are “commodities” like coal or electricity. “All electricity is the same so all plumbers are the same” goes the thinking. “All ½ horsepower pumps (water heaters, faucets, etc.) are the same so I’m going to get a price on a ½ horsepower pump installation and pick the cheapest guy”.

There’s an old saying that goes “You just don’t know what you don’t know.”

And what you don’t know is exactly what the bait and switch contractor is counting on when you call. While it’s true that some plumbers are cheaper than others, there is absolutely no case we can find where a cheaper plumber is the best value. After all, most people really want the best value, not the cheapest price, and realize that the old “First Law of Business” makes it absolutely impossible to get the best value at the cheapest price.

Read our guide on what to do before scheduling a plumber and what to ask a plumber at your house.

A cheaper plumber is not the best value

Problem is, psychologically, there are two absolutely compelling reasons people will feel like we have to get the cheapest price.

Reason #1: Fear of Loss

The first is that age old feeling of fear. Fear of loss, to be specific. Folks like you and me have been trained from birth that the only way to keep these “fly by night” contractors from taking advantage of us is to get three quotes. And what better and easier way to narrow down the field than to just pick up the phone and call? Unfortunately, fly by night contractors are skilled experts at presenting lowball quotes over the phone that the average consumer doesn’t have a prayer of winning on. On the surface it looks and sounds great. Even too good to be true. Because it is. When you call them and ask for a price over the phone, you are playing right into their hands. They’re thinking “Another turkey in the pot” and their polished skills make you think “Wow this guy is way more honest than the rest of those guys. He actually gave me a price and it sounds FABULOUS”. So, while fear has a healthy place in our survival and can cause a healthy level of skepticism, let’s not allow it to turn us into one of P.T. Barnum’s “…sucker(s) born every minute.” Don’t play into his hand by calling him for a quote—you might become his next victim.

Reason #2: Getting their money’s worth

The second compelling reason people search out the cheapest price is getting their money’s worth, or better said….VALUE.   Smart Consumer Class 101 here: The lowest price is seldom (if ever) the best value.  In fact, the lowest price is often the most expensive option.  I’m not talking about something so trivial as a pair of pants.  But the principles would still apply if I were.  This is about your home.  More often than not, the most expensive and arguably the most important investment you will ever make; your home.  And it is a long-term investment.  So the real cost of plumbing products and services is not just what you spend today, but how many more times you have to spend that amount to keep your plumbing system functioning the way you want it to.  Just ask yourself  “What good is a cheaper product or service, if I have to keep buying it over and over again as opposed to just buying it once?” Get in the habit of asking yourself “In the end, what good is a cheaper (fill in the blank) if it ultimately fails at what I bought it to do?”

For example, let’s say we need a widget installed. We call around or surf the net looking for ½ horsepower widgets and find the cheapest one being sold for $50 plus $50 for installation all at the nicest contractor on earth. Good thing we specified a ½ horsepower widget so this place can’t slip in a cheap one on us like a 1/3 or ¼ horsepower. We know our fractions and we’ll be checking. This is an educated decision.   The next cheapest one from some contractor we talked to on the phone was over $100 and $200 to install. Do they think they are dealing with a bunch of suckers here?

So we schedule the cheap one and eat lunch at the local pub with the money we saved. The day finally arrives (the cheapest guys are also very busy) and the installer shows up right on time (so far so good). He pulls out the pump in a brand new box. It’s labeled “½ horsepower pump”. Check! Got the right one!

“Ok, I’m ready for the other parts, folks?”

“What parts?” we ask.

“Darn, they didn’t tell you again? They do this all the time. They should have given you the list. Don’t worry. I’ll go get the parts. I’ll be back in a flash. ”

Two hours later he returns and within an additional 3 hours he has your widget purring like a kitten.

He presents you his bill and you gasp.

“This isn’t what they quoted us.”

“Well this particular widget is the cheap kind. They said you wanted the cheapest one, right? We used to come out and give people exact guaranteed prices but nobody wanted that any more. They just want prices over the phone now so we just quote the cheapest widgets with the easiest installation. It never turns out to be that way but people seem a lot happier this way and we get lots more work. Anyway, I had to assemble a lot of the components on this widget cause it’s like, you know, cheap. I figure the manufacturer saves lots of money by making the buyer assemble most of the widget at their home. And it didn’t fit just right in your space so I had to make new part for it and shave down the outer housing. Beats tearing down the wall, right? And the power cord didn’t match your outlet since it was from Serbia so that had to be changed. And I was out of the metric size pipe so I had to go get some after getting the parts you forgot to buy and the supply house is clear across town. Oh yeah, the parts you forgot to buy. … let me have that back, I need to add them to the bill.”

We are starting to think we may have made a mistake but now we just want this over with. So we pay the guy and he goes on his way.

Unfortunately, our lesson in value and cheap quotes over the phone is not over. Seems this particular widget is plastic and it seems to be running kind of hot. We smell something electrical. Probably just breaking in the motor, right? Except for the smell, it seems to work pretty good so we just ignore that. Then a few weeks later we smell a really bad smell and hear something that just sounds wrong. Upon investigation, we see that the widget has melted and is no longer performing its task. This has caused damage, frustration, lost time and on top of everything, now we have to get it fixed all over again. So we call the installer company and tell them as calmly as possible what happened. They send a new guy out and he replaces the burned-up widget. “Everything is going to be just fine” we think. Then he presents us with a bill for removal.

“Wait a minute—you just put this in 3 weeks ago!”

To which he replies, “We don’t have any warranty on labor, Ma’am, and that cheap widget, we can’t even return them so you have to pay for the new one, too.”

“You never told me that!!” you reply softly.

“You never asked.” he says. (Remember–You don’t know what you don’t know).

We go online and check to see if this guy is telling the truth. Sure enough, we read the manufacturer’s paperwork and this widget has absolutely no warranty. It called “The Price Shopper’s Special”. Not only that but this manufacturer has another model that’s also a ½ horsepower but it carries a 2 year warranty. (who’d have thunk?). It’s called “The Best Value”. It’s 20 bucks more. It’s not the cheapest.

The true price of “Low Cost”

So let’s recap the widget sale. The low price cost of the widget we bought blinded us to the fact that it was a low quality widget, presented at an improbably low price, costing us the labor for the installation just like the other one, but additionally costing us the removal labor, another installation labor charge, cost of obtaining and paying for additional parts, and the time off work (or whatever) and aggravation of a dual installation. And we still have a low quality widget which could fail again at any time creating the same scenario for us all over again.

Which widget was cheaper? The better question is which widget is the better value? That is the question we need to ask and answer objectively BEFORE we buy. Because what good is a cheap widget if it doesn’t, in the end, do what you want it to do?

The moral of the story is that the First Law of Business can never, and we mean never, be violated. You always get what you pay for. And any legitimate contractor wants to give his clients a choice of different products and values from which they can choose to fit their budgets, their home plumbing system and their wants.

This is burnt into our memory banks at Yes! Plumbing and it is also the mantra of many other top shelf contractors we know across the nation and the world: “A LEGITIMATE AND ETHICAL CONTRACTOR WILL NEVER QUOTE A PRICE WITHOUT HAVING VIEWED THE PROBLEM REQUIRING A QUOTE IN PERSON”. As a matter of fact, we would go as far as to say that if you call around to get prices, the first contractor you should NOT invite into your home is the contractor who tries to give you a price over the phone.

What to expect from a legitimate plumbing company

Every legitimate Plumbing contractor knows he will not be able to evaluate the best value for anything for his valuable and respected potential client over the phone. A legitimate contractor will have your best interests in mind, not his, and he will visit your home, discuss your needs with you and provide you with options for you to consider which suit your home’s particular situation the best. He will provide you with an evaluation of your home’s plumbing system so that you will know how your chosen product will fit into that system. He will give you a price from a preprinted flat rate book so that you can rest assured that you are paying the same price any other customer will or has paid for that particular product and service. And he will guarantee that his price includes all the parts and pieces required to complete the task at hand, including the time to obtain those parts if he does not have them. But first and foremost, he will provide you a written guarantee (not a warranty) that covers both labor and material for at least 2 years (and longer on installed equipment such as widgets and water heaters). And yes, all legitimate contractors have actual employees (not subcontracted salesmen) so you should be prepared to pay a fee for this service.

Yes! Plumbing was founded 24 years ago with the intention of providing the highest quality service and products to our valuable clients at the best possible price point. That’s the best value. If this is what you want for your family and your home or place of business, call Yes! Plumbing now. We answer our phones 24 hours a day. It will be our pleasure to serve you.

Yes! Plumbing serves all of Northwest Indiana and the South Suburbs including but not limited to Schererville, Dyer, Munster, Griffith, Highland, Hammond, St. John, Merrillville, Homewood, Mokena, Tinley Park and many others.

“THE BITTERNESS OF POOR SERVICE LINGERS LONG AFTER THE SWEETNES OF A GREAT PRICE IS FORGOTTEN.”   -Benjamin Franklin