My husband has taken the chequebook with him

Colin Blamire of The Fitted Kitchen Ltd in Aylesford, Kent, gives his views on Trevor Scott’s “liars, cheats and b******s” opinion piece in the December issue kbbreview (pg15)

I have found that many customers do fall into that category – usually ‘professionals’, such as schoolteachers, doctors and solicitors. By and large people – among those currently of an age to be our customers, anyway – who went to university on a grant, went to training college on a grant, who turn up for work and get their pay cheques regardless of performance. Solicitors perhaps do not fall exactly into that set of circumstances, but they still do not like to part with their money.

Bitter experience has taught me that if the money is not paid in advance, or when the delivery van arrives, there will be an excuse along the lines of “my husband/wife has taken the chequebook to work with them”. Oh, yeah! When the driver says he will have to take the goods back, an “old one with just a single cheque left” is often found.

We tried creating an atmosphere of trust by not taking deposits (I know, I know!), but that trust always ended up one-sided. I have rarely been stung by normal office workers, tradesmen and blue-collar people. They are usually desperate to pay. Unfortunately, they also fall prey to scammers.

As for the installation being paid directly to the tradesmen, this has its problems and this is the real reason for my letter.

I always had a team of tradesmen to whom I guaranteed work. And when there was none, fortunately not often, they were paid half-pay as they were for bank holidays and a, perhaps mean, two-week annual holiday. That created an ongoing availability of skilled labour, which worked well for everyone. This cosy arrangement had to stop when the rules became stricter, but there is a way round it.

The other problem was VAT. Our local VAT inspector on one occasion was adamant that, if we nominated a supplier and supervised the installation, we were effectively employing the subcontractor and thus liable for VAT. Indeed, a business I know in our area was caught for this. It may not be picked up or applied in every VAT area. If anyone knows better, I would be pleased to be put right.

And, of course, some customers simply do not want to be bothered, hence the attraction of dealing with the likes of us. We will take on the whole job – no hassle.

I now have ‘self-insurance’. I operate strict terms, with a £1,000 retention. The fitters ask for that on the last day of the fit. Any fault complaints are dealt with there and then and if the client wants to retain any monies, a sum is agreed and the rest of the £1,000 must be paid. If they do not agree, the remedial work (unless it’s faulty labour, of course) will not be done.

And to cover the losses, 2% is included in the job cost – because a cost it certainly is – as cover for those losses made. It is sufficient to cover those a***holes who want to rob us and is not significant enough to lose us a job.

It is sad that many have to pay for theft by the few, but that is what insurance essentially is.

And NEVER deal with building contractors…


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