Ed Pfeifer: The service of tradesmen, laborers greatly undervalued
Wednesday, January 22, 2020 | 12:01 AM
Throughout our lives, each of us will periodically need professional assistance. For example, most of us will require legal counsel and all of us will need medical care. Many times upon receiving those services we lambaste the service provider for overcharging and ‘ripping us off.”
While it’s true the cost of those services is high, sometimes ridiculously high and occasionally unscrupulously high, we still need the services and, therefore, pay the price. Painfully few of us, after all, are educated in ways that would allow us to be our own legal counsel or personal physician.
So, thanks to our trust in humanity — verified by plenty of empirical evidence, we can be fairly confident that the price we are paying is, quite simply, the cost of being legally sound and medically responsible adults.
All that said, I am baffled by many of the same responsible adults who write whopper checks for “professionals services” but refuse to accept the fact that a quality handyman costs more than five bucks an hour.
A week or so after Thanksgiving 2019 I got a phone call at my store from a customer who needed a virtuous repairman to fix a toilet and take care of a few other tasks around the exterior of his house. I gave him a recommendation based on his requirements, my experience, knowledge and understanding of him, the job and the repairman. The caller rebuked my recommendation by promptly letting me know that he “used that guy the last time … too expensive.”
I thought for a moment and asked politely if he was pleased with the work. “The work was perfect” he replied. I pressed him, asking if the repairman was courteous and honest? Was he timely? Did he clean up after himself? “Yes, yes and yes” the caller retorted.
Aware that the caller did not possess the skill needed to do the job himself and unwilling to recommend a cheaper and potentially unqualified contractor, I told him I was sorry but had no other recommendations.
After the conversation I was left with the acidic burn of disrespect. I couldn’t shake the thought that the caller had an aversion to paying for a good handyman not because he didn’t have the money but because he refused to believe that a commoner who swings a hammer and drives a truck is worth a proper wage. That mindset is offensive, unacceptable and because the number of quality contractors continues to decrease, needs to change.
Tradesmen – a term I use because it is grammatically while not politically correct (there are no gender boundaries in the world of skilled trades), have real value. There is no shame in needing, using or, for that matter, properly compensating one.
Are there bad guys out there? Of course. We hear about them all the time. But, just like those “professional” service providers, there is plenty of good in their ranks and the home and property owners of the world should be prepared to pay the price for them.