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Feedback: Come on, Mary, be fair to artisans

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The other day I was talking about cleaning and checking your chimney before lighting fires. Helen sent this...

The other day I was talking about cleaning and checking your chimney before lighting fires. Helen sent this:

Hi Don. Chimney sweeps are alive and well. A chap was recommended on our community Facebook page, with glowing references. He charges R500. 
Two weeks ago, I was trying to help Eloise with a floor tiling problem, and she has responded:
Thanks so much for your helpful column. We are closer to solving the problem now.
I emailed CTM’s DIY department and received a prompt reply from Zanele, followed immediately by two phone calls from Charles and Wilby at the Somerset West branch. They were also extremely helpful. I have included their email. I was both surprised and impressed. They phoned my builder to get details and phoned me back at the exact time they said they would.

Here’s Eloise’s email from CTM:

“As per our discussion it seems your tiler either used the wrong cement, did not put sufficient cement on the tile, or did not use expansion joints when he laid the tiles. It is a ceramic tile you bought and the recommended cement to use on these tiles is Flexigrip (20kg) at the price of R61.90 each that you can buy from any CTM.”

I think CTM are to be applauded for following up on the problem, but I am concerned they seem to have commented without visiting the site. I’ll keep you all posted on this one.

Last week Mary was querying a price she had been charged by a plumber for a call-out for a blocked drainpipe emergency. While I agreed that in this case the price seemed exorbitant, I was dismayed that she thinks doctors and dentists, who are more highly qualified and have far higher running costs, don’t charge as much.

I would like to put in a word for the contractors out there who always seem to be accused of over-charging compared to other professionals. I have always thought this to be a little unfair. 

In parts of Europe and the US skilled artisans earn a fortune compared to their counterparts here. We don’t realise how lucky we are.

Obviously, everything is relative and it depends on who you choose to use. My dentist charges a lot more than Mary’s plumber, but I trust him and choose to go to him. 

Let’s look at a doctor in a small practice with one receptionist. He does not come to you. You spend time and money going to his rooms. We forget the contractor must travel to your home using his own time and transport. The doctor writes a prescription or sends you for an X-ray, which involves more of your time, travel and costs.

If the contractor gets it wrong, nine times out of 10 he bears the cost of putting the problem right, whereas you either pay for follow-up visits to the doctor until the problem is solved or, in the worst case scenario, you pay for a funeral. Add in the cost of your medical aid, or God forbid a spell in hospital and an operation, and then the contractor does look cheap.

Of course it costs more to qualify as a doctor or dentist than it does as an artisan, and they are worth the money they are paid, but to judge all contractors under the same umbrella is harsh. Punish the rip-off artists, but be fair to hard-working honest contractors.

Handy Mac, aka Don MacAlister, is our expert on household DIY issues. If you have a question for him, please send it to or SMS only to 082 446 3859. Find Don on FB:
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