Treat Your Tradespersons Fairly

Written by Harold McNeill on March 31st, 2010. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts


mary_poppins_chimney_sweep

By far the majority of tradespersons are hard working, honest people who will do a days work for an agreed upon price.  Some employers however, some who can well afford the rate, will turn around and try to stiff the tradesperson.

The 911 operator received a mid-afternoon call from hysterical woman screaming that she had just been assaulted. The barely coherent woman gave her address and two cars were dispatched Code 3. A record search revealed no previous calls to the residence, a large, upscale home in south Oak Bay.

Another patrol officer and I happened to be nearby – we responded immediately. Although there were no previous to calls to the residence, we approached as “high risk” not knowing what might have transpired. After parking several houses back, we did a quick scan of the street then covered each other as we approached the house. There was no one in the yard, no car in the driveway and the curtains were open. I approached the front door while my partner covered from the side away from the window.

About half way up the sidewalk, the door suddenly swung open and a woman in her mid sixties came rushing out. She was completely covered from head to toe in a black substance. Her appearance reminded me of a farmer having worked all day in a hot, dry, dusty field. The whites of her blinking eyes and the flash of her teeth stood in stark contrast to the black that covered her face. Although extremely upset, we were able to ascertain the suspect had fled the scene driving a white, windowless mini van with a ladder attached to the top.

When we entered the house, the living room was a disaster. The carpet, chesterfield, chairs, tables, drapes and walls of this toney home were covered with soot. Slowly the story began to emerge. The woman had contracted a chimney sweep to clean her fireplace and chimney for an agreed upon price of $50.00. The sweep completed the work in just under one hour. He packed his ladder and tools back on his truck and went to collect.

The woman became upset saying he had been less than an hour. She was adamant she was not going to pay any labourer $50.00 for one hour of work. Her “sense of prvilliage” even covered black came through loud and clear. She was barely able to conceal her distaste for these menial things and considered the fee for a common labourer to be “outrageous”. An argument ensured.

We learned the chimney sweep would not accept a penny less than $50.00 – the woman would not pay a penny more than $25.00. Finally, we were told by the woman, the sweep told her were she could put her $25.00 (we can all guess). He then stormed out of the house and she slammed the door behind him.

The sweep, however, was not finished with the job. He went to his truck, pulled down the ladder, climbed back on the roof with a bucket of soot in hand and dumped the entire content down the flue leading to the living room. Following a 30 foot drop the soot billowed out like a prairie dust storm. The woman, who had been bending over touching up the hearth, took the full blast as the soot rushed past her into a living room filled with antiques and other expensive furnishings.

The lady would now settle for nothing less than the man being arrested and charged with assault. From our perspective it was a civil matter. We advised her to contact her lawyer and take the matter to civil court if she wished. That, of course, upset her further and we became the targets of her wrath. We departed, leaving her standing in the ruins of her soot blackened living room.

After work that afternoon we stopped for a beer and toasted the chimney sweep. We could not help but think the sweep was probably having a beer with his buddies telling them it was the best $50.00 he had ever spent. It would have been interesting to learn if the woman ever pursued the matter and, if she had, how a civil court judge might have ruled. Hopefully (once the judge stopped snickering to himself) he would rule that she got her just deserts.

The moral – always treat your trade people fairly.

Harold McNeill
Victoria, BC
January 2010
Location: Victoria, BC

Dec 30 226

 

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  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.