The High Cost of Cheap Labor

Last month I shared the tale of $40,000 worth of damage done to owner Eric Dutton’s home by a plumbing accident in an old installation traced to a broken plastic nut and sloppy work by the plumber (not one of ours) who did the job. While this was an extreme case, it’s just one of many examples of shoddy work our technicians discover when they go out on service calls.

I’m not saying that all other plumbers are incompetent. Most people in our trade know what they’re doing with a wrench in their hand. Problems arise mainly from the temptation by so many of them to cut corners in order to hold down costs. They’re afraid they won’t get the work unless they are the cheapest plumber around, so they undermine their own professionalism with ultra-low prices they achieve by using inferior materials and doing band-aid repairs instead of offering more permanent solutions to customers’ plumbing problems, which in the long run would prove less expensive. Many of them charge by the hour and when work gets scarce, they can always increase their billings by slowing down.

Worst of all, many plumbing firms aim to hold down costs by hiring the cheapest labor they can find. Sometimes these may be plumbers fired by other firms for incompetence or misbehavior. Sometimes they may be undocumented immigrants or people with shady backgrounds. Others are just beaten-down individuals who’ve worked hard all their lives with little to show for it because they don’t understand business arithmetic and charge too little for their services.

I don’t think Dutton Plumbing is the most expensive plumbing firm around. We work hard to reduce our costs through sensible business practices. This includes using modern technology to help us work efficiently and training our technicians to the hilt in order to reduce callbacks and complaints. One place we will not scrimp, however, is by under-paying our technicians.

We want our technicians to enjoy the kind of middle-class lifestyle they deserve by virtue of their skills, hard work and the value they contribute to the comfort and convenience of customers like you. We do this not just because we want to be nice to them. It makes good business sense. Employee turnover is expensive. It costs small businesses like ours thousands of dollars in hiring and training costs each time a key employee departs and has to be replaced. Some plumbing companies operate a revolving door with plumbers constantly leaving to work for someone willing to pay them a few dollars more.

We’re proud of the longevity of our staff. Click here to meet our team members, most of which have been with us for many years. Many of you know them by name and request them when you are in need of plumbing service.

We’re not only proud of their technical competence, but also of the fact that they are outstanding citizens. The technicians who work for us must undergo background checks for criminal records and driving violations, as well as pass a drug test. We do not want to send someone to your house that, as our slogan puts it, we would not want to send to our own mothers’ house.

We’re also proud of the fact that our staff undergoes continuous training not only on the technical side of plumbing, but also in customer service, safety on the job and cleanliness. All of our technicians wear uniforms with identity badges so you know exactly who you are letting into your home.

Yes, you can find plumbers who will work cheaper than them. But as the saying goes, you get the kind of performance you pay for.