A while back we were contacted by a potential customer that was looking to get a fence installed in a home they had just purchased. There was a small catch though. They needed the fence installed before they moved in to prevent their dog and two boys from getting off the property. It was a safety concern for the boys due to a pond that was located right behind the property. What made the project challenging was the time frames involved. This wonderful couple were taking possession of the house and moving in roughly 4 days later. That was our window to install the fence. After looking at the site and evaluating the project’s time constraints we determined we could fit it into our schedule and proceeded to draw up a quote for the project. After submitting the quote to the couple and their acceptance we received an email asking a question we here on a regular basis. Can we supply our own materials?
The actual question was worded a little differently though. It stated that their real estate agent had told them he could get them a deal on material at a certain box store and it would be free delivery. So would it reduce their cost if they supplied the material. It is unlikely that a real estate agent could get a better deal than a contractor for material from almost any supplier just simply based on volume of purchases. Any decent sized contractor should be purchasing a lot more material than a real estate agent and most discounts for materials are based on volume purchased annually. And the free delivery wasn’t much of a bargaining point as we pay only $15 per delivery regardless of where the delivery is at our supplier. After some though I carefully worded my response in the email and let the customer know that yes, you can supply your own material but with 3 conditions that need to be met and we should discuss it on the phone or in person. These conditions are something we do not negotiate.
Condition 1: If Delivery Is Late There is a Charge
When we send a crew out to the job site they are on the clock and costing us money. Unless they are working we won’t stay in business. If you as the customer wants to supply the material then you’re going to have to be willing to pay if the material is not on time. A crew of four people will cost us over $100 an hour so we will charge the customer $100 per hour that the material is late. When you realize that in some cases you’re getting a deal on the material and free delivery you have to think whether or not that big box store is going to make your delivery a priority on the day of delivery.
Condition 2: If Material Is Missing There Is An Hourly Charge to Pick Up Missing Items
Once again there are cases when orders are screwed up, it could be that the customer didn’t order correctly, or maybe the supplier was out of stock. At the end of the day, if the material isn’t there somebody is going to have to go and get it. In some cases all work halts because certain items are required in a certain order. In our scenario above, if we were short posts on the order we couldn’t really build much of a fence without the posts in the ground first. We charge a $25/hour fee to pick up any materials that are required. We have relationships with our suppliers so in cases where they are out of stock they will notify us in advance and we can make arrangements to make sure what we need for the job is at the job when we need it.
Condition 3: We Cannot Provide a Warranty
This is the most difficult one for customers to understand. We are not out to get the customer with this one. When we put our 5 year warranty on something we expect that it will last many more years than the warranty. To make sure our finished product lasts we make sure that we only use quality material. We don’t go in and buy the cheap material the lumber yard is desperately trying to get rid of because it has problems. We only get material that is going to stand the test of time and that is what we base our warranty on. This means that when a customer supplies the material we have no idea what we are getting. Maybe there’s a 50% off on the culled lumber pile (culled pile is the stuff others have gone through and not taken because it’s twisted, split, serious waning and other issues) and that’s what gets ordered. As a company we can’t stand behind our warranty if we don’t know what material is being used on the jobs.
At the end of the day, we build quality projects that we can be proud of and put our warranty behind. But if customers are willing to accept our 3 conditions we will build the projects if they supply the materials. You may be wondering why we wrote a blog post on this. It’s a simple answer, we try to be a transparent company in how we deal with our customers. We want to provide our customers with the best service at a fair price.
To finish off our story we started earlier, the customers in the story did not supply the material. We used our normal supplier and got the material at a very reasonable price and when that happens we pass that price on to the customer.