How to not get ripped off by a tradie

Does the solution lie in having another dude onsite?

Being a single woman is a lot of fun. Starfishing across the double bed in a state of untrammelled flatulence, using Nana’s EZ Reacher to pick up dropped marshmallows, you can wonder just what it was you ever needed a man for.

Until something breaks, and you have to call in a tradesman, thus entering a baffling period similar to negotiating public transport your first day in a foreign country while simultaneously suffering debilitating jet-lag.

Because, and I don’t want to get all gender-specific here, boys grow up speaking hammer and nail, and girls, despite sweeping changes on the Barbie-Ken continuum too recent to benefit me, do not.

Just as men fail to realise ‘interesting’ is an insult when it comes to dresses, women are generally not familiar with the technical specifications of the Black and Decker skill saw. Well, not enough of them in my immediate vicinity to be of any help.

Which is why, after a long delay, several false starts and some truly debasing pleading on your part, when a tradesman finally comes up your path wearing a hi-vis vest and reinforced trousers, sucking air between his teeth and saying “No” a lot and “I think the laws of gravity would prevent it,” – a single woman not smart enough to have placed a pair of size 11 gumboots on her back doorstep is going to be ripped off.

This useful advice was penned by NEXT columnist Lisa Scott.

It was inevitable, really, the minute she said “Oh, thank you for coming!” instead of “Hey buddy, you were supposed to be here two weeks ago.”

The ripping off will go a little something like this: “What would that cost?” asks the single woman in her lovely soft voice, handing round bits of caramel square (the minute a tradie has a piece of cake in his hand, your credibility goes out the window).

“Ffffffffffffff…” the sparky sighs, trying to work out whether to go first or business class on their next holiday.

“You’ve got circuit breakers, new switchboard, busbars, cable – which is a nightmare now with the price of copper – and cutout switches.”

“Ballpark figure?” asks the single woman. As innocent as Bambi and about to suffer the fate of his mother.

“What’s your budget?”

The single woman names a figure representing all the money in her bank account. This turns out to be exactly how much the job will cost.

And this happens because a woman will twitter on in a self-deprecating manner in a desperate attempt to make the plumber/roofer/builder like them. I know you want them to think you’re nice, but tradesmen don’t want you to be nice to them.

‘Nice’ is not a language they speak; they speak ‘job,’ a dialect consisting mostly of one-word sentences: “Dig. Bolt. Jib” and if you don’t have a man of your own to act as translator, it’s going to be very ‘stranger-in-a-strange-land’ trying to get anything done.

The solution: Do what I did – borrow a man from somewhere.

He can be another woman’s husband; in fact this is the only time when this is acceptable – the key is to make sure he says absolutely nothing, just sits there, picking his teeth with a knife, or whittling a vampire-sized stake, and that he is quite large.

Ask the tradie how much the job will cost, turning to check with borrowed man who should make nothing more intelligible than a ‘grrr’. You’ll find the quote will fall within reasonable parameters.

Last but not least, and this is going to sound a tad simplistic: Do not sleep with said tradesman. Speaking from experience I can tell you there is no quicker way to ensure absolutely no building than sleeping with the builder.

I don’t CARE if you are emotionally all over the place because you’re getting divorced and he made the mistake of patting your hand sympathetically. I don’t care if his tool belt is sexy.

Hear me single woman, avoid the builder’s crack. Do not go there if the reason said builder is at your place is to do a job. One job at a time, people.

Words Lisa Scott

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