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Charging for an Estimate = standard?


BassClef
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A close family member of mine works at an institution that owns instruments. One needs repair and my relative told me one of the problems when deciding what to do with the instrument involves being charged for estimates. He said the places he brings instruments for repairs (he said this was standard practice) charge 10% of their estimate in order to get the estimate. I guess this discourages shopping around. So if he takes a broken instrument to the shop, and the shop decides that about $4000 repairs need to be done, this triggers a bill of $400 (just for obtaining the estimate).

 

I brought a violin around town to a few places a couple of years back and nobody charged me for an estimate. What's the standard practice here and what are your opinions on the same? I was not thrilled to hear about charging for estimates, it seemed questionable to me.

 

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Could they be doing that to discourage business?

 

I once asked for an estimate to repair an antique.  I was provided with a ridiculously high number.  When I asked why it was so high...the response was something like:

 

"We don't want to do these small repairs.  But if someone wants to pay us top dollar for them, we'll take their money."

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A close family member of mine works at an institution that owns instruments. One needs repair and my relative told me one of the problems when deciding what to do with the instrument involves being charged for estimates. He said the places he brings instruments for repairs (he said this was standard practice) charge 10% of their estimate in order to get the estimate. I guess this discourages shopping around. So if he takes a broken instrument to the shop, and the shop decides that about $4000 repairs need to be done, this triggers a bill of $400 (just for obtaining the estimate).

 

I brought a violin around town to a few places a couple of years back and nobody charged me for an estimate. What's the standard practice here and what are your opinions on the same? I was not thrilled to hear about charging for estimates, it seemed questionable to me.

 

If a %, I sense a bit of a conflict of interest.  Why not an hourly rate?

 

That said; It depends.  I normally do not charge "regular" clients (even institutional ones) for an estimate and can't remember the last time I charged a musician or collector for one (even if they were a new client).  Some institutional customers requirements sometimes vary, however.  I don't know what type if institution your relative works for, but in some cases institutions require a very detailed document (a restoration plan) that can be presented to a board for approval...  If this is the case, I wouldn't hesitate to charge an hourly rate for the estimate and preparation of such a document.  That work can run into numerous hours and sometimes receives a response of "We have decided to wait for the next budget cycle before we undertake the project".

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I got tired of people bringing old. attic instruments for me for repair estimates, and then saying, "We;; maybe I'll get it repaired some day.". I charge a $10 evaluation fee, which is waived if they have me work on the instrument. That kind of covers my time, and I haven't had a complaint yet.

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I don't give info away for free to anyone unless they are very special clients (e.g. verbal nor written; repair estimates, appraisals, condition reports, makers' biographies, photos).  

 

Gosh... I'm starting to feel generous.  I certainly charge when performing significant tasks...  and I make the effort and spend the funds to gain and maintain accreditation in addition to expertise in the appraisal venue (so I do charge for anything written unless it's being done for one of the non-profits I support), but most every small thing I've freely shared with my clients has come back double in my opinion...  I guess I have very special, loyal and thoughtful clients (and my wine cellar is growing too).

 

Oh...  If they do seem to suffer from the "one way gene", I refer them elsewhere (I should be taking notes on this thread!)...  maybe that has something to do with it.    :)

 

Seriously, though, I have no problem with anyone who has a consistent and reasonable system to protect the investment of their time (and avoids conflict of interest as mentioned above).  If the customer is clear on what they receive and what is expected in return, things generally work out.

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Interesting.... My policy is to never charge unless I put a pen to paper or tools to the instrument and even then, like replacing a string for an unsure client, I don't charge... after all, they spent time and money to visit me. But these folks usually do come back with work sooner or later. 

Short story.... I started in this business in 1991 and it was shortly before that, that I had a surprising experience... I needed to deal with a lawyer regarding a senior relative in Florida  ( I am in Canada) and after a consultation with a Florida lawyer, I asked for a bill, and was told :" I don't charge unless I put pen to paper" I can't express how surprised I was nor how much I appreciated his professional courtesy. In the end, I did need his services and we both benefitted. 

Cheers... Mat

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