Paying for Christmas Light Hanging Service? Absurd

by Darwin on November 29, 2010

You’ve probably heard about the services that will hang Christmas lights on your house for you each year for a fee.  I knew the services were out there but never actually knew anyone that used one, nor did I contemplate what the service would cost.  I figure regular able-bodied people either hang the lights themselves or they don’t do it at all.  Well, this weekend, my mom shocked me twice – first, in revealing that she had contacted a local company to come out and give her a quote and then I almost spit my drink out when she told me what they quoted here.

Why Would One Pay to Have Lights Hung?

My mom lives alone in a typical single family home.  I always tell her not to pay people to do stuff that I can do myself like lifting heavy things, handy-man type stuff, computer problems, etc.  I guess she figured since I don’t even hang lights on our house (just our trees), she couldn’t reasonably ask me to get up on her roof and do hers.  When my dad was around he used to hang lights on the roof and trees, so I guess she wanted to replicate that look in her new house, which has a noticeably higher roof.  So, as a surprise, and to save me the trouble, she went out to get a quote from an outfit that is in the business of supplying and hanging lights, then storing them for you in the off-season.

Absurd, Truly Absurd Pricing from the Christmas Light Company

To give you some perspective, she doesn’t live in a mansion, but a fairly typical two story home by today’s standards.  She had requested a quote to have lights strung along the roof lines and surrounding all the front-facting windows, as well as some on the landscaping immediately in front of the house.  If I were to estimate the amount of time this would take me, I’d peg it at a couple hours.  In our old house with a lower roof, I used to get them across the full front of the house in under an hour.  This job might be say, 2-3 times more time, but certainly not orders of magnitude.  I also figured the lights involved might be on the order of a few hundred dollars max.

During the visit, the salesman told her he couldn’t quote her on the spot, but said the pricing was reasonably.  She asked him a few times if she could just get a “guesstimate” to know if this is something she should even take seriously since she was totally unfamiliar with the process (yes, mom lost points for revealing her hand in pre-negotiations and basically letting on that she didn’t have other quotes, nor did she have any intel on market pricing).  He relented and said the first year would probably be about $1200 and half that in subsequent years since she would then “own” the lights that they’d store in the off-season.  She shrugged and said to herself “OK, so about $600 for lights and $600 for labor.  A bit high, but perhaps not totally unreasonable”.  Thinking this through, I would peg the job at say, $1000/$500, but of course these guys have to make all their money in a span of a couple weekends and they surely have some pricing power on Thanksgiving weekend. Also included is taking the lights back down and storing them all year.  Anyway, he was sure to highlight that was just a guess and that he had to price it from the office with various factors on the computer, etc.

It Really Costs What???

The written estimate came in at $8800, with roughly half that in future years.  So, to be clear, they were proposing selling her over $4000 in lights.  And then taking $4000 each year to hang up and take down lights.  As I fought to keep my drink from spewing across the room, I questioned whether she misread the quote or was getting lights encased in platinum or what the heck could result in such an absurd quote.  She said she had no idea and when she called the salesman to ask where the massive disconnect was, he said the quote was right on and she must have misunderstood him initially.

I suspect the pricing had to do with a few things.  First off, as I mentioned earlier, she completely revealed her hand, losing much of her negotiating leverage.  Next, she’s an older woman who lives alone – a great potential victim to exploit.  Perhaps if their motives weren’t that nefarious, there’s always the supply/demand equation.  Let’s say this outfit can only handle so many houses per year since there are only so many hours in a day and they have only so many workers.  As there are fewer open slots left and multiple requests for quotes, like any good businessman seeking to optimize their profits, you keep upping the price until you fill that last slot at the best possible price.  To do otherwise would be to leave money on the table.  So, that begs the question, is there really that much demand for these light-hanging services?  Or were these guys looking to dupe a widow out of some easy money?

Do You Have Any Experience With Christmas Light Hanging Companies?

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 M November 30, 2010 at 9:33 am

I can certainly understand why some folks would pay someone to hang Christmas lights. I’m fine working on the roof of my single-story house, but would think long and hard about doing the same work if I had a two story house.

That price, though, is just insane. I’d be very interested in the results if your mom got quotes from competing services.

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2 ctreit November 30, 2010 at 9:42 am

I am sure that lots of people in our area have somebody else put up their Christmas lights, but this is the first year that I have seen ads and signs for it. I just chuckled when I saw a sign for the first time and I also thought that this might be one of the new recession businesses springing up.

Good thing I don’t need to hire somebody for Christmas lights since I don’t put any lights up. But wait a minute. I think I desperately need a closet organizer. Got to run and find one….

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3 Evan November 30, 2010 at 1:16 pm

That is F’in ABSURD. PERIOD.

A third option is this just yet another example of a business that has no clue how to price out their product. The company may actually think they are providing a 10K “value” statement

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Darwin's Finance Reply:

@Evan, I wish I could give them that credit – for being dumb. But I somehow doubt it. They seemed to have an office, estimators, a crew, etc., so seems like they’ve been at it at least a year.

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4 jim November 30, 2010 at 4:12 pm

$8800 really sounds like a rip-off / scam. I could see the $1200 price being somewhat feasible maybe. But unless she wants her house to be visible from space due to all the lights on it, spending $8800 for lighting is just not realistic. Its sad that companies would try to rip off people like that.

I skimmed Craigslist in my city for people who hang Xmas lights. I found 3 different ads and the most expensive figure was $325 for a ‘large’ house.

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Darwin's Finance Reply:

@jim, Crazy right? that number’s outrageous!!!

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5 Kay Lynn @ Bucksome Boomer December 2, 2010 at 3:56 am

I can see paying for someone to hang your lights. I really wouldn’t want my husband up on the roof! But like all things, it’s necessary to comparison shop.

We were quoted a range from $5000 to $2500 for a housepainting job last year. Guess which one we went with?

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6 jim December 2, 2010 at 2:39 pm

I had another theory that this company might be targetting very affluent home owners. I could see a company charging what seems like a ridiculous amount to people who will easily pay such a sum to get very high end stuff. $8800 is ridiculous to you and me, but maybe multi-millionares think its worth it to get a very nicely decorated houses. Course the guy quoted $1200 originally then changed to $8800 which really smells like a scam.

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7 Budgeting in the Fun Stuff December 2, 2010 at 4:09 pm

That’s NUTS! I know they aren’t certified around here, but I could get lights on my house for about $300. I’m not going to because I’m happy with our wreath and inside decorations, but $8800 is CRAZY!

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8 Corina December 3, 2010 at 10:48 pm

OMG, I can’t believe this. I just heard on one of the gossip shows that a celebrity couple paid over $100K for lights.

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9 csmusix December 8, 2010 at 5:33 pm

I paid $150 for mine which included the lights that were custom cut and tailored to the house and work with a timer. Even better they are under the roof line where you can’t see them when off but are glorious when on. They go on for every holiday and I never take them down.

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10 Emily Beckett December 2, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Try Jack English in San Diego. I think he charges around $50 an hour.

Emily

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11 June October 24, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Price around, some services are very reasonable, plus they can remove and store your lights.Chrsitmas Lights in Bethlehem, PA

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12 Tabatha November 24, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Wow that is alot!!!! I had We Hang Christmas Lights install my lights last year for $1400 on a two story and they did a great job. Took down the lights too!

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13 Sean November 12, 2014 at 11:31 am

It is insane how some companies work out their pricing for this service!
I run one of these companies, and we’re proud to be, by far, a pricing leader in town (Denver CO area). That first quote he gave would’ve been in the right neighborhood actually for us. Feel free to give us a ring. 720-722-1225

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