Home Depot Home Services (Water Heater) Informative - Water Heater Installation Upcharges
ARLINGTON, TEXAS -- On 7/16/2008, I needed a new water heater to replace the one that went bad.
I decided to go with Home Depot to get the unit installed. The reason for selecting Home depot being that I deal with a reputed corporation, and they would be fair and just in the pricing and that I won't have to face any surprises.
I visited Home Depot, and the CSR walked me through the installation charges, and then mentioned that I will have to call a 800 number and get the order going. She also mentioned that an installer or plumber's rep will visit the site and give an estimate and I order from there.
I went with a 50 gal electric heater priced at $349.00 and the installation charge quoted was $285.00. I felt that this was reasonable, considering that I needed the heater the same day.
So, I came home called the toll free number and ordered the water heater model. During the course of the order, I was asked several questions relating to the current heater it's location, placement, size height, capacity, access to it etc and etc. The order desk quoted the same price I heard at the store ($285 + cost of water heater + permit fee 0f $70). I asked when will the installer come to look and tell me a firm price before I place a formal order. The order desk clerk said, no need to visit.. we have gotten all the information... you should be OK at this price... and if any code related issues, it will be extra and emphasized that it won't be much.
The installer (a husband and wife team) was a good guy and I have nothing to complain except for some additional items he said I needed to get into city code compliance. He said I needed the following items and they are detailed below.
1. A stand to keep the heater above the ground level. It is a galvanized 21" x 21" X 16" high stand capable of supporting the weight of the heater and the water.
I was told that it will be $195.00 plus taxes.
2. I was told I need a pan under the heater for collecting any leaky water. It is an Aluminum pan that looks like a Pizza pan, made of .032" aluminum. I was told that it would cost $90.00 plus taxes.
3. The 3rd and the last item I needed was a ball valve for water shut off, and I was told that it will cost $95.00.
These 3 additional items along with taxes were $391.00. I asked the installer why is it these trivial items are so expensive and I was told thats how much they cost. I had no choice at that time to go myself to the store and buy the 3 items for under $65.oo, because they can't wait while I am shopping. Basically I was put on a spot and had no choice and had to go with the situation I am stuck in.
Since I am dealing with Home Depot, I said I was going to take care of it with them rather than the installer. On calling Home Depot about the exorbitant prices for 3 items ( more than the cost of the new heater), they said they have no control over what contractors charge.
My question is: I pick Home Depot based on the fact that they select contractors based on their work integrity, service ethics, and their honesty and reasonableness of cost of services. I go with them because I feel that I won't get ripped off. In this case it was a grand day light robbery. The gal at the other end at Home Depot couldn't help resolve the robbery.
Just around the time of completion a person introducing himself as Home Depot service manager (with an HD red Apron) stopped by to see if every thing went OK. I brought the above subject on the over pricing, and his answer was that these are fixed by Home Depot... (contrary to what I heard from the gal earlier who wanted to get my credit card approval for extras). He was just a good old boy nodded head and told me to see the store manager.
I found out later according to the HD store clerk that this inspector who came was not a HD employee and he was a private contractor.
Here are my questions to the extras that I was charged for in the name of Code compliance that added up another approx $400.00.
1. The Stand retails at Lowe's for $34.98 (Lowe's model # 40S22U. This is a 1" tall stand rated for up to 65 gal heater and 900 lb capacity.
2. The drain pan 24", retails at Lowe's for $15.98 (Model # 34078). The similar pan in 26" size sells at HD under SKU # 424-804 for $19.97.
3. The 3/4" threaded ball shut off valve that was part of code compliance sells at HD for $7.97 (HD's SKU # A365-297).
The above 3 items (part of code compliance) the material cost is 35 +20 + 8 + $63, where as in the final bill the 3 items were charged at $ 170 for stand, $90 for pan and $ 95 for the valve.
What a rip off! A mark up of 500% on 3 piddly parts.
I called the store manager on Monday 7/20, and he seemed to agree with my plight of over charges and said he will talk to the contractor and come back. He never called back for 3 full days. So finally I called him on Thursday the 24th to find out what he heard from the installer and what his resolution was. His answer was that these are standard charges for the items and it costs labor to install them and that is why the add ons are what they are. Basically in conclusion his answer was I am putting it in quotes as said by the HD store manager.
"Home repair services is a separate division and it is run by contractors, and we at HD have nothing to do, and you should call their number and deal with it". I asked him then why you advertise these services and push it big time in stores and can not monitor or control it or resolve the customer issues. His answer was the same gentle one I am sorry I understand your feeling. these are charges to install the items and you have to deal with them if you have any questions.
I am really upset with the whole thing. My prime reason for using HD was that a big company was backing up the work and I will be safe from fly by and dishonest contractors.
In this case Home Depot totally let me down. I have no respect or regard for these so called big corporations any more. It leaves a very bad and bitter taste after this experience. Each one Home depot and the contractor says the other one is the one that fixes these prices, and Home Depot totally let me down.
The final analysis:
The new water heater was an identical size to the previous one. The final job involved 4/5 soldered joints using flex copper pipe and 4 threaded connections and the re attachment of the wiring besides of course moving the heater to the location and setting it up. For a water heater costing 350 + $60 additional parts + $ 70 permit fee for a total of $480, the final price was $1207.
The labor for 1.5 hrs of work was roughly $727.00, as against a original estimate of $285. My question is what does the original $285 labor quoted get you in terms of services.
I request some one from Home Depot to respond to me their justification for these exorbitant mark ups on parts with no installation labor in the name of "CODE COMPLIANCE".
If Home Depot is honest and sincere should refund the excess, and come out clean.
In the mean time, I will go to every source available on the Internet to publicize this over charge, call local TV stations and media to investigate HD of these hidden surprise up charges and bring this business practice into compliance.
I did not realize that you could make $350 per hour installing water heaters.... may be I should quit my high tech engineering job and move on to this line of work, and choose my own time to do it!
A very upset CUSTOMER.