If I Charge $175, why does Vampire Plumbing Charge $650?

I hurt my leg a couple of weeks ago and have been laid up. I’ve gotten better and am working a little, but I’m not getting back on roofs yet.

A landlord called me last week because a sewer had stopped up. I’d cleaned the sewer at this house before, so I knew that it had to be done from the roof.

Photo of Barley Services - Memphis, TN, United States. Cleaning a sewer from the roof

Being unable to do the job myself, I advised the landlord to have some laborers dig down to the pipe in the front yard, open the pipe, get someone to unstop the drain from there, and then cover it all back up. Instead, she called Vampire Plumbing, possibly the most well-known drain cleaning business in the nation (although they go by a different name in public). They came by and quoted her $650 to hit it from the roof. She declined. She says they were polite.

Later I ran into an old friend who is now working for another big shop in town and, as we discussed plumbing, I told him about Vampire’s price quotation. He sheepishly confessed that his company charges $575 for the same job.

Why do they charge such high prices?

One reason is their business model. They have a lot of overhead like advertising, land, vehicles, earth-moving equipment, office personnel, thieving employees, upper management, stockholders, and lawyers. I, on the other hand, have none of that except my one truck.

Another reason is that they don’t want to do the job from the roof for safety reasons. Although they readily get up on roofs for other, smaller jobs, there are some added risks with a main sewer. A high price motivates a customer to just go ahead and allow the company to dig in the yard with a backhoe and install a cleanout there so that the service can be done more easily, safely, and cheaply in the years to come.

These two reasons, however, do not fully account for the price difference between them and me. They could charge less and still cover their overhead. They could work safely from the roof with proper training. (I do.)

No, they charge what they do because they are greedy rapacious jackals.