Reflections on the junk removal business in Vancouver

20151209_083908The disposal industry in Vancouver is booming and expanding, but it doesn’t seem to be getting better, as far as consumers are concerned. Why is that? As a business owner of a rubbish disposal company, I will try to answer this question, based on my reflections and experience this industry has brought to me.

What is junk removal really?

it is a simple service, but we still get calls from clients who seem puzzled by what we can do for them. Junk disposal is a service that allows individuals and businesses to get rid of unwanted items, when the city of Vancouver is not offering it. The most common items are household in nature. Furniture, electronics, clothes, books, or general garbage.

On the commercial side, the most common types of garbage is generated by the renovation and construction industry in British Columbia. The other type is furniture and recyclable materials from office buildings.

The process is fairly simple. The junk removal company sends a big truck, and depending on what type of junk is to be hauled away, the items are taken to different facilities. Some are taken to the city landfill, and the rest, which are recyclable and not garbage, are taken to recycling facilities or charities.

Different disposal companies

There are three kinds of junk removal companies, based on size. The biggest in the industry is the 1-800-GOT-JUNK. Companies of this size, for the most part, will provide a very good service to their clients, but their disposal rates, can be quite high.

They are able to get away with this, mostly because customers are not aware of how much this service really cost. However, there is a more interesting reason, as to why large companies dare charge so much more than the other hauling companies. Because, most other companies, of a smaller size, have a bad reputation. Not all of them, but how does one find out which are the bad apples. We will examine this HOW later in this article.

Middle size providers

This type of disposal companies seem to be the ones who can provide professional hauling services for a much lower cost, but the problem still remains the same. How can one find which ones are the good ones. The only advantage the customer has, is that the ratio between good vs bad services among this size of providers, is just more favorable. However, the chance of running into a bad one is probably around 2 out of 3. This explains, why there is still so much business for 1-800-GOT-JUNK, regardless of them charging as much as double, of what they should be charging. I guess, some people value the avoidance of unpleasant experience with rude junk removal guys, that much. I don’t blame them. However, there is a better way, and I will teach you, how to go about it.

Small companies

Ten years ago, I started my disposal business, and I was the guy with a small pickup truck. So, what I am about to say, may sound very ignorant, for I will be advising readers, not to deal with small companies, while I was one of them at some point. However, I will elaborate on this contradiction.

What is the issue with such small vendors. Most of them, are simply doing this for some extra cash. It is not impossible to move from doing junk removal for such reason, to reasons that have more of a long-term nature. Once this becomes a goal for a guy with a pickup truck, then he will start taking his business and clients more seriously. If you find one of those guys, then you will strike gold. His rates will be much much lower than the 1-800-GOT-JUNK, and he will be able to service you well, unless you have lots of junk to dispose of.

Just keep in mind, that there will come a time, when you will call him few years later, and he will have much higher service fee. This is quite normal, for when you hired him the first time, he was not aware of certain long-term expenses around his business. When reality settles, he will either raise his prices, or he will go out of business. However, his rates will still be preferable than the large companies. Also, by that time, he will have a bigger truck, and probably be in the middle size category.

What about the rest of the guys who use their pickup trucks to make some cash on the side? Avoid them. I visit the city landfill few times per day, and I get to see them while at work. Most of the time they are moody and under the influence of something. These guys have hard lives, which is not to be judged, but most customers will not agree that hiring individuals with such hardships, is the way they want to help. Some of my customers have shared horror stories from the past, when they had one of those guys on their property, and they are never to be repeating this mistake. Some of them, who are not my customers, I am sure, don’t mind paying double, just so they get services by a professional service, as the one 1-800-GOT-JUNK provides.

Hidden fees

This is the chief reason, as to why people in Vancouver are nervous, every time they consider hiring a junk removal service. To begin with, it is hard to give a solid rate to a client, and then there is all sorts of hidden fees, that have a legitimate nature, but some bad players, will abuse this dynamic.  In the next section, I will examine the cost of junk removal, and how hidden fees are used and abused in order to inflate profits, and customer anger.

Cost of junk removal in Vancouver

For the most part, service fees are based on volume. The average size of a disposal truck is about 10 cubic yards, and the rate for full load is around $500. Single items are ranging between $70-$100.

Hauling companies have, as one of their major expense, the disposal fees they pay at the dump. This fee is based on weight. To simplify matters, they have taken the average cost of disposing 10 cubic yards, and have come up with a total cost for the client, based on volume.  Usually it is around $50 per cubic yard. Now this is where it gets tricky, and it creates an opportunity for customer abuse.

Heavy junk

From my own long experience, I think about 90% of the projects, have items that are of a normal weight. Pretty much, all household items will be in that acceptable weight. However, when a client has heavier than normal items, such as tiles, dirt, wet furniture, or renovation material, the cost of disposing it, will be much higher, and the junk removal company will see a significant drop in their profit. In such cases, they have to let the client know, of such realities.

For the most part, clients understand the reasons for increasing the service fee, but the issue is that bad companies use this as a strategy, to double or even triple the service fees. The client can always look for other options, but they are not told of such fees, until everything is loaded. This creates a situation, where the hauling company demands payment, since they have already invested labour resources. You can imagine ho heated those interactions can become.

I am still puzzled as to how some people do this every day. I have few conflicts every year, and this is taxing my emotions enough. I can only imagine how morally corrupt a person has to be, in order to do this every day. I just don’t see how one can avoid this daily existence, if one tells a client that the cost is $200, and then after everything is loaded, demands $600. My estimation is that about ¾ of the garbage removal companies in Vancouver, are starting their day, knowing that this is how they will conduct business. Hence, the bad reputation this industry has.

Screening companies

So, how does one avoid these companies? Some will suggest to judge them by websites companies have. I would advice against that. Nowadays, it is cheap and easy to get a professionally-designed website. A point was made earlier, that low rates is also not a good way to base a decision on who should you hire.

There is only one way to get the upper hand on this dynamic. Call them and pay attention to how you are treated and how your questions are answered. Most of the unprofessional disposal companies also have the tenancies to be rude on the phone. This is not to say, that some of them are not smart, and they have not hired sweet talkers. However, most of them are so busy ripping off clients, that they are too blinded by the profit to see such flaws.

Ask them questions on the hidden fees policy, and listen very carefully to what they are saying. You will be able to tell, if they are hiding something. Professional hauling companies will be open on such topics, for they want to avoid any surprises and conflicts with their customers.

There is one final point that should be made. The issues that we have discussed here, are creating a very difficult dilemma for professional waste management companies. It is really hard to compete with companies that lie about their rates, because their services always appeal more to unsuspecting customers. This is a large portion of the customer base in British Columbia, that they will be losing to cheaters. Quite often I get angry responses by people on the phone, because my prices are too high, compared to some vendors, that I know are cheaters. I take the road of being polite to such would be victims, and let them experience their lesson, instead of me wasting my words. They wouldn’t listen, so there is only one way for them to learn.

This sounds great, for it means that a victim, will burn only once. However, this is not what I am seeing. I get calls from people who had bad experience, and judging by the conversation we are having, I can tell, they will commit the same mistake, because they are looking for this unrealistically cheap junk removal service. I will keep my stance on not artificially lowering my rates, because I believe that the industry and the clients will mature, and there will be very little business left for cheaters. Until then, companies like mine, will continue relying on smart clients and on return business, for their long-term prospects.

I hope that this article has provided you with useful and practical information, and you will do the right thing for yourself, and the junk removal industry in Vancouver.