Three quarters of tradesmen falling victim to rogue customers

More than three quarters of builders say they are falling victim to rogue customers with many tradesmen reporting that clients disrespect their work and routinely ask for discounts, a new study reveals.

According to a survey by insurance firm AXA, eight out of 10 tradesmen say it is common for customers to have a cavalier attitude towards their safety and wellbeing, while many clients also attempt to belittle their expertise.

The research also found that builders regularly encounter customers who attempt to knock down the agreed fee or avoid paying them on various pretexts – pushing back payment deadlines or disputing the fee only once work is complete.

Some types of behaviour are self-defeating, as clients unwittingly hinder work or prevent the tradesman from carrying it out properly.

The most common ways customers undermine a building project, as voted by tradespeople, are:
- Insisting on cheap or unsuitable materials
- Not providing clear job specs (contrary to myth, many tradesmen prefer a written agreement)
- Ignoring their advice
- Asking them to do tasks they aren’t qualified for
- Hanging around while they try to work

Another bugbear is having to work around animals that are not properly under control, a further 27 per cent of tradesmen complained of poor working conditions, while 26 per cent say they have had a customer flirt or attempt to seduce them in a way that made them feel uncomfortable.

“We live in a society which tends to look down on skilled manual work in general, often undervaluing the knowledge, judgement and craftsmanship it involves,” says Gareth Howell, managing director of leading trades insurer AXA.

“It’s hard to imagine someone in a white-collar role encountering such high levels of harassment or casual disrespect. People are quite happy to argue a builder’s fee down once he’s finished work, but would they do the same to a dentist, solicitor or architect?”

“Tradespeople are the best insured small businesses in the UK and follow health and safety regulations designed to protect customers. But it cuts both ways, householders have a duty of care towards people working in their home too: at the most basic level, provide a clean work space, and ensure animals and children are well out of the way.”

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