Wednesday, 04 November 2015

The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 6 November

When a tradesperson fails to live up to a recommendation, the urge to give feedback is best ignored, says Thomas Blaikie

Written by Thomas Blaikie
Dear Thomas,
I asked a friend to recommend a plumber, but she took offence when I told her the person concerned had been expensive and not very good. I thought I was giving ‘useful feedback’ as I believe it is called. Would it have been better to have said nothing?
John Heaton, Cardiff

Dear John,
Frequently we prefer a personal recommendation when trying to find a plumber, electrician, builder, solicitor or other professional or tradesperson. The Yellow Pages or even websites that are the TripAdvisor equivalent for plumbers, etc, aren’t sufficiently reassuring. We’d much rather have someone known to someone we know. But, looking at it from the other end as it were, making recommendations can be a thankless task. Often you never even hear if they’ve used the person’s services. All you hear, in fact, are complaints. Because of these difficulties some people refuse to get involved at all, which is a pity because their electrician, etc, might want the work. Personal recommendation is the vital oil in the whole business of domestic contractors and, you would hope, sorts the wheat from the chaff.

Perhaps your friend should have told you a bit more about her plumber when making the initial recommendation. I often say, ‘can be temperamental’ or ‘be firm about an estimate in advance’. Just because they’re being recommended doesn’t mean they’re perfect and it often happens that the same contractor is thought utter heaven in one home and pure hell in another. It must be a matter of personal chemistry. But think carefully before sending a bad report back to the recommender. Were you unduly fussy? Did you snap at the plumber for being late?

Could there be some other reason why she/he took against you? You ask if it would be better to say nothing at all. I can count four occasions when I have recommended tradespeople to friends who have subsequently complained to me about them in quite a major way. On one occasion I intervened, which was not a good idea. The trouble is that when people are having work done in their homes they are often overwrought and ready to find fault. But if you ask for a recommendation it’s entirely your responsibility what happens after that. I don’t think it’s at all fair to start taking it out on the person you put in a potentially awkward position by asking for suggestions. So unless you’re going to be diplomatic and indirect about it (‘Things didn’t quite work out – but it was probably mainly my fault...’) then, yes, say nothing at all.

Please send your questions to or write to him at The Lady, 39-40 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9ER

What To Do About… WHO ARE YOU?

It’s always a much-loved rock-bottom moment when a celebrity, if given less than their due in a filling station or multi-storey car park, screams, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ Well, on 25 September 2015 approx, in the Hull area, the driver of a red Citröen Picasso decided that the person on the motor scooter in front of him was failing to turn right with sufficient promptitude. An altercation ensued between the enraged motorist and the laconic motor scootist, which the latter just happened to be filming and later posted on YouTube. For the most part the encounter is unremarkable although unpleasant until, that is, the driver says, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ ‘No,’ says the scootist, ‘who are you?’

‘I’m Ronnie Pickering,’ announces the driver indignantly. ‘Who the f**k’s that?’ ‘Ronnie Pickering! I’m Ronnie Pickering,’ the driver further urges with impressive certainty. The irony is that Ronnie Pickering, previously known to only a small circle of family and friends, is now huge. Everyone in Britain knows who he is thanks to YouTube. Why don’t we all adopt his approach? I like it. The rest of the population jolly well ought to know who we are.

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