Yesterday, I went to the local diner for my special Saturday breakfast. I've had this practice for some time, and this is the sort of place where most folks know each other.
The husband of the woman who runs the place approached me - this was the first time we've spoken electric work. It seems his regular job is running a small warehouse / distribution center. He said that about 24 9f his 48 fluorescent lights were not working - would I be interested in fixing them?
Further conversation revealed that he had been asking around, and had received quotes from $75 (bulbs only) to several hundred dollars. He had also been told a ballast cost $75. He thought that 30 minutes to change a ballast seems excessive.
I explained that yes, some ballasts were that expensive ... I had no idea what lights he had. Having done some lighting conversions, I told him that - once you account for setting up the ladder, etc.- 30 minutes wasn't a bad time ... especially if you were only doing a few. I explained the cost of renting a lift - again, stressing that I had no idea as to the layout of his place. Naturally, the fact that his place was an hours' drive away, and the support from local parts houses was limited, is not going to help with pricing.
I also mentioned turning the power off while working on the lights.
Did I give him a price? No way .... you really need to walk the job to do that. Heck, if he has the "right" fixtures, I might even be able to upgrade to T-8's.
There's no hidden moral, no punch line, no great wisdom in this post. It's just a typical example of one of those casual encounters that might lead to some work.
As for the $75 guy? I picture some 'side job' gypsy with a box of used bulbs, standing on a pallet, lifted by the customers' forklift.
I had another conversation with this guy, where I showed him how to eliminate / reduce the cost of the lift rental. The business being a warehouse, I suggested he spend the $400 for a one-time purchase of a forklift work basket - something that he could use in the future. Add his driver to the lift, that would reduce the time needed for the job.
Not even a nibble. Not even any real interest in the idea. Kind of the "I already know more than you" attitude.
So, maybe he's till looking for a sucker. maybe he doesn't really care if the lights are fixed. After all, if he's not serious enough to even ask me to come look at the job in person .... maybe he's just playing games.
I suppose the moral is: never use your 'sharp pencil' for an unknown job, or unproven customer. All that would do is provide the guy with ammunition to use against you the next time. There's also the old adage "never count your chickens before they hatch."
Slightly off topic John, But over here, it's become almost standard practice to put a plug and un-switched socket on the cord of HID lights in warehouses. This isn't a regulatory requirement, it is just an idea that someone had somewhere along the line and has been copied ever since. Now, this doesn't speed up your work much, but it makes things a LOT easier if you have to fault-find a particular fitting or replace any of the parts in it, it can all be done at ground level on a safe footing.
BTW, 30 minutes to replace a ballast is doing rather well, especially when you consider how some HID fittings are constructed, as well as avoiding the sharp edges on the control gear enclosure.
Some people have no idea what it takes to fault-find and repair lighting circuits, especially building owners, they seem to equate it with changing a light bulb in a house.
chances are if 1/2 of the lights are out the rest are on the way probably installed together. why not shoot him a price to upgrade all the fixtures at once. so there is no guessing which ballasts are new and which are old. save some headaches when it comes to keeping a warranty. additionally those fork lift baskets ae not the way to go, you really want some warehouse worker with your life in his hands, forget about it!
I have since lost contact with this particular gent. Your point about the rest being close behind might be true; I never got the chance to look the job over.
It was a welcome chance to explain what was involved to this man; whether he had any interest in fixing things, was checking anothers' price, or was simply 'window shopping' is anyone's guess. For all I know, he's quite happy to leave the garage doors open, even in winter, and staff the place with illegals - wo won't fuss over working in the shadows.
At the time, he was attempting to start a business of his own, on the side, in addition to running the warehouse he spoke of. That business is now ancient history ... I suspect he learned a few other things in the process.
..whether he had any interest in fixing things, was checking anothers' price, or was simply 'window shopping' is anyone's guess.
Has anybody referred such cases to a fee-paying expert forum, which they are a member. I've run across a few fee-paying expert forums, but always passed. Never thought of using it as credential leverage for those opportunists looking for free information.