Every Mile Begins With an Inch

By: Patrick Hooper

You’ve likely heard the radio ads, television commercials or seen the banners online–companies in any number of service industries offering “special deals” on maintenance, cleanings, checkups, inspections, free estimates, etc. These “special” deals can be offered for things such as heating & cooling systems, automobiles, chimneys, and even plumbing, to name a few. I heard one on the radio today offering sewer line cleanings (auguring) for less than $90. As a former estimator (salesperson) in the sewer repair/replacement industry, I have a pretty good idea of what the cost is of doing business–and $90 to snake a sewer line doesn’t leave much of a profit margin, especially for a large company with a lot of overhead–so why do they offer it?

These companies, like any other business, are always looking for revenue generating opportunities. Offering these basic services at such a low rate helps to make the phone ring. Once the service technician is in the home performing the advertised service, they are also tasked with identifying other issues/problems and up-selling additional products and services.

It is important to point out that there is nothing inherently unethical with this practice, just so long as any additional recommendations and services sold are honest and in good faith. However, as with anything else, there are “bad players” in just about any kind of business, and the service industry is certainly no exception. It isn’t hard to imagine how unscrupulous  companies can use such a tactic to “pad” revenue rather than doing what is in the best interest of their customer.

We don’t watch or listen to a commercial or read an ad without realizing what the point of the ad is–to sell a product or service. As long as you understand that the purpose of these basic, discounted services is a way for companies to get their foot in their door for further sales opportunities–then you can be on your guard, be prepared to ask questions and even get additional opinions and estimates before moving forward with an unexpected service or repair recommendation.