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.
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?
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?
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.
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
✓ 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.
I do the best that I can.
✂Happy Grooming, MFF ✂