Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
Plumbers and ghosts
Well, maybe. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
Quick points before we get into it all today…
Regarding the happiness and income survey results I shared yesterday, I think several readers hit the nail on the head in the comments:
“Bill, I think a lot of people equate “happiness” and “money” in terms of security. It is not that you can buy MORE with more money. It’s that you can buy SECURITY to know that money is not a challenge.” (Link)
“Money buys security. Happiness comes from within. Your choice whether to complain about everything or whether to appreciate things. If you have a negative attitude, that dramatically affects your happiness level. It’s a choice you make.” (Link)
“I don’t believe money necessarily buys happiness but it definitely buys security and stability and removing those as stressors certainly makes achieving happiness easier.” (Link)
A few others made the same point. Anyone want to borrow a trove of data to do a PhD thesis on the relationship between security (or lack thereof) and self-reported happiness?
Next week, I’m going to do an “Ask Me Anything” event. Not sure why I haven’t done one before. Tomorrow, I’ll include a way for people to ask questions ahead of time. Premium members will be able to watch it live, help guide the discussion as we go—and if there’s interest, a few of you can even go on the livestream with me and ask questions via video.
For today, I have a guest post to share. They say all writing is autobiographical, and I suppose that extends even to what strikes my interest and makes me say: “Hey, can I share that with my readers?”
There’s a non-working fireplace in my 120+ year old house, with very narrow dimensions. After a bit of research, my wife and I realized that it was likely a coal fireplace that was actually used for heat rather than decoration back in the day.
The “thing to do” with these, if you want some aesthetic value, is apparently to install a gas fireplace insert.
So, we asked a contractor to come out and take a look. He measured the whole thing, figured out where to get a gas insert small enough to fit, quoted us a back-of-the-envelope price, promised to follow-up.
Then, he ghosted us. One hundred percent. Seriously, I was afraid the guy had been hurt or killed or something. I called, texted, etc.
“I’m here: The price sounds fine, when can we do this?”
Not a word in response. My wife and I joke about it sometimes. “Honey, want to turn on the gas fireplace? Ha ha ha, that’s right, we don’t have one.”
Now, if you know me at all, you know I’m prone to overthinking. Was it something I said?
So, I sat up and took notice when I read the post I’m going to share below, from a plumber explaining why contractors show up at people’s houses, take measurements, promise to get back in touch—and then disappear.
Did I cause this? One way or the other, it’s an interesting perspective, and maybe one that a few others will get value out of hearing, too.
Here’s our guest writer: Johnny Cataneo…
Plumber and ghosts
Recently, in response to a post about why contractors sometimes disappear after looking at a job in your home, I offered the observation that contractors interview homeowners during those meetings, just like you interview them.
They might not see a good fit.
Sometimes, small comments during the process are serious red flags. Here are some big ones that come up frequently:
1. "I’d do this myself, but I just don't have the time."
The contractor hears, "Your skills are no better than mine but your time is worth considerably less. So, I might as well pay you as little as I can get away with to have you do this for me, so I don't have to."
2. "I've gotten a few prices but they seem insane/high to me."
The contractor hears, "I'm completely unprepared to value this work properly. Any number you give me that is close to representing the job's real costs will serve as confirmation you're all in cahoots with each other, ripping off your clients."
3. "I want you to get the materials, fixtures, etc. because you get better prices than me."
Don't be surprised if a contractor takes issue with this idea or if the prices you wind up with aren’t much different than if you provided your own fixtures and finish materials.
Home Depot put a stop to the deep discount disparity in building material prices between contractors and homeowners long ago. Today, if a contractor gets any discount on materials, it's modest. It’s there for the contractor to mark up on and maybe pick up 2%-5% on that one item.
Do you really need to take that away from his/her profit? The profit is the only reason you're having the conversation.
4. "My quotes are higher than normal because of my address."
Here's a big one I see in the community forums. I am a partner in two plumbing companies. One is local here in NJ and the other performs service work in NYC.
In short, you have to get over yourself. This idea that I'd charge you more because you live in [insert town] or for that matter, the Upper East Side or Tribeca, is absurd.
The closest you can come to validating this otherwise insulting idea is what happens when I’m dealing with very low income families—where the money to do certain jobs is just not there, and water damage, freezing, carbon monoxide, or fire safety is at risk.
Then, yes, I will lower my price. I’ll find a way to get the heat or water on at minimal cost, using existing materials. I’ll figure out something.
I recently did a job for a family with small children in an unsafe basement apartment. After we fixed a boiler flue problem in their home, they blocked my number.
They are not going to pay me and I'm not going to pursue them. As contractors, we have to acknowledge true desperation when it presents itself.
Now, is this your situation? Are you in a position of true desperation? No?
That's why you'll be quoted for direct job costs, plus about 15% to 20% in profit, regardless of how impressed you are with where you live.
Every client deserves professionalism and respect. But becoming a client takes some consideration on the homeowner's end too. Hopefully we can all reach the finish line together, with mutual happiness.
7 other things worth knowing today
"Why some travelers, including myself, don’t plan to stop wearing masks on planes anytime soon." I take SERIOUS issue with this article, because grammatically, it should be "me" in the headline, not "myself." Otherwise, I as someone flying with an elementary school child and leading by example, yes, I'll keep wearing a mask (at least sometimes). (The Points Guy)
Netflix’s stock has tanked, down 35% in a single day, after the streaming giant revealed it lost a net 200,000 subscribers so far in 2022 (including a loss of 600,000 in the US and Canada, offset partially elsewhere), and that it expects to lose 2 million more before July 1. Context: It's still by far the largest streaming service. (CNBC)
SpaceX says it shut down a Russian electromagnetic warfare attack in Ukraine last month—and the Pentagon is taking notes. (Defense News)
Florida’s state senate voted Wednesday to end a special tax district for Disney World that basically lets the Mouse run the area as if it were the government. A problem for Florida taxpayers if that happens is that Disney owes $1 billion in outstanding bonds; if the special district is dissolved, local governments are potentially on the hook for it. (WSJ, Yahoo News)
I don't write much about the royals, but it seems significant for Prince Harry, son of one presumed future king and brother of another, to say that the United States, not the United Kingdom, is "home." (Today)
Canada banned almost all foreign home buyers for two years, in an effort to cool skyrocketing residential real estate prices. Critics say this is like attacking the fourth or fifth biggest contributor to rising prices and leaving the others alone; corporate funds buying homes to turn them into rental properties is actually a bigger factor. (Axios)
The U.S. Capitol was shut down briefly and partially evacuated due to fears of an unauthorized plane entering the airspace over the building Wednesday. It turns out it was carrying parachutists who were jumping on the Washington Nationals' baseball team's park, as part of Military Appreciation Night; somebody forgot to tell the Capitol Police. (Fox News)
Thanks for reading. Photo credit: Pixabay. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.