Thursday, January 2, 2014

Quotes Shouldn't Change

I was running around on Tuesday, getting some last minute things crossed off my list before New Year's Eve when I saw a face that looked familiar.  You know how it goes; you see someone and you ask yourself, "How do I know that person?"  I was actually holding the door open for them when I realized how our paths had crossed.

Back in 1999, I was getting written proposals for a project.  I had my multiple prices and awarded the flooring scope to a local subcontractor.  All the estimates were in the same ballpark, all the bidders were equally qualified for the work, so the obvious choice was the lowest number.  An easy call.  I telephoned the low bidder and advised them that they had the job.  The next day, something unusual happened:  the prospective contractor called me to say they'd have to raise their price.  There was not a lot of hesitation or apprehension coming for the other end of the phone, it was just sort of matter-of-fact as if they were sharing some news I needed to be aware of.  Something like, "Just calling to let you know that we took another look at our price and we're going to need more money than we thought."  This is not normal.  No one does this.  I mean, this happens almost never.

Have you ever heard of the bate and switch sales strategy?   With the bait and switch, a business person or company advertises something for one price and then when they get a customer lured in to make a purchase, they adjust things in their own favor to make more money.  I guess it felt a little like that.  So anyway, I thanked the people for the news, but without much thought I let them know I wouldn't need them for the job and that was the end of that. 

Then I called Bidder #2 and gave them the job.  Maybe I spent a couple hundred dollars more, but I never thought too much about it... until Tuesday when I spotted the price changer from '99.  Another thing I'm remembering now is that I ended up going back to subcontractor #2 on at least a half dozen more projects in the years that followed and would  probably be using them even now if they hadn't have relocated their business to another town farther away.

So this is just another lesson in the need to get multiple prices.  Hiring someone for a job on a renovation is the beginning of a relationship.  It may last a few days, or in some cases, it may be ongoing for years.  On the same project I mentioned above, I hired a contactor I'm still using today 14 years later.  He's not just a tradesman on my job, he's a friend.  But like I said, these are relationships, business relationships and you don't want to head down a path with someone who's jerking you around at the start. 

Quotes shouldn't change unless you change something.  If you want more, you need to be ready to pay more.  If you need less than you can ask for a credit.  (But understand that even though this discount is customary it's not guaranteed.)  Also, get something down on paper if you and your contractor adjust the price.  You may not be saying the same thing and getting it in writing will eliminate the possibility of confusion when it's time for you to write a check. 

Finally, as I've said before, work hard to get multiple quotes.  Then, if someone tries to go up on their price, you can point to the signed agreement and/or be ready to go to the next person on your list.

See Push Hard to Get Quotes or A Business Lesson From Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson      

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