Click above to read the diary. Mostly about Pepys enjoying himself – a thunderstorm – medical attitudes.
Any trader will have a mixture of good, bad, and indifferent customers. I’ve had a couple in the last 24 hours. The first one was a charming and delightful couple, a potter and a musician who welcomed us warmly and gave us a cup of tea and told us what was required. there are a number of things that customers do not think of and one of them is access. If you’re going to take large amounts of greenery or brick or wood through a small cottage the likelihood is that you will bang something. We were asked to cut a hedge in the front garden, that’s fair enough, but the back garden with an equal amount of spoil had no exit apart from a small gate leading to a very narrow path leading to a lane leading to the road. This would have tripled the time on the job due to dragging stuff backwards and forwards.
The customer does not see this as ‘work’, it’s not actually the cutting down of trees but clearing is just as important and the working conditions can often double the cost. I’m looking at another job which takes place on four levels which can only be reached via 12 narrow steps. the chances of having an accident are markedly increased and therefore we have to go slower. I’m going to charge three times what I normally charge if the job was on level ground and had easy access to a removal vehicle.
The first couple when told what the bill would be accepted it with enthusiasm but then rang me back to say they had been a little bit overwhelmed and could not afford even the lower price I gave them. It is very difficult to tell whether someone has the money to pay you and you don’t want to be suspicious of everyone and demand money in advance, although I know some people do for example lawyers or solicitors who will demand £5000 down payment in any commercial matter. But I don’t want to get like this, I would rather trust everyone.
Some people have never had a quotes before and have no idea what to expect and think back to a time when £10 an hour was a reasonable wage for cash in hand or as they think is cash in hand. anyway I realise that after paying their mortgage, this lovely young couple didn’t have two pennies to rub together and called us as a crie do coeur because the uncle who usually did the hedges was not immediately available. There is no way that I can think of to determine in advance whether someone has the money to pay. The only precaution I can think of is to tell people that it will not be less than say £300 and if they jump against that they will probably not be able to pay what the trader is worth.
The second person was a lady of senior years who used to work in the NHS. She is living in a large house in a village that has very little community spirit and is thinking of moving elsewhere. She is deeply appreciative and grateful of the help we are able to give and always makes sure we are adequately compensated. It’s not often you meet someone of 87 years of age who is as bright as a button, will hold their corner with anyone, sees the implications of something in a flash. I love such people and admire their spirit.
I’m also thinking of very rich people who got rich by being mean. they will always try to beat you down because that’s what they do. In that case you need to simply stick your ground and say “that is the price”. In other words take it or leave it. On the other end of the scale you have the very poor people, sometimes on Social Security, who really cannot afford anything but are in desperate need normally due to physical infirmity to have their garden at least looking respectable. In this case I will sometimes work for less than I know I should do as an act of social service and so long as this doesn’t happen every day I don’t mind.
Another safeguarding factor is to get everything in writing. I will give people a quote verbally and then e-mail them. And I will tell them that before the job can start they need to confirm the offer and in effect make a contract. This makes people more serious, we could say it concentrates the mind wonderfully. Money brings out the best and worst sides in people. Gardening is slightly better than other trades because it is personal and the trader is well advised to get to know the people and treat them as human beings. This not only makes the transaction more satisfactory, it enables the exposure of any problems a person might have in making payment.
I am in the countryside where a lot of people know each other.I’m quite happy to take a cheque especially if they are living on the property because they’re not going to go anywhere. You stand or fall by your reputation in the country and word does get around very quickly. In big cities I would hesitate before taking anything other than cash.
I once worked for a woman who said that she was unable to pay very much for a job but then let slip that she was thinking of buying a flat in another city as opposed to the large house that she had just to try and see what it was like living in another place. This woman has plenty of money. The newcomer is better advised to state the price and keep to it. I tend to say to people that they do not pay unless they are satisfied with what I’ve done and I always go round at the end of the job and discuss it and ask if there is anything else they want done. There is nothing worse than ending the job on a bad note because you drag the entrails around after you.
Having said that, there is a saying that you cannot please all the people all the time. You can give identical service to people and some will pay with a beam on their face, some will just push the money and you with hardly a smile on their face and be glad when you’re out of the place as quickly as possible.
Such is human nature and there is plenty of it around.