There are several reasons why law firms, businesses and individuals aim to hire the cheapest private investigator possible.
It makes perfect sense.
Why would you pay $1,000 for a background check when you can do one online for $50 for what appears to be the same thing?
Or why would you pay one firm $225 per hour as opposed to $100 per hour for another firm? After all, you can get more than twice the work per hour from the cheaper investigator.
But what if I were to tell you that the $225-per-hour firm was able to get the result you were looking for in less than an hour’s work, while the $100-per-hour firm had taken weeks to do the same job?
An attorney client called a few weeks ago looking for some help in a legal dispute. He needed to track down two critical witnesses and interview them. Our longtime client was working with another partner who had his own investigator, but was hoping that we could assist as well, based on some work we had previously done for him. Ultimately, the other partner decided to go with the other investigator because he was a former police officer and charged half the hourly fee that we did.
On both points, I totally respect their decision, although I have said this on the blog before: police officers don’t necessarily make better private investigators. But I digress …
With regard to the fees, I understood. After all, it’s hard to argue that hiring someone to conduct a pretty ordinary request such as locating and interviewing a witness or two would require paying twice the fee. It’s more understandable when you have a complex matter with moving parts. Besides, one of the people they were trying to track down had such an uncommon name that it couldn’t have been that difficult to find him. But, as with nearly every case that we receive, nothing is really “ordinary.”
Three weeks later, the client called me back and said that he was having a “surprisingly” difficult time tracking down the guy with the really uncommon name. The client authorized us to spend a few hours looking into it.
Within an hour, we found the guy with the uncommon name, his cell phone number, home address and his “real” name. Turns out the name he commonly used was a nickname.
The client was thrilled. Three weeks of work by the cheap investigator was completed in less than an hour by the expensive private investigator.
But that’s not the only lesson here. I can tell you countless other stories.
Like the $50 per hour investigator who was tasked with making some human intelligence inquiries in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, only to come back more than a month later with an unintelligible report and little useful information.
Or the time when that cheap online background check came back sparkling clean, only to find out later that the person was actually a convicted felon who has been arrested six times.
Or the potential client who balked at hourly fees when they could pay $75 per hour and get three times the amount of work — only to crawl back to us weeks later when the other investigator couldn’t find anything.
Is hiring a more expensive investigator always better? Absolutely not. But there are reasons why some firms command a higher rate. After all, there is not much of a market for firms that charge astronomical rates and consistently fail to deliver results.
When your sole focus is price, you are missing out on the big picture; the end game is to have a successful outcome, not spend the least amount of money.
Cheaper is not always better, BUT better is always cheaper.