About Me:

I am a professional Pet Groomer. I have been grooming for 28 years. This Blog is a kind of diary of my work. I wish I had started years ago, writing some of the experiences I have had while grooming. Most days are fun, some can be sad, some can be just down right crazy. If you are a pet owner and come across this blog, I hope it helps you understand how your pet is groomed. If you are a Pet Groomer, I hope you can relate to some of the stories. Maybe even learn a grooming tip or can leave a friendly grooming tip for me. There is always something to learn, no matter how long you have been grooming.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Pricing

Grooming prices.

What a pain in the a**.

I have always hated coming up with prices for grooming.

When I was in Grooming School, I remember hearing a couple of the grooming instructors talking about the prices that the owner of the grooming school charged.
They were talking about how high the prices were when the customers were having their dogs groomed by students.
Of course, at the time I had no idea what the prices at the school were.
While I was a student, it had nothing to do with me.

Later, after I graduated, and started to work at the school, I learned very quickly why the students were never allowed up in the lobby, or allowed to talk to the customers.
The owner of the school did not want her customers to know that her shop was a Grooming School.
She did not want customers to ask for lower, or special prices, because a student was grooming their dog.

I graduated from Grooming School in 1984.
The highest price on the price list was $25.

When I left the Grooming School to work at the Vet/Kennel, the prices were a little lower than the school's prices.
That didn't really bother me at the time either, because I was going to be paid 50%.
The owner of the Grooming School only paid me 30%, because I was just out of school, so I thought that 50% was great.
That job was ideal.
I came in at 8am, groomed 8 or so dogs, was done by 2pm, and was able to leave right after finishing my last dog.
The kennel staff cleaned, and the receptionist, or owner of the kennel waited on all of the customers.

When I left the Vet/Kennel to go help a friend open their grooming shop, (don't ever work for a friend!) said friend set the prices on the higher side.
I was still making 50%, but I was also opening in the morning, taking appointments, waiting on customers, grooming, cleaning, doing the books, and closing at night.
I did not have any say in the pricing.

When I left that situation, (did I mention... don't ever work for a friend?) after taking a short break from grooming, I went Mobile for a little while.
Her prices were the highest I had ever seen.
I had now been grooming almost 3 years.
I remember actually feeling uncomfortable asking for those prices, but I don't remember anyone ever complaining about them.

After moving on from that job, (just imagine grooming Mobile before HV driers even existed) I worked in the back of a Pet Shop.
I replaced another groomer who had quit.
Her prices were a little lower than the Vet I had worked for.
The owners of the Pet Shop were not to keen on my wanting to raise those prices, but they always wanted me to groom more dogs.
I only made 40% unless I groomed more then 11 dogs a day.
I also had to supply ans wash my own towels.

Then I opened my own shop.
For the very first time I had control of the grooming prices.
You would think that that would make me happy, right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I found out really fast, it was no fun coming up with prices that both I and my customers thought were fair.
Of course, I made the mistake that a lot of new shop owners make, I tried not to make my prices too high, because I was scared that I would scare people away.
I under priced a lot of the dogs.
I also had a lot of my customers from the Pet Shop follow me. (They did away with the grooming.)
Because of that, most of my prices stayed close to what had been being charged at the Pet Shop.

Several times I made a price list and tried to live by it.
The problem was, I didn't always agree with my own price list.

I have come to believe that there should not even be a set price list.
Even setting a 'starting price' for a breed does not work.

Why?

Lets say that you have a Golden owner call you asking for an appointment.
During the conversation they ask how much you will be charging them.
You tell them that your 'starting price' for a Golden is $65, only there is a problem.
This owners Golden is twice as big as a normal Golden, and twice as hairy.

Oh.....and the owner didn't hear the words 'starts at', they only heard $65.

That is just one of the problems with setting prices.

I have said it so many times about grooming....every dog is different, every grooming is different, even within a breed.
You can have 'set prices' for a Bichon....one price for a full body clip, one price for hand scissoring, one price for a bath and trim.

So where is the problem?

You set your prices for the breed standard.
The breed standard for a Bichon is 9½ to 11½ inches, and 10 to 18 pounds.
So when you have one of these 30 pound, 15 inches high Bichons walk in your door, do you charge the standard (set) price?

No?

But that is what your price list said.
That is what you quoted over the phone.
That is what you charged her sister-in-law, who also brings her (12 pound) Bichon to you.

Have I mentioned that I hate pricing grooms?
That I hate defending my prices?
That I hate when an owner whines about my prices?
That some people actually want to haggle prices with you like it is a yard sale?

So, after 29 years of grooming, have I come up with a fool proof plan of pricing my grooming?

Bahahahahahaha!!

H*ll no!!!

Just like every other groomer out there, we deal with price shoppers on the phone.
Breeds bigger than they should be.
Owners that give you sob stories in hope that they will be able to get the grooming price down.
Owners that buy high maintenance dogs, and then can't afford to groom them as often as they should be groomed, or get mad that it costs so much to groom their dog.
Cheap owners that can afford the groom, they just don't want to pay for it.
Owners that think 'its just a dog, it shouldn't cost that much to groom it', or 'it doesn't cost me that much to cut my  own hair.'

For the most part, I feel that my prices are fair.
Big dogs seem to be the ones that are the most under charged, but I have been working on that.

One of the main things that I have always, and continue to struggle with is Bath & Trims.
We don't get too many Bath & Trims since I opened the Self-Serve Dog Wash.
I mostly get the Bath & Trims during the winter months.
Customers that want to keep their dogs groomed, but don't want to give them a full haircut.

What to charge them?






Like this Westie that came in the other day for a maintenance Bath & Trim.

A Bath & Trim between her regular haircuts.






Lets compare:

                 Bath & Trim                                                        Full Groom

         ✓ Shampooing                                                         ✓ Shampooing
         ✓ Conditioning                                                         ✓ Conditioning
         ✓ Hand drying                                                          ✓ Hand drying
         ✓ Brush/Comb                                                         ✓ Brush/Comb
         ✓ Clean Ears                                                            ✓ Clean Ears
         ✓ Clip/ File Nails                                                       ✓ Clip/File Nails
         ✓ Express Anal Glands                                             ✓ Express Anal Glands
             Full Body Clip                                                      ✓ Full body clip
         ✓ Trim Feet
         ✓ Neaten Ears
         ✓ Trim Around Eyes
         ✓ Neaten Tail
         ✓ Sanitary Trim
         ✓ Neaten Outline/Any stray hairs


So, you charge less for a Bath & Trim, right?
You charge less because you are not giving a full haircut, right?
The owner expects you to charge less because their dog is not getting a full haircut, right?

But, but ,but......look at the list.

You are still doing 90% of the regular groom.

So, how the heck do you price a Bath & Trim?

A lot of customers expect you to charge half of the regular price.
After all, you are not giving their dog a haircut.








 What did I charge for the Bath & Trim on this little lady?

I took a little less than 20% off of her regular price.

I think that it was a fair price.






If a customer questions me about the price, and why it is not cheaper, I list everything that I did for them.
"She got everything she normally gets except for her body being clipped. I bathed her, conditioned her, blew her dry by hand, clipped and filed her nails, emptied her anal glands, cleaned her ears, trimmed her feet, trimmed around her eyes, trimmed around her privates, and her rear. I also neatened up stray hairs I saw."  all said with a smile.
When put this way, they normally do not question the price anymore.

Sometimes it is not that easy to come up with the Bath & Trim price.
Sometimes a dog may come in whose owner wants a Bath & Trim, but the dog is in bad shape.
Not bad enough to have to give it a clip, but bad enough that it is going to take extra time to brush out the coat.
Maybe the same amount of time that it would have taken to give the regular haircut.
So, do you charge the haircut price?

Yes, but warn the customer first.
Let them know that the price will be the same because the Bath & Trim is going to be just as much work as a regular haircut.
Let the owner decided whether they want to continue with the Bath & Trim, or do the regular haircut.

There are still times when I really struggle with what is a fair charge for a specific Bath & Trim.

One other thing that I think groomers need to keep straight is, what exactly a Bath & Trim is.
Every once in awhile I will have a customer ask for a Bath & Trim, but by the time they finish telling you all that they want trimmed, it would be more work (like a hand scissor all over) than a regular haircut.

I don't mind neatening up the outline on a dog for a Bath & Trim, but if they ask me to take inches off of the outline, or want me to trim into the body, it is no longer a Bath & Trim.

I think that we will always struggle with pricing.
It is in peoples DNA to try to get something at a cheaper price.
I am guilty of it too, although pricing my grooms has made me more sensitive to how other businesses price their services.

Oh well.
I do the best that I can.

Happy Grooming, MFF
                

17 comments:

  1. Yeah, I made the mistake of working for a friend once, too. I will NEVER do that again.

    Anyway, pricing...yeah, pricing definitely sucks. When I moved to the new location, we took the price list with us - the problem is that the demographic is MUCH different. On average I've been charging $5 less at the new location than the old location. And STILL people go into shock over the prices. Yes, we cost a little more than the PetSomethings, but your dog will only be here for an hour and a half as opposed to four hours. Plus most of those people probably have 3 years of experience or less compared to my 9. I'm worth the higher cost. But you know what? If you are going to piss and moan about $5 or $10 on a dog that you groom twice a year, you aren't the type of customer I'm looking for anyway.

    Anyway.

    We usually quote people about a $10 range and tell them it all depends on how the dog looks, what kind of shape it's in, and what they want done with it. Worse comes to worst, I'll do the dog for a low mis-quoted price once and warn them that the price will go up next time.

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    1. Hi Jennifer,
      We do the same with the 10 sometimes more price range. The only problem that we have found with that is that the customer only hears, or remembers the lowest price, and tells us that they never heard the other part of the price range. :/ It can drive you crazy sometimes.
      Lisa, MFF

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  2. For the full body trims, I charge the same as I do for a basic grooming. I have to say that I used to complain all day about all of these exact points, I used to talk until I was blue in the face, swearing, and shaking my fist to the sky. Then, I decided to 'revamp' the way I thought about pricing. I tried to approach it with a more business like mind, what takes more time should be charged for. How much should I make an hour? And it hit me, I stopped pricing by breed and started pricing by weight. Weight ranges saved my life, matt fees, hand scissoring, deshedding, etc. If someone gets my 'Ultimate Spa' I will waive a few fees, but other than that I do not give breaks anymore. A customer played a prank on me once, she called for a groom on a toy pomeranian, brought in a spitz/sheepdog mix, strange but pretty, she had AKC papers saying that she was REALLY a toy parti pom, but she realized that it wasn't. I was glad that I groomed by weight and not breed, because if she was serious she could have disputed me on the cost. This way I don't have to correct every person with a silky terrier that says it is a yorkshire terrier.
    I love the way I price, no more headaches.
    The only thing that I have a hard time biting my tongue on are the customers with new puppies that are a 'miniature' version, they mistake mini for toy. A few years ago I had a customer with a 12 week old mini schnauzer, she said she was guaranteed the dog would not get any bigger... AT 12 WEEKS OLD. My tongue forced past my teeth, I couldn't hold it in, "Miniature means Medium, it goes Toy, Miniature, Standard or Giant. He is a baby, he has to keep growing until he is 8-10 months old, and his coat may even change color slightly." She told me I was wrong. A few weeks she came back, he had gained 10 pounds and his puppy teeth were getting loose, he was shaggy and needed a groom badly. She told me that she doesn't love him anymore, she feels lied to, and wanted to know if I wanted to buy him from her at what she paid. Nope. Not even. I just smiled and wished her luck, told her that she should just make sure it is a loving and permanent home. She still comes, but with her new dogs, they are little. :\
    I wish you well, customers can be murder but the good thing is most of them are awesome.
    I had a customer ask me today, "Do you not like me anymore? I came to you once, and I wanted to come back, but you keep missing my calls, and your husband told me that I had to wait 2 weeks for a haircut. What did I do?" I had to calm her down and explain that this is how everyone gets in with us, I called back every time and left you messages, the reason why we fill is because people call and make appointments. My grooms today called at least 2 weeks ago. Also, you can make your next appointment when leaving from an appointment. I don't see how we're being difficult...
    I've never had a customer ask if I liked them, the tone in her voice scared me, I don't scare easily. O.O I did like her, before she went all Kathy Bates from Misery on me. Now I'm going to be super careful about every word that I say in her presence. I don't need another 'misunderstanding', if she fabricates anything else and threatens to leave I'm not going to beg.
    Que sera sera.
    ~Serena

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    1. Hi Serena,
      I like the idea of pricing by weight. We price small, medium, large, and Xlarge, but still run into problems even with that.
      You're right, most of our customers are great. We just have to try to focus on that! :)
      Lisa

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  3. I have been thinking about pricing lately...How about giving special "bath and trim" prices only if it has been not that long since their last full groom. Say, if they are usually every 8-10 weeks customers, if they come within 4 weeks from the last full haircut, they get "bath and trim" price. If it is longer than that - well, there is more work to do, more hair to "just trim" and they get charged accordingly.

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    1. Hi tvergirl,
      I understand what you are saying. I have tried that. lol Needless to say, we groomers understanding the concept and the customer understanding the concept are two different things. It never failed that someone would come in and dispute how long it had been since they had been in last and what they should pay.
      Lisa

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  4. People pay for quality, and if I ever needed a groom I'd come to you. I have a specific hairstylist I will go to, even though she charges about $2oo for a cut and color for me. I'm ALWAYS happy with her though, so I go to her. Don't be afraid of pricing, the dogs seem so happy and calm with you, the owners will notice even if your prices are higher, they come back. Especially with your skills >w< I've been using your pictures to learn how to scissor faces properly. I'm having trouble with how to tell people what the difference between a trim and a haircut is. They just don't really understand that it's easier to clip a dog than it is to scissor I guess.

    Theres a reason you're booked out so far in advance :) If ever I'm in the east coast, I would love for my pup to be groomed by you!

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    1. Thank you Tong Chen,

      That is very nice for you to say!
      Tell your customers that it takes more skill to use scissors on a moving target than clippers. :)

      Lisa

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  5. Wow! I just opened my own shop at a local vet in my small town in NE. I have always groomed in bigger towns (Richmond, VA & Aurora, CO). The grooming prices were higher then here in NE. So I know exactly what you're taking about. This really helped me...glad I'm not the only one who hates coming up with grooming prices!! ;)

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    1. Congratulations Crystal!
      I wish you the best of luck. :)
      Lisa, MFF

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  6. After today I am certain we are undercharging...a lab bath is 27 dollars...for a bath, drying, ear cleaning, brushing and trimming nails. Glands are also included. When I had a lady call about her 75 lb lab she was beyond delighted when she heard this price. :/

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    1. Hi Cherie,

      Just the fact that that Lab was 75 pounds was enough reason to charge more, never mind the grooming part. lol I have a bad habit of undercharging short hair breeds too. It must be the short hair mentality. The thing is these guys can take forever to shampoo and rinse, AND dry!

      Lisa, MFF

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  7. Sadly I do not work for a privately owned shop or I would have happily charged more! :)

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  8. Hi! I wanted to say we have a seasoned groomer (over $20 years) in the company I groom for. I like her motto of, "if I pick up scissors or clippers, it's a haircut. If not, it's a bath." (Baths include brushing, nails, and ears). But there's such a huge difference between a bath and brush on a pitbull and a Chow Chow. There's another long term groomer who on a small haircut dog will charge, for example, $35 for a bath & brush, $40 for a Bath & Trim (she calls it a FFF; Face, Feet, & Fanny) and $50-$55 for the full haircut. Granted if the dog doesn't come in for a while and there's more detangling it may go up.
    Pricing is an ongoing issue and is so subjective between groomers, shops, locations, and even between the same dog, depending on how often it's coming in and if it gets really over grown or matted! Arg!
    People who book our appointments will usually quote a general price from our price sheet, but say, "the groomer will have a better idea about the price when you get her and she can see the dog."
    We also have special items. For example, the other day I did my first pelt removal where you carefully have to peel away the pelt (I'm fairly new to grooming). Pelt removal is priced at $20 extra. It was a maltese.
    I will say our haircuts all start at $50 (yorkies, shih-tzus, havanese, etc.) and go up from there, but I live in a pretty large city.

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    1. Hi Marge,
      I was just checking out a website of a kennel/groomer in my area. They have two locations about 25-30 miles apart. I was surprised to see that they had a price list for grooming on their website. There were two separate price lists, one for each location. I was not surprised that the prices were different at each location, because one location is in a better area than the other, but I was surprised at how large a difference the prices were. As much as 40 dollar difference for the same breed. The one location isn't in THAT much better of a location.
      You are so right...pricing is an on going issue. :/

      Lisa, MFF

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  9. The only customers I offer bath and tidy to are my regulars and its only considered a bath and tidy if its been less than 4 weeks since their last groom, I normally take 10 dollars off the price for them. And over the years Ive learned to never quote a new client over the phone I have them come in for a consultation. However I do book a year in advance and don't often take new clients so I think they appreciate the consultation, they find out how often I'd like to see them and how much it will be each time. As a thank you I offer these clients free nail trims through out the year and they often come in for other reasons like an extra ear clean if their having problems or if the eyes are getting a bit long. I don't charge for these walk in services either. All of my customers get to be "family" and I think they love it :)

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    1. Sounds like you have a great set up Becky. :)

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