What’s the old adage, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”? The other day I opened my mailbox to find a Valpak© and two pieces of direct mail from local Denver metro area plumbing, heating and cooling competitors. They all looked very pretty, obviously professionally produced. A couple were even backed by the consumer “advocates” we all know, which only means that they paid the hefty fee to become part of their marketing program. But the part that sickened me was the ridiculous offers they advertised. Among the deep discounts offered were the following:
- $29 Air Conditioner Tune-up
- $69 Drain Cleaning Special
- Free furnace when you buy an air conditioner
I’ve also seen a $29 toilet tune-up. Who needs to tune up their toilet? The $29 AC tune-up required you to schedule the work before 4/15/14 when the Denver temperatures aren’t even close to the 70+ degrees necessary to conduct accurate readings of your system. The free furnace promotion (I’ve also seen these reversed; “free AC with the purchase of a furnace”) came in the form of an amazing 2-page letter describing how the owner of the company got a special out-of-season deal on the equipment from the manufacturer so that he could keep his guys busy during the slow times. Does this sound familiar? Have you received one of these too?
The truth is that these pre-made marketing pieces come from the manufacturer as a part of their co-op marketing program. When we’ve quoted against these companies we’ve found that typically the cost of the piece that isn’t free is so high, it makes up for the allegedly free equipment. In addition, it commonly only applies to the high dollar, super-efficient complete HVAC systems. Don’t get me wrong, we sell high efficiency heating and cooling equipment, and there are a ton of applications where high efficiency equipment is the right way to go. My point is the contractor should make it clear up front what equipment qualifies for the “amazing deal”.
And the $69 drain cleaning deal? It’s typically loaded with exceptions (i.e. in one line only: no branch lines; extra $ to pull a toilet; must have an outside cleanout to access blockage; extra $ if they have to go beyond a certain distance from the drain; additional charges for “difficult access”, and the list goes on). I’ve also seen companies provide bogus videos that show breaks or bellies in the sewer line so they can charge a ton of money to dig up your basement or yard. It really upsets me seeing this type of unethical practice being done in my own industry, and because of this, Bell Plumbing & Heating Company employees turn the camera on and shoot the room before accessing the drain line so you know it’s your drain you’re looking at in the video.
Think about it folks, how can a company send a technician to your home that makes at least $30 per hour including benefits, driving a $40,000 detailed box truck with $30,000 (or more) of inventory to your house to complete a 1+ hour task for $29 (or even $69) and stay in business? They can’t, unless one critical thing happens: they pay their technician a heavily commissioned based compensation package, encouraging them to find something else to repair or replace in your home – whether it needs it or not. These are the companies you see on the 5:00 and 10:00 news channel stings. Most of the time, I really don’t blame the technicians. The company they work for established a compensation system that places their integrity at odds with their basic need to survive and support their family. Their priority is getting a technician in your home and turning a profit on that single job, and not developing a trusting relationship. They realize there around a half million homes in the Denver metro area and if they upset some customers along the way their huge profit margins allow them a substantial marketing budget that recoups the losses and more. A lot of people see right through this, but there are many more who are fighting through tough economic times and roll the dice on advertised deals.
So what can homeowners do to protect themselves?
First of all, realize that if the deal or deep discount sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Next, get competing bids and ask tons of questions. When it comes to service, don’t trust a price that’s given via the mail or over the phone. How can any company price service without seeing the problem first? Finally, look at Google reviews. When you read the Google reviews, really read them. If every one of them is bright, shiny, articulate and sounds like it may have been written professionally or by the same person, be skeptical. Google does a lot to protect the integrity of their rating system, but companies find ways of getting around them. Ask yourself “does this review look like it was written by a real customer or does it look manufactured”?
So now a little bit about Bell Plumbing & Heating Company. We’re a 4th generation family owned and operated business located off of I-225 and Iliff Ave. that dates back to 1926. I’ve been with Bell for 17 years, and in the role of its President the past 8 ½ years. We employ 76 people and primarily service residential consumers. We’re coming off our best year in recent history, having a 32% growth in 2013 over 2012 – amazing for an 88 year old business. All of our technicians have their backgrounds screened and submit to random drug testing throughout their careers at our company. What makes us unique is that we’re not just a plumbing and heating company. We pride ourselves as being a complete home solutions company offering the following specialties:
- Plumbing, heating and cooling service and repair. Our exceptional group of technicians have earned the reputation as the best in the industry. They’re paid an hourly rate, not commission, so you know you’re dealing with a technician that has no conflicting motives. They work on every plumbing, heating and cooling problem imaginable, and service the entire Denver metro area, including Castle Rock. All service and repair pricing is given in the home before service begins. This means you’ll know the complete price for the repair before the technician begins the job.
- Complete drain cleaning and underground plumbing repair and replacement services. In addition to drain cleaning, this includes repairing or replacing sewer lines and water services, as well as changing out galvanized water lines to copper or Pex.
- Residential heating and cooling equipment installation. This includes furnaces, boilers, air conditioners, evaporative (swamp) coolers, mini split systems, humidifiers and air cleaners. We only install name brand HVAC equipment from Rheem, York, Breezair, Mitsubishi, Honeywell and Aprilaire.
- Kitchen and Bath remodeling. We’ve been remodeling kitchens and bathrooms for well over 50 years. Unlike nearly every other K&B, we employ our own technicians, keeping subcontracted labor to an absolute minimum. This way we control the labor costs and control the people in your home. We also employ creative interior designers who understand home construction to help turn your kitchen and bathroom design dreams into reality.
- Kitchen and bath showroom and retail store (2150 S. Abilene St, Aurora, Colorado) with parts counter for the do-it-yourselfer. We have the largest selection of plumbing, heating, cooling and remodeling fixtures and parts of any retailer in Colorado. Our $1.3 million inventory not only makes your shopping experience more productive, but also keeps our service trucks fully stocked so they can better service you.
Within the next couple of months we’ll also offer electrical services, so please be on the lookout for that.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog – I hope you found it helpful. It was written by me personally in a single sitting on a Sunday afternoon, not our marketing company, so I hope you appreciate my honest approach. If you haven’t tried our company out yet, I hope you investigate our quality and integrity and give us a shot to earn your business. If you’re one of our nearly 200,000 active customers, thanks for your continued trust and support