One of the biggest challenges in running a grooming business is giving a phone estimate. Even though the customer was interviewed about the previous groom, breed, weight, coat condition, health, and temperament of the pet, it’s still difficult. Answers can be open to interpretation. There are unknowns. Does Miss Kitty like her face washed? Is Fluffy matted? Is Coco cooperative for nail trims?
Some pet owners do not know the answers to our questions. They have been brushing their pet but not doing it effectively or using the proper tools. They may be taking a wild guess on what the pet weighs. Mom and Dad can be unaware Rover is crabby at the salon because the previous groomer withheld this information, afraid they might not bring the dog back. Some owners do not realize the dog or cat has health issues, fleas, ticks, skin problems, ear issues, etc. I have come across pet owners who stretch the truth when making a grooming appointment, even fib.
I was unpleasantly surprised back in the early days of my mobile grooming business when I knocked on the front door of a new customer. Here I was, expecting a friendly border collie around forty pounds, when I gazed upon a molting German Shepard mix that was an easy sixty pounds plus. When I brought him into the grooming van he growled.
I realized he would require two baths, two desheds, and additional handling. A pet of this size and temperament could add thirty minutes to an hour. The estimate I gave the new client flew out the window. I didn’t ask enough questions. I underestimated.
From my experience, a large percentage of the dog’s I see for the first time are overdue for professional grooming. The result is more labor and cleanup; more hair to wash, dry, brush, comb, demat, deshed, clip, and scissor. To make grooming a positive and safe one, this process cannot be rushed. The pet may need additional time if they have health or behavior issues. The groomer may have to factor in more time if the pet goes “potty” and requires another round of bathing and drying. Judi Stratton agrees,” Usually the first appointment takes the longest just to learn the personality of the pet and do the job correctly.”
Charging by the hour is gaining momentum in the grooming industry. I’m all in favor. Charging hourly ensures the pet stylist will be paid fairly for their work, whether it is a first time client, a pet overdue for grooming, a pet with issues, or a specialized trim. Many times pet stylists are underpaid for their hard work by giving a price or range.
What do we say when a client with a new or overdue pet asks the familiar question, “How much?” A good place to start is giving a price based on a similar pet and trim groomed at your hourly rate on a maintenance schedule. Don’t give a range. You could be shooting yourself in the foot. Be careful —don’t fall into the Breed Trap when giving an estimate. All breeds are not created equal. The photo of the two shih tzu’s side by side is the classic example of why charging by the breed does not work out financially for the pet stylist.
Saul Henebery from K9 King Dog Grooming spent two hours grooming this rough collie. Saul stated, “I see this dog a few times a year. If I saw him regularly, it would take half the time.” This is why charging hourly is so important. A pet that is not groomed on a maintenance schedule takes more time then a pet that is groomed every six weeks or less.
Every pet owner has the right and should ask for an estimate when making a grooming appointment. That being said, the pet groomer does not have a crystal ball. They do not know how long the groom is going to take, especially for large, coated dogs. They can only make an educated guess. Let your customers know that after grooming, if they keep the pet on a maintenance schedule the groom fee will be less. Everyone wins! Let this be your Mantra — Charge Hourly.
Ellen Ehrlich is a mobile pet stylist who loves to think, talk, read, and write about pet grooming. Next to grooming, Ellen loves to empower, motivate, and inspire other groomers to be their best. Ellen is the author of The Successful Pet Groomer, Go Mobile And Succeed, and 49 Essays On Pet Grooming. For more information go to: www.gomobileandsucceed.com