P is for The Problem with Plumbers
*Warning* Do not read this blog if you’re a plumber, married to a plumber, related to a plumber in any way or, possibly, if you once had an affair with a plumber. If, on the other hand, you have ever been overcharged by a plumber this article will probably appeal to you.
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A while ago, I was in a very cynical mood. I was stomping around my house having just returned from the school run (which is so unfair at my age) and in the midst of a hot flush when a business card fell through my letterbox. It read:
Traditional English Plumbing at Traditional English Prices
Immediately my hot flush took on rocket propulsion proportions. Steam burst forth from ears like an exploding piston as I recalled, in detail, the numerous times I’d been screwed (financially) by plumbers and tradesmen. You see, in my experience, “Traditional English Plumbing Prices” are calculated in a somewhat dubious manner. Let’s examine the components of a potential invoice in more detail:
The Call Out Fee: This is calculated on the cost of approximately two days’ travel to and from the plumber’s place of abode to your home - which he estimates as long distance even though you've told him seven times it's in the next street. The fee will include: a full tank of petrol, one or two full English breakfasts, lunchtime sandwiches, six coffees and (just in case he doesn't make it home by 4.30pm) a Kentucky Fried Chicken with extra fries.
The Hourly Fee: This could be anything. Literally. Pull a figure out of the air, double it, quadruple it and add on Great Aunt Lil’s age and you’ll probably be close to the hourly fee.
The Cost of Necessary Parts: Your plumber will charge you the cost of the parts as they are priced at your local high-end DIY store - despite the fact he will have paid a pittance at the local plumbers’ merchant.
The Cost of Unnecessary Parts: The plumber will charge you the cost of the parts you need - and the parts you don't need. He’ll also delight in telling you that your bathroom suite no longer meets current health and safety guidelines and you need a replacement. He won't actually know those guidelines but he’ll be able to produce a glossy catalogue that you can look through while he phones the betting shop and travel agents.
The Cost of VAT: Your plumber will say he can do your job cheaper if you pay cash as he won’t charge VAT. This is a lie. He is still going to charge you VAT because he’s not going to risk being caught by the Inland Revenue. So he just raises the price by 20% so that he can knock it off and appear generous. It is a PR exercise: the reality is you’re getting stitched up and if you decide to pay by cheque/card he will make an even bigger profit. Humph.
So, my advice is to always get a detailed written quotation before you agree to anything. To avoid incurring “unforeseen plumbing costs” follow my five point guide below:
1. Do not pass wind in the same air space as your plumber or you’ll risk being charged danger money. This will be in the form of some jargon on the invoice like “C/T19195W faucet joint” or “1.5 screw-top head runner for C/T191195W”.
2. Keep your animals at a distance otherwise your plumber will charge for extra time to visit the doctors for a prescription for his asthma.
3. Under no circumstances tell the plumber you're a pensioner or he’ll be ringing his investment banker before you've made his first cup of tea. If necessary, tell him you are prematurely grey due to being hit by lightning whilst hiking through the Amazonian rainforest.
4. Hide all evidence of your creature comforts in case your plumber thinks you will “pay any price”. Include all obvious signs: Earl Grey tea, oversized underwear, dog-walking shoes and copies of the Radio Times.
5. Make sure you leave visible reading material in your bathroom. Include books like Undiscovered Serial Killers, Murder by Gunshot, Plumbing for Beginners and Death of a Salesman.
Finally, to prove that underneath I really am quite charming (and I don’t want to receive any hate mail). To all honest plumbers and tradesmen out there: You Rock.
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.