Why Flat-Rate Pricing is a Better Deal for Plumbing Customers
It’s a subject that homeowners and plumbers have debated for years. Which is the better deal? Flat rate pricing (sometimes called contract price) or hourly rate? First, let me state that certain situations might tilt the advantage to hourly and other situations might tilt the advantage to flat-rate, but for most plumbing repairs, a flat rate for a plumber is usually a better deal. Here’s why:
First, you’ll be given a price on parts and labor upfront before any work begins. This can be very comforting to just get the agreed upon price out of the way without having to worry about the plumber dragging his feet and racking up hourly charges. When you pay a flat rate, you’ll pay the quoted price whether the job takes an hour or five hours. Advantage customer! This is especially true if the plumber came out without hitting you up for a trip charge or an assessment fee.
Furthermore, sometimes (but not always) plumbers have some negotiating room on their flat rate. If you don’t like the price, try haggling. The worst that can happen is he says “no.” But if a plumber is having a slow day, he may be willing to drop his rate somewhat to get the job. After all, he’s already at your house, he’s invested some time evaluating your problem and he’d probably rather discount the job than go back to the shop empty handed. He may also give you a discount coupon or refer you to one on his website to justify the discount and provide a good value to you. After all, a good plumber wants your business for life, not just for one job. If he does discount, that doesn’t mean his original price was a scam. It just means his schedule or other circumstances have allowed him some flexibility to give you a lower price.
In my view, the only time an hourly rate might be a better value is when the job only requires a quick fix that commonly takes five to fifteen minutes to complete. For instance, lighting a pilot light on a water heater or tightening a loose water connection. A customer oriented hourly rate plumber ought to divide his hourly fee and only charge you for a quarter of an hour. Unfortunately, many will simply tell you their company policy states that they MUST charge you for the full hour - so you may not get any price advantage after all. On the other hand, many flat-rate plumbers who want to keep your business have a special low “quick fix charge” for such instances instead of dinging you for a couple of hundred bucks. Just as commonly, I’ve seen Roto-Rooter plumbers do such simple fixes at no charge, especially if it’s a customer who has used them before or whose business they hope to earn in the future. “There’s no charge. It was a simple fix. Call me the next time you need me.” That’s a very powerful gesture that often wins the hearts and minds of a customer. Just to be sure the gesture is remembered, I recommend that the plumber place a sticker with his name and phone number around the work area, beneath the sink or on the water heater so the customer will always be reminded who that nice plumber was who was so generous and helpful.
Now taking into account everything you just read in the last paragraph do not confuse a very fast, efficient plumber with “a quick and easy job.” A more experienced plumber may be able to complete a difficult job faster than a less experienced guy. Don’t get angry and critical of him for being good. Some people will say, “It took him only 30 minutes to replace the disposal but his fee was equal to what the other guy would have charged me for a full hour of labor.” So what? He was fast, efficient and he saved you time. Would you prefer that he slow down and waste your time or just appreciate the fact that he’s out of your home quickly at the contracted price and you can get on with your day?
And what if the plumber has to run out for more parts? This is a common occurrence and the meter will be running the entire time on the hourly plumber but the price remains fixed with the flat rate plumber. Finally, when calculating your overall value, please don’t forget to factor in hard costs that every business has to include in to its pricing. There is the service truck, fuel and maintenance as well as vehicle insurance, liability insurance for the business, even the plumber’s health insurance. Also, office staff, rent, phones, utilities, advertising, tools and equipment. Plumbing is a professional trade that involves never-ending learning to keep up with changing fixtures, materials and plumbing codes. Not just anybody can do this kind of work so please don’t pretend that a plumber’s time is less valuable than that of any other professional, whether blue collar or white collar.
Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Drain Service is proud to recognize several of our locations that are being honored with the 2014 Super Service Award from Angie’s List.
This distinction recognizes the top 5 percent of qualifying businesses per category who maintained superior service ratings and reviews throughout the past year in each market.
By striving for, and earning the Super Service Awards each year, Roto-Rooter demonstrates its commitment to providing all customers with world-class service when they call for plumbing, sewer & drain cleaning and water restoration services.
Many Roto-Rooter branches earned the Super Service Award in multiple categories (including drain cleaning, sewer cleaning, water heaters and wells & pumps).
In the plumbing and other service-related categories, the following branches received a Super Service Award:
Roto-Rooter has been providing superior service across America for 80 years. Customers depend on us 24 hours and day, seven days a week and we are pleased to have received these service awards from Angie’s List that demonstrate our commitment to providing world class customer service.
The trained plumbing professionals at the Seattle branch of Roto-Rooter are ready to serve the surrounding area 24/7. Plumbing problems can strike when you least expect them, which is why the team of 39 expert Seattle plumbers are ready to help when you need them.
The Seattle team can handle any job your home or business may require. From small jobs like drain cleaning and water heaters, to much bigger problems, like excavation and water damage restoration, the Seattle team has seen it all!
The Seattle branch are members of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors (PHCC), International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials (IAMPO), Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) and the Washington Apartment Association (WAA).
For more information about your local Seattle Roto-Rooter, please visit the Seattle Google+ page.
After the Thaw Comes the Flooding. Now is the Time to Prepare Homes and Avoid Damage
By Paul Abrams
By mid-March the deep freeze is finally receding in most parts of the nation. This means the snow melt is happening at the same time that early spring rainfall begins. Storm drains and roadside ditches are flowing with water leading to swollen creeks, rivers and lakes. And in some cases, some of that extra water ends up flowing into homes and businesses causing havoc.
To avoid problems, just consider the path that water might take to find its way into your home. Is it coming through the sewer and drain system or through the walls and floor? Basements are the most susceptible areas for flooding because they are below ground level. Many older basements aren’t equipped with sump pumps to drain away excess ground water so it seems up through floors and through walls. You can seal wall seams all you want but if the ground is saturated on the outside of your basement walls, it will find its way into even the smallest cracks via hydrostatic pressure. If this is the problem you’re experiencing, the only sure fire way to prevent this problem from happening again is to have a sump system installed. We see many families that just accept the fact that water is going to get into their homes every spring. But they don’t have to live with the problem, they just have to face it realistically.
Another source of flood water is from clogged drains, especially floor drains. You’ll find them in basements, on patios, older garages and sometimes in bathrooms and laundry rooms. Test these drains by pouring several gallons of water through them, or hook up a hose and let it drain into the floor drain. If the drain doesn’t move water away quickly and seems to be working slowly, you have a partial clog and it could result in standing water around the floor drain. Run an auger snake through the pipe to clear away the obstructions.
Be sure to check roof gutters and downspouts. Make sure they aren’t filled with debris that will inhibit their ability to move water away from your home quickly. Try running a hose from the gutter into your downspouts. If it doesn’t flow through quickly, water could easily back up and cause damage to your roof. It can also force water into your home that can cause wood to rot.
Yard culverts and storm drains near your house should be inspected. Make sure the grates aren’t obstructed by debris that could allow water to back up onto your property and even into your home. If you need help on the plumbing side, Roto-Rooter can help. If your property has sustained water damage, Roto-Rooter’s water restoration team can get your life and property back to normal in no time.
Know where utility lines are located at all times before you dig. Your life may depend on it
The best way to answer that question is with another question: what isn’t underground?
At Roto-Rooter, the plumbers and sewer excavation crews no doubt run into many things underground in the pursuit of their jobs, from trenching out a new line, to making sewer repairs on an existing line, to excavating for a septic tank, and while some of those finds may be interesting – any dinosaur bones? – some of them, like natural gas lines and electrical lines, can be downright deadly.
Texas811 is part of the national 811 “call before you dig” system. We’re proud to be partnering with Roto-Rooter in Texas to get the word out about safe digging practices. In Texas it’s the law that a call be made to 811 prior to any excavation more than 16 inches deep – but we recommend a call for ANY excavation, no matter how deep the cut.
The 811 number is valid in every state, thanks to a ruling by the FCC in 2005. It is part of the so-called “N-1-1” numbering system, which includes Community Information and Referral Service, 211; Non-Emergency Police and Other Governmental Services, 311; Local Directory Assistance, 411; Traffic and Transportation Information, 511; Repair Service, 611; Telecommunications Relay Service, 711; and Emergency Services, 911.
Anywhere in the nation that you dial 8-1-1 you will immediately be routed to the nearest One Call center that will take your dig information and issue a locate request ticket to relevant utilities or municipalities in your dig area. Those utilities have 48 hours to respond and mark the location of their buried lines.
Here is what the colored flags or spray paint marks on the ground stand for – the uniform color code of the American Public Works Association:
When you see these flags or paint marks at your dig site, proceed with caution. Hand dig carefully until you unearth the buried lines below.
Texas811 is, first and foremost, a damage prevention company. We serve over 1,400 member utilities and municipalities in Texas, and in 2014 processed 2,629,287 inbound ticket requests by sending out 14,045,818 notifications to utilities and municipalities for line locates.
We’re glad to be serving Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Drain Service in Texas, too!
Because of their close partnership with Roto-Rooter, Texas811 was invited to write a guest post for the Roto-Rooter blog.
Daylight Saving Time Should Trigger Plumbing Inspections at Home
By Paul Abrams
Though it feels like we’re still in the depths of winter, Daylight Saving Time will prompt us to spring our clocks forward on Sunday March 8, 2015. Besides adjusting your clock, homeowners should use the occasion to inspect a few plumbing fixtures around the house as part of spring maintenance. Sure, you could do these maintenance checks any time of the year but it’s a lot easier to remember to do them when you associate the tasks with the time change event.
Drain your water heater tank. If you want to extend its life span beyond the 11 year average, you should drain sediment from the tank on an annual basis. This is especially important if you have hard water. It’s not terribly difficult but there are some safety precautions you should consider, such as shutting off the power to the water heater. Rather than list each step in this blog, it’s more efficient to refer you to this step by step video hosted by a Roto-Rooter Master Plumber. The visual elements will make the process easier and safer.
Second, inspect your washing machine hoses for stress cracks, soft spots and bulges to reduce the risk of a flood. Rubber hoses should be replaced every three years. We recommend replacing them with braided stainless steel hoses, which last five to seven years.
Third, inspect water supply lines connected to your refrigerator’s ice maker. Braided stainless steel lines are a good replacement idea, especially if the appliance is more than five years old.
Inspect water connections to dishwashers, water softeners and other appliances to reduce the risk of accidental flooding. This video will show you what to do. And it also has some other flood avoidance tips that will prove helpful before we go into the spring rainy season.
If your house is equipped with a sump pump for removing water from basements and crawl spaces, now is a great time to test it and make sure it’s working. Pour a few buckets of water into the sump pit. If your pump is operating properly, it will turn itself on when the water level rises, pump out the excess water then turn itself off automatically. If the primary pump runs often and is more than five years old, you may want to replace it. If it rarely turns on, chances are that your pump will last 7-10 years before it needs to be replaced. The bottom line is that you should replace the sump pump on your own terms and that means doing so before it fails and allows your basement to flood. And you should seriously consider installing a battery backup sump pump that will prevent flooding if the primary sump pump fails.
Not everybody is equipped with the necessary do it yourself skills to complete these tasks. But an experienced Roto-Rooter plumber can complete them if you can’t. You can schedule a visit at a time that fits your schedule by visiting the Roto-Rooter website or calling 1-800-ROTO-911 (1-800-768-6911).
Homeowners facing water damage should remember the Roto-Rooter name
Water damage can be one of the most trying and difficult problems for homeowners to navigate. There are many causes of water damage including sewer backups, broken water supply pipes, overflowing toilets, sump pump failure and more. Perhaps the most common cause is a burst washing machine hose, which if left unnoticed can gush thousands of gallons of water into a home in a matter of hours.
Damage from any of those problems can be catastrophic. Definitely requiring a professional team, not just a shop-vac and a few fans. If you ever find yourself facing serious water damage, your first call should be to a company that can both fix the cause of the problem (usually a plumber is the best pro for that) and remove the resulting water and damaged property. This would include carpeting, carpet pad, wet drywall, insulation, furniture, etc.
Roto-Rooter has been helping Americans with sewer & drain and plumbing problems for 80 years! We’ve satisfied millions of American home and business owners with fast, professional service. That’s why it makes sense to trust Roto-Rooter to solve your water damage problems too.
We work with all insurance companies and we use the latest, most advanced equipment and training to ensure that your home or business gets back to normal as quickly as possible. All Roto-Rooter water restoration technicians are IICRC Certified (Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification). We follow IICRC S500 standards for professional water restoration.
For more detailed information about Roto-Rooter’s water restoration service capabilities, we hope you will watch this helpful video.
Look for the WaterSense Label on Toilets, Faucets and Plumbing Fixtures
By Paul Abrams
Fresh potable water is scarce and it will get scarcer and more expensive over the next decade and beyond. There are two ways to ensure we Earthlings have enough water for our needs. The first is to build expensive desalinization plants in our largest coastal cities that will convert ocean salt water into drinking water. The second and most sensible way is to conserve more water by using less of it.
Water leaks are everywhere and getting worse. Some municipalities report that up to 60% of the water that flows through its supply pipes is lost to leaks. But on average, 14 percent of water treated by local water systems is lost to leaks. These are staggering figures that must be addressed if we’re going to get serious about water conservation. Municipalities must fix the leaks in their pipelines and that requires significant infrastructure investment. Conversely, every household in America needs to fix its plumbing leaks.
But the simplest way to conserve water is to make smart plumbing purchases. If you need a new faucet, choose one that carries the EPA WaterSense approved label. The same goes for new toilets and showerheads. Businesses should choose toilets, urinals and irrigation controllers that are WaterSense approved. Many of these products are eligible for state and local rebates but all of them will reduce your water usage and therefore your water and sewer bills. In most cases you won’t pay more for WaterSense labeled plumbing parts and fixtures and they’re so well designed and engineered that you will not sacrifice comfort or flush and shower power.
I just installed a 1.28 gallon WaterSense approved toilet in my basement and it seems just as powerful as the 1.6 gallon toilets upstairs but it uses 20% less water per flush! And no, we don’t have to flush it twice to clear the bowl. Replacing faucets and aerators with WaterSense models will save the typical home 700 gallons of water per year. That’s equal to 40 showers! For more information about WaterSense and green fixtures, check out Roto-Rooter’s ROTOGreen web page.
Roto-Rooter Goes Hollywood: Watch for our van in The Wedding Ringer
By Paul Abrams
You can’t miss Roto-Rooter in the new movie, The Wedding Ringer, which opens nationwide on January 16th. In the film, a Roto-Rooter van is shown jumping across an open section of a bridge spanning the Los Angeles River. The film’s producers, Sony Pictures/Screen Gems could have used a plain van or they could have decorated the van with a decal package for some made up brand. But they didn’t. See the stunt in this short video clip.
Sony realized that there’s a certain surprise factor when you place real world brands and products in a film. And let’s face it; the Roto-Rooter brand often elicits a chuckle when people talk about it. The nature of the plumbing and sewer & drain service is dirty so it we’re a great fit when it comes to being the butt of a joke. It’s also a savvy business decision on Roto-Rooter’s part because the scene will live on forever in film history through the theatrical run, into the on-demand phase then the DVD release. As long as there are re-runs on TV, viewers will see a Roto-Rooter plumber and his plumbing van in the film.
Roto-Rooter provided four different vans for the film. Each was used in a different scene but they had to be identical in every respect. I had the pleasure of visiting the set and watching the stunt first hand. The stunt was planned out to the last detail. But the thing that surprised me the most was that the van didn’t land on an air bag and it didn’t land on the pavement, it landed on three or four layers of stacked cardboard boxes. Who knew that cardboard could catch and stop a flying 1-ton van? You won’t see the landing in the film but that’s how it was done.
This is a very funny film, especially for those who enjoyed buddy comedies like The Hangover. The cast is top shelf with comedians Kevin Hart and Josh Gad and the lovely Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting. But in our humble opinion, the best part of the film is the Roto-Rooter stunt!
When the weather turns extremely cold, water supply pipes are prone to freezing and bursting. Plumbers often tell you how to prevent pipes from freezing but they don’t always tell you what to do if your pipes have already frozen. Here are some steps you can take to remedy frozen pipes safely. If you follow these tips you may be able to avoid or minimize serious damage.
Keep in mind when the pipes thaw, they may begin spewing water inside walls if the pipe has burst. The resulting flooding can quickly cause serious property damage. Many Roto-Rooter locations provide water restoration services as well as plumbing services so we can offer one stop service to home and business owners who are dealing with all problems associated with frozen pipes.
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