Stefan responded to my service request to replace one shower valve with access from behind the wall. Over the phone, I asked about the cost to replace another valve that would require cutting the tiles. Stefan gave me a fixed rate to replace both valves at once, and offered to straighten up another one of our shower handles for free if I gave him the job. The price was the same as another company quoted me, but I chose Stefan because he was nice and professional over the phone. In hindsight, I should have asked to have the agreed-upon price in writing.
When choosing the valves and trim kits, I asked a lot of questions to make sure I bought the right parts that work with the copper pipes in our house. When I asked about whether I needed to buy any adapters, Stefan told me not to worry, he had all the rough materials.
On the date of installation, Stefan and his colleague came to work on both valves simultaneously. Soon after their arrival, Stefan had to make a trip to the store to get some additional parts. I found it odd that he didn't have them ready, since most plumbers I worked with in the past had parts on hand, but I assumed this shopping trip would be covered under the fixed price, since he said he would take care of everything beside the valves and the trims. A few hours later, Stefan had to make another trip to the store because the cartridge that came with one of the valves was defective. He told me not to worry, he wouldnt charge me for it because he got cartridge replacements for free.
After the job was finished, I had a few surprises. First, there was a very large hole in the drywall that had to be cut out - I had assumed the hole would be at most the size of a typical remodeling cover plate. Second, the handle of the second fixture protruded very far out from the plate - about an inch and a half! The plumbers explained that because of the way the valve position was set behind the wall, that was the best they could do without ripping off the tiles. Unfortunately the look is a downgrade for that shower, since the old handle was more normal looking. Regarding the existing handle that Stefan offered to straighten up for me, he quickly tightened up the screw from the outside, which didn't correct the angle, as the proper fix would be a lot of work.
My biggest surprise was at billing time when Stefan asked for $300 above the agreed-upon price, because the two valves were hard. I reminded him of the price we agreed on the phone for doing both valves at once. Stefan told me: did you see how many trips to the store I had to make? Technically, the first trip was because he didn't have the rough materials ready, and the second trip was for the cartridge replacement which he wasn't going to charge. If I had known it was going to cost $300 extra, I would have decided to leave the bad cartridge as is, since I can get a free replacement from the manufacturer and get my handyman to fix it for much less.
I reminded Stefan of our agreement over the phone and mentioned I wasn't even planning to change the second valve if it weren't for the package deal he offered. At that, he reduced the bill by $100. I didn't feel like haggling after they already completed the work, so I just paid what he asked, but the experience left a bad taste. After they left, I realized he hadn't changed the shower arm flange, which I had asked him to do at the beginning so that the trim parts all match.
In the end, I paid $200 more than expected, the shower fixture looks bad, and we still need to change the flange ourselves.
To give more context to the companys response below, I want to be very clear that the fixed price given over the phone was not an estimate. Stefan stated a range that he would normally charge, but said that for doing two valves he would charge me X amount. There was no indication that this was going to be variable based on time or difficulty. Giving a lower price to get the job then increasing the price afterwards is not honest. I simply reminded Stefan of his words over the phone (this is not haggling), but he insisted on $200 extra, so I left it at that.
As for the hardware, I sent over all the product details in advance. Stefan did not raise any concerns even after having checked everything. He actually said I got all the right parts to his colleague and later to me when I asked. The parts we have are authentic (I contacted the manufacturer afterwards).
I never said I was happy about the end results. I made the exact same comments in person about the size of the cut-out (we do have painters coming, but it is such a large hole that we are being charged extra to patch that up) and the protruding handle (the manufacturer confirmed after I sent them the photos that it should only be an inch gap at most).
Regarding the flange, I asked before the job started to please use all the parts to keep the style consistent. Perhaps Stefan missed this or forgot. I didnt notice the flange until I took a look at the parts that remained in the box after the plumbers left.
All things considered, I stand by my original review and believe that an honest business should stick to the fixed price agreed on up front. I only wish I had it in writing. Lesson learned.