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Old 10-07-08, 10:38 AM   #1
On Any Sunday
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Remodeling my apartment: question about contractors

If a contractor makes an offer on a small job, is it considered standard, proper ettiquette to undercut their offer? Because if it is okay to ask them to perform the work at a lower price, I'd like to do that, if possible, if it's within reason.

What's going on: I'd like to hang a large mirror in my apartment. (My landlord gave me the okay.) The mirror will cover almost the entire wall. A glass company sent an estimator out to my apartment. He checked out the job, took some measurements and then told me that they'd get back to me with a price in a few days. Three days later one of their sales reps called and she quoted me a price of $900 for their guys to do the work.

So...can I turn around ask the glass company to install it at a lower price? Can I tell them, "$900 is a little out of my price range. But I would do it for....(x amount)" Big question: Is it within the realm of standard business ettiquette to undercut their price with a counter offer or will they be insulted? How much lower in price could I, or should I, ask them to do the job for?

Last edited by On Any Sunday; 10-07-08 at 10:51 AM.
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Old 10-07-08, 10:42 AM   #2
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Capitalism is built on bargaining. I would say get one or two other estimates and then go from there. Bargaining is defintely okay. I have done it with flooring contractors, painters, even my furniture store.
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Phobias are for irrational fears. Fear of junk ripping badgers is perfectly rational. Those things are nasty.
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Old 10-07-08, 10:43 AM   #3
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Why not get a few different quotes from other Glass Co's? At least you'll know if they're in the ballpark.
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Old 10-07-08, 10:44 AM   #4
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Yup....tell them "thanks, I want to get other quotes and I'll get back to you".

Get other quotes, then you can use lower quote as bargaining power and/or even try to drop that quote a little.
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Old 10-07-08, 10:53 AM   #5
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I generally wouldn't bargain with a quote, but I would get several estimates, then choose.

After re-reading it, I would agree with saying it's a little out of my price range, but I can do ________. The worst he could do is say I can't do it for that.
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Old 10-07-08, 10:54 AM   #6
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Why not bargain with a quote. Flooring contract came to house, measured, gave a quote. We dickered a bit and came up with something that worked for both of us. He could have said no, as could I. If you do not ask, they cannot say no.
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Old 10-07-08, 10:59 AM   #7
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get quotes for a bargaining chip. Also i wouldnt just go for the cheapest, necessarily.

is this in the bedroom?
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Old 10-07-08, 11:04 AM   #8
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I think it's rude NOT to try to bargain for a lower price. We live in a capitalist free-market economic system and it would be irresponsible for you to simply accept their first offer.

Besides, where's the fun in simply giving them what they want?
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Old 10-07-08, 11:42 AM   #9
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Four points-
1. Never accept only one quote for anything, especially home remodeling/repair.
2. You have no real bargaining power without at least two quotes in hand. Otherwise, it's just your emotions, and the contractor knows that. Give him/her real data to work with and make a reasonable counteroffer.
3. Always get quotes in writing, with a stated expiration date. A good contractor will always supply this.
4. As has been said before, don't always assume the lowest quote is the best- consider reputation of the contractor, time estimate, etc.
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Old 10-07-08, 11:44 AM   #10
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We recently had three companies bid for our sprinkler system install. We ended up bargaining a bit, but going with the highest bidder based on references, reputation, and presentation. I feel like we got the best system at a fair price and the work was done well. At night, they crew would clean up all the debris and leave our yard and sidewalks clean, etc. You get what you pay for.
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Old 10-07-08, 12:09 PM   #11
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Great tips, guys, to each and all: thank you for the great advice
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Old 10-07-08, 12:10 PM   #12
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The timing is everything department (the holidays are right around the corner) with a few grand assumptions thrown in:

What if I wait until the week after Christmas to make a counteroffer? Or what if I wait until early January 2009? My thinking: I'm assuming contractors are starved for work at that time of the year because everyone maxed out their credit cards for holiday gifts. Does that sound like a good strategy?

Or maybe the middle of December would be better than the middle of 2009 for obtaining a lower price? My thinking here is that the contracting company would want to add as much income as possible to their year end total earnings. And that would include Mandy, the saleswoman who works for the glass company. She was the one who gave me the $900 quote. Doesn't she have a monthly/yearly sales quota she has to meet? I'm assuming she does.

I've spoken with Mandy a couple ot times. She has a real cheery, sunny, effervescent, never say die-we can do it for you personality... just like a car salesman might have. It's her job to "inspire" someone like me into hiring her company to install the mirror. She wants me to put up 50% of the total cost of the job prior to them performing the installation. I'm wondering, do you think any of the above "timing is everything strategies" might help me obtain a lower price?

P.S. I hear you guys who advocate obtaining second and third bids, loud and clear. The scenario above would apply to any glass company, not just Mandy's outfit

Last edited by On Any Sunday; 10-07-08 at 12:13 PM.
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Old 10-07-08, 12:14 PM   #13
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Glass cost is probably fixed, only thing they can change is labor. Not sure how much they are willing to discount. Get your other quotes to see if they are inline and then figure you might bargain 10-15% off of that price.

You might get lucky and find someone who has some overstock mirrors, etc. so call around. Invest some of your time to save some of your money.
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Old 10-07-08, 12:55 PM   #14
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Also consider that the lowest price for the guys who do it properly is not as low as the
price for the half-assed guys who talk a good game.

Get references.
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Old 10-07-08, 01:09 PM   #15
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When I first went independent as a contractor I was given a referral job.

I was told that this customer wouldn't accept my bid unless he was given a discount and was told to figure my price, add 20% to it then give him a 10% discount. I did and got the job.

During the job the other 10% was eaten up due to him miscommunicating with me and withholding my final pay until I fixed "my" mistake.

In the end he got all the work for exactly what I quoted him in the first place. Why people think contractors aren't onto this game is beyond me, and the negotiating nonsense is one of the biggest reasons I got out of the trades. I prefer to give honest work for honest wages, but when everybody tries to take food out of my kids' mouths...it gets old.
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Old 10-07-08, 01:46 PM   #16
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Word,

The consumer is in the same boat. They are used to the contractors working wiggle room into their pricing that they feel obligated to ask for a discount.

Heck, on the flooring job, the guy shot out a price, we looked at each other (my wife and I that is) and he immediately began negoitiating.

That taking money thing can work both ways.

Once I have a repoire with a contractor, I might accept his first price.
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Phobias are for irrational fears. Fear of junk ripping badgers is perfectly rational. Those things are nasty.
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Old 10-07-08, 02:07 PM   #17
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Word,

The consumer is in the same boat. They are used to the contractors working wiggle room into their pricing that they feel obligated to ask for a discount.

Heck, on the flooring job, the guy shot out a price, we looked at each other (my wife and I that is) and he immediately began negoitiating.

That taking money thing can work both ways.

Once I have a repoire with a contractor, I might accept his first price.
I understand Jeff.

Just wanted to give a viewpoint from the other side. Some contractors love negotiating, and you can count on them being good at it and "winning". I found it a very silly game. Not offensive, but silly.

I became respected for my integrity and high quality of work. It was tiring to be constantly beaten down on price. It was however satisfying to tell customers no, then have them call me back when they couldn't find anyone else to do the work. Funny, but the price had gone up by that time.
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Old 10-07-08, 02:10 PM   #18
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I understand Jeff.

Just wanted to give a viewpoint from the other side. Some contractors love negotiating, and you can count on them being good at it and "winning". I found it a very silly game. Not offensive, but silly.

I became respected for my integrity and high quality of work. It was tiring to be constantly beaten down on price. It was however satisfying to tell customers no, then have them call me back when they couldn't find anyone else to do the work. Funny, but the price had gone up by that time.
My father instilled an appreciation for quality in me from a young age. He would pay more for quality, be it in food, clothing, or most especially craftsmanship. I still remember him going back to a clothing store and paying more for a coat because the salesman was good, honest, etc.

As I said, once one has established a reputation for quality work, then they have gained my trust and the dickering would end. Or if they come highly recommned from friends, etc. I may not dicker.
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Phobias are for irrational fears. Fear of junk ripping badgers is perfectly rational. Those things are nasty.
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Old 10-07-08, 02:21 PM   #19
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Dumb question. What are the mirrors for? Have you considered mylar mirrors. My wife bought 6 - 4' x 8' mylar mirrors for her dance studio. If it's for an exercise room, these would be ideal. They are more optically perfect than regular mirrors, plus they are light enough that you can lift them up with one finger. And you can easily install them yourself. Basically they are made from mylar stretched over aluminum frames with an insulation board inside the frame.

http://glasslessmirror.com/
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Old 10-07-08, 02:33 PM   #20
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Why not do it yourself for the cost of materials, and perhaps some tool rentals?

Cheapest option of all.
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Old 10-07-08, 11:48 PM   #21
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Small independent contractor, maybe not.

"Sales guy" who calls you back?? Lowball the hell out of him!
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