Last week I received a phone call, an inquiry about the cost of installing a new bathroom, the called wanted a rough idea of how much I would charge just a ballpark figure ... over the phone! I explained that I could not give a price over the phone and that I would have to see the job before providing her with an estimate.
This did not go down well she only needed a rough idea, and she would be buying all the materials herself, I would merely be required to install them and she did not want an estimate, she would need a quote before choosing a contractor to carry out the work.
I told her that I would be happy to meet her at the property, and then provide her with a detailed estimate or quote and that I was sure that she would be able to find someone cheaper than me if she contacted some other plumbers in the area, I had already decided that this could be a problem customer, and if I was going to install a bathroom for her, I wasn't going to lose money by going in too cheaply, and telling her that I'm not the cheapest plumber in town would hopefully save me the time it takes to produce an estimate or quote if she was looking for the lowest possible price.
Anyway, a meeting at the property was arranged, the job is looking pretty straightforward, moving the toilet to a different location potentially being the biggest problem, the existing bathroom floor was tiled, and whilst I was almost certain that the floor joists were running the right way to allow for easy toilet relocation, there is always that small chance that they weren't and that I would have to take the toilet waste through the exterior wall to join the existing stack that could cause an additional day of work for me.
I was shown the items that had already been purchased for me to install, a mixture of heavily reduced "last one left" items from the local DIY superstore and packages of smaller fittings sourced from the internet. I had no intention of doing the tiling, I always get someone in to do that, but there was a pile of boxes in the hallway containing exactly the right amount of tiles for the walls and floor -- also end of line stock -- the tiler will have to be careful with those!
At this point, I have in my head a time scale for this bathroom installation, I've identified a few potential problems, but only the toilet position could significantly increase the time I would allow. I'm not going to give the customer a price or even an idea of the price at this stage, I want to write everything down so that she can compare my price to that of the other companies that she has told me that she has asked to quote. The potential client is adamant that she wants a quote and not an estimate, so there are going to be a couple of days contingency added in. I showed her some pictures of previous work and offered her some contact details of former customers so that she could obtain references, but she didn't seem interested.
When I drove home I was thinking about the quality of materials she had bought, sure she had probably paid 40-50% less than she would have paid if I had sourced them, but I could have been confident that the items I supplied would still be functioning correctly in 10 years time, and if for some reason there was a problem with them, the parts would be available to fix them.