analytical Q May-Aug 2000 Sept-Dec 2000 Contact Discussion

The Diary
Anne Ku

18 November 2000 Saturday





Last evening I called my friend who was supposed to meet me for dinner but cancelled. She was as mad as hell.

"The boiler didn't work. So I had to call around for an engineer. The kitchen needed something else done. So I had to get a plumber. I spent five hundred pounds on these people! And there's still no central heating!"

I tried to calm her down by telling her that I had spent an equal amount of time searching for a plumber, an engineer, etc. I had also spent a lot of money on mediocre but necessary work.

She asked me why builders were so inefficient - always stopping to get more parts. Why couldn't they measure what they need and get the materials all in one go?

I suggested that perhaps these workers were all profit maximisers. Since you rarely need plumbers except the odd occasion or emergency, they will tell you horror stories and charge a lot of money. Alhough the initial estimates may be free, they will charge by the hour, even if the job takes only five minutes, as in her case. Since builders typically work at a site for a week or more and they charge by the day (certainly the hourly rate works out lower than the plumber's), they will deliberately prolong the job by taking tea breaks and visiting the do-it-yourself centres more often. It's not in their interest to be efficient.

"Are you defending them?" she accused.

"No," I answered,"I'm merely trying to make you feel better. Wouldn't you like to charge your tenant as much as possible?"

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