Being on house arrest or going on a blind date are both probably more straightforward than having a repairman (cable guy, plumber, electrician, butcher, baker, candlestick maker, etc.) come to your home. At least on house arrest you know the terms of your confinement and on a blind date you know for a fact there’s a 75% chance you’ll be murdered—you aren’t guaranteed the same assurances when a repairman shows up.

 ________________________________

It starts with a leaky basement, some bad cable reception, or a clogged drain. In the moments that follow your discovery of a household problem, you’ll be in denial, as evidenced by your frantic Google searching for “plumbing tips for the buttcrack aware.” Once you or your sibling/spouse/friend/parent/neighbor/landlord has insisted on “trying something” that makes the issue seven and a half times worse than it originally was, you’ll resign yourself hiring someone who is (or claims to be) a professional.

A good repairman is hard to find, because before consulting traditional means like Internet search engines or the YellowPages, you’ll insist on poring through your memory rolodex of what I call “repairman mentions.” Repairman mentions are instances of people mentioning the skilled laborers they know in the course of regular conversation:

“Oh, you took a bubble bath this morning? Speaking of grout, my brother knows a guy who does beautiful work!”

“Hey, I noticed your new kitchen faucet is ugly, did I ever tell you I have a friend from college who does plumbing work on the side? He laid some pipe for me, even did a little rodding… He’s very thorough.”

Everyone reacts to repairman mentions the same way when they happen. You’ll say something like, “Oh really? You know a grout professional? You simply must pass his information along! Thanks so much for telling me!” What do I need a grout guy for? My grout is immaculate!

No one ever mentions the tradesmen they know in your actual time of need. These people only seem to exist when everything in your home is in working order.

So you’ll endure the strenuous process of mentally reliving every empty conversation that took place at weddings, wakes, and parties you’ve attended over the past five years; eventually, you’ll recall that roughly two years and four months ago your friend of a friend of a friend’s sister’s boyfriend was working for a plumbing company and allegedly “did good work.” (For some reason, “doing good work” is the standard to which all repairmen are measured.) Unfortunately, the couple has split up since then, so you won’t be sure what the etiquette is surrounding the commissioning of a friend of a friend of friend’s sister’s ex to fix your clogged pipe. Rather than run the risk of offending your friend of a friend of a friend and her sister, you’ll decide instead to strike out on your own and hire someone completely new.

After flipping through the YellowPages for ten minutes like an Amish person taking a break from barn raising, you’ll decide to visit Yelp, a website where desperate people attempt to extrapolate useful information from reviews written by strangers who all fancy themselves undiscovered novelists:

yelp

Since Yelp is about as reliable as a comment thread on ThoughtCatalog, you’ll decide to finally check out Angie’s List after successfully ignoring their commercials for several years.

The main difference between Craig’s List and Angie’s List is that while Craig’s List has a robust listing of low-key prostitutes, there aren’t any official reviews! On Angie’s List, legitimate businesses are rated and accompanied by crowd-sourced reviews written by other users so that people in need can make an “informed” repairman hiring decision.

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 6.39.34 PM

This is exactly what you’ve been looking for! Angie’s List to the rescue! What a wonderful service!

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 6.40.44 PM

…Until you realize you’re expected to pay to see the ratings and read the reviews. Reviews that are written by people who pay a membership fee to discover reliable businesses and write reviews about them. It’s a lot like Yelp–only you pay Angie money like she’s the madam of a handyman brothel. Suddenly the, “Angie’s List is there to resolve any issues” seems a lot more sinister…

Why would anyone ever think this is a good idea?

The founders of Angie’s List claim that reviews presented by paid members, are more reliable than reviews posted on other websites such as Yelp because “Companies can’t pay to be on Angie’s List. Reviews come from real people like you, not anonymous users.”[5] However, this quotation was taken off of the main page of the website because most of the revenue for 2013 came from advertising companies. [6]

Of course! May I also add, I have some serious doubts that the users of Angie’s List would be accurately categorized as, “real people like [me].”

Once Angie (AAAAAAAAAANNNGIE) and Yelp finish their tag-team assault on your waning repairman morale, you’ll ultimately decide to listen to your heart and hire Pulled Out a Plum Plumbing (based entirely on its clever name). After approximately a week of phone tag, you’ll schedule an inconvenient appointment to have one of their plumbers check out your clogged drain. It doesn’t matter if the repairman gives you a four-hour window or he pinpoints a specific hour, 78% of the time he’ll be late, 34% of the time he’ll reschedule, and 8% of the time you’ll never ever hear from him again.

It’s thirty minutes before your appointment (or before the dreaded window begins), and for the first time since the last time a repairman came, you’ll be dressed like a modest human being in your own home. You’ll have pants on. A bra. Maybe even socks without holes. You’re dressed so completely that if someone were to knock on your door right at that moment, you could simply stroll over and answer it without making a mad dash to find a giant sweater or some sweatpants.

If you ask me, I would rather have a potential love interest, relative, or friend see my messy house than a repairman. At least I have a chance to compensate for my sanitation shortcomings with the people closest to me; an isolated clog, on the other hand, may be the only chance I have to make a cleanliness impression on a repairman I’ll likely never see again! Cleaning (read: hiding) my mess is of the utmost importance.

RAMPAGE

Besides, what if the repairman you get is part of a new reality show called Repairman Rampage where real repairmen show up with a camera crew to document all the disgusting ways people live? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my unmade bed, toothpaste covered bathroom sink, or cluttered countertops broadcast on television.

What I like to do is consolidate my mess in one room of the house and then shut the door. Even then, I’m paranoid enough to wonder: what if the pipe is somehow routed to the master bedroom and he needs to get in there and sees the giant mess!!!!!!!!! How could I possibly explain this mess is truly an amalgam of all the other messes in the house!

While you wait for the repairman, eyeing the door to your “mess room” as if it’s suddenly going to fly open and expose your concealed hoard, you’ll be doing that weird thing where you sit on your own furniture all uncomfortably like you’re in a doctor’s office waiting room. I’m pretty sure the arms of furniture only exist for moments when you’re apprehensively waiting around.

It’s officially time for the repairman to arrive, but despite peeking out your window like the neighborhood shut-in, you don’t see any signs of a truck driving by. You then experience a fleeting moment of panic during which you consider the possibility that you missed him. Maybe he knocked so lightly you didn’t hear! Wouldn’t he have called? Maybe he was so pissed he just took off! …Is it possible he’s dead? Is today the wrong day?

You’ll go pee for the fourth time (you don’t want to tinkle with a repairman in the house!), and decide to settle in a little while you wait. You put your feet up on the couch and drape yourself in a blanket. You’ll have just pressed the power button on the television remote when your phone will ring, and for some reason, it’s in the furthest room of the house from you are. You’ll do a sprint, stub your toe, and try to answer the phone without sounding breathless:

“Hello?”

“Hi, this Jack Horner from Pulled Out a Plumb Plumbers. I’m on my way over to your house, though I’m not really familiar with your neighborhood. Right now I’m at the corner of Not Anywhere Near and Your House, can you tell me if I’m going in the right direction?”

“No, no, actually you’re about 30 miles off. You’re going to want to turn around and go back the opposite way you just came.”

“OK. Be there in five minutes.”

“…Five minutes? I’ll make sure my neighbor isn’t parked in my helipad again, because evidently you’re arriving by way of helicopter.”

With the repairman’s imminent arrival, your palms will start to sweat. You’ll try and convince your pets and/or children not to embarrass you when he arrives, but in your heart, you know they inevitably will. The doorbell will finally ring, and you’ll scuttle to the door nonchalantly. After all, you don’t want him to think you were just waiting around for him! You’re capable of passing time productively!

When you open the door, Jack will never look like the composite description you had put together based on his voice alone. This will worry you a little because if he does stab you and steal your stuff, you don’t have very long to memorize his actual features and put out of your mind the thick neck and strong jaw you assumed he’d have based on his gruff voice. Even though you’re a little scared, there’s a passing moment where you wonder if Jack is the one. Maybe he’s the blue-collar Mr. Big to your Carrie Bradshaw (only less dysfunctional). More reasonably, this could be your big formulaic porn moment!

Nah. Stabby serial killer Jack is much more likely than soul mate or sex tape co-star Jack.

You’ll show former imaginary lover/potential stabber Jack where the trouble is and recite everything you know about the problem, along with your own personal assessment of what you think is wrong, because for some reason, none us ever realize how stupid we sound telling a professional our flawed, preposterous hypotheses:

“It’s right here in the kitchen sink. I use this sink for rinsing on a daily basis, and you know, I really think the prior owners used a bathroom sink pipe out here instead of a kitchen sink pipe. I mean, I’m not a plumber or anything like that, but that just seems to make the most sense to me. I moved all my Pine Sol and Windex out from under the sink to get a good look, and the pipe seems unusually narrow, in my estimation. That’s probably what caused the clog.”

Jack will benevolently humor your silliness, but once his crack comes out and he gets to work, you’ll have an important decision to make: are you supposed to stick around and keep Jack company and answer any questions he has, or should you leave him to his work and act as if a stranger isn’t indecently exposing himself in your house?

If you decide to leave Jack to his own devices (because you don’t want him to think you don’t trust him, even though you don’t), you’ll go sit in the other room in silence contemplating the probability of him killing you. After all, if his appearance isn’t what you expected, who knows what other miscalculations about his character you may have made based on his voice alone… He did seem to glance at the knife block. Maybe he just likes to cook.

“Excuse me?”

Oh no. Shaken from your daydream of Lifetime’s dramatization of your murder (I call dibs on Emmy Rossum playing me in a movie about my death!), Jack will require your presence.

 “Ma’am, do you have about four feet of .33 millimeter copper wire?”

“Uh, no. I’m afraid not…”

He’ll react as if you told him you don’t have any Band-Aids or cinnamon on hand. With a heavy sigh, Jack will hoist himself up from the floor, “Well, then I’m going to have to go back out to the truck.”

At last, we common folk find something in common with the repairman: we all act as if it’s some horrible inconvenience to walk out to outside to our car to get something we’ve forgotten, as if that item is trapped in some fortress that requires significantly more effort than walking, pressing a button, and pulling a handle to obtain it.

You’ll hover near the door while Jack gets his supplies, because you’re not sure if he’ll feel comfortable letting himself back in, or if he’s going to ring the doorbell all over again. Eventually, he’ll come back with his copper wire and get back to work.

After a round of gratuitous slamming noises, it’ll sound as if Jack’s finally settled into a working rhythm. With your laptop on your lap, you’ll meekly settle in the couch to check your email—

“Excuse me, ma’am?”

Son of a– When you find Jack, the smug look on his face will tell you everything. The big moment has arrived: it’s time to endure one of the repairman’s favorite parts of the job: delivering an incomprehensible technical monologue that makes you feel like an unfit human being. 

“In my professional opinion, it appears that the central flow of your main line was obstructed by some sort of build-up caused by the accumulation of nutrition and lubricant remnants. This can be a serious problem if you don’t keep an eye on it.”

“I see… That is very troubling, indeed. Just to clarify what you’re saying here, you found a protein bar and lube in my sink? Because if so, I know you probably hear this a lot but, that’s not mine.”

“Oh, no no, nothing like that. I know how confusing this can be for people who aren’t familiar with piping and drainage best practices. Essentially what I uncovered was a mass of sustenance remains and blubber of sorts.”

“Ah, I see… Well, I do admit I am ignorant of so many of these plumbing matters. But let me get this straight… Food and grease is what clogged up the drain?”

“I suppose in a manner of simplistically elementary speaking, if you were to put it in layman’s terms, yes, that’s right.”

Jack will pack up his stuff and go out to the truck to write your invoice, and you’ll indulge in your latest act of repairman masochism: making your own determination of what the services provided are worth.

He was only here about half an hour… Say labor is $50. I didn’t need a new pipe or anything. But I didn’t have the copper wire… Will that be counted against me? I bet he’s going to charge me for equipment… Why didn’t I ask if several unwrapped paper clips would suffice? That’s going to cost me… Okay, so let’s say $150. Maaaaybe $175.

The illustrious Jack will return and present you with the invoice, and with every fiber of your being you’ll try to keep your face from conveying the palpable sense of screwing-overing that’s taking place on the three-part form in your hand. In that moment, you’d like to take the white, yellow, and pink copy and shove all of them right up Jack’s ass for having the audacity to charge you the amount he’s charging.

When you turn away to write out a check and quietly blot your tears with what little dignity you have left, you’ll really start to consider what all your options are. What if you told Jack you simply refuse to pay that amount? What could he do, anyway!? You’re closer to the knife block, now!!!! All you have is a verbal contract! You could tell the judge Pulled Out a Plum Plumbing assured you that the cost would be reasonable! You could accuse Jack of copper wire malfeasance!

“By the way, you have a beautiful home. You wouldn’t believe some of the disgusting shacks I usually see.”

gomez

You’ll cross your t’s and dot your i’s and gladly fork over that check to that wonderful, kind-hearted Jack. You even so far as to offer Jack a bottle of water for the road. For a full second, you feel a kinship with Bertha Habblesworthy from Papillion Palisades. Sure, you may not be able to afford getting another clogged pipe fixed again anytime soon, but Jack the repairman complimented your humble home, and that’s tantamount to a feature in Good Housekeeping!

Jack will head out to his truck and sit in your driveway for fifteen minutes while you anxiously wait for him to back out so you can undress. He’s probably texting his boss how he just charged someone 65% more than industry standard for a routine unclogging.

After loitering entirely too long, Jack will finally leave and you can redistribute your mess and go back to being the pantsless person you truly are inside. Free at last, you’ll lazily flop down on the couch, making a solemn vow to the limit the use of everything in your home to avoid dealing with another repairman anytime soon.

26 thoughts on “A Good Repairman is Hard to Find

  1. God yes! I had someone come out and tell me they were going to charge me $500 per drain (that would have been about $2000 and he didn’t even bother to diagnose the problem correctly before making this distinction of how much the problem would cost!). I sent them packing, and even had the company refund me the $40 charge they demanded just to come out! Finding someone good is very difficult. The last plumber I had here tried gauging me after a shoddy job. I’m sorry, but if you fuck it up and I ask you to come back out and make it right a few days later, I am NOT giving you more money. You’ve never seen two grown men run so fast from a 5.3 1/2″ woman before in your life! I didn’t even raise my voice, I was simply assertive. They claimed I was yelling and screaming. If I had been, half the neighborhood would have heard me.

    I think Angie’s List is expensive just to be able to see who is supposedly good and who isn’t, and honestly, I don’t trust the reviews. The one supposedly “this is the best” recommendation I have gotten also didn’t bother to diagnose the real problem, but was happy to tell me it would cost over $7000 and would that be cash, check, or credit. I’d like actual proof before you tear apart pipes that might be old, but fine. I know most people would agree with me on that, whether they rent or own. It’s a nightmare dealing with this shit.

    1. I don’t think you can trust the reviews, either. The fact of the matter is, you really never know what kind of company you’re dealing with until you actually have them in your basement making outlandish claims about the thousands of dollars worth of work that you need. I also hate when they make those threatening comments like, “I can’t believe it’s lasted this long!” or “How has no one noticed this before?!” You can’t trust anyone unless you’ve got someone who does the work in your family, even then, you never know. It’s always so stressful.

  2. Haha, I love this line: “When you turn away to write out a check and quietly blot your tears…”

    This was me last week after being screwed over by 2 different plumbers and ending up with someone from Angie’s List who was amazing and yet I still paid $985 out of pocket. I swear if anything else happens to my house I will just abandon the thing.

    1. Holy crap! I just want free access to Not Expensive or an Asshole list. Please just fix my house as cost effectively as possible and leave.

  3. I like Yelp for finding places, most of the time I haven’t been disappointed as far as reading good reviews and then the place being horrible. Then again, as far as repairs go, I haven’t had to schedule one except for my phone/internet service (which was interesting enough in itself.) I did find a good mobile windshield repair person on Yelp. But as far as the repair contractors I’ve gotten to my house that my landlord found were not so great.

    1. My boyfriend’s landlord always these Polish people who barely speak English doing all the apartment maintenance. He had to have a lock repaired not long ago, and the guy that showed up spoke essentially no English, and I felt bad like I was being rude for pointing and gesturing to things to get him to understand, but I didn’t know what else to do!

      As for Yelp, I’ve noticed that it’s either totally accurate or way off. A friend and I went to the Russian Tea Room in the city once for tea time, and all the reviews were saying it was great. We weren’t remotely impressed. But sometimes it can spot-on for restaurants. I don’t think I’d ever trust it for repairs/services.

  4. You have people who tell you before a problem that they know someone? That’s so much cooler than those knuckleheads that tell you later “oh, you should have told me…” as if you’re supposed to know to clear plumbing decisions thru them

    1. It’s not as if they tell me right before. Maybe they’ve all be prophecies… I hate that, too, especially when they get mad. “WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME! So-and-so is looking for work.” Well, excuuuuuuse me.

  5. To save money, I do everything myself. Which means I demo/remove the issue and then let it sit unfinished for weeks/months while I strategize how I’m going to finish it up and subjecting everyone else in the house to live around the mess I made. It’s great!

  6. This is hilarious and I has no idea I was not the only one who does these things when a repairman comes. “you’ll be doing that weird thing where you sit on your own furniture all uncomfortably like you’re in a doctor’s office waiting room”…I laughed through the whole article!

    1. Thank you! You are definitely not the only one! Once I know a stranger is coming to fix something in my house, I can’t do anything normally until they’ve left. I don’t even like to eat or drink with them there, because I feel like I’m throwing it in their face that I can prepare a meal and they can’t.

  7. When I was a kid, my dad, who is quite the handyman, always motivated me to assist him in repairs in order for me to learn some skills. However, at 16, I was more into girls and comic books than pipes and mechanics, so I never bothered. I acquired a different set of skills though, but back to my point…

    Needless to say he often went into a frustrated-rage-fit, shouting: “Well, then you should just make sure you earn enough money to pay someone to repair your shit, one day!” I laughed it off as parental disillusion. But like we all learn when it comes to fathers and their opinions…He was right.

    I pay people a lot of money to fix my shit. And I’m not sure I’m earning enough…

    1. To be honest, I don’t think I could every possibly earn enough to justify paying the prices these people set. I might actually feel better if they were more honest on their invoices:
      EQUIPMENT I ALREADY HAD IN THE TRUCK FEE: $75
      EXAGGERATED LABOR FEE: $45
      RUSTPROOFING NOT RELEVANT TO REPAIRS: $100

    1. Why don’t we have this kind of stuff in Chicago!? Okay, maybe we do, and I haven’t looked hard enough… It just takes so much effort to find the right people.

  8. When it comes to repair services, it’s always best to research and shop around. Researching beforehand helps to figure out who best fits your needs, keeps you protected, and your costs low overtime. Thanks for sharing your information!

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