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Thread: five minute service call for $XXX

  1. #1
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    Jun 2016
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    five minute service call for $XXX

    A past client called me up to say the power was out in four bathrooms all controlled by one GFCI. She said the reset button was hard and could not be pushed in. (She made it sound like the button would not move, i.e. frozen.) I asked her if she had checked for a tripped breaker and she said yes. It stopped working when she ran the vacuum she had plugged into the GFCI. She said the GFCI was bad and needed replacing. Based on our conversation I agreed and made a service call.

    I press the reset button and it's not frozen, it just won't lock-on meaning there is no power to device. I go to the garage which is literally 5 paces away and check the breaker panels. (There are two side-by-side. A big one and a much smaller one.) There I see a tripped breaker which I reset and then verify that the GFCI is again functional. "Uh-oh" I think. "This is not good. I've been here two minutes but I have to charge for an hour. She's probably not going to be happy."

    I make a show of checking the other bathrooms with a tester and then check the kitchen receptacles. "Unfortunately", everything is wired correctly and working. Now comes the moment I was dreading. "I fixed the problem. It was a tripped breaker." She wants to see where this tripped breaker is located and I show her a spot in the small panel. "I checked the big one" she says. "I didn't know there were circuit breakers in there" pointing at the small one. I just nod my head.

    I charge her for a minimum service call (one hour plus travel charge). "That will be $XXX. Sorry" I say. She doesn't say a thing while she writes the check, but I can see she is annoyed. I'm not sure if she is annoyed at me or herself. Guess I'll find out if she ever calls for my services again.

    I've been advised in the past to change the breaker or GFCI in these kinds of situations just to make the client feel better. Maybe I should have, but it feels dishonest to me since I would have to charge even more to cover the material. Thoughts?
    Last edited by Coppersmith; 05-28-18 at 01:25 PM.

  2. #2
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    Feb 2007
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    Alexandria, VA
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    420
    Would she have been happier if the problem had been serious and you spent four hours fixing it? That should be the way this situation is framed.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
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    Williamsburg, VA
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    You get paid sometimes for what you know not what you do. You already went through the extra step of trying to troubleshoot over the phone and save her the service call, that didn't work so I would not feel bad at all billing an hour for 5 minutes work. Besides, calls like this pay for all of those free estimates and other things you do and don't ever get paid for.

    Eta: the only times I have blatantly lied to a client to make them feel good as when I find lights are out and it's simply a burnout bulb. I'll tell them a power surge took them out even though I seriously doubt that was the case... I don't have proof that a power surge didn't take them out so I suppose it's not a complete lie.

    Commercial customers seem to be much less annoyed with you spending as little time there to fix the problem as possible. They don't see it as it only took you 5 minutes to fix the issue and you're billing them for an hour, they usually see it that their equipment is working again within five minutes of your arrival. Residential customers don't always see it that way.
    Last edited by JFletcher; 05-28-18 at 01:41 PM.
    Electricians do it until it Hertz!

  4. #4
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    Jun 2003
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    NE (9.1 miles @5.07 Degrees from Winged Horses)
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    Changing a light bulb warrants bigger frowns.
    Tom
    TBLO

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Hawthorne, New York NEC: 2014
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    3,896
    In a situation like this, if I had a previous relationship with the customer, how much money they spent and the travel time wasn't excessive I just would have reset the breaker, showed the customer where and how to do it and be inclined to let it slide.

    But otherwise I wouldn't feel guilty about charging your usual service call rate. Your time is money and you could have taken that time to service another paying customer.

    -Hal

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
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    UK
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coppersmith View Post
    A past client called me up to say the power was out in four bathrooms all controlled by one GFCI. She said the reset button was hard and could not be pushed in. (She made it sound like the button would not move, i.e. frozen.) I asked her if she had checked for a tripped breaker and she said yes. It stopped working when she ran the vacuum she had plugged into the GFCI. She said the GFCI was bad and needed replacing. Based on our conversation I agreed and made a service call.

    I press the reset button and it's not frozen, it just won't lock-on meaning there is no power to device. I go to the garage which is literally 5 paces away and check the breaker panels. (There are two side-by-side. A big one and a much smaller one.) There I see a tripped breaker which I reset and then verify that the GFCI is again functional. "Uh-oh" I think. "This is not good. I've been here two minutes but I have to charge for an hour. She's probably not going to be happy."

    I make a show of checking the other bathrooms with a tester and then check the kitchen receptacles. "Unfortunately", everything is wired correctly and working. Now comes the moment I was dreading. "I fixed the problem. It was a tripped breaker." She wants to see where this tripped breaker is located and I show her a spot in the small panel. "I checked the big one" she says. "I didn't know there were circuit breakers in there" pointing at the small one. I just nod my head.

    I charge her for a minimum service call (one hour plus travel charge). "That will be $XXX. Sorry" I say. She doesn't say a thing while she writes the check, but I can see she is annoyed. I'm not sure if she is annoyed at me or herself. Guess I'll find out if she ever calls for my services again.

    I've been advised in the past to change the breaker or GFCI in these kinds of situations just to make the client feel better. Maybe I should have, but it feels dishonest to me since I would have to charge even more to cover the material. Thoughts?
    Wouldn't she have known there was a minimum call out charge? Wouldn't you have advised her up front?
    Si hoc legere scis nimium eruditionis habes.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
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    Huntington Beach, CA (19 Hrs. 22 Min. from Winged Horses)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coppersmith View Post
    I charge her for a minimum service call (one hour plus travel charge). "That will be $XXX. Sorry" I say. She doesn't say a thing while she writes the check, but I can see she is annoyed. I'm not sure if she is annoyed at me or herself. Guess I'll find out if she ever calls for my services again.

    I've been advised in the past to change the breaker or GFCI in these kinds of situations just to make the client feel better. Maybe I should have, but it feels dishonest to me since I would have to charge even more to cover the material. Thoughts?
    she's annoyed. not to worry, she will probably blame you.

    now, how long has it been since you did anything for her?
    how much money is at stake here?

    i've got a customer who calls infrequently. like once a year.
    they called seven months ago, needing a lighting cert.
    finally, they get around to fixing it, so they can get the job
    certified.

    they say, "it's missing only one switch. is that a problem?"
    turns out, the "switch" was a lutron graphic eye.

    so, seven months later, they need the cert. i'd forgotten about
    them, and moved on.

    i'll go next week, and do the cert. i have doubts if it will pass.
    why? my customer sounds just like your customer.
    they don't actually know if it works or not. i am suspecting
    they got someone else to look at it, and couldn't get that
    person to sign off on it either.

    i couldn't get straight answers on who was going to meet me
    there.

    if it doesn't pass, the charge is the same. if they want to get
    someone else to do it, fine. toodleooo, and go with god.

    i've lost a couple customers lately. they found someone cheaper,
    or someone who fakes the certs, or whatever.

    how much has it cost me off my gross? 15%. how much time
    has it saved me? about a third of the time spent. they were some
    of the least desirable customers i had.

    fair trade.

    your problem, as i see it, is the same as mine. you need to go out
    and get better customers. it's a PITA to do that.

    what is interesting tho, is that customers i've done stuff for two years
    ago, have resurfaced. guess they didn't like someone else, and dumped
    them after a while.
    ~New signature under construction.~
    ~~~~Please excuse the mess.~~~~

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Chapel Hill, NC
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    If it is a past client and it isn't far out of my way I will usually not charge... I know that's stupid but IMO that is good will.
    They say I shot a man named Gray and took his wife to Italy
    She inherited a million bucks and when she died it came to me
    I can't help it if I'm lucky



  9. #9
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    Jul 2006
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    Roughly 5346 miles from Earls Court
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis Alwon View Post
    If it is a past client and it isn't far out of my way I will usually not charge... I know that's stupid but IMO that is good will.
    Yep, and it's relative. For only 5 minutes and if they were a good customer, maybe charge for the travel plus half an hour, but make sure they know you're giving them a break this time.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Valdosta, GA
    Posts
    4,194
    Had a customer a few years ago that would call about once a month for outlets not working, lights out, etc.

    I went out to one of her calls, and found she had a light bulb out. I told her up front about the service call fee. I changed like 4-5 bad light bulbs and handed her a bill. She then said she shouldn’t have to pay it since it was just bad light bulbs. Come to find out, the tech that had been servicing her never charged her for changing light bulbs or resetting breakers, and she was really PO’d about paying this time. Anyway, point is, always charge; if you work for free, they’ll expect you to always work for free.

    She paid the bill and never called again.


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