"How much does a survey cost?"
I used to spend a lot of time trying to educate when I would get this one. I got to the point where if that was uttered by the third sentence, I already knew I was too expensive for them.
Some of my later conversations went something like this:
Me: Rusty Chain Surveys, Rusty Speaking.
Caller: Uh, yeah, hi. I need a survey. How much does that cost?
Me: A few hundred dollars to a few hundred thousand dollars. What do you need?
Caller: What? huh? I just need a line marked out on my lot.
Me: Oh, OK, a boundary survey. Is this a residential lot in a subdivision, a town lot, or rural acreage. [starting to overwhelm them with questions now]
Caller: A subdivision lot, I think. I'm in Xxxxxxx Park on Xxxxxx drive.
[I may not be familiar with the particular property, but I happen to know that the patchwork of residential and commercial subdivisions that make up Xxxxxxx Park have varied histories ranging from being reasonably consistent with the filed map to the map being just a little better than a cartoon representation of the lots on the ground - a little but not much better than a Garfunkel scenario]
Me: Well that narrows it down considerably. That will be somewhere between $800 and $8000.
[I already know I lost them before they even started dialing my number. This is the point where they know I've lost them because they've already spoken to an unlicensed guy who has a retired engineer rubber stamp for him or a licensed guy who works for the state dept of water resources or transportation during the week and does lot surveys on the weekends using state equipment, either of whom will do the job for $400 or less]
Caller: OK, thanks, I'll talk to my husband and get back to you.
It's almost always the case that the husband makes the wife call. Neither has a clue about what they need or what it takes to do it, but the husband doesn't want to appear to be clueless, better to let the wife do that. Wives are usually a little more secure in their cluelessness. Actually, if the person is polite, especially if it is a wife that the husband dumped the chore on, I'll take some time to get enough particulars to find out just what they need and narrow the estimate range for her. I'll explain a little of what goes into the project they are asking for and at least give her enough to have an idea whether or not the lowballer who gets the job is cutting corners and skirting the law.
If the caller is a know-it-all or is at all rude, I wish them the best of luck and end the call. A couple of times I've gotten something like "You're twice as expensive as the other guy!", to which I reply "Yes, I know. You get what you pay for. Good luck with your project." End call.
I won't join the race to the bottom. If I'm to go broke, I certainly don't want to kill myself busily serving unappreciative customers doing it. Besides, if I'm busy doing that, I won't have the time to devote to a genuininely decent opportunity to professionally serve a client if and when it comes.