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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Fri 09-Oct-15 11:39:22

The problem with plumbers

Ever felt short changed by a tradesman? Author Jane Turley has...

Jane Turley

The problem with plumbers

Posted on: Fri 09-Oct-15 11:39:22


Lead photo

Have you ever experienced 'traditional English' plumbing rates?

Warning! Do not read this post 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.

Yesterday, 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.

Do not pass wind in the same air space as your plumber or you'll risk being charged danger money.

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.

The Changing Room: A British Comedy of Love, Loss and Laughter by Jane Turley is published by Sweet & Salty Books and is available from Amazon.

By Jane Turley

Twitter: @turleytalks

grandmac Mon 12-Oct-15 16:45:57

Tried to turn central heating on, no warmth came through. Tried looking/shouting/swearing at boiler, then rang plumber. He has been servicing this boiler for several years and is booked in for this years one on 19th October. Despite speaking to his wife, and leaving at least 5 messages on the ansaphone he did not respond to my request to sort the problem before the weekend when grandchildren were arriving, or even reply to my messages. When my son arrived he fixed the problem in a few minutes (flicked a switch apparently!).
But now I don't know if this plumber is going to turn up for the booked service.

chrissiebee Thu 15-Oct-15 11:16:33

This made me smile as I'm sitting here wearing four layers of clothing and a scarf as the plumber didn't turn up yesterday or today ("I didn't know it was definitely arranged as a possible for these days and I am coming tomorrow"). Boiler broke down two weeks ago!
Think I'll go outside and plant some spring bulbs. It'll be warmer than indoors. I've finished the running-around jobs as I got up at 6.30am to be ready when he came at 8am.
On the plus side, we're only using a convector heater in the evening
and I must surely be burning loads of calories.

Anya Thu 15-Oct-15 12:15:29

Very true about the calories being burnt to keep you warm.

Sudden thought......perhaps we shouldn't be blaming the obesity crisis on sugar, but on central heating hmm

jinglbellsfrocks Thu 15-Oct-15 12:38:32

I'd be more worried about the "English" mentions. hmm

Pop round and see if he flies a Union Jack in his yard.

merlotgran Thu 15-Oct-15 13:03:18

We're on our FOURTH plumber. All we want is someone to do the necessary with regard to installing a new shower room.

No1 has done some work for us in the past so he was our first port of call. He promptly sent somebody else who put in a ridiculously high quote so we reckon No1 was hoping to get a cut.

No2 has a reputation for being unreliable so we were reluctant to even let him quote but he assured us that now he's over his nervous breakdown hmm there wouldn't be a problem. We're still waiting for him to pick up the phone!

No3 is a friend of the man who is going to fit the floor. He was supposed to come and look at the job two weeks ago....We're still waiting.

No 4 arrived this morning (we've given up on No3) and after looking at the job has gone off to work out a quote. As he got into his van he told me he's very excited as his wife is due to give birth any time now hmm

Something tells me we've seen the last of him!

It must be US sad

rosequartz Thu 15-Oct-15 13:13:08

Sudden thought......perhaps we shouldn't be blaming the obesity crisis on sugar, but on central heating
Anya I read something about that theory a while ago:

grumppa Thu 15-Oct-15 13:15:05

Plumber is here as I type, working on the central heating. Third time we've used him - so far so very good. I chose him by going to one with proper bona fide premises - not just a man with a van.

ninathenana Thu 15-Oct-15 13:26:31

Luckily our plumber is a friend. DH is at there's at the moment replacing some rotten parts of her cat kennels. They work out fees between them on a reciprocal basis.

Anya Thu 15-Oct-15 13:31:22

Very interesting Rose ....but what a revolting picture!

I'm trying to picture the circumstances under which it was shot.

"Excuse me sir, you look just like the kind of bloke I'm looking for"

Sets up parasols for professional shots...

"Yes, shirt off and turn sideways sir. No don't try to hold you belly in. Lovely, yes, just sag a bit more. No, don't worry about the smile. Wonderful!"


rosequartz Thu 15-Oct-15 18:37:55


jimorourke Sat 17-Oct-15 21:07:50

I believe it was Bob Hope who asked "Do plumbers still do house calls"?

Gagamarnie Sun 18-Oct-15 18:46:12

Like Merlotgran, we've been through several plumbers.

One tampered with a pipe under the sink so that he could come back to charge for reconnecting. (No proof, but a strange coincidence that it wasn't leaking before his visit and started dripping as soon as he got in his van to leave.) He also cracked a floor tile in the bathroom and didn't own up.

A second plumber flooded the loft and had to come out on a Sunday to connect up a pipe he had forgotten to reconnect. Result, damaged ceiling.

A third fitted a shower that leaked through the floor because he hadn't secured the walls and the water was coming through the grouting that had cracked because the walls were flexible.

We're on our fourth now too Merlotgran, and hopefully older and wiser - fingers crossed! The only problem is that this one is so busy - probably fixing problems caused by the other three. He is recommended by friends and CheckaTrade. We will always use recommended tradespeople in future. You live and learn - we certainly have!

Stansgran Wed 21-Oct-15 11:23:28

Not plumbing and not trying to derail but two lovely carpet fitters have just left. I had carpets cleaned and moths were found. Small area and could not get anyone,endless phone calls until I asked the carpet cleaner who had a friend. I was a bit worried but they turned up with carpet fitting logos on shirts. They don't advertise just word of mouth. Did the work in less than an hour tidied up and had to piece the carpet. Which you just cannot see. I has really lifted my spirits as I was hating the idea of moths and feeling miserable for other reasons.

Nannanoo Sun 25-Oct-15 15:34:16

I heard of a plumber who was very worried about his sick child, so called the doctor. The doctor said "It's 4.30 in the morning, do you really need to call me out?"
The plumber said that yes, the doctor must come - how would he feel if his plumbing emergency wasn't dealt with? With very ill-grace, the doctor made a brief visit.
Some months later, the doctor called the plumber because his toilet was blocked. In view of the previous occurrence, he was expecting good service. The plumber drove round in his old van, tramped upstairs to the offending loo, dropped two aspirins down it, pulled the flush and said "Call me if it's no better in 48 hours!" grin

Ryandowd Fri 19-Feb-16 09:33:25

Message deleted by Gransnet for breaking our forum guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

Greece2007 Thu 11-Oct-18 21:33:13

Now on 6th plumber,number 1 new the problem but wasn't covered to work outside on flat roof,fair enough 23and 4 all arrived with plunger in hand soon legged it 5 turned up in the dead of night again with plunger but as all he did was took pictures of my mums ceiling caving in whilst on the phone soon left in panic leaving his plunger and a bootleg of cleaner behind the last one has promised to attend tomorrow I don't really care anymore