When we bought our house, it hadn’t been lived in for 3 years. The roof was in horrible shape. Soft spots under the shingles and more horrifyingly, moss all over the north side of the roof. So we started looking into replacing the roof as the first big step in fixing up our fixer upper.
The first salesman that came over walked around, took measurements and pictures, then proceeded to sit down and give us an hour-and-a-half long presentation about how good their roofing product was. At the end, he revealed the magic roof number: $25k. I literally almost laughed out loud. To make it even better, he pushed several times to put it on a payment plan!
Fast forward 3 months. We had a serious back up in our main sewer pipe going out to the septic tank. When we would flush the toilet, water would spew out of the washer drainage pipe downstairs. We needed a quick solution.
First company that came out informed us that the enormous and beautiful maple tree outside of our house was reaching its lovely roots into our old, cast iron sewer pipe. Their short term fix required a long term solution costing more than $10,400.
I specifically remember telling the sales guy we didn’t want to sign today. When he asked when to follow up and I requested a week, he said, “Well, to be honest, your pipes probably won’t last that long. I’m giving them 2 days until they clog up again.”
Fast forward another 14 months and our furnace kicks the bucket. The first company we have come out quotes us a low- to middle-of-the-road furnace and it would cost us $7300. It wasn’t even energy star! The sales guy was doing everything he could to get us to sign that night.
How We Resolved Each Problem
Getting back to the roof, we had a bunch of companies give us quotes. Most were about $10k for a new shingle roof. We decided to install a metal roof ourselves for only $8k.
With plumbing, we had another reputable company come out and quote us $2900 for the same solution. And our old pipe was good for another 2 months before we had it fixed, not the two days the first company speculated.
With the furnace, the second company gave us a quote for a better furnace for $5300. And thanks to them, I’m now writing this post in a warm house.
The Dangers of Tunnel Vision When Getting Quotes
We’ve been taught tunnel vision is dangerous for our thinking. The Oxford dictionary defines it like this:
“The tendency to focus exclusively on a single or limited goal or point of view.”
And unfortunately, many sales people are taught to take advantage of tunnel vision. Think about each of these three upgrades we had to make to our house. Each salesman was at our home, had our full attention, presented a solution, and had no other competing salesmen in the house vying for our money.
Meanwhile, all we could see was the problem at hand, sometimes even putting us in somewhat of a dire situation. I mean seriously, we couldn’t flush our toilet without it throwing disgusting water all over our basement.
When each salesman presented us a quote, it was really easy to get caught up in the fact that if we signed on the line, our problem would be resolved.
That’s tunnel vision.
How to Approach Your Next Quote
Here’s the theme across these stories:
- I seem to always request a quote from the most expensive companies first.
- Each of these three companies had an expensive solution and was presented by a pushy salesman.
- In each circumstance, I got multiple quotes—the later quotes providing the same solution for much less cash.
So much less cash, even if we hired out the roof, we would have saved $24,500 across the three fixes by going with the latter quotes. That’s a freaking car!
Listen, I’m not saying every situation is able to be handled this way. Sometimes, you’re broken down in Chicago because of a flat tire and you just have to buy tires from the closest shop. Time and convenience are obviously factors at times.
But don’t allow people to pressure you because in the vast majority of cases, getting a second and third quote will provide you with some options—many times better than the first.
Now if you’re a sales person, I’m not saying you’re bad to try to make the sale. I get it, you gotta feed your families too. But for every pushy sales person giving me the first expensive quote, there was another sales person giving us the space we need to make an informed decision.
So next time you’re in a decision position regarding a large expense, take a minute, breath, and don’t be afraid to tell people involved you need to check out other options and quotes. Honestly, what I’ve learned from this is not only do I need to get multiple quotes, I need to go into every quote and say at the beginning, “Hey, I know you’d like to sell this to me today but I don’t make these decisions day of, so just help me understand what my options are and we’ll follow up later.”
You’ll save a lot of money with this simple trick.
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