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AIBU about what to do with dishonest repairmen?

(15 Posts)
willa45 Wed 13-Sep-17 17:40:54

That ancient pearl of wisdom known as "Caveat Emptor" (buyer beware) gives the dishonest a resounding pass because it puts the oneness on the customer! Knowledge is power. In the service industry, unless customers are subject matter experts, they clearly don't have either and the opportunities for mischief are wide open. I'm afraid also that this problem is universal and not unique to the US alone.

Stanley (Stan) is our neighbor. Last 4th of July holiday, his Central) Air Conditioning unit broke down. He was quoted somewhere between $2600 to $1200 along with a more ominous verdict that the unit was "fried" and was offered a new one for $3500. Stan shared his dismay with DH, who suggested it could be the capacitor. Stan called again and mentioned aforesaid capacitor. New man initially quoted $350 and then charged an extra $35 ($385 total) to have new capacitor installed same day. AC unit was up and running an hour later. Happy to have problem solved, he regrets not having recorded the other crooks on video so he could report them to the Better Business Bureau.

Fast forward to yesterday to put things in even clearer perspective. Our AC unit just had same issue. New capacitor cost $12 (had to order in Amazon)! Repair was almost as easy as putting in a new light switch and it took DH (he was an electronic engineer in his former life) all of 20 minutes to replace (total cost to us was $12 plus a few screws).

Conversely, Stan's $385 charge must have included (generously) for parts plus labor (~$75). Travel and other expenses ($75) plus let's throw in a 20% profit on top of that. It still only adds up to less than ~$200 at best. How does one account for the additional $185 plus? Perhaps a bonus'holiday' markup of almost 100% or was it the 'same day' service for a 20 minute repair job?

There has to be a distinction between costing honest labor and gouging /robbing customers while keeping a straight face. Consumers should also have protection from predators such as these.

Stan is right to want to record and expose the dishonest among them. He narrowly escaped paying out thousands of dollars for a $12 repair. I'm no Latin scholar, but wouldn't it be nice to live in a world where we could say "Caveat Latronis" (robber beware) instead!?

phoenix Wed 13-Sep-17 17:57:41

In the UK we have a website called My Builder, some people don't like it, but I have found it really helpful.

You post you job, and any tradesmen who are interested get in touch.
(Saves loads of time phoning round only to find that you job is too small for some of them to bother with!)

Customers can also leave reviews, and if I received bad service, or feel I was overcharged, I would say so!

Nelliemoser Wed 13-Sep-17 18:28:46

This is the UK you are talking to. Did you mean to?
We are not really in any position to comment on this.

ElaineI Wed 13-Sep-17 18:47:20

I don't think it matters what country you live in - some tra desmen charge well over the odds for work and parts! Most hourly rates are much more than I get per hour as a senior nurse. Our stupid push button toilet flush system broke. First plumber blew down the tubes - didn't work and we got a gobbledy gook story about getting a new smaller one that would leave a larger hole in the white surround - DH looked up the make and found the proper part and ordered it. The day plumber was meant to come, he forgot? then went on holiday (we haven't paid him). We called another company and they charged £90 for putting it in - took 20 minutes. DH watched and seems he can do it himself if it happens again! This was fro Trusted Trader site!

Eloethan Wed 13-Sep-17 19:04:41

I agree with Elaine that there are unscrupulous tradespeople everywhere. But in some countries they are given a harder time. I believe in Germany certain tradespeople have to be licensed and if there are excessive complaints made about them their licence is taken away and they can no longer run a business.

I wish we had that sort of system here. I get infuriated viewing "Watchdog" sometimes and seeing the same truly cruel and deceitful rogues coming back year after year because there doesn't seem to be a speedy and effective legal mechanism to prevent them from, at best, rooking the public and, at worst, putting them in real danger.

Having said that, in amongst the usual sprinkling of rogues, I have been pleasantly surprised by a few tradespeople who have gone out of their way to be helpful and who have not charged the earth.

Moocow Wed 13-Sep-17 19:29:45

One has to wonder (for far too many years in my case), why the government really does not sort this problem out once and for all! Just as you have proper professional accredited bodies for people like accountants, midwives etc etc why can't we have ones for trades people? Genuine, qualified and capable trades people must hate those that keep giving them a bad name and are worth their weight in gold if not platinum!

Current organisations do not really reassure in my opinion as they do not seem to check the work properly etc just offer comments from people and who is to know if the customer commented too soon before finding things weren't as they first thought etc. Are people commenting genuine?

Norah Wed 13-Sep-17 19:36:10

I think expecting tradesmen to come on holidays, after hours, or drive a distance is a charge. In the 385 example the shop was closed for holiday, was same day service, someone had to procure the bit and drive out. The tradesman was on holiday, the parts shop was on holiday, should opening and working on a holiday be to normal charge?

willa45 Fri 15-Sep-17 01:50:13

For those of you who responded, thank you for all your valuable insights.

So, it goes without saying that one has to beware of swindlers. The real issue however is what to do about them? Unfortunately, I heard about a person who almost got sued for posting a negative review about someone.
Our neighbor came dangerously close to being 'fleeced' by these shysters. I can't help but wonder who they'll try to cheat next, whether or not they'll succeed and for how much?

BlueBelle Fri 15-Sep-17 07:03:46

I think we have to all be more careful who we get to do our jobs... Always get at least three valuations......Go by local recommendations as much as possible

Surely calling someone out on a public holiday would add a few hundreds to the quote couldn't he have waited a day for his AC to be mended ?

If the repair and parts that you did yourselves was so easy couldnt you have done it for him ?

You can certainly give poor reviews and I have I recently had a grumble ( not nasty) about a restaurant, online, the next time I went the problem had been rectified maybe it was my review maybe it wasn't I ll never know but you do need to word things factually and not be throwing insults out or else you can rightly be overhauled about it

Anya Fri 15-Sep-17 07:26:19

There's nothing wrong with giving honest feedback, even if it is negative, so long as you stick to facts. No one can 'sue' you if you do that.

BB I think the OP's DH was only able to do their own repairs because of the learning curve provided by their neighbour's experience.

There are local networks (I use one called Next Door) in the UK where you can ask the local community for, and pass on, names of reliable tradesmen. That's how I got my dishwasher fixed very cheaply and quickly.

Do they have anything similar in the states?

GrandmaMoira Fri 15-Sep-17 10:04:52

There are obviously rip off builders but (apart from dishonest customers who refuse to pay) customers don't always see how it works for the builder.
For bigger jobs, there's time to travel to the job, look at it, write an estimate and they may not get the job.
For emergency jobs, you should expect to pay extra for work done on a holiday when everyone else is off work. Normally, the builder travels to look at the job, then goes off to a shop, maybe more than one shop, to find the part, then returns to do the work. Time may be spent giving advice, sometimes the builder has to return to collect the money. It's never "just a 20 minute job".

willa45 Fri 15-Sep-17 16:11:56

To clarify:

Stan actually paid the lowest bid which based on my own (generous) estimate was still ridiculously high for the job.

Three repairmen were contacted on the on the 4th of July, the same day the unit broke down. A fourth was called the next day and spoke over phone in person. All of them responded after 7/4.

My comment re: 'holiday markup' was sarcastic due to the proximity of the holiday. Truth is most businesses stay open that day and a few close early.

Not sure about exact details but it appears that the fourth individual (the one who actually fixed it) had the tools and parts inside his van (Stan did mention the 'capacitor' on the phone).

According to Stan, fourth man was only there for about an hour, all told. When time came to pay, he charged $35 more, without prior agreement or mention. Stan paid willingly and didn't ask (comparing charges to what he could have paid). That last thing along with the other three bids may have 'soured' his overall experience, but he was happy to get his AC back.

I never realized how outrageous this whole thing was, until we were faced with having to deal with the same issue.

willa45 Fri 15-Sep-17 16:27:16

Anya....I never asked how Stan got their names or how he vetted these people.

Grandma Moira...I agree wholeheartedly that tradesmen should get paid fairly for their honest, hard work and yes, there are dishonest customers out there too (that's another issue for another post). I hope we can both agree that expecting thousands of dollars for a relatively small job such as this one, was neither honest 'nor fair.

GillT57 Fri 15-Sep-17 16:37:22

While there are undoubtedly rogue tradespeople, I do think that many people do not have any idea of the true cost of running a business. It is very easy to complain that a 20 minute job was charged at £90 for example, but (1) the tradesman may not have known it was only going to take 20 minutes (2) they have to travel there in their van, and carry out job insured to cover any accidents and liabilities and (3) a lot of time is spent visiting clients, preparing estimates etc., and this is not chargeable. It is the same as comparing the price of a tearoom pot of tea to the cost of a tea bag at home; lots of costs go into the final job. A plumber who charges £70 an hour may only be being paid for 4 hours a day, the rest spent travelling to and from the builder's merchants to collect what is needed, travelling to your home, visiting potential clients at evenings and weekends. Cost in holidays and sickness, liability insurance, running a van etc., and suddenly it is not such a lot of money.

Norah Fri 15-Sep-17 16:47:34

I think that it is hard to judge what the cost to running the business, holding stock parts and keeping a fleet of vehicles in Florida. It really does not matter what someone spends for a part on ebay, if they can not install for themself, nor can one compare. The shop has a set price for the part, a set price for labor, a trip charge, and an overhead shop charge, also taxes I think. The work was timely done and not to 2600-3500?