Would you hire a general contractor or painter on Amazon? In April the online retail giant launched its version of lead generation for professional residential service contractors. They’ve named it “amazon Home Services” and are promising “handpicked pros, upfront pricing and guaranteed happiness.” I would imagine that is directed at the customer and not the pro contractor.
As of this printing the only plumbing services near my zip code  listed are garbage disposal installation, faucet replacement, toilet replacement, etc. When I click on any one of the services the site immediately redirects my browser to a pricing list and scheduling page. I haven’t clicked beyond that point, but I presume since the service is listed as “available” that would mean a local licensed and “qualified” contractor has signed up. I have yet to talk with a contractor signed up to offer services on the site, and I can’t wait to meet one to get the answers to a few questions.
Who is doing the work?
The first thing I noticed about the plumbing listings available in my area was the flat rate pricing, payable to Amazon, directly from the site. That had me wondering: How in the world could I offer a bathtub replacement site unseen at a flat rate without any additional charges? After all, the customer already has paid for the service once they’ve scheduled the job with the contractor. Interesting.
After looking around and clicking on multiple services listed I noticed that very few of the services included the business name of the contractor, but rather listed “Provided by Amazon Home Services” instead. I guess Amazon is hiring plumbers now? Currently in Minnesota anyone offering plumbing services must be licensed, registered as a plumbing contractor (another, separate license) and carry a surety bond to perform plumbing installations and services. I checked the Department of Labor & Industry for any listing of Amazon Home Services under Plumbing contractors, Master plumbers and even Journeyman plumbers; there are none listed, so who’s doing the work as advertised?
My curiosity had me clicking all over the site with the next stop listed as “Heating & Cooling” where I found much of the same types of listings; duct cleaning, thermostat installation, furnace and boiler tune-ups, etc. Only these listings were slightly different. Peppered among the flat-rate priced services there were listings offering a price range rather than a single price.
For example, if you’re looking to get your ducts cleaned you can select your service based on your home square footage. I assume this is a consolidation effort to minimize the listings and overall confusion for the less than handy homeowner. But that wasn’t the only thing that caught my eye.
The furnace and boiler tune-up listing is posted as range price of $89-$129. When I clicked the thumbnail I could see this disclaimer:
How do estimates work?
"Pros base their estimates on a standard scope of work, and 9 out of 10 customers see no change in final pricing. You will have a chance to review the service details and confirm final pricing with your pro before the work begins."
Now that makes a little more sense when compared to the many flat rate plumbing listings.
Now I know Amazon is not the only lead generation service out there, but they are definitely going after the home improvement/service market with a totally fresh take on sales and service offerings. There’s no doubt the plumbing and heating industry has come a long way in even the last five years. We can finally offer WiFi controls systems, our customers have made a lot of trendsetting contractors eager to be the first in their market to take advantage of any and all online listings services very rich but we’ve got a long way to go. Maybe this is the next step?
As always I’d like to thank everyone for the emails and Facebook interactions regarding my contributions here at CONTACTOR. I realize, through the nearly two dozen emails I received in March/April, that not all of you are happy with my stance and speaking out against the age-old process of soldering. Or maybe more appropriately stated, some of you are very against pressing copper and the like. Keep the emails and messages coming! Your ideals and comments are a source of pride and I respect that and thank you for sharing!
Eric Aune started Aune Plumbing LLC in 2004 and specializes in residential and small commercial hydronic heating systems and service. He is a graduate of Dunwoody College of Technology and Plumbers Local 15, Minneapolis Apprenticeship Training Program, and is currently a United Association Instructor and teaches for the Plumbers Local 15 JATC. Aune is also founding partner and vice president of mechanical-hub.com. Contact him at: [email protected].