The subject line actually refers to a Facebook thread that I started last week about plumbers and other handyman scum who try to rip you off in any way possible. Let me explain…
Our kitchen sink was clogged and no regular solution would work (plunger and special unclogging liquid), so I called a plumber. The price would be €138 all-in for 1 hour of work, including use of materials and possibly new pipes. A bit high if you’d ask me, but it was almost 18h00 and I had no time to call around. Besides this company had a nice looking website (as if that matters) and the guy sounded like a professional.
Two days later two incredibly muscled plumbers arrive. They quickly come to the conclusion that my pipes were blocked (I had not yet figured that one out myself!) and they had to use an iron spring machine to solve the problem.
This machine was basically a regular drill with a special part attached from which a long spiral cable would come out. Same thing as you may buy for €5-10 in the DIY-store but then professional quality and much longer. The machine broke initially down and they had to repair it which cost about 10 minutes. After that it was a piece of cake. Within 2-3 minutes the pipes were free again and water was streaming like it had never done before. Edgar and his wife happy!
But then it was time to pay. Indeed, €138 was mentioned on their printed form, but on top of that I also had to pay €80 travel costs. For my business I really cannot claim more than €0,3363 per kilometer on my tax forms, and since they came from Brussels, I really don’t want to know what they are charging per kilometer (maybe €15-20?). Anyhow, we agreed on a fixed fee and this would also be included. But what’s even worse, they wanted to charge €275 for the 2-3 minute job to unblock the pipes. Whaaaat?
The total would then add up to almost €500 for a visit of maybe max 15 minutes (had the machine not broken down). Of course that amount was also excluding 21% VAT, so the total would come to a whopping €605. FYI, companies must show prices including VAT to private customers.
Here is my offer… If you can find a lawyer or a doctor or an accountant or any other professional in Brussels who officially charges that same amount for a 15 minute job (i.e. €2400 per hour), you win a free trip to the Champagne on Saturday. SERIOUSLY!
Long story short, I was anything but happy to say the least and told them to get out of my house immediately after I had paid them €140. I must say that it was anything but brave from me, but having an argument with two “gorillas” was not pleasant at all. It is fair to say they didn’t threaten me physically, but I wonder how many expats are too afraid to stand up against such closet-sized criminals. From some messages I got through Facebook I know that many people pay way too much and are simply ripped off time and time again for such simple jobs in and around their houses.
THIS MUST STOP AND I NEED YOUR HELP!!!
Although it is not only a problem for expats alone, but as Director of Expat Club I can reach out to thousands of international people in Brussels and also have some negotiation power with businesses. Therefore I have decided to compile a list of trustworthy handyman partners, such as plumbers, carpenters, electricians, lock smiths, gardeners etc. If you have had a positive personal experience with such service providers in Brussels, please send me their contact details. I will create a list, hopefully with some key prices like basic charges, hourly fees, example problems like a clogged pipe or forgotten keys, and share that with our community.