January 13, 2019

Mailbag Re: Kitchen painters

Sent by Jonathan Stark on January 13th, 2019

The following are reader replies to my “Kitchen painters” message sent on Jan 10, 2019. As I suspected, there is a diversity of opinion. I’ll chime with my take on it soon. Thanks to everyone who wrote in and and graciously allowed me to share their thoughts with you. Enjoy!

What is it with painters? I have almost the exact same story, but for our living room. We had a ton of trim in there and I wanted it to look nice. I got three quotes, first two? “It’ll take this many hours, so at this rate, it will be this much for the labor. Paint is additional, and will probably be this much. Or you can use our account at the store and buy it yourself.”

Third guy? “Everything gets draped in drop cloth. I use brand of paint because it looks way better when done, so go pick out your color at this store (my suggestion are these few). Tell them I sent you. Should take me three days. $1200 for everything , not a penny more and the place will be spotless when I leave.”

We went with the third guy, even though he was more. He did an a-mazing job. Place was spotless. He didn’t work super fast, but did some of the best work I’ve had done (I gave up on diy paining a while ago).

We couldn’t have been happier. In fact my wife hired him for a $12,000 job to paint her medical clinic.

—Derek Dysart

“Yes, of course” [to the third coat of paint.] “I want this done properly.”

Why didn’t she say that the start?

This story sounds like it was taken out of the Stark squirrel removalist’s copybook.

I wonder if those painters opened a restaurant, would they charge for the ingredients plus their cooking time (even if the food wasn’t actually edible)?

—Anthony English


This story is awesome. As a muralist myself who does custom wall paintings for clients, I found it challenging to implement value based techniques into my pricing model. Almost every muralist I know charge on a per sq ft basis and I do too as it’s a structured way to show the client why the quote is the way it is. Would love to hear your thoughts on value based pricing mural jobs like this kitchen painting scenario here. What would be a good way to anchor the value to the client especially when they might compare a value based priced mural job with the industry standard sq ft basis?

Thank you for all that you do, I look forward to your emails on the daily.


Leah Chong

IMO, it sounds like the company is being intentionally deceptive.

There's simply no way that a professional painting company is unfamiliar with painting edge cases (sometimes needing more paint) and fundamental basics of the job (baseboards, etc.).

My $0.02? Sounds like the company prices low to get the job, then tries to make up the initial discount in post-job add-ons. It probably works in the short term (win a few deals), but burns them in the long term (no repeat customers).

—Brian Bimschleger

I’ve never replied to your emails... but I have to on this.

1) I’m not sure why she would think the trim and baseboards would be included? She asked for the walls... and trim and baseboards are not an automatic assumption.

2) I do feel that she paid to have the cabinets done properly in her mind... while the painter was just thinking of the cost of applying paint. If more coats were required then that should be on the painters to cover, not her... but they were operating on different pretences. This is a perfect example of your value based pricing along with a guarantee. A proper situation would have been a cost for everything, where the estimator would see that primer is needed first, would have asked about the trim, and would cover any fixes if needed as part of the project.


Oh? We didn't do it right and now you can't use your kitchen for another... well, however long it takes us? Guess you have to pay us to fix our mistake.

The point of hiring us was to get someone decent enough at painting kitchens that they wouldn't make this kind of mistake? Huh. We didn't think of that.

Clear and sensible contracts? Ha ha, those are for competent businesses.

Oh and by the way, she's going to have to funnel you through the bureaucratic gauntlet to even think about getting this fixed. She can't give you the quote herself. Hell, she can't even paint a kitchen.

But yeah, we'll put you on our waiting list so you can look forward to dealing with all this again in 3 months. It'll be great.


--The Mgmt. (aka Rebekah Yoder)

Whoa. That IS a good story, Jonathan!

I have to admit that I have been on the other end of this situation. Billing for "this one thing", but it really should have been a broader scope.

I am so curious as to what your opinion is on this one!

—Roger Williams

For me, this comes down to understanding your user’s needs and positioning accordingly. If they do a lot of “refresh” paint jobs versus first time paint jobs, productizing their services for homeowners in low, medium, and high tiers makes a lot of sense and is likely far more profitable than sending someone out more than once and buying extra paint due to scope creep.

If they don’t actually specialize in home interior “refresh” paint jobs, but are just general painters, then dear reader probably wasn’t their ideal customer and they probably haven’t taken the time to determine who that ideal customer is, what their needs are, or how to position their value clearly (I.e differentiating with a guarantee).

Also, Being booked out 2 months in advance doesn’t necessarily mean they are in high demand, though they’d like us to think so. It could mean they are operationally inefficient, understaffed, someone’s on vacation, or they are switching suppliers/vendors... any number of things.

It’s nice to see this concept applied to other fields besides digital and technical services. The principles apply no matter what the service is!

Thank you!

—Shayne Rempel

Hi Jonathan,

Isn't is as much the job of the buyer to ask all the questions to know what is included and what is not in a submission as it is of the seller to make sure that both are on the same wave length?

—Francine Chartier

Perfect example of where a guarantee could work, something like, "We we don't consider the job done until you are satisfied"

Also, a good reminder that if there are exclusions (like the painting the window trim, or submitting the app to the app store), it's worth pointing them out ahead of time.




Neville A. Mehra


We can see how the paint company created a bad client for themselfs. A client who changes her mind and is not educated and makes scope creep and although they do their best at a lowest price she is still not happy with the price! And so many people like her are waiting on the list! If only we worked for room painters! Wait a minute? Wouldn't a room painter do the painting herself?!

Value price room painting - hard to judge ROI. But they could approach this as a kind of assistance program. "We do all you need to have you kitchen refreshed" so their client feel safe, assisted, taken care of. Or "a bug free kichen" but paint alone does not solve this

—Maciej Sarna

Hey Jonathan,

This is my experience with all types of contract work, from home improvement to website design. There’s a palpable tension due to a misalignment of outcomes.

What’s more, I think there is a dishonesty going on on the part of the contractor. I have had contractors lowball on price to secure the contract, then raise the prices after work has started. “it was more complicated than we estimated, we need 25% more money” is hard to say no to after they’ve ripped out your bathroom. Similarly, it’s easy to quote 2 coats of paint and then ask for more if it doesn’t work.

Thanks for your work on value based pricing. I have tried to get contractors to work this way and they are hesitant. They don’t want to risk underquoting. If I hire them anyway, I spend way more of my time managing them, and they probably feel micromanaged. Nobody wins! I’d love to pay for them to not need management.

Rock on!

Eric Normand

Seems like it was a bad salesperson who didn't understand the work. If he had been the one value pricing the engagement, the company could be in serious trouble because he underestimates the work necessary.

I think value pricing is great, but this situation could just as easily have been fixed with a salesperson who quoted 3 coats and stuff right at the beginning. Any salesperson worth his salt would at least present these as upsell options.

—John Tseng

I hope you enjoyed!