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Would You Honor The Same Rate As The Prior Pet Sitter?

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Price shoppers. We all deal with them on a more regular basis than we’d prefer.

They come in all shapes and sizes, and they all approach the subject differently.

Sometimes their price shopping tendencies show up early in the chat (which is great for us so we waste as little time as possible), while other times you’ll spend 30 minutes on the phone detailing every aspect of what you do and how you do it still only to met with resistance to your very reasonable rate.

My pet sitting business received the below service request recently and I think it’s a good one to discuss.

It’s not your typical price shopper request. Here it is…

- – - – -

I have two very socialable, low-maintenance, and self-sufficient cats. I was just informed by my regular catsitter that she is moving away, which leaves me needing to find a new catsitter.

My arrangement with my last two catsitters over the last three years has been $15 per 15-minute visit. The cats play with each other all day, so I really just need someone to feed them and clean the litterbox.

As I mentioned, they don’t need much attention and get plenty of exercise playing with each other. I realize that not everyone is willing to make a visit for just $15, so I wanted to inquire whether you or any of your local catsitters might consider the same arrangement.

If it would help, I’d be happy to give you the reference to my former catsitter in case you have questions about the cats and how easy they are to care for.

Please let me know.

Many thanks!

- – - – -

OK, so let’s look at what we have here.

First, the potential client acknowledges that not everyone is comfortable with that rate. This at least tells me that he understands the value of what we do and isn’t so much price shopping as he is trying to determine if he can remain in the same budget as he’s used to.

Next, how often do we hear something like “Oh, and by the way, I can put you in touch with my former cat sitter so you can see exactly what you’d be dealing with!”

This is a turn of the tables, huh? Usually, we are the ones having to give out a list of references of happy clients.

And finally, he is ending the conversation with “if you can not provide the service for that fee, do you happen to know of someone local who might?”

So, what do you do?

Do you:

a) Disregard, ignore and pass on the option altogether.

b) Get in touch with the person and politely decline while reiterating your current service fee.

c) Happily accept the job at the suggested rate.

d) Do something else…

The Bottom Line

Every pet sitter continues to experience the price shopper, or worse. Worse is the caller who wants the best service you can provide but then GASPS at your very fair fee for service.

“You charge how much… Why is it so expensive… My last pet sitter used to charge… I can’t afford that… Do you give discounts for…”

The job of the professional pet sitter is to enforce their own policies, educate their community, and make a profit doing so.

If you do not make a profit (IE. earn a living caring for pets) you simply will not be able to provide a suitable pet care option for very long. And that would not benefit anyone!

Over To You

How do you approach the incoming service request from above? And what is your current fee for a cat visit? What else can you share in this regard? Say hello in the comments below.

photo credit: MatthewHolland via photopin cc

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About Joshua Cary

Joshua Cary is an all around good guy. He is a filmmaker, web builder and business owner. He is a pet sitting business trainer, coach and instructor and has a passion for helping pet sitters build a strong business through a strong website. Joshua is also the co-founder of the Association of Pet Sitting Excellence (you should really check that out).

  • Anthony

    Fantastic blog! I love the letter from the potential client. However I would be interested to know what the recipient of the letter currently charges for cat visits.
    Cat visits are easy and can be squeezed in to almost any schedule. In this case, providing it was on my route or within a reasonable distance, I would set up a quick M&G and if the cats are as easy as explained I would honor the rate.

    • Joshua Cary

      Thanks, as always, for your insight, Anthony! I love it. (To answer your question, cat sitting visits are $25 for 30 mins.)

      I do wonder though if a pet sitter took this job, what other things the client might expect from us that his previous pet sitter always did?

      It is helpful that he offers to connect the new and previous sitter, though. How often do we get that option?

  • Jacqueline

    Funny enough, this person emailed me as well yesterday. I kindly responded back that we had two options for two cats, 30min and 1hr (15min is only for 1 cat). I disclosed my rates and while I wasn’t able to match them, did offer them a small discount. I am inclined to believe that they are looking to match their old rate and are not flexible since I have not heard back.

    • Joshua Cary

      How funny is that, Jacqueline?! I’m sure we have plenty of overlap since we serve the same area (or overlap on parts of the area)!

      I wonder who the next business is that he contacted? I hope it works out for him.

  • Joanne

    I agree with Anthony! My rate is the same as above, so for me, picking up this client would be a no brainer.

    I do a lot of work with Senior citizens. I do offer a discount right off the top for Seniors and have been asked to honor a past sitter’s rate.
    It really depends on the situation for me to consider any additional discounting.

    For example, I have a Senior couple that are no longer able to physically walk their 120 pound dog, or get around much on their own. They realize that just having the dog run around in the backyard isn’t enough. So I was able to come up with a reasonable rate that made us all happy. They have been with my company for almost a year now and are continually grateful for our service.

    • Joshua Cary

      Hi Joanne – This sounds like a win-win for you. That’s what I love about the industry: we have some flexibility as long as it is on our terms and makes sense for our business practice. Thanks for chiming in.

  • Sarah MacDonald

    Our least expensive visit for cats is $20. We are not able to do any visits for less than that, even if it’s only 15 minutes. I would let this person know our rates & since they were so polite about it I would offer to send them a list of other professional pet sitters.

    • Joshua Cary

      Great reply, Sarah. As I mentioned in other comments, it’s excellent that you know clear cut whether you can discount or not. It’s not an arbitrary decision based on fact, emotion or situation (although that could be a factor), but rather on the health of your business (what can you afford to discount is the question to ask). Thanks for posting!

  • Eve

    If they are located somewhere very convenient for my sitters, such as right next to their house or right next to a client they are visiting anyway and the cats really only need the litter and food done, I think it’s not a problem. I like the fact that the client is polite and respectful, which means it will be a good relationship and possibly some good referrals.

    • Joshua Cary

      That sounds like a good gauge, Eve, to begin to determine if this is a viable client for you. I love (and am fascinated by) the way each of our actions are determined and colored by past experiences (that’s life, right?).

      While you see his note as polite and respectful, it suggests a good relationship going forward, another sees his price shopping as a red flag.

      There is no right or correct answer. To each her own!

  • Eve

    If they are located somewhere very convenient for my sitters, such as right next to their house or right next to a client they are visiting anyway and the cats really only need the litter and food done, I think it’s not a problem. I like the fact that the client is polite and respectful, which means it will be a good relationship and possibly some good referrals.

  • MJ The Critter Sitter

    I would take them on as as a client as long as they were within our service area. Our pet sitting is normally $19.00 per half hour but if the cats just need feeding and cleaning the litter box we will do 20 minute visits for $15.00 and because of this have gained a lot of cat sitting clients.

    • Joshua Cary

      Hey MJ, Sounds like this would fit perfectly into your service structure. And as long as you can afford to discount to the $15, why not?! The bottom line is that we all need to know our “profit margin”.

      Bella Vasta always says that we need to know our overall figures, expenses, income goals, etc so we can properly determine what discount is acceptable to remain as a profitable business!

  • Pet Sitter Pro!

    This IS a typical price shopping request. The ONLY thing he’s interested in is how much you charge. Doesn’t ask for references. Doesn’t ask if you are insured. Not interested in knowing how long you’ve been in business or how you handle emergencies or any of a number of other concerns a pet owner has when allowing a stranger full access to their home and their beloved pets.

    He’s asking you to honor a rate he’s been paying since 2011. What are the chances, if you do honor his requested rate, that if you choose/need to raise your rates 6 months or a year from now he’ll stick around? Having a discussion about what you charge and why your rates are what they are is one thing, but I don’t like letting clients run my business for me.

    If I received this email, I would request a phone conversation before discussing rates. I have stopped quoting prices over email. I charge more than some other sitters in my area, and I don’t want to give potential clients the opportunity to veto me without at least getting the chance to explain why I’m worth what I charge.

    • Joshua Cary

      Thank you for the detailed reply! You are correct about him not asking for other things aside from the rate match. As another commented here, he also contacted her business with the same request, so it’s evident he is just looking for someone (anyone?) to match that fee and they would become the sitter.

      I agree with not discussing prices over email. Question: Do you have your prices listed in full on your website, do you provide a range, or something different? Thanks for stopping by!

      • Pet Sitter Pro!

        Hi Joshua,
        My website does currently list my rates, but I am in the process of revamping it. My rates won’t be listed on the new site for the reasons I specified in the previous post. There are so many rate-shoppers; 99% of the time, if someone’s first (or only) question is about fees, they’re not looking for a professional, but I’d like the chance to speak with them and at least let them know why they should be looking for a professional, even if they ultimately choose not to pay what I charge.

        • Joshua Cary

          Very true points. Go with exactly what works for you and your business goals! Best of luck, and let us know how it all works out!

  • http://www.ourpetsitter.net Pet Sitters of Mt. Prospect

    My fees, generally, depend, in part, on distance. A potential client’s quoted fees may not fit in w/what I charge. Furthermore, no one: 1) dictates my charges & why. 2) ever display charges on the website (my fees subject to change w/o notice & often do), 3) negotiate w/clients over charges.
    4) Experience & 22 years has shown the need to dig deeply for the reason(s) why the former pet sitter left.
    My business is a sole proprietor. Translated: no one makes decisions and reports to anyone, but me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very easy going, and make exceptions to fees, duties, distance, and so on, frequently. It’s great for business, but this pet owner’s approach is uncomfortable from the first word written.
    In regards to not asking for further information about the business, this happens all the time to me. My contract of 17 pages & growing is read by very few people, and I might get one person a year who asks for references. None of that matters, particularly to me. In my area, people seem more interested in fees than nearly anything else.

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