We’ve decided to open our own plumbing company. People who know me will snicker because I once went out in the dark to turn off the sprinkler only to turn it on full blast. The next day, we had a temporary swimming pool in our garden. But it turns out you don’t need to know anything about plumbing to make a good living at it.
Upon moving into our current house three years ago, we discovered that the shower head in the master bath did not function very well because of the hard water in this area. We immediately bought a new shower head and set about replacing the old one. However, we could not unscrew the old shower head. Even with St. Pauli Girl holding the pipe with one wrench and my trying to turn the shower head with another, all the while putting all of my weight into it (and I have considerable weight to put into it), the dang thing would not budge.
So we just kind of forgot about it and made do with what we had. Recently, we decided to attack this project again. But we decided we just didn’t have the magical tools that plumbers have to complete such a simple operation. We broke down and called a plumbing company to come out and give us an estimate on how much it would cost to replace all of the shower fixtures with fixtures we had already bought. I figured they could get it done in ten minutes including a coffee break.
I won’t mention the plumbing company’s name, but let’s just say they’re named after a ski resort town in Colorado. Two of their ace plumbers came out to look at the shower. They then walked to the living room to look at the wall behind the master bathroom.
“Well,” said the chief plumber, “we’re going to have to come through this back wall here and knock out a big hole. Now we don’t do drywall work, so you’ll have to get someone else to fix the hole. But we know some guys. And our estimate is $750.”
“But we just want the fixtures replaced, not the pipes,” St. Pauli Girl said.
“It’s the only way to do it. No other options. But just for today, that’ll be $39.”
“What? You’re charging $39 to give us an estimate?”
“Yes ma’am. It’s a long drive out here.”
That’s when I knew plumbing was the life for me. Why charge $75 for a service call and an hour’s worth of work when you can just make good money in 10 minutes by pulling a number from “The Price is Right” wheel in your mind to give people an outrageous estimate that you know will scare them off?
So I’ve already started a repertoire for my future plumbing estimate calls at $50 a pop:
A. “Yes ma’am, I see your toilet is running, and I know it just looks like a flapper problem but it’s really way more complicated. Watch as I roll this marble across your bathroom floor. See? Your house is slanted. We need to even it out. We'll have to jack up your foundation, pour some concrete down, then raise all the pipes to make sure they are level. It’ll cost about $5400. Today, though, you can just pay me $50.”
B. “That’s a leaky faucet all right. A lot of lesser plumbers will tell you they can fix it with a washer or cheap new faucet. But the problem is that the water pressure from the main water line is too high. If the pressure were right, it wouldn’t leak. We’ll have to dig up your water lines in your yard and replace them all. Then I’ll have to use the Ronco Air Compressor Pressure Stabili-zator to reset the pressure. It’ll cost about $8000. But today, just make the check out for $50.”
C. “Yessiree, that’s a pretty bad stopped up drain. I could run a snake down there to have a look and clear up the clog but I’d be wasting your money and my time when it’s obvious you have a Sea Monster camping out in your drain. To get rid of it, I’ll have to hire a few extra men, shrink us all down, then take some flame throwers in to battle him. It’s a high-risk operation, so to cover possibility of loss of limb or life, I’d have to charge $635,000. But all you owe today is $50.”
Doing eight estimates a day, five days a week, fifty weeks a year (plus two weeks vacation) comes to a $100,000 annual income with very light work. I can handle that. So next time you have a plumbing problem, give me a call.
(Incidentally, St. Pauli Girl did a little chiseling, got some Liquid Wrench, and was able to screw off the shower head by herself. She mentioned that she saved us $750. She’s out shopping right now.)