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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