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Shark Pool

I just got through Frank Blau's latest incendiary article ("Snipers Hide Out On The Road To Success," October 2002). What he says is so right, so dead to rights, it makes my blood boil. Companies that know their true cost of doing business are ridiculed at the supply houses, trash-talked by their competitors and badmouthed by their customers. This is not to say 100 percent of all of the above, just the lion's share.

We're in this business for one reason, and that's to make money. You're kidding yourself if you say it's for any other reason. Part of making money is giving the client exemplary service and high-quality materials. It's your job as a plumber to know what that is.

Exemplary service is not provided by driving a 1978 Datsun pickup onto a concrete driveway that cost $30,000 to install and leaking oil all over it. Exemplary service is not reusing the vacuum breaker from an old water heater just because it still clicks when you shake it back and forth, and you can save five bucks! Exemplary service is not letting your phone ring in the middle of the game.

It costs way too much money to be in this business to not be charging what you need to charge. By not charging what you need to, you're actually providing a disservice to the customer. Offering the cheapest way out, fixing it instead of making an installation, as you should have, or putting a patch on it. Who made the rule that one has to assume that the customer always wants to do it the cheapest way?

Whether you go with T&M or flat rate, we all know that cheapest isn't always best. Frank Blau's latest article is saddening. The whole industry is like a shark pool. The saddest part is that it's not the customer, or the big box company's fault. It's other plumbers. I, for one, cannot concern myself with what other plumbers charge. It's entirely irrelevant to the way I run my business.

I'm done ridiculing others who don't do flat rate, and I'm certainly done badmouthing other plumbers to customers. Think about what that really does. You badmouth the last guy to Mrs. Smith, who doesn't know the difference if this guy did it right or wrong, charged her too much, whatever. What is Mrs. Smith going to think of plumbers in general? She's going to think you're trying to bash the other guy so you look good.

Just like if you buy a used car, and the guy beats up on the other dealership. It gives the whole industry a bad name. It lowers consumer confidence in everyone out there, not just the guy who "ripped her off." As an industry, we should do some serious thinking about the way we interact with our clientele, the presentation we make of ourselves and the image that we portray of plumbers in general. We worked hard enough to get where we are today, didn't we?
John Wood
Hub Plumbing and Mechanical
Boston, Mass.

Feminist Issue?

I finally got a chance to read Dan Holohan's column on "hovering" ("Hovering," September 2002).

What a great piece of writing. I will discuss the process tonight with my wife, but I believe that her habits will match those of the women in your article. I do hope that part about this being a "feminist issue" was a joke. If not, I hope that the North American branch of the radical feminists don't have the opportunity to read the article or we will see urinals disappearing from our restrooms as well.
Gene Carpenter
Geberit Manufacturing
Michigan City, Ind.

Plumber's Best Friend

Double shower? What debate? Yours? Come on, Julius, get over yourself ("The Double Shower Debate," September 2002). When did the president put you in charge of homeland water usage? You are so dismayed about people with two showerheads, and then you want to prosecute them. What a joke. Where is the Esq. after your name? A lot of the judges around here have three to six body sprays in their showers. I know. I plumbed some of them.

My shower has six body sprays, one sunflower, a handheld and steam. After a long day it is my best friend. With our naturally high-gravity pressure derived by the finest system of water distribution known to man, I get about 20 gpm with all sprays on. That's 200 gallons after a 10-minute shower.

So what. Who cares? My teenage children will take a hour shower each and use more. My sprinkler system uses that per zone. A leaky toilet? Don't even go there. Call me overindulgent if you will, but to have a great shower is a plumber's choice. Hogwash is a 2.5 gpm shower.
Tom Quatroni
Service In Hours Not Days
Port Chester, N.Y.