Am I Being Fairly Charged?

Old 06-09-14, 11:00 AM
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Am I Being Fairly Charged?

Our Munchkin boiler stopped working in March. I called around to find someone who could service this uncommon brand and found a company that had someone who had worked on them before. The receptionist said their rate is $110/hr.

The serviceman came out and discovered that is was simply a blown fuse and he replaced it. While working on our system he noticed the incoming water pressure regulator wasn't working so he called a plumber from their shop to come out and replace it.

The work was prompt, friendly, and professional. I kept track of their hours; they were here a little more than 6 hours total.

I was surprised to receive an invoice for 10.75 hours, so I called the company for an explanation. They sent me notes from the plumber (but not the initial serviceman) that included "1 hour to get parts and get to the site" and "1 hour to get back to shop & clean up."

According to Google maps their shop is 11 minutes from my house. All the parts were standard fittings with the exception, perhaps, of the pressure reducing valve.

What irritates me is that they didn't specify that they would be billing for travel time, getting parts, and clean up at the shop (at $110/hr.) when I first contacted them and now they're billing me nearly $500 more than I expected.

So I called five other heating companies to find out how they charge. Each has their own practice--some have an initial visit minimum charge or include a travel charge if the site is far away, but none of them charged for local travel time. Several provide a bid to customers so the customer knows the price up front.

I called the company I worked with and told them they performed good work but they weren't completely up-front with me about what the charges would include. This didn't seem right to me so I've withheld payment until I sort this out.

Am I being over-charged? If so, what should I do?
Old 06-09-14, 11:20 AM
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Thats a common part that should have been on the truck. $1200 bucks is way too much IMO for a PRV replacment and a blown fuse.

The PRV is around 40 bucks.

0386421 - Watts 0386421 - TB1156F 1/2" Bronze High Capacity Feed Water Pressure Regulator

The blown fuse is probably a couple bucks..

Forget the 6 hours. Thats way too long to do what they did. Although I was not there that seems like it shouldn't be more then a 3 hour job tops..

Did you sign anything? Was any work to be done verbally communicated with pricing or just that they charge 110 an hour?

I would not pay it, but thats me. I would offer them $400 bucks tops for what they did and move along. Call the direct manager or head of the company. If they dont budge then report them to the BBB. And make a complaint to consumer affairs for your state.

Sounds like a form of price gouging to me...
Old 06-10-14, 11:13 PM
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Do others agree with this assessment?

Just seeing if there's consensus that I'm being charged too much.
Old 06-10-14, 11:49 PM
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Well, Lawrosa is a Pro plumber...and he lives in a high cost area. Unless there are extenuating circumstances that we don't know about, yeah, seems high. If the total time was 6 hrs (like 3 for one and 3 for the other?), then thats what you should pay...maybe 7 depending on fractions. Did the service guy hang around while the plumber was there? If so, why?

I'd talk to the Boss, maybe he'd like to know where his guys spend all their time instead of working? And why would you pay for clean-up back at the shop?

When someone local does work for me, their job is over when my problem is fixed and their tools are back on the truck. I'm not paying for them to stop, get gas, write up their notes, talk to their GF for 10 min, use the bathroom, etc.
Old 06-11-14, 07:05 AM
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Just the fact that it took 6 hours to change a fuse and a WP Regulator alone is insane. My neighbor had her whole boiler replaced in that amount of time. No way I'd accept that time as acceptable. Did you watch them troubleshoot? I never leave a tech's side when any work is done in my house, and I tell them that I'll be watching and asking question even before they start.
Old 06-11-14, 10:15 PM
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Thanks for the replies.

I wasn't watching the servicemen the entire time they worked but I think it actually took them 6 hours. The fuse was in a difficult place to access, the water pressure regulator required a metal support bolted to the concrete below it, and the whole system had to be restarted and pressurized.

Perhaps they could have worked faster but I'm not going to complain about their pace of work. My beef is with the 4.75 hours they charged for buying parts, travel, & clean-up.

Since I've already spoken with the higher-ups in the company I'm inclined to talk to the Better Business Bureau to see what they have to say. Most likely I'll send the company a check for the materials + 6 hours of labor.

Old 06-11-14, 10:24 PM
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That would certainly be more than generous.
Old 06-12-14, 04:00 AM
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travel time is standard. Too and from the shop. I don't like it either but I have paid it. If its only 11 minutes, the *******s will still charge you a full hour. That's the racket but its not out of the ordinary.

As for not paying, give it a try... let us know if they put a lien on your house if your of the real stubborn nature.
Old 06-12-14, 10:30 AM
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I know some companies charge for travel time, but as I mentioned earlier, none of the 5 companies I spoke with charges for travel unless the client lives outside their normal service area (outside the city). So it's not a universal practice (at least where I live).

For what it's worth, only one of the companies I spoke with charges to get parts (if they have to make a special trip to get them). None of them said they charge for clean up time. Three of the five businesses said they give the client a bid so they know what the cost will be before work begins.

I understand that there's a lot of overhead running a business and the customer ultimately pays for it. It's a matter of being up front with the customer about what they're charging for.

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