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Plumber fee question

Old 09-03-2009, 07:21 AM
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Default Plumber fee question

Fortunately I have little experience with plumbers (knock on wood). But recently, I needed the valve replaced on top of my water heater.

The company I called quoted me their hourly rate ($115) and said that it would be the minimum charge plus any parts. They reiterated that removing an old valve and sweating on a new ball valve should take less than an hour and the total charge would be the hourly rate plus parts. So I replied "around $150 or less should cover it?" "It should" was the answer. So I gave them my CC number over the phone.

OK....the job went fine and lasted just under an hour. However, when the company billed my card it was well over $300. I called to clarify the charges and they indicated that the hourly rate also applies to travel time to and from my house.

For any plumbers out there.........my question is: Is it standard practice to charge customers travel time? What is the rate for travel time, if charged?

Thanks in advance.
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Old 09-03-2009, 08:40 AM
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So, if you live 30 minutes east of their shop, and the plumber is coming from a job 30 minutes west of their shop, how much do they charge each of you? I mostly deal with AC service calls at my stores, they start billing when they walk in the door.
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Old 09-03-2009, 09:25 AM
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That is a tough one. I always ask about travel time. I actually think it is fair to charge for travel time, but it is an area where some padding can and does occur. I have has a bill reduced from a plumber when (after some questioning) it was obvious that he was running a route in my zipcude, yet they where charging me from their office.

They get an A for effort, but they also got crossed off my list
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Old 09-03-2009, 10:43 AM
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They should have an area that they service w/o billing (extra) travel and then warn anyone outside of that area that there is a charge. If they are doing it at all.

I have never had a plumber/electrician/etc try and bill travel time though I did have some jerkoff plumber charge me $99 to drive 2 miles to a Home Depot to get a part. And what exotic part was it? A piece of standard iron pipe
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Old 09-03-2009, 10:48 AM
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call your credit card company and dispute.
then deal w/ plumbing company....with time as they are....they should have no problem adjusting the invoice. if they dont.....let the cc company handle it.
but in the future, i wouldnt give them my cc until the job is done and the invoice is infront of you to review.
GL
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Old 09-03-2009, 10:48 AM
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As I recall, most of our plumbers and electricians charged time for One-Way (so it was a 50% reduction in hourly rate for travel). Birmingham, AL, is a spread-out city, though.
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Old 09-03-2009, 11:05 AM
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I think it sucks but I also think it's one of those live and learn things......it's not their fault you didn't ask all the right questions.
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Old 09-03-2009, 11:07 AM
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My company charges one-way travel, from where ever the truck is when they leave for your location. We have no seperate "travel" rate. When the clock starts it is charging you the same thing as if we were working. Some companys charge a "truck rate" or "truck charge" which is usually just a flat fee, and those companys normally do not charge travel time. (We do commercial low voltage electrical work BTW).

Charging you round trip travel time is a bit much, in my opinion. Like an earlier poster said, whatever you do about this bill, just cross them off your list of future repair work.
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Old 09-03-2009, 11:11 AM
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Thanks for the quick replies. Don't want to dispute anything until I have more information about what the "norm" is. Then I will give the company a chance to make it right, whatever that turns out to be.

I do think it would have been right to mention a charge for travel when I called for a quote. They won't come to your house unless they have your address and pymt info so they know what the deal is. I am listed in their service area.

The other reason for the my question about "travel time" is because I'll need another plumber soon when I upgrade to a tankless system and may need to factor the addl cost into whatever quotes I get.
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Old 09-03-2009, 11:19 AM
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When I would send one of my vehicles out for a security system repair job, they were quoted an "appearance" fee. It was a flat rate for the area they were in. That fee also included 1/2 hr. of service time. They were told that as well. For the ten years I owned the business, we never had a disputed bill. Guess I was doing something wrong....
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Old 09-03-2009, 11:23 AM
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I hope you got the whole crack for $300!
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Old 09-03-2009, 11:23 AM
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Originally Posted by fishpond View Post

when the company billed my card it was well over $300.
To add to the injury, had you known of the charge approaching $300, bet you would've just ordered a new water heater....
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Old 09-03-2009, 01:12 PM
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I drove a electrical service truck for years, we always charged travel time one way in the most equitable manner possible. You always pay for travel time whether you see it on the bill or not, there is an adjustment made one way or the other. Do not want to start a pissing match, but Dr. Jim, do you think the plumber should have gone and gotten the part for nothing.? Along with his labor, the overhead goes on for the vehicle, tools and whatever. Would it have been different if the part cost $250? Try as you might, you can't carry parts for every conceiveable situation, and if you are the fifth customer of the day, that part you needed may have been installed in a previous customers house. That said the o.p. should have been told that a charge would apply.
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Old 09-03-2009, 03:16 PM
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Dang! I must be missing out. I service a Tri County area and charge a flat rate of $45.00 for travel to the two counties to either side of me.
Bottom line in your case was they told you it should take an hour or less and I'd think if they grew up under my Fathers teaching they should have warned you they were coming from 40 or whatever miles out.
I hate plumbers that act like car salesmen
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Old 09-03-2009, 03:33 PM
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" tools and whatever" Ok... Since I have a wife i can't fix it myself. But i have fixed other people stuff including electrical. Everything in my house can be fixed with tools i can carry in with a five gallon bucket and the total cost of the tools to fix everything couldn't be a hundred bucks? Even less for a electrician. Crackers has what sounds fare to me. I bet he is aways busy and repeat business. You can't blame a guy for earning a living but on the other hand nobody wants to get hosed either!
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Old 09-03-2009, 03:57 PM
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I have seen all these charges and now I only hire sole propriters the indepent is much easier to deal with one on one
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Old 09-03-2009, 04:02 PM
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I have and $80 service call,if I can fix it in 15 minutes its $80 plus parts,then $ 80 an hour,$110 with a helper after that.if I charged a trip charge in this economy I would be broker than I am,if thats possible
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Old 09-03-2009, 04:11 PM
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Travel time is usually figured "portal to portal", from the shop to you (your portion), to the next job from your house (the next guys portion) and so on. And the last job does not pay travel back to the shop, on overtime the travel is figured round trip from the tech/plumber's home and back..standard procedure in the service business. Try to explain that to a customer when your billing rate is either $300 or $400. hr (regular OT versus double time on holidays and sundays), and the tech drove 90 minutes to find that the stop switch in the elevator was in the off position for a minimum of 3 hrs, and more likely 3 1/2 hrs if the tech is conscientious and wants to be sure there is no other problem so he spends half an hour running the elevator just to be sure. $900-$1400 depending on which day/holiday, and usually these people have a very basic service contract where nothing is included.......
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Old 09-03-2009, 04:29 PM
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Originally Posted by fishpond View Post
The company I called quoted me their hourly rate ($115) and said that it would be the minimum charge plus any parts. They reiterated that removing an old valve and sweating on a new ball valve should take less than an hour and the total charge would be the hourly rate plus parts. So I replied "around $150 or less should cover it?" "It should" was the answer. So I gave them my CC number over the phone.
.
Customary or not, if they did not mention travel as part of the charge when you asked (are you sure ?) then it should not be accepted

Were you there when the service was performed ?

Were you given an itemized invoice at the time of service that showed the travel charge ?

Did you sign anything accepting the travel charge ?

It is customary to charge travel time. It can be computed many different ways, but typically it is equivalent to 1/2 hour of labor. If you requested a phone quote and it was not included in the quote, it should be removed

Call the company and give them the opportunity to remove the charge. If they don't then dispute it with your cc company
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Old 09-03-2009, 06:21 PM
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Originally Posted by nausetlight View Post
Travel time is usually figured "portal to portal", from the shop to you (your portion), to the next job from your house (the next guys portion) and so on. And the last job does not pay travel back to the shop, on overtime the travel is figured round trip from the tech/plumber's home and back..standard procedure in the service business. Try to explain that to a customer when your billing rate is either $300 or $400. hr (regular OT versus double time on holidays and sundays), and the tech drove 90 minutes to find that the stop switch in the elevator was in the off position for a minimum of 3 hrs, and more likely 3 1/2 hrs if the tech is conscientious and wants to be sure there is no other problem so he spends half an hour running the elevator just to be sure. $900-$1400 depending on which day/holiday, and usually these people have a very basic service contract where nothing is included.......
LOL. Standard procedure in MA is what you mean.
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