Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Am I Cynic? The Problem of Plumbers

*Warning* Do not read this post if you are a plumber, married to a plumber, related to a plumber in anyway and, possibly, if you once had an affair with a plumber. If, on the other-hand  you have ever been overcharged by a plumber this post will probably appeal to you.


I think I've got more cynical as I've got older. I'm not sure if I actually like that trait in myself as it's nice believing everyone you meet has the best intentions, that firms might act in your genuine interests and tradesmen will do a good job without ripping you off.

Unfortunately, yesterday, I was in a cynical mood. It may have been the after-effects of being sold a dodgy packet of bread mix (see previous post ), or (perhaps more likely) because I'm a sour middled-aged harridan who's morphing into the kind of granny who rams shoppers with her electric wheelchair and bludgeons them with a pound of sausages as she speeds to the front of the queue at Tesco's checkout.

Anyway to get to the point; I was putting my shopping away and a business card fell through my letterbox. It read:

                         Traditional English Plumbing at Traditional English Prices

Naturally, the cynic in me burst forth as, in my experience, traditional English plumbing prices are calculated in a somewhat dubious manner. As an example, I've set out some costings below:

1. THE CALL OUT FEE: This is the calculated on the cost of approximately two days travel to and from the plumbers place of abode to your house - which he assumes is long distance even though you've told him it's in the next street. The plumber's call out fee will include: a full tank of petrol, one or two full English breakfasts, lunchtime sandwiches, three/six cups of coffee and (just in case he doesn't make it home by 4.30pm) a Kentucky Fried Chicken takeaway with extra fries.

2. THE HOURLY FEE: This could be anything. Literally. Pull a figure out of the air, double it, quadruple it and add on the date of your mother's birthday and you will probably be close to the hourly fee.

3. THE COST OF NECESSARY PARTS: The plumber will charge you the cost of the parts as they are in your local high-priced DIY store - despite the fact he will have paid peanuts at the local plumbers merchant.

4. THE COST OF UNNECESSARY PARTS: The plumber will charge you the cost of the parts you need - and the parts you don't need. You thought you had a leaking tap? No such luck. Your plumber will delight in telling you that your bathroom suite no longer meets current health and safety guidelines and you need a new one. He won't actually know those guidelines - but he will be able produce a glossy catalogue that you can look through while you make him a nice cup of tea with two sugars. And if you got some biscuits that will do nicely too.

5. THE COST OF VAT.  The plumber will tell you he can do your job for less if you pay him with cash which means he won't have to charge you VAT. This is a lie - he is still going to charge you VAT because he is not going to risk being caught by the Inland Revenue. So he will just charge you an extra 20% so that he can  knock it off and appear generous. The reality is you are getting stitched up and if you decide to pay by cheque/card the plumber will make an even bigger profit. Nice one, mate.

Here are five guidelines to follow to avoid supplementary plumbing costs:

1. Do not fart in the same air space as your plumber - he will charge you danger money.

2. Do not mention that you, your spouse or any of your relatives are a teacher.

3. Do not let your pets anywhere near your plumber as he will have to charge you for a day's extra work for a visit to the doctors to get a prescription for his asthma medication.

4. Do not mention you are thinking of moving house as he will seal your leaking pipes with Sellotape and charge the new occupiers for a return visit.

5. Do not tell the plumber you're a pensioner - otherwise his eyes will light up and he'll be ringing his investment banker before you've even made his first cup of tea of the day.

When your plumber peers round your bathroom door wearing this cheerful expression
 and says "I've found the problem!" - you know you're about to be screwed.

So am I cynic? Yes, I am. 

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