‘TV Shows have a lot to answer for’ says Mica May; Marketing Director of Stopcocks Women Plumbers. She believes they encourage unrealistic expectations.
We all watch them, the makeover TV shows, the build a new house from scratch TV shows and the turn-a-derelict-building-into-a-stunning-home TV shows.
Most of us don’t take on the enormous, potentially relationship and bank balance wrecking projects they feature, but our taste, aspirations and expectations are strongly affected by them. We’re all looking for the ‘Wow factor’!
A relatively affordable piece of ‘Wow’ is a bathroom transformation.
New tiles, stunning showers and wet-rooms fulfill our need as a nation for sleek lines and minimalist luxury in place of our old bath with crumbling grout and lots of places for the dreaded black mold to form.
Although our plumbers do plenty of diagnosis and fixing of plumbing problems, the other main work they complete is planned renovations. The creation of dream bathrooms is far more pleasing for customers than stopping leaks and getting central heating working efficiently. And we all know they can increase our home’s value – if they’re done well.
We think TV shows are responsible for a few misconceptions.
On one hand are shows where a room or a house is totally transformed in a weekend by a massive team of professionals and often helpful neighbours too. These TV shows can easily give the impression that timescales are in control of the tradeswoman. Unrealistic expectations are built with false jeopardy for viewing excitement; ‘will they finish before Judy gets home from her well deserved weekend away’, ‘will she cry with joy or horror?’ The numbers of people working on these projects for a TV show is never reflected in real life and therefore, it’s really not possible to complete real-life projects in the kinds of timescales shown in the TV shows. Plus, to get a good professional finish takes time and skill. High quality workmanship and detail is not something that can be accomplished with a film crew and director with a stop watch breathing down your neck. Sometimes we see just how slapdash the finish is as these projects are carried out, but as the camera sweeps over the room and joyous Judy’s face, it doesn’t dwell on those important rushed details, that will drive you crazy if you pay for and live with a makeover.
Please, when you get a professional in, give them a realistic time to complete the quality job that will give you joy not headaches in years to come.
An even bigger issue is the one of prices.
In many house beautiful TV shows, especially the ones showing bigger projects, home owners are encouraged to insist that their tradespeople agree to a fixed price, so that they don’t go over budget – although it appears that in the vast majority of cases they do anyway.
What isn’t explained in the TV shows is what a ‘fixed price’ actually means to customer and tradesperson.
In the first instance, any quote or price a tradesperson is asked to commit to has to include ‘contingencies’ and worst case scenarios. Yes, the householder knows what they will be paying and the costs won’t escalate, but in order to not cut their own throat that price has to be at the top end of the ballpark to cover these. It has to be pitched artificially high. If the job is simpler and takes less time than envisaged, the householder will have paid over the odds.
Its more often the case that the time a project will take has been under-estimated – often because the implications of each element of work were unknown prior to commencing or because the householder has taken time making decisions or even added to the job as it has gone along. If the householder has insisted on a fixed price in this event, the hard working tradesperson can literally find themselves working for nothing. Although as a nation we’re usually not keen on bargaining and negotiation, many of us feel that it is expected of us to get the tradesperson to cut and cut their price because (in a different group of programmes) tradespeople are portrayed as a group happy to rip customers off and who will have added zeros to your price anyhow. Small wonder then that they might rush and skimp.
The vast majority of tradespeople working in UK are running their own very small businesses with the same cashflow issues we all experience – except the difference for them is that there is no regular wage – income comes in as jobs are paid for, so low or late payments can have a huge effect on cashflow, meaning they may not be able to pay out to employees and even sometimes causing the whole business to crash and fail!
If you are able to create a good and honest relationship with your skilled tradesperson and they are interested in you becoming their long term customer – they will give you prices that are fair to you both. They know that you will come back to them only if they are fair to you.
I wish that the TV show directors would consider what the implications of their ‘negotiate tradespeople down’ instructions to householders can be. Their ‘guidance’ influences a very large proportion of the UK public and has a direct effect on the incomes of hard working tradespeople and also, on the quality of work carried out in your home. If you want a tradesperson you can trust, please don’t ask them to work for nothing.