Sunday, 31 January 2016

The Great British Rip Off

Having moved house recently, there were a few bits that needed doing.  Nothing mega.  The house is a new-build after all.  But little things – like getting an electrician to put up outside lights (it’s pitch black at night), and finding a chippie to put up some shelves, were essential. Regrettably my husband thinks a jigsaw is something that slots together, and a spur is only applicable to riding boots, so outside help is essential.
          The old adage of obtaining three quotes is a good one.  So on three different days, three electricians and three carpenters came to the house.  Well actually that’s not strictly true.  The first electrician and the first carpenter didn’t bother to show up.  The second electrician paced about, hummed and hawed, removed a pencil from behind his ear and assured me he’d do the job as cheaply as possible.  For cash. Naturally.  As we walked around the outside of the house, he told me all about his thirteen-year-old daughter’s dream to be an Olympic water skier and how expensive is was funding it all.  I wasn’t surprised when his bill to put up five lights totalled £1,045.  A bargain, he assured.  I thanked him and waited for the third electrician.  He quoted me £150.  You don’t need to be Einstein to work out who got the job.
          The second carpenter strode in, listened to me talking about putting up an MDF shelving unit in the hallway so there was a library area.  Nothing flash, simply functional.
          ‘I’ll do my best for you,’ he said.  ‘For cash.’
          I wonder what my husband’s boss would say if he went to work and said, ‘I’ll do my best for you today, Mr X, but it has to be for cash.’  I have a feeling Mr V would be clutching his P45 within seconds.  What is it that makes some people think they are doing you a massive favour “for cash” when, frankly, their prices are beyond astronomical?
          The third carpenter sucked on his pencil, spent ages fiddling with his tape measure, and drew a “complicated” sketch to illustrate the “complications” of the job.  When we compared drawings, his “detailed” sketch looked exactly like mine.  Frankly I was at the point of going to Homebase, asking them to cut the MDF pieces, and having a stab at putting the wretched thing together myself.
          And their prices?
          Carpenter Number Two:  £1,345.  For cash.  Naturally.
          Carpenter Number Three: £2,845.  For cash.  Naturally.
          Something struck me here.  Do tradesmen think that by sticking forty-five quid into the mix it makes their cash quote look more realistic?
          Anyway, I turned to eBay.  Triumph!  As we speak, some kind soul is beavering away making a custom-built oak bookcase six feet wide and seven feet tall for five hundred pounds. Meanwhile, I’m now sourcing a handyman to do some wardrobe rails.  For cash.  Naturally.  Which reminds me.
          A man went to prison for three years.  During that time he was a model prisoner.  He studied carpentry and accordingly had his sentence reduced.  On the day of leaving jail, the governor – impressed with the guy’s work – asked him to design and make his wife a new kitchen.
          ‘Sorry, Sir,’ the ex-con replied. ‘But that’s how I ended up in prison.’
          ‘What do you mean?’ asked the Governor.
          ‘I went to prison for counter fitting…’ 

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