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BDPNA 01-09-2013 01:06 PM

Ethical Billing Question...
 
Before I call my HVAC contractor, I wanted to make sure I wasn't out of line, so please let me know if I am as I only want to pay what is fair, and if this is fair, no problem.

Visit #1 - Contractor shows up and charges me their "show up" or "estimate" cost, which equals an hour's labor rate. Furnace starts working without their intervention so that is all I pay, 1 hour's labor.

Visit #2 - Contractor shows up again after heat stops working. Disconnects a few hoses, reconnects, heat starts working. No parts. Total time spent in house is around 10-15 minutes. No bill.

Visit #3 - Contractor shows up again after heat stops working with parts. Installs 2 parts. Total time spent in house is 15 minutes.

I then received a bill for 2 hours of labor, and the parts. My question is, is this ethical? My biggest question is the 2nd hour of labor. Obviously I owed the first bill for the visit, and then of course another "hour" (i realize most contractors do not bill in hour fractions) for the installation of the parts. However, why 2 hours? I realize this amounted in 3 visits, but the second visit, which I wasn't initially billed for, seems to have been put into the bill for the entire thing, where as in the second visit he didn't really fix anything.

Do I have a right to call and ask to pay only 1 additional hour's labor, not two, or am I out of line?

Doc Holliday 01-09-2013 01:29 PM

Time spent traveling to and from supply houses for parts can and in most instances will justify an hour or two's labor.

Some do, some don't. One hour minimum labor is a usual charge.

digitalplumber 01-09-2013 01:30 PM

How did they know to bring parts on the third visit?

I'm kinda like you thinking he should have installed the parts under warranty, since it was obvious that the unit was never fixed.

But I am sure the experts can shed a different light!

Doc Holliday 01-09-2013 01:42 PM

It's a tough. Had it been myself whom were to have been called out for a service call (diagnostics and repair) then from the moment I pull up in front of your home is when one hour labor is applicable even if it only takes me 5 minutes to diagnose and with or without parts (many general items are kept in stock on the truck) resolve the issue.

Now if it took me 5 minutes to diagnose but I needed to travel to the parts house for specific item(s) neccessary for repairs than that's being charged to you as well in the form of hourly labor as well but not an additon to the first 5 minutes although with travel and repair it makes for about an hour added at least.

Dependent upon the situation and the customer/person (good mood-bad mood. nice and understanding or demanding and irritating), I can disregard certain elements of the bill as I see fit. That's how it is with all contractors and no one can say different. If you're a pain in the rump then you're getting fully charged.

That being said many times I've offed the labor for call backs when it's something I should've been able to fix the first time around, if it's blatantly my mistake (or inability to catch the issue the first time) to begin with. Other than that it's the usual total bill.

Hope that helps.

how 01-09-2013 01:58 PM

You could ask them to explain the labour costs but if they did have to research/ locate/& pick up parts so that you could get your unit fixed, it's reasonable to ask you to pay for that. It's too bad they didn't give you the bill when the last tech was there so you could have asked then.

jagans 01-09-2013 02:59 PM

So you are talking about three separate visits to your home, and you are being billed for two hours, and parts, and you are asking whether this is fair.

I would never charge less than a half day plus travel time for a technician in my business, which is commercial roof consulting. I would personally not bill by the hour for HVAC work, because the more knowledge you possess, the faster you can find and fix a problem. Its not like picking apples, or piece work. You are paying for the hard earned knowledge of the technician.

digitalplumber 01-09-2013 03:33 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jagans
So you are talking about three separate visits to your home, and you are being billed for two hours, and parts, and you are asking whether this is fair.

I would never charge less than a half day plus travel time for a technician in my business, which is commercial roof consulting. I would personally not bill by the hour for HVAC work, because the more knowledge you possess, the faster you can find and fix a problem. Its not like picking apples, or piece work. You are paying for the hard earned knowledge of the technician.

But in this case, three times is ridiculous! Very apparent the tech did not know his stuff or was milking the client!

It's situations like this that give you good guys a bad name and it's you guys that overcharge that force many to become do it yourself ears! Hence why sites like this exist!

Just my opinion. I run a service based PC business, and would never charge for a second or third call related to to first!

I would have to make the decision, do I want to keep the client long term or just make 3 hours labor plus parts!

The car industry is the worst in doing what is happening here, they charge you chilton hours, when they know it takes less. It's unethical in my opinion!

Technow 01-09-2013 04:01 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by digitalplumber (Post 1089784)
But in this case, three times is ridiculous! Very apparent the tech did not know his stuff or was milking the client!

It's situations like this that give you good guys a bad name and it's you guys that overcharge that force many to become do it yourself ears! Hence why sites like this exist!

Just my opinion. I run a service based PC business, and would never charge for a second or third call related to to first!

I would have to make the decision, do I want to keep the client long term or just make 3 hours labor plus parts!

The car industry is the worst in doing what is happening here, they charge you chilton hours, when they know it takes less. It's unethical in my opinion!

After being in business many many years and being on both sides of the fence as far as using contractors and being a contractor:

1. I haven't seen his bill, they didn't charge for the return trip and charged when they changed parts.
2. I have fielded calls where someone claims the tech was only there 15min and you look at the GPS log and they were there over an hour.
3. Intermittant problems are very hard to diagnose when Its workin' fine while you are there.
4. The parts just didn't jump on the truck and like others have said there is alot more time involved than just being in the driveway.

Are there any PC forums that you post on so I can go and complain about the price I just paid to get my network fixed?? Guy had a drive up charge twice mine! :jester:

digitalplumber 01-09-2013 04:18 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Technow

After being in business many many years and being on both sides of the fence as far as using contractors and being a contractor:

1. I haven't seen his bill, they didn't charge for the return trip and charged when they changed parts.
2. I have fielded calls where someone claims the tech was only there 15min and you look at the GPS log and they were there over an hour.
3. Intermittant problems are very hard to diagnose when Its workin' fine while you are there.
4. The parts just didn't jump on the truck and like others have said there is alot more time involved than just being in the driveway.

Are there any PC forums that you post on so I can go and complain about the price I just paid to get my network fixed?? Guy had a drive up charge twice mine! :jester:

You did not see me complain about the rate charged in this regulated field, rather I am focusing my opinion on this one example.

I don't mine paying a persons rate, lord knows when I bill at 75.00 per hour, I have to make sure it's fixed.

I operate my biz under this one rule "your satisfaction is guaranteed". Had a client one time, her second hand pc was on the mend. Her dad was a long time client. She was out of work and needed the pc to do her resume. I went, fixed it and billed her. Never got paid, so I sent her a notice. Mind you this is 6 months later and she is working again making good money. Because she did not like the tone of the letter she started ranting that the pc was not fixed and that she was going to give my statement to her attorney, who by the way was a divorce atty, she then said I had to get my nephew to fix it! The problems she had were caused by her kids, so based on my guarantee, I wrote it off.

Again, I don't mind paying a so called expert with lots of field experience in their head to fix something at their rate, but it better be fixed! And don't try and come back two and three time to milk the cow!

So don't take this as a blanketed attack on all of you pros, unless you are the tech in this scenario.

In reality, this post should have been tilted is my bill correct?

Technow 01-09-2013 04:31 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by digitalplumber (Post 1089804)
You did not see me complain about the rate charged in this regulated field, rather I am focusing my opinion on this one example.

I don't mine paying a persons rate, lord knows when I bill at 75.00 per hour, I have to make sure it's fixed.

I operate my biz under this one rule "your satisfaction is guaranteed". Had a client one time, her second hand pc was on the mend. Her dad was a long time client. She was out of work and needed the pc to do her resume. I went, fixed it and billed her. Never got paid, so I sent her a notice. Mind you this is 6 months later and she is working again making good money. Because she did not like the tone of the letter she started ranting that the pc was not fixed and that she was going to give my statement to her attorney, who by the way was a divorce atty, she then said I had to get my nephew to fix it! The problems she had were caused by her kids, so based on my guarantee, I wrote it off.

Again, I don't mind paying a so called expert with lots of field experience in their head to fix something at their rate, but it better be fixed! And don't try and come back two and three time to milk the cow!

So don't take this as a blanketed attack on all of you pros, unless you are the tech in this scenario.

In reality, this post should have been tilted is my bill correct?


Like I said again...IF ITS AN INTERMITTANT PROBLEM AND NOT OPERATING INCORRECTLY WHILE YOU THERE then you have to come back and they did the RIGHT THING by not charging for the second visit. BUT WHEN THE PROBLEM IS NOW DISCOVERED AND THEY CHANGE THE PARTS expect to PAY.

beenthere 01-09-2013 04:35 PM

I would call and question the 2 hours labor.

heck, you still don't know if its actually fixed.

Be polite when you call, give then the amount of time he was there as accurately as you can. A business should not mind if you ask them why its 2 hours.

digitalplumber 01-09-2013 04:38 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Technow (Post 1089811)
Like I said again...IF ITS AN INTERMITTANT PROBLEM AND NOT OPERATING INCORRECTLY WHILE YOU THERE then you have to come back and they did the RIGHT THING by not charging for the second visit. BUT WHEN THE PROBLEM IS NOW DISCOVERED AND THEY CHANGE THE PARTS expect to PAY.



Absolutely, if I found a part was needed, there would be a charge but I would not charge labor for this trip. Intermittent, yep one of the words no consumer wants to hear.


Have a good one!

newtech 01-09-2013 04:50 PM

This is what i see.

Visit 1. Unit working, tech left cuz a lot of other calls.

Visit 2. Tech corrected what was causing the the problem, and probably told the the boss that if it happens again, we need to change XX.

Visit 3. Tech shows up with the parts from visit 2 that were recommended.. Problem fixed.

If that is what happened, ( don't know because I wasn't there ) visit 2 should have gave you the option to change the parts when he was there. Would have probably cost you more money if he did, ( if he didn't have the parts on the truck and to go get them ) but one less service call.

No service charge for #2 visit. I really don't see an issue with the bill, but I would like to see what the WO stated on the 2nd visit.

BDPNA 01-09-2013 08:59 PM

Thanks to all who replied, it sounds like it may not have been unethical then for the bill to be a total of 3 hours labor (if we consider the first hour the "diagnosis charge hour") plus parts.

Basically, on visit one, we turned on the heat and it was working, so the tech didn't want to fix anything, but also didn't run any tests, and just left. His theory was potentially a smart valve that was going bad so they ordered that part to have on hand if it happened again. Then, that night, when it broke again, tech came out a second time with the part (smart valve), but when he saw what was wrong, decided that the smart valve wasn't the issue and it may be the pressure switch. Disconnected the hose from the pressure switch and it stayed lit, then reconnected hose, stayed lit, so left with the smart valve and said that if it happened again, his theory was bad pressure switch and would show up with THAT part on hand. Third visit after it broke again, he showed up with both pressure switches, and switched them out.

So of course I am happy to pay for the parts, and understand that the first labor charge was just for having them show up, was just not sure if the 2 extra hours of labor was fair after 2 trips where the unit was misdiagnosed. Expected to pay an hour's worth of labor. I was very kind to the techs. Since this happened over the holidays we were without heat from Christmas past new year's due to holidays and weekends. Had it been diagnosed properly on the first visit none of that would have happened. So I guess maybe the issue is, why am I paying the extra hour of labor because their techs kept getting it wrong, or when it worked, refused to run the proper tests to determine what was failing even though the problem was the dreaded intermittent one.

Overall I guess I won't argue over an hour's labor, they did make 3 house calls after all, but again, I'm not sure that was necessary if they had been more thorough. I just hate it when I can't fix something myself, and want to at least make sure that when I can't, I pay a fair price.

jagans 01-09-2013 09:31 PM

I have to say that in my business, There are many times when something hits me on the way home from the first visit, and I have to go back to do more tests, or approach the problem from a different direction. Sometimes the solution to a problem jump out at you, and sometimes they are really hard to dig out. That's why they call them good days and bad days. :) :(

Again, I dont get Hourly billing for HVAC work. I am pretty darn sure that all HVAC techs are not of the same caliber. I know Roof Consultants arent.

If a Guy like Doc, Yuri, or BeenThere comes out and solves the problem in 15 minutes because of their extensive knowledge, why should they charge 1 hour, when joe the rookie comes out and charges four hours because he dosent know what he is doing?

Its the old 50 cents to turn the screw, and $949.50 to know which screw to turn routine.


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