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Monday, December 01, 2008

Surely You're Joking

Most would assume that the expenditure of money is the only thing that separates one from the dark ages and the 21st century. If you read my posting The Dark Ages (see here), you can see the state of a radiator in a certain individual's apartment (see the renovation here). That individual, thinking as any reasonable person might, expected that spending money and hiring a professional who came highly recommended would easily remedy the situation.
The photo shows the finished job. The assignment was to remove the old radiator and replace it with a smaller, more compact model and install it at floor level away from the wall. What I got was the radiator propped up at an angle on two hacksawed pieces of conduit, thus avoiding the work of removing riser pipe. I was assured the uneven heights of conduit were necessary to create the pitch necessary for water flow in the steam system. The whole arrangement looked like a circus act. I was shocked and awed.
Now the most common suggestion from others for a simple solution to this type of problem is always: have him come back and fix it or even hold back payment.
But the real problem is that I made a grievous error in hiring. The contractor was not really capable of doing this plumbing job to an acceptable standard. So what avail is it to have him come back? The work would have to be policed and micromanaged - an extremely stressful process with dubious outcome. No, better to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous work and hire another to make it right.
Why do we suffer so? Because New York City has a captive audience for residents and generally speaking, for these types of services in rental properties, the individual has virtually no consumer leverage. Take it or leave it. I understand this type of problem is not unique to the city, but it is very exacerbated in New York.
In hindsight, I think the best response to the completion of the work, had I not been so stunned, would have been "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Contractor." *

* Note: The book Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman is a collection of anecdotes by the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. In one story, Feynman makes a serious faux pas at a party to which he is told "Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman."


Anonymous said...

Can I say, I find it ridiculous that you have "no consumer leverage" in regard to trades people. I live in a town of 8,000, give or take, where we have a choice of TWO plumbers. Since one of them is fine and the other is very good we make out okay, but I'm sure in small towns across the world there are folks wishing their one and only plumber/electrician/carpenter wasn't a complete idiot.

Mary said...

Oh, Brian--

So sorry!

I had something similar to your installation done by a plumber at my house upstate. For some reason they don't like to cut existing pipe and rethread it in situ.

Brian Dubé said...

It is ridiculous. And having a large supply doesn't seem to help. Unless you go bottom of the barrel, contractors rarely act hungry for work. And any competition certainly doesn't improve quality, only pricing.
You are exactly right, however they should have said that originally. Instead I got a an joke of a job. A new floor needs to be done - this work would look absurd in co

Lily Hydrangea said...

he did leave you with a very shiny golden valve thingy though!
glad your sense of humor is intact.

Mary (from WSP) said...

My Florida friend, who has just finished a major kitchen renovation on her pied a terre here in NYC saw this. She said she'd be happy to recommend her contractor. (And she got nice radiator covers to hide a multitude of sins.) Communication of exactly what you expect is also recommended.

Xine said...

That is so New York! You can pay $2000 or more a month and still live with things like that. Unless you've lived there, it's hard to fathom. So I won't be quite so down on the crappy work I get done here (in Mexico) because my rent is under $400 and the sun shines nearly every day.

But I do love that shiny piece!