This was one of the first of my vituperative onslaughts, after my first encounter with tradesmen’s fees in my first basement flat.
The faded tissue-paper carbon copies of the correspondence were at the back of a very old file.
… And the hourly rate has its own tale to tell…
Dear Mr Xxxxxx,
I have received your account dated October 31st, 1979, relating to work carried out at the above premises on October 16th, 1979, and feel sure that there must be some simple explanation for the extraordinarily high figure it contains.
The work took less than two hours to do, and even allowing for labour costs as high as £5.00 per hour, it would be hard to imagine how a basic figure as excessive as £20.00 could be arrived at. Perhaps there was a typing error and the figure was intended to be £10.00 – still considerable, but rather more reasonable as a price.
I look forward to having clarification from you about this, and thank you in anticipation.
Yours faithfully, …………
In reply to your letter received today and our account for the sum of £23.23p including v.a.t.
We have checked our charges and find them to be correct. The time charged is for four hours at £5.00p per hour, which includes travelling time to and from the job for the plumber, as well as time for the van and our driver.
Dear Mr Xxxxxx,
Thank you for your letter of December 10th, explaining how you arrived at the charges contained in your account. I now have no hesitation in enclosing my cheque for £11.73, being payment in full for the services of a plumber at the above address, including his travelling time and the use of two brass screws and wall plugs, the total incurring VAT at 15%
That you find it worthwhile to employ a man at £5.00 per hour to occupy the seat of a van and read the newspaper is your privilege: it is certainly not one that I consider myself called upon to subsidize.
Yours faithfully, ………..
A long correspondence ensued, involving Legal advice, Trading Standards, and an article in the local paper. The firm finally withdrew their charge for the man in the van, and I agreed to pay an extra half hour for ‘investigation’, despite their original claim about ‘free estimates’…