Know Your Plumber Part I


An interesting thing happened today.  I joined a plumbing forum.  The forum rules said that I could have a link to my website in my signature, so I put the link to the home page.  I went to the part of the forum where new members can introduce themselves and created a post that basically said, “Hello!  Steve from California here.  I am dropping in to say hello”.  After several people from that site went to view this website, I was banned from the forum!

Just proof that most plumbers do NOT want you to be an informed consumer!  They are afraid of you knowing what this site is telling you.  My girlfriend assures me, however, that I am doing the right thing.  Now, on to the topic at hand…

plumber1In this article, I wanted to cover plumbers themselves and how to know whether or not you have the right plumber for your plumbing needs.  Most of you don’t know the difference, so I hope this helps.

There are basically two types of service plumbers (new construction/remodel plumbers are a different breed).  They usually work under different pay structures, but the structures do overlap some. They are:

  • “In and out” techs
  • Up-sellers

In and Out Techs

They want to get in, figure out the quickest way to get you a result, collect their money and get moving to the next plumbing call.  The reason is that they are usually either paid by the hour with bonuses for completing x amount of calls, paid according to how many calls they take (paid per call), or they are paid per billable hour.  Paid per billable hour means that since each job is billed to you with a 1 hour minimum charge, if they can finish your job in less than an hour and hurry on to the next job, they are still getting paid for yours.  Using this method makes it possible for the plumber to actually get paid for 10 or even 12 billable hours in an 8 hours day, depending upon how fast they are.  Some of these guys are commission-based as well

The good thing about in and out techs is that if you know that what you need done is a quick, easy fix, they will take care of it quickly and be out of your hair.  A lot of them will quote you an hourly rate over the phone, so you pretty much know what you are going to spend before hand.

The bad thing about them is that they are usually specialized in 1 or 2 areas.  They may be great at clearing your sewer line, but will fumble over other work that they do not do as often.  Also, these plumbers do not really care about performing anything other than a quick fix.  They just don’t want to spend the extra time.  They also have a tendency to make a mess wherever they are working.


These are the best plumbers to have deal with the majority of your plumbing issues; they are also the ones you most need to be careful of.  These guys are almost all commission-based employees, or they own the company.  Either way, the more they charge you, the more they get paid.  That statement sounds kind of scary, but let’s look at both sides of it.

Most plumbing issues are not a simple, quick fix.  You almost always have options.  The only way to get those options fully explored is with an up-seller.  Their specialty is to get in, get started at relieving the symptom of your plumbing problem, then approaching you with a more permanent solution.  If that is what you want, then you can okay the further work.  If not, you can tell them “no thank you”.

Up-sellers are masters at finding everything that is wrong with your plumbing and spotting things that can go wrong in the future.  Whether you want them to fix it all is another story.  I believe, however, that it is always better to have too much info than not enough.

The bad thing about up-sellers is that they can be quite persistent.  They are also more likely to try to take advantage of you – either by overcharging, or trying to sell you work that you don’t need.  This is where the article “Before You Call a Plumber” is helpful.

So which way to go?

Well, I spent most of my career as an up-seller, and I truly believe that they give the best service.  Let me explain why.  Let’s take what would seem to most people to be a fairly straight forward plumbing issue that most would think is a quick fix:

Let’s say that every six months to a year, you notice that your kitchen sink drain starts draining slowly.  You call out an “in and out” company every time it happens and they charge you $100 to clear the line. It is good for another 6 months to a year.  Let’s say you call me out next time it happens.  I am going to ask about your experiences and offer a more complete solution.  If you decide that you are happy with $100 every 6 months to a year, I will do that for you. If, however, I can jet your lines for $300 and that’ll keep your drains open more than 3x as long, that saves you future time, inconvenience, and money. I make more money and you get a better product.  That gives us a win/win.  A good service plumber always wants the win/win.   Although, if you are in a hurry and just want something done quickly, an in and out tech is what you want.

In my next article, I will cover how to know which plumber you are getting, and the best way to maximize your results with each, to make sure you are getting the best value for your plumbing dollar.  Talk to you then.


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1 comment to Know Your Plumber Part I

  • Tom

    I am a strong believer of educating the customer, always giving them options with the positive and negative to each. Sounds pretty much like you do the same. The biggest problem in any service industry and that many companies are out for the fast buck and don’t have the customers best interests in mind.

    We are in a position were we are the experts, and business people at the same time, with that we have provide the best service for the client while working best to fit their budget.

    Great post.

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