Trust No One (when it comes to contractors...)

95 Replies

I found an HVAC tech online who had 64/64 five-star reviews on Google Maps. There was nothing but praise for him, so I gave him a shot. He diagnosed my problem as a faulty control board. He quoted me $700 for the board plus installation. I nearly said, "OK, do it". But then I looked up the replacement cost of the exact same board online and found that it sells for $380. I called him and said I found the board online for just over half of what he quoted me. He laughed and said, "That's the cost of doing business." A nearly 100% premium payed just for parts? I bought the board online, installed it myself in about 15 minutes. AC works. At least his diagnosis was correct.

Anyone have any ideas for finding honest contractors? I almost feel like the only way to find an honest HVAC tech is to become one myself. This guy now has 64 five-star reviews and one two-star review, courtesy of yours truly.

I'm not seeing the dishonesty. Maybe you don't like his quote but he's in business to make money.
Originally posted by @Pat Martin :
I'm not seeing the dishonesty. Maybe you don't like his quote but he's in business to make money.

 The money to be made is for his labor. A small premium payed for parts is not unreasonable. Charging double what something costs elsewhere is unreasonable. He charges $85/hour in labor. So he would make $405/hr. That's better than nearly all physicians make. Unreasonable.

Good for You!!  It's a shame what some Contractors do!  Now image you are a Woman in this business,  he would have tippled the price he gave you!  I have to ask my male friends to come over some times when I get quotes!  I always do my research on new jobs down to watching an expert do it on YOUTUBE if I can.  Now a Day I give them the option of what I will and will not pay letting them know if they don't want my money some one else will.    

I, also, am not seeing the dishonesty.

The advertising to get the phone call (who knows how much)

The phone call (time, utilities)

The trip to diagnose (gas, depreciation, time, knowledge, experience, skill)

The vendor to get the part (Overhead, capital use, tax, shipping)

The return trip to install the part (license, insurance, warranty, time, gas, depreciation, knowledge, experience, skill)

The payment of taxes (SS, Medicare/Medicaid, FIFA, etc... plus the accountant to wrap it all up)

Not seeing the rip off here at all. Just because you can do it yourself for less doesn't mean this person is a crook... you didn't pay yourself for the time, you used his experience, knowledge, and know-how to diagnose the problem (That actually makes you a jerk. I hope you at least pay him for the trip to diagnose the problem)... plus you won't pay taxes or overhead on the time you spent fixing the problem. You also won't give yourself a warranty in case you screwed it up.

Aaron, all that does not add up to $405. Sorry. If you want to pay exorbitant prices for contractors, go ahead. But if you are going to resort to name-calling, please stay off the BP forums. 

Diagnosis trip: $100

Part: $380

Return trip with installation: $150 (Inc. warranty)

Total: $680

Overhead can easily run 10% of total (If that little), which puts us right at $695.

So... yeah. I'm just not seeing the cause for seething anger and calling someone out as a crook.

To put this in another perspective... did you pursue any other quotes for this job to determine what a going market rate for a control board replacement is, or did you arbitrarily decide that this guy is a crook and therefore worthy of a negative Google review? (Which can have fairly damaging effects on a business)

There is nothing dishonest in what the HVAC guy did , nothing at all .  Contractors dont just supply labor. Restaurants mark up the food ,  car mechanics mark up the parts . Hospitals charge you 20 bucks for an asprin . Its business .  Do landlords rent houses at cost , do rehabbhers make a profit ?  I own a  service business , when a customer comes out and says " I have the parts "  I ask them " are you the same guy that brings his steak to a restaurant and asks them to cook it ?    

Aaron, just FYI 100+380+150 = 630, not 680. If he needs to charge an additional $320 on top of parts and labor for a 15 minute job to stay in business, he is not making good decisions and his business doesn't deserve to survive. And if another contractor quoted the same price, his business also does not deserve to survive.  No seething anger here.

you can find cheaper contractors who are flaky and drunk. Those contractors are not the ones with tons of 5 star reviews

to quote my favorite movie white man cant jump:.."you either smoke or you get smoked"....you fortunately did not get smoked. 

the dishonesty, is representing that the part costs twice as much than it actually does. whether the up-sell is justified is a different question.

the answer to your question roos, all contractors are the same. big or small, short or tall, licensed or not. they are in business to make money, as are you. In the future, Buy materials yourself, ask how much they want to install, labor only

Originally posted by @Ross Bernard :

Aaron, just FYI 100+380+150 = 630, not 680. If he needs to charge an additional $320 on top of parts and labor for a 15 minute job to stay in business, he is not making good decisions and his business doesn't deserve to survive. And if another contractor quoted the same price, his business also does not deserve to survive.  No seething anger here.

Let me quote myself - "Overhead can easily run 10% of total (If that little), which puts us right at $695."

630*0.10 = 63, rounded up to the nearest five because I'm OCD, plus 630, puts us at $695.

Edit to add: if you consider appropriate mark-up for overhead, taxes, gas, advertising, etc. to be bad business decisions... I... I just don't know what to tell you. Maybe find some day laborers to do all your jobs, because you won't be hiring any decently run or organized businesses.

I went to the dentist yesterday.  20 minutes. $1200 invoice.  I could've done the work myself with a mirror and swiss army knife. 

Originally posted by @Ross Bernard :

I found an HVAC tech online who had 64/64 five-star reviews on Google Maps. There was nothing but praise for him, so I gave him a shot. He diagnosed my problem as a faulty control board. He quoted me $700 for the board plus installation. I nearly said, "OK, do it". But then I looked up the replacement cost of the exact same board online and found that it sells for $380. I called him and said I found the board online for just over half of what he quoted me. He laughed and said, "That's the cost of doing business." A nearly 100% premium payed just for parts? I bought the board online, installed it myself in about 15 minutes. AC works. At least his diagnosis was correct.

Anyone have any ideas for finding honest contractors? I almost feel like the only way to find an honest HVAC tech is to become one myself. This guy now has 64 five-star reviews and one two-star review, courtesy of yours truly.

 Ross, there was an article in the Durham newspaper a couple or three years ago about an IBM employee who was a real estate investor with a few properties, including a couple of 4-plexes.  He got laid off during the recession and though his RE investments cushioned the blow, his finances obviously decreased.  Long story short, after a couple of expensive HVAC repair bills he ended up taking an HVAC repair class at the local community college and after completing the one-semester class he began performing all the HVAC repairs at his properties himself.

Sounds like a great idea to me.  Unfortunately, I haven't signed up for that class yet.

Craig, a dentist has spent a little more time and money on his education than an HVAC technician. And if you are confident in your abilities, as a layman, to perform your own dental work by all means go ahead.

I have to agree with both sides here. I do not see a 100% markup as being honest on parts, the HVAC tech should have charged for his time and a more reasonable mark up on parts, though I am not a HVAC person and have no idea about best practices in that industry. On the other side, I do not think he was a dishonest contractor since he die correctly diagnose the problem. Laughing about the price and saying that is the cost of doing business is not really providing quality customer service. Kind of dismissive and invalidating in my opinion.

@Ross Bernard , I also don't see dishonesty on the contractor's part.  That's great that you were able to get it cheaper by buying online and installing it yourself, however his markup on parts is normal... not saying that I like paying it myself, however as Aaron pointed out, there is overhead in doing business.

If you go to Walmart and buy a shirt for $30, do you think they are only marking it up $3 - $6 or do you think they paid more like $10 for it?

Did he charge you a service call to come out and look at the unit, or did he diagnose the problem over the phone?

Kent here is the difference in your analogy: I don't have access to Walmart's suppliers. If Walmart sells a shirt for $10, and Target sells the same one next door for $5...

Originally posted by @Ross Bernard :

Craig, a dentist has spent a little more time and money on his education than an HVAC technician. And if you are confident in your abilities, as a layman, to perform your own dental work by all means go ahead.

 Well , the dentist may have spent more money , but in Maryland the HVAC contractor may have had more time to get his masters license .  You have 2 years before you get your journeymans then 4 years before you can sit for your masters , plus the schooling .

@Ross Bernard

I don't see any dishonesty on the contractor's part. This is the cost of doing business. You are not in a position to determine how much overhead is enough for him. Market does that. And based on reviews this guy is doing a great job. 

I wonder have you ever checked the income statements of the public companies and see how much is the percentage difference between Revenue and Cost of Goods. You would be surprised. But that's what business is all about.

Also, only thing that is really immoral in this post is the fact that you didn't pay him for diagnosing the cause of your HVAC problem.   I would suggest to you to call that contractor and at least say Thank You for diagnosing the problem FOR FREE. You obviously put a $0 value to his knowledge and skills. That's a bad practice, my friend. 

Originally posted by @Ross Bernard :

I found an HVAC tech online who had 64/64 five-star reviews on Google Maps. There was nothing but praise for him, so I gave him a shot. He diagnosed my problem as a faulty control board. He quoted me $700 for the board plus installation. I nearly said, "OK, do it". But then I looked up the replacement cost of the exact same board online and found that it sells for $380. I called him and said I found the board online for just over half of what he quoted me. He laughed and said, "That's the cost of doing business." A nearly 100% premium payed just for parts? I bought the board online, installed it myself in about 15 minutes. AC works. At least his diagnosis was correct.

Anyone have any ideas for finding honest contractors? I almost feel like the only way to find an honest HVAC tech is to become one myself. This guy now has 64 five-star reviews and one two-star review, courtesy of yours truly.

Reminds me a a few mechanics that tried the same number on me. Thankfully I had the sense to inquire elsewhere... Its really hard to find good honest help these days, smh. 

Kudos,

Mary  

Alexander, I would have paid him had he asked. I paid for his services twice in the past. He said the price of the board was $700. That is being dishonest; the board costs $380. If he had said, the board costs $380, installation and everything else costs $405, that would be honest. Same total, one way of breaking it down is dishonest. 

Originally posted by @Craig E. :

I went to the dentist yesterday.  20 minutes. $1200 invoice.  I could've done the work myself with a mirror and swiss army knife. 

lmao -- I hear that!!! 

Kudos,

Mary

One can go online and buy supplies at wholsale prices , the same as contractors pay  . There are plenty of distributors that now sell that way they still make money . BUT that is NOT the  LIST price for the part .   Customers pay list price .   This is not ripping someone off , or dishonest , its profit .  I dont pass on my savings to a customer , thats money that goes to the business . 

Most HVAC service guys in my area make $ 36.00 an hour and up , benefits etc . Thats about $ 73K a year . Mark up on parts helps cover that salary .

Ross

At first after reading your post I was outraged at the mark up. The more I read and reflected on it, the more I came to terms with his pricing. He's free to set the price however he wants. He's under no obligation to pass along his cost to you. You're under no obligation to accept his pricing. You decided his markup was too much for you, so you didn't do business, but this doesn't make him dishonest in any way. Most people are willing to pay a premium for convenience and are willing to pay a premium to just get it done right the first time without chasing anything down; his normal customers are most likely not in business themselves. They're homeowners who want to be comfortable as quickly as possible

If you had offered to supply the part I'm sure he would've quoted you the price to install it. That's just the free market. Don't acuse him of dishonesty just because you didn't like his offer. 

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