Plumbing labor rate discrepancy?

A few days ago we had a plumber over to replace a shut off valve. He was here for 20 minutes, in and out of the driveway. Basically drain the pipes, make 2 cuts in the pipe, and solder in the new valve in 2 places.

Yesterday we got the bill- 1.25 hours of labor. We are going to protest the charges. What could possibly make them charge us for this? The only thing we can imagine is that they somehow charged us for 1.25 hours instead of 0.25 hours. They are asking for $95 more than we think they worked, so no small change.

Maybe they have a minimum labor charge? Won’t hurt to ask.

There may be a minimum one-hour charge, to account for travel time. (In hindsight, you might have had him do a few more minor tasks, just to spread out the minimum charge over more work.)

A lot of plumbers charge for the entire call time, including travel.

As soon as I saw the thread title and read the OP, these were the first two things that came to mind.
A one hour or 90 minute minimum is very common, but I’m not sure I’ve seen 1.25 hours as a minimum, but then I don’t deal with plumbers that often. Hopefully you [the OP] can see this from the plumbers side, if one of these things is the case. If he was in the house for only 20 minutes, he’s never going to make money if he only charges you $25, considering he has to drive all the way out to your house and back and then add on all the other things that he has to pay. For example, if one of those pipe fittings were to burst tonight and flood your house, all the damage would likely be covered under his insurance…that probably doesn’t come cheap. Also, you know it’s up to code in your jurisdiction since he’s licensed to work in your city.

OTOH, the fact that you’re going to pay, what, $150ish for this job is why I usually tell people that for something simple, like replacing a shutoff valve, faucet or even a water heater (which, other then moving the giant thing is actually very easy), it’s usually cheaper to call a handy man or neighbor and pay someone $20 to do it rather then $150. No, you won’t be covered if your house floods, no, it might not be up to code, but it’s a calculated risk you take if you want to save the money…especially on a job like this where you’re only replacing a valve and not doing any new work.

I’m also guessing travel time since it was a small job.

Say the company’s hourly rate is $60/hour, but the plumber is only going to be at your house for 20 minutes - $20 is not going to cover travel time and gas, pulling inventory or buying parts, mailing the bill, talking to you on the phone, etc.

I’m a tradesperson (painting contractor); and while most of my jobs are at least a day’s worth of work, I figure $50 minimum to come out and paint, say, one door. Drive time and picking up materials can, in a practical real-world sense, take up half my day. Not to mention taxes, gas, insurance and so on.

Replacing a shut-off valve is typically a pretty basic task; in essence you are paying also for someone else’s expertise and tools and the convenience to tackle a minor job that you, or a handyman or handy neighbor could have done for much less.

Plumbers are not Walmart, they can’t employ children in Asia to give you cheep products for your consumption.

They should also charge for “I inhaled the air in your stupid work environment”… for another $100.

Pay up and stop whining.

Where you given a price up front?
Does the bill exceed that price?
If the answers to these questions are Yes, and no, then pay up.

95 dollars for a service call and your complaining? Good luck finding tradesmen you are going to be happy with. If the jobs so simple do it yourself.

I’m guessing you’re fairly young or new to this country. Have you ever employed a skilled tradesperson who makes house calls before in your life? You think people pay down to the minute for a plumber to come out and do what he did?

It doesn’t work that way. Skilled tradespeople often have minimum time billings even if the job is short, as well they should. Many bill travel time. If you got a bill of less than $ 200 to have a professional plumber out come out and do ANYTHING be grateful.

The OP said he feels he was overbilled by $95. $95 is the hourly rate of the plumber.

The explantion for the apparent discrepancy, as has been outlined by others, is that the bill is for the entire process of effecting the repair. The time spent hands-on working on the pipes is but a portion of that process; the bill represents not just that but also the portions you did not see.

It would have been nice if the billing had been explained beforehand so that this would have been clear to you. It’s not unreasonable to wonder why the bill appears to be for more than what was observed being done, and better communication on the plumber’s part could have addressed this issue and avoided your feeling there was an overcharge. But the problem here was almost certainly not of overbilling, but of under-communicating.

It appears you got an experienced, efficiant plumber. Would you feel better if he had spent 2 hours in your house picking his nose? Pay the (in my opinion) fair bill and be happy.

Travel time? The plumbing shop is literally half a mile away. He could have walked here in less than 10 minutes!

So why charge $135 for 20 minutes of work? My father-in-laws plumber charges in 15 minute blocks, and he said that’s common. The lady at the office I called said “worst case, no more than $200 if everything possible goes wrong”. That’s all she would tell me.

And don’t get me started about the additional $65 materials charge for a $20 shutoff valve.

The bill also said he tested the repair. Weird, he never came inside the house to see if water actually came out of a faucet. I guess he only tested his repair to make sure it didn’t leak.

Anyways, I do have friends, etc who usually do plumbing for a 12 pack of beer. But nobody was available that day/evening/next day, and we really needed running water after over a day without.

You don’t test a shutoff valve by making sure water comes out of a faucet…that’s how you test a faucet. You test a shutoff valve by turning the house water back on and making sure your solder joints don’t leak.

This is the exact reason why plumbers typically charge more for weekends. You want it down NOW, you can’t wait until Monday…it’s double. It’s just the way it works.

Also, regarding travel time, it doesn’t matter if you are 10 blocks or 10 miles, they probably just have a standard travel time that’s built in especially since the plumber many not have come directly from the shop. He may have been on another job 25 miles away, so it doesn’t really matter.

Anyways, you said your FIL’s plumber bills in 15 minute increments, but ask him if there’s a minimum. Like others have said, your plumber probably just has a 1.25 hour minimum to make the job worth it to them. It simply not going to be worth the work on their part to do something that they’re only going to collect $25 dollars on especially if it means having to turn down a bigger job because their plumbers are tied up on little things like this.

So, in all honestly, maybe it’s time to learn some basic plumbing skills. Changing you a shutoff really isn’t that difficult. You’ll need a shutoff, some solder, flux, emery cloth, blow torch, something to cut the pipe with and about 20 minutes.

In fact, if you want to learn, go to Home Depot and pick up a 10 foot chunk of copper, some fittings (elbows, T’s, etc) and the tools and practice. You’ll pick it up in an hour or so and be able to do the next job yourself.

You don’t know how much I appreciate the comments in this thread. It’s a far cry from we normally get from these type threads.

pabstist, I think you’re misinformed here. When you went to Red Lobster last month with a friend and the bill came to $58, the fact is/was the food on the plate costed about a quarter of that. (and much less than that for alcohol)

If they showed you their P&L you’d be astounded; *that lobster was the most incidental part of the meal. *The costs of running that restaurant are amortized down to every meal. You’d paid a sliver of the night cleaning crew, the chemicals in the dishwasher, rent, property taxes, payroll costs, the waitresses apron, the linen service, the repair man who fixed the walk in this afternoon, the bank fees, the quarterly accountants filings, and 200 hundred other items. You----and the other patrons----all paid a sliver of all the costs of keeping that restaurant open.

That Plumber showed up in a uniform, a professional truck, (which was likely lettered), had a cell phone, workers comp, liability insurance, several thousand dollars worth of tools on his truck, several thousand more in inventory, and 200 other items you never think about. That lady you talked to? She expects to be paid. The plumbing shop—you know the one 10 minutes away? They pay rent there, property taxes, heat light phone, cable, water, thousands in licensing fees and registrations. That experienced plumber-------you know the one who had a complete set of skill sets that you don’t-------he was paid tens of thousand learning his trade.

When you pay a professional tradesman (with an emphasis on professional) you are paying him for what he knows, and all of the other costs of running his business. Just like the meal in a restaurant represents an incremental part of the bill----and an incremental part of the costs of running that restaurant----the $20 that paid for that part is an incremental part of that business.

That’s exactly why a $20 part costs $65.


When you get a filling and the dentist charges you $150 you simply pay the bill. You certainly don’t rationalize it by thinking (or saying) “You know, I’ll bet that filling material costs him about $6! I’ll bet he put $143 in his pocket!” You know implicitly (and subconsciously) that the filling costs are not his only costs, and everything else doesn’t simply fall right to the bottom line.

Yet contractors routinely get the sentiments like pabstist’s:

  1. Tradesman .5 hours. (Let’s assume he makes $25 per hour. And there’s never any consideration for payroll costs etc) $12.50

  2. Material $20. (Google makes all genuises) $20.00
    My Bill: $200

That contractor put $ $167.50 right in his pocket!

Raindog! Didn’t expect to see you here. I was actually going to mention that my HVAC company has a $95 “Truck Charge” on every invoice. Doesn’t matter if you’re next door to them or an hour an a half away. If they come out, you start at $95 and go up from there. It’s just the way it works. (They’re also an awesome company and well worth it).
And you know the old saying $5 to turn the screw, $95 for knowing which screw to turn…I remember, years ago, one of my freezers went down. Well before I really knew what I was doing. I called them out, he spent about 5 minutes and then said “Dude, the power’s out” and flipped the breaker back on. Someone bumped the breaker off and it cost us about $150.

Anyways, I just want to reiterate something. One of the reasons the plumber can charge $150 to swap out a shut off valve is because you (the OP) don’t know how to do it. The restaurant can charge $50 for a steak, because you can’t cook it as well and create the same environment. Clothing stores can charge $100 for a nice outfit because you can’t or don’t want to make it yourself.

Like I said earlier, if you don’t want to pay for it, learn to do it yourself. It’s really not that hard, there’s a bazillion tutorials on the internet and if you start a thread, the teeming millions would be more then happy to help you out.

Another thing Raindog, I know you and I are in totally different industries, but I still hear all the same BS as you. I’ll get customers coming in and complaining that we should sell something cheaper because they happen to know how much we pay for it. Well, on top of everything you said about expenses, we’re not in business to break even, we’re here to make money. We want, and deserve to turn a profit.

Ahem brother.

I always think it’s funny that a lot of times even the contractor’s employees don’t understand that. So, you would charge $200 for this job. But sometimes your employees do jobs on the side, right. How many of them seem to think they can charge $200 when they do the same job on their own? With no insurance, no crew to help out if they need an extra set of hands, no truck full of parts and equipment if the job ends up being bigger then expected or they screw something up and end up leaving the customer down for two days while they try to get parts on their own. I can’t tell you how many employees I’ve heard honestly think that the boss empties the money in our register into his pocket at night.

From time to time I’ve wanted to show people out P&L with the numbers off and just percentages printed. Just so they can see what happens to each dollar that comes into the register. Just so they can see that we’re justified in how we price things. So they can see that when we send someone home early, we aren’t doing so the boss can have more money or so they can have less, we’re doing it so we can pay the bills or repay loans.
I like the look on people’s faces when they bitch and moan about how much the government takes out in payroll taxes and then I show them how much the business pays in payroll tax above and beyond what they pay.
I’m always surprised when customers seem to think that we get to keep the money we collect as sales tax…you’d be surprised how often that comes up.
-Okay, I’m done now, but I could keep going about this kind of stuff.