Thursday, July 24, 2008

Plumber Misconceptions

Ted is a plumber.

Do you realize how fortunate I am??

When we bought our first house he replumbed the entire house before we moved in.

In 2002 we had the kitchen remodeled and he did all the plumbing.

When we had this house built in 2005/2006 he did all the plumbing. There was one thing that he didn't put in that I wanted, and then I sort of forgot about it, and just mentioned it again tonight. I asked if it was too late to have it put in. He told me that it would involve too much destruction, and we could probably get by without it, pout. I wanted a pot filler.

For those of you who don't know what a pot filler is, let me enlighten you. It's basically a faucet over the stove or cooktop. Our kitchen is sort of big and the sink is about 10 feet away from the cooktop. Tonight I was making fettucini and would have loved to not have filled up the big pot, then carried it over to the cooktop. Of course there's the matter of draining the pasta, but by the time that task needs to happen, Ted's around to carry it over to the sink for me. When we first talked about a pot filler, we also talked about a small bar sink next to the cooktop. I guess with all that was going on then, I sort of forgot about it and he sort of put it out of his head. Anyway, I guess we're not getting one.

Plumbers are very handy to have around, that's for sure. He's had to do all kinds of things at the spur of the moment, if not for our house, then for my folks or his brother. We're very lucky to have such a noble occupation in the family. (And Ted's sister is married to a plumber fact, Mac has his own business...and that's who Ted works for.)

When people find out that my husband is a plumber they immediately make a comment about how RICH we must be, since everyone knows that plumbers charge an arm and a leg for a 15 minute task.

That's when I try to keep that painted smile on my face and tell them, in no uncertain terms, that plumbers do NOT make tons of money.

A plumbing shop has tons of overhead. The shop where Ted works has eight trucks. Those eight trucks require routine maintenance (oil changes, new tires, things like that). They need to be kept in good condition so that they can always be ready to go out on a call. Do you have any idea what the insurance is like for eight trucks????

Each truck must be supplied with not only the individual plumber's tools, but other bigger tools that the shop owns. Each truck also has to have a variety of parts on it.

Let's just say that you call the shop and have a faucet that won't shut off. You have no idea what brand it is. The guys need to have parts for Deltas, Kohlers, Moens, Elkays, etc. If they don't have the necessary parts on their truck, then they have to go back to the shop to get them, which incurs more time that you will be billed for. So it's definitely in the customer's best interest that the plumber have a well stocked truck.

Not only does the truck need to be stocked, but have you ever seen a plumbing shop? Not the office part, but the part where everything is stored? There are all kinds of pipes and joints and other stuff there. The supplier doesn't just drop those things off...the shop needs to purchase them so that they have them on hand if a customer needs them. A service company wants to get a customer's issue taken care of as soon as possible, so telling someone that they will have to wait 3 days for the pipe to come in to reconnect their only toilet just isn't feasible.

Of course there's the office staff, without whom the business would NOT run smoothly! But, they are in the shop, not out in the field making money for the shop.

Don't forget the liability insurance that the business needs to carry. If a plumber (or any other service employee) walked through a customer's home and happened to accidentally drop something heavy and crack several tiles in the floor, the customer is going to want it fixed, as they should. Yes, accidents happen to everyone, but the customer should not have to live with a permanent reminder of that. Things must be restored to their original condition. In a case like I just mentioned, that would mean finding a tile service that does good work, and hiring them to find the correct replacement tile, pull out the damaged tile, replace it, grout it, etc.

One more important thing...the customer is also paying for experience. Ted has almost 30 years of experience. He's not "seen it all" but he's sure seen a lot of it. Without a doubt a customer wants someone to work on their plumbing who knows what he/she is doing, and has done it before.

Many people would also be surprised at how much work is done that the customers just don't pay for. It doesn't bother them to get a bill month after month and just ignore it.

On the other hand, it's also surprising how often any service business will find out about someone in dire need of a repair of some kind, yet perhaps they were just laid off from their job or the family is going through a medical crisis of some kind, or something else, and the business will do the job for free. These guys have hearts, you know.

So the next time you hear about a plumbing shop charging $50 or so an hour, rest assured that the business is probably making only about $4-$5 profit (if that), AND the plumber himself is more than likely making less than $15 an hour.

And the next time that you find out someone is married to a plumber, do NOT assume that they make tons of money....because they don't!
I'll get off my soapbox with a true story. Several years ago Ted and I were in Bristol, TN for a NASCAR race weekend. He's a tall guy (about 6'4") and usually requires shirts in a tall size. He wanted a Bristol Motor Speedway shirt, so at the souvenir trailer I asked the girl if I could see one in his size. Of course they don't come in talls, so we wanted to see if it would be long enough for him. I unfolded it and held it up to his back. Then I told him to bend over. I wanted to see if it would be long enough for him so that he didn't have a bunch of skin showing if he bent over. The girl started smiling and said, "You sure don't want a plumber's crack showing!"

I looked at her (with a very straight face) and said, "He IS a plumber." I've never seen someone turn red so fast and look so mortified. She apologized profusely, and Ted and I started laughing. It was really funny, and I bet that's the last time she ever said anything like that.

For the record, we did buy the shirt and it was long enough (at least through the first 20 washings or so)!


Jen said...

My mom has a pot filler and she really likes it.

I've never thought of plumbers as making tons of money. That sort of thing is expensive to run. Unless you've run a business, you have no idea how much they really cost.

Paulie said...


Terre said...

Thanks for putting things in perspective because when you need a plumber it does boggle your mind when you look at the bill. It costs us in the metro area a fortune just to get an estimate, nothing is free. Rus has no handyman skills although he thinks he does so I can imagine how handy having a plumber in the family truly is.