The tradie who gives tradies a bad name
THIS year's tradies rich list is out.
According to ServiceSeeking.com's number crunching of 121,000 quoted jobs around the country a Melbourne builder had $372,000 worth of quotes accepted making him that site's top tradie.
But more interesting and relevant to Joe and Sally Householder are the top 10 charge out rates - averaged - for tradies Australia-wide.
These start with removalists (average hourly cost $93.24 and up from $90.49 last year), followed by plumbers at $83.04 an hour, electricians at $75.71, handymen ($56.73), carpenters at $55.71, landscapers at $51.02, plasterers at $48.18, painters at $45.95 and cleaners at $33.41.
NSW removalists capped the top 10 by location list followed by their counterparts in South Australia, while Sunshine State builders charged into the top 10, taking sixth place with an average hourly charge-out rate of $88.63, up a whopping 33 per cent since last year.
Queensland removalists were seventh at $87.77.
We seem to have a love-hate relationship with tradies.
Though let me state here, lest he gets wind of this, that I've nothing but affection for No. 3 son, a sparky, even if he does lack enthusiasm for doing freebie electrical repairs for his poor, enfeebled old Mother. But I digress.
At the water cooler or a mate's barbie, there's often whingeing to be heard about how much it costs to get a plumber out on the weekend to sort the blocked solid toilet.
But give me a tradie any day over the embarrassment of rent seekers floating around in the jobs pond these days, not to mention ASX100 CEOs whose median pay in 2017-18 rose 12.4 per cent to $4.36 million, the steepest rise in 17 years, and never mind the bonuses. (Domino's Pizza boss Don Meij topped that list, pocketing $36.8 million).
In the main I regard tradies as fine folk who, having often done some very hard yards in long, poorly paid apprenticeships, then emerge to do tangible, clever things most of us can't do for lack of skill, equipment, time, intestinal fortitude (aka can't be arsed) and so on - like build a deck (or anything really), ply an electric eel in obdurately clogged pipes, teeter on a bouncing plank 40 feet up with a tin of paint for days on end, or solve a very worrying stormwater drainage problem in the storage area behind the laundry.
Mostly what they charge is a fair cop, given they too deserve to earn a decent living through their hourly rates which also cover all the costs of plying their trade - including all the necessary tools, insurance and a decent vehicle (though a super top of the range ute, smothered in chrome and decked out with a luxurious trip up Cape York in mind is taking the valid business expense piss, fellas).
Let's face it, a good tradie - one who quotes fairly and does a good day's work for a fair day's pay - is worth his or her weight in gold to the average householder, who will cherish a satisfying encounter and revel in sharing their good tradie fortune with others.
Sadly, for the many good ones, the memory of the odd bad one lingers.
Like "George" who rang while I was driving to work one morning earlier this year.
George was a principal in what looked to be, if their flash website was to be believed, a medium-sized building firm that would do a top notch job and the right thing by you.
I'd emailed asking for a quote to rebuild a partially rotten deck. I thought George was ringing to ask when he could come and take a look, measure it up and so on. But he surprised me by barking, "How long is it?"
Smothering the urge to drop into reciting an obscure Monty Python sketch about cannibalism in the Royal Navy, I said, "Well, I'm not sure. It's not particularly big. When can you come out to quote?"
"No need. If you paced it out, how many roughly?"
"Well, um, maybe two to three by three or four. But I'm not sure whether any of the joists are also rotten but, also, with the railings, it's not just …"
He cut me off. "It'll be between $15,000 and $20,000."
Well, pick my pockets and call me Fleeced.
Trying to be helpful, I pointed out it was about a quarter of the size of the deck on the other side of the house that had been rebuilt nine years ago, but which also had the roof redone, for about $9000.
George was unimpressed. "Why don't ya get that bloke back then?" he dared.
"I would but he's dead." After which, shortly thereafter, the line between George and me was too.
Most people I've bored with this anecdote agree George is one of those bad penny tradie types who just "try it on", perhaps occasionally when he has enough work, or isn't interested in another smallish job, or maybe all the time because he's a greedy, unconscionable prick.
They're right and we've all experienced the Georges.
I've had other similar things happen - like with a quote for some small changes to a bathroom that was so extreme I flew into a rage and haven't been able to think about it since, and for the aforesaid drainage problem ("What? I just get a written report for $1000?").
But the bottom plumb line is there are plenty of decent tradie folk just aiming to earn a fair living, to offset the money-grubbing or dodgy ones.
And when you find one, like young chippy Brendan who did a grand job on the deck for little over $5000, or builder Graham, who sorted the drainage issue without the benefit of a $1000 preliminary report, tell 'em you love 'em, and sing their praises to all your friends and neighbours from your smartly repointed rooftop.
Margaret Wenham is a Courier-Mail columnist.