Are we charging to much for bed bug work?

In my line of work you’ll always have the really expensive guys, the moderate and then the dirt cheap. All 3 models must work in pest control because I see the trucks speeding across town every day on their way to another job. (presumably) The expensive guys don’t always have the biggest name recognition, they might not have the most equipment and their techs aren’t always the sharpest knives in the drawer either. On the other end of the spectrum the dirt cheap outfit may be driving a big Dually with a 300 gallon split tank, electric dusters and extension ladders and he may have passed his certification test with a 95%. Even the middle roaders might go either way and as a matter of fact I don’t think you can put any of these categories with the perceived stereotype at all. I see different combinations everyday and I try very hard to resist judging another pest company until I’ve see first hand what they’re all about. These companies prices can range from the $13 spray job to the $85 version and I’ve seen both fail miserably and both succeed. One thing almost all firms seem to have higher prices on however is bed bugs. The $13 suddenly becomes $1000 and the $85 turns into a whopping 3 grand. Why?

Well I guess I could list the intricacies of a bed bug job and the intense search and destroy mission any tech has to be ready to do with bed bugs. I could tell you that a dog trained to sniff them out costs about $10,000 (oh yea, you have to feed him too) or a heating machine is 5 large or more and God knows what a freeze gun costs. Maybe the fact that a really really bad roach job might take 1 hour in a standard house where as a bed bug job is 5 or more. I might include the intense emotional factors that most people have when they’ve discovered this bug that bites and that alone drives them to say yes no matter what the cost. How bout the media and the almost daily stories of this critter or the world wide web that is now inundated with links, tweets, articles, google ad’s and alerts. There are even app’s for your phone that tell you where bed bugs have been reported in hotels, theaters and even day care centers.

The point is, bed bugs and the information about them is spreading like wildfire and for now there is no even keel, no common line that everyone has settled on. It’s like the tech boom of our recent past where web sites, domain names and designers were selling what you’re surfing right now for huge amounts and dot com millionaires were getting rich over night basically on hype. That bubble popped when people finally looked around and saw they were paying large amounts for really nothing and when they walked away it all came crashing down. Am I saying bed bug work is no harder than a german roach job? No. Can you spend big bucks on the tools to help enhance the work? Yes. Can you do the work without that special equipment? Of course.

The reason bed bug work is so expensive for now is that supply and demand is at work nothing more nothing less. All the factors I’ve listed above have combined for a ‘perfect storm’ that has swept the country like a tsunami and while the consumer thinks the prices are to high the bug companies have no shortage of work. The law of supply and demand kicks in and thus the price is higher. What will bring the price down is just as simple. We either kill all the bed bugs and the price comes down, do it yourself and the bug companies have less work and prices will decrease, or simply shop for the lowest prices and other pest control outfits will soon follow suit. It’s the law of supply and demand.
For those of you who say this is over simplified I’d love to hear why. Do you think it’s capitalist greed and that’s it in a nutshell? I’d love to hear more. I will say I’ve seen this very thing happen almost every season for the past 27 years across the nation yet I don’t remember the big ground swell of opposition that has happened here. Prices for termite work are pretty steady 8 or 9 months out of the year albeit they still are costly in nature. That said there is a time when fees spike and suddenly a $500.00 job in December suddenly shoots up to $1,100.00 in April. The reason? Spring is the time when swarmers come out and pest control companies are swamped with calls as living room windows are filled with this flying menace. People suddenly can’t wait for service and techs can only do so much in a day. Supply and demand kicks in and you guessed it, prices reflect the change.

About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. Pestcemetery.com was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.
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  • I’m not sure market forces impact charges for Bedbug treatments in the way you describe, not here in the UK in any event. The treatments just take longer = more cost = higher charge per job. Add in specialised equipment and we’re at stratospheric rates. Thats fair, right and proper. An analogy can be drawn with a pharaohs ant treatment, how long does it take to bait for a single nest? and then how long does it take to treat after the client got impatient and sprayed? The money goes way way up because the time for treatment did. Where market forces as you’ve described do genuinely kick in here in the UK is with wasp nests in the summer. Our national trade association has stated a pest control companies work is worth around £50.00 per hour (it takes account of costs), thats a fair rate where it’s properly applied and a decent living can be made by a sole trader at that rate. Where the supply/demand rule does kick in is summer time and wasps nests. Prices tend to start at £50.00 for one treatment with as much as £175.00 being charged by one large company if its a weekend job! Unbelievable for a job that 9 out of 10 times takes no more than half an hour! I guess thats similar to your termite season though.

  • Fascinating! Excellent insight. We don’t have ‘standards per se for pricing. Shoot we can’t even decide if we as an industry should charge ‘trip fees’ like other industries do. (ie; air conditioning companies)

    I guess that’s the beauty of our ways -if you can call it that. In the end of all the furious activity and hub bub, things settle down and a “norm” of sorts finally emerges. Thanks for the great comment.

    PS. Your wasps must be a nasty lot eh? What kind are they?

  • Nothing uncommon Doc. Vespula Vulgaris (I think you call ’em Yellow Jackets), Occasionally a slightly larger European variety (News always reckons they come from France or Germany for some reason.

    Don’t get me wrong about our pricing, the £50.00 an hour rule is a guideline to try to stop us undervalueing our work and give the industry some credibility ‘It’s what pest control costs’ kinda thing. In the real world, it’s dog eat dog 😉 Window cleaners here will charge £15.00! and why not, they’re already up the ladder……..

  • I’ve seen on forums and what not about wasp work there– thought maybe it was something exotic. Part of me loves the idea of a standard pricing or at least a minimum. But some folks here ‘literally’ are down to $13.00 for a service most are up around $50 or so. (regular maintenance visit) I guess they serve a certain market and they usually are the first to disappear in hard times which is odd. Another pops up soon so charging the same so it’s a cycle and a system with everyone ‘WANTING’ standards as they express themselves on the forums etc. but no one is ready or willing to set it by taking the first step and honestly, I’m not sure anyone has that kind of sway. In my mind the first step would be to charge a trip fee which I wrote about http://pestcemetery.com/pest-control-companies-charge-trip-fee/ –doubt it’ll ever happen

  • I’ve seen on forums and what not about wasp work there– thought maybe it was something exotic. Part of me loves the idea of a standard pricing or at least a minimum. But some folks here ‘literally’ are down to $13.00 for a service most are up around $50 or so. (regular maintenance visit) I guess they serve a certain market and they usually are the first to disappear in hard times which is odd. Another pops up soon so charging the same so it’s a cycle and a system with everyone ‘WANTING’ standards as they express themselves on the forums etc. but no one is ready or willing to set it by taking the first step and honestly, I’m not sure anyone has that kind of sway. In my mind the first step would be to charge a trip fee which I wrote about http://pestcemetery.com/pest-control-companies-charge-trip-fee/ –doubt it’ll ever happen

  • “I’ve seen on forums and what not about wasp work there– thought maybe it was something exotic”

    Nope. Easiest work we have. Everyone waits for the ‘wasp season’. I hear of guys making 20 grand in three months!! (This is my first year trading and I missed the season)

    I read your ‘trip fee’ article. Called ‘call out fee’ here and no one charges it. From my viewpoint (and I’m guessing others in the business) I want to get in the door, sell my service on my own ‘likeability’ – ‘credibility’ – ‘excellent service’ basis. To charge for a sales pitch would be a sin.

    When it comes to service contracting, its an entirely different scenario. We learned a long time ago the rules of what is and, isn’t, included in a Maintainance Contract. Most contract work is business based and most business owners are cute enough to take the fullest advantage of a poorly structured contract agreement. These things are made clear to the client at the outset. I use a software package for all my work which allows me to be specific to the minutest detail around pests included/excluded within the agreement and I leave the client with a price list (Based around the £50.00 per hour rate) of what he might expect to pay me for non inclusive work.

    Then again………….we all want to keep our contracts forever so we all offer those little ‘added value’ things for free.

    It’s a bit like the tipping scenarios here and over there. No one in this country will chase you down the road for their ‘tip’ if you don’t leave one. It will come, but not yet. We tip for good service only if it’s good. Likewise we charge for (and expect to pay for) clearly specified service delivery. That doesn’t include ‘selling’ the job.

  • I know one thing for sure. The price of Bed Bug Heat Treament systems is too damned high!  WTH

    These damned companies are ripping off the industry. This is where we need more competition. Somebody get off their duffs and make a reasonably priced heat treatment system!

  • That is a driving force- unfortunately though, even the new inventions are pretty high as well. Just the new monitors using cO2 are $300 & they only do one room and do nothing for control. Also, retreats are a killer with bed bugs and require almost as much work as the initial service- so I’m thinking almost any device is worth the price–oh oh, now I’m starting to think like the home owners who gets so distraught they’ll grudgingly pay any price!
    Vicious cycle!!!!!

  • Admin

    The difference with heat treatment is we have to actually work the whole day not go in for a 15 min spray and this treatment takes care of all bed bugs & eggs with only 1 treatment no multiple treatments or toxins, so in my opinion worth it