Free Estimates - The Truth.

Free estimates and no call out charges – are they realistic?

When looking for someone to repair your appliances do you insist on using someone who offers free estimates and no call out charges? Do you think it outrageous if a repair company wants to charge you £45 (or even more) to send an engineer to diagnose a fault on your appliance? Did you know it can literally cost a company more than £45 in real costs just to send an engineer to your house?

I don’t know if attitudes have changed over recent years, but my experience is that the vast majority of the general public think it is unacceptable to have to pay hard-earned money just to be told their appliance is not worth repairing. They think if their appliance is beyond economical repair they shouldn’t have to pay the engineer who tells them. This natural resentment has been exploited in the past by cowboys offering free estimates, but how many people ponder how it can be done?

I came to despise free estimates and no call out charges in the white goods repair industry because customers commonly demand and expect them but I believe they are simply not economically achievable for most appliance repair businesses. There is not enough profit in carrying out a single repair on an appliance to be able to make up for a previous customer visit that took up to an hour travelling and diagnosing – for free. I maintain that only businesses making a healthy profit on most transactions (such as builders, decorators, double glazing) can genuinely subsidise free estimates.

In the 80s and early-to-mid 90s there were many cowboys in the trade who tempted customers away from reputable businesses with the lure of something for free. They managed it by ripping off many customers and eventually they established an expectation in customers that forced most repairers to offer free estimates and no call out charges when it just isn’t economically sustainable for most repairers. As most people didn’t even realise they’d been ripped off the scam continued. Many of the cowboys took out full page adverts in the Yellow Pages (costing as much as £8000) and offered all of the following, “FREE estimates, NO CALL OUT CHARGES, IMMEDIATE SAME DAY RESPONSE, 7 DAY service”. Meanwhile anyone quoting a proper price for coming out and diagnosing faults was made to look like the villain. I suspect most of these cowboys have now gone out of business or moved on to other things because appliances are now so cheap to replace they can no longer persuade most people to spend £150 on a repair – However, the legacy of free estimates and no call out charges remains.

I don’t mean to imply that anyone offering free estimates these days has to be a cowboy. I’m sure there are some, but I suspect most are just trying to offer what the customers demand as best they can. There will be some that have to charge extra on repairs to cover the free estimates, and some may still rip off customers at every opportunity to make up for all the wasted time on free estimates. There will be some managing to genuinely give free estimates while maintaining their integrity though many I’m sure could be struggling to make a decent living and working for much less money than they should rightfully earn as a consequence.

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