Just because a flooring contractor doesn’t charge for bids, it doesn’t mean he’s free.
Here at Pete’s we get asked all the time if we do “free estimates” for our contracting services. Of course, the answer is yes. But I have yet to find a contractor of any kind that does actually charge for bids. Where are these companies who are smart enough to manage to get money for estimates? Because secretly, we would love to do the same thing.
It seems that when people see that something is free, they believe they are entitled to unlimited amounts of it. They forget that it still costs somebody something. The phenomenon of the “free estimate” in particular seems to create the belief that contractors are public servants who are available to drop by and provide you with detailed, on-site information about your property even when you have no intention of ever purchasing any services.
Bob only works on hardwood floor finishing projects in the City of St. Paul proper and the City of Roseville in Minnesota.
You’re thinking that this is one of those, “You kids, get off my lawn” rants, but it’s not.
Bidding (proposing a price offer to a customer) is absolutely necessary for Pete’s – this is how we compete with other hardwood flooring companies in Minnesota and how we get to see the actual worksite conditions of jobs we will eventually win. But the estimate process represents a significant part of our overhead because customers routinely abuse it, and I wish we could get them to stop.
I think the biggest misunderstanding stems from the belief that contractors are required to bid every job they are invited to. Oh, hell no.
While contractors know that they must bid in order to win work, they know that not all bid requests represent actual work to be won. Bids do not equal real work because customers routinely use bids just for information gathering.
So the contractor’s job is to gently weed out these false bids. Sometimes it makes customers really angry when they ask you to do an estimate and you say no. But contractors have every right to do this.
Before we agree to do a bid, we always share the current state of our work calendar with the customer.
It’s just plain silly for us to do a bid for a customer who needs the work done in two weeks when our schedule is booked three months out. But potential customers often get upset when we politely decline to bid a job that we know will never fit into the schedule. ”But we need three estimates; can’t you just come out and give us a bid anyways?”
Landlords and tenants are particularly prone to abuse of the bid system because of their eternal bellicosity over security deposits. Tenants want you to come over and tell them a cheap, easy way to fix the damage they put in their hardwood floor. Landlords want you to come give a written bid for what it will cost to completely restore the floor so they can take it out of the damage deposit. Neither party actually plans to hire you – they seem to think this is some taxpayer-funded service to which they are entitled.
Legitimate contractors understand that their most valuable currency is their knowledge and experience, and they should be reasonably liberal with it. But, sweet customers, be honest with a contractor when you call. If you are just looking for information, offer to pay for a consult. Any contractor worth his or her salt will refund the cost of a consult if they eventually do work for you.
If you are a return customer, they will probably come to your house and offer their opinion for free. But if you invite a contractor to bid when you don’t actually plan to hire anyone to do the work, then you are a cad.
That being said, we’ll come out and give you an estimate – no problem. Just make sure you are really interested and live in the City of St. Paul proper and the City of Roseville in Minnesota.