Stung by a dishonest tradesman. Am I morally obliged to attempt to recover $180?

I wanted have my new TV wall-mounted. I found online a well-known company which offered a “free quote”. I applied and they responded with a time for a tradesman to call. When the tradesman arrived I explained the scope of work and then he just started immediately to work on the job, without quoting and without mentioning a charge, and without permission. I assumed that he was working then at some standard rates, say $90/hr.

While he worked he was cheerful and friendly, establishing a good report and building trust, and I did some of the work with him where a second person was required.

Three hours later he informed me the job was done and he was working out the bill. Then he confidently announced “564 dollars” and stood there with a mobile EFTPOS machine expecting payment. The job included some material which I didn’t know the cost of, so I took him on trust. I found my card and paid, but requested that he send me an invoice. Three days later the invoice had not arrived so I reminded him, and then it turned up. There is clearly at least $180 of overcharging in it.

Now, I know the story will sound like I’ve been a dupe. I haven’t. I normally exercise reasonable caution with my money. I can see that this man is an experienced con-man and from before he even walked through the door he was set on overcharging me. There is an element to this which may be specific to Australian culture. In Australia we have a strong ethic of egalitarianism between men. No matter our position we are all “mates” and it is socially offensive for a man to distrust a tradesman. It would have been offensive for me at any point to interrupt him and demand to know what he was doing, or to question the bill. As I said, this man was obviously very experienced at this “sting” and ran it like a pro.

In my defence, I say that at least I requested an invoice, where none had been offered! He looked at little surprised and affronted by this, and delayed and fidgeted in taking my email address, as if I as meant to say “Oh, don’t worry about it”. After that, I still had to remind him three days later!

So, that leaves me overcharged by at least $180 and with a reasonable case to pursue. I know enough of the law to know that I have some chance of reclaiming the money. The essence of my complaint is he did a “bait-and-switch” on the original offer of a quote. Bait-and-switch is illegal. The tradesman would have known that I had asked for a quote, and that his job was to give it before starting work. He was either dishonest or stupid - and he wasn’t stupid.

I seem to have three options:

  1. Leave a scathing but truthful review on the company’s web-site;
  2. Pursue the $180, first through his company and then, if necessary, through the law;
  3. Pray for him, offer my hurt as a penance, and move on.

For myself, I’d prefer option 3. $180 is a significant sum, but it is also not worth hours of effort, with anxiety and distraction spread over weeks. Option 1 requires maybe an hour of effort, but may cause me anxiety as I leave my name on this public, permanent review.

My resistance to option 3 (praying and letting it go) is that the tradesman did this scam with such intent and confidence that he clearly does it regularly. I feel that I owe it to potential victims to take action now. I also feel that I owe this to the majority of honest tradesmen.

Hence the title of this question - am I morally obliged to take action to recover $180?

I just want to emphasise this point…

I remember, when he jumped into the work without quoting, thinking that maybe he is stupid, or that he’s just inexperienced and wanting to make a good impression of “I’m a get-going sort of guy”.

Bait-and-switch is illegal because when a company offers one thing and then withdraws it and switches immediately to another after the consumer has invested time in an enquiry, it is not the consumer’s job to interrupt the flow to go back to the first thing. Hence the original offer is deemed as “bait”, because the consumer is already on the way to being “hooked”.

I think I’d write a letter/send an email to the Customer Relations folk at the company’s Head Office, rather than getting involved in stressful phone calls.

You’re right, other people may get a bigger “sting” and find themselves in real difficulty because of it. However, I assume the work was done properly, so it’s simply the inflated costs and the lack of clarity about price that is the issue.

I’d report it to the company and request a refund. I would also report it to the Australian equivalent of the U.S. Better Busienss Bureau, Federal Trade Commission, or state Attorney General.

Non, you are not obligated to do anything.

Don’t let workmen start work without a price in writing.

Sorry for your difficulties.

Live and learn. It will cost way more to attempt recovery, and probably not work. Go with the scathing review and contact the local Better Business Bureau, name names! And next time be more cautious!

Thankyou* so much*, everyone, for reading my long post and replying!

It is a comfort.


The (nearly) unanimous response seems to be that I should not do nothing, for the sake of justice and for other small victims of this tradesman and the company. $180 is enough to take action on.

I think my case is not with the tradesman, but with the well-known company which offered a “free quote”, and then, after I responded, got in the door and forged ahead with the job and eventually overcharged.

Interestingly, there seems to be a difference between Australian and US Law. Australian law is strongly geared towards “either litigate, or forget”, whereas the US seems to provide for reporting to civil authorities. Just “reporting” to Australian authorities is a waste of time.


~ Edmundus


Thankyou :wink:

I suggest you write to the company initially threatening to go to the Consumer Affairs Bureau in your State. Also Current Affairs on TV may pick up and run with the scam. They have success in outing these cons. You might even mention them in your initial letter to the Company. As an Australian lawyer my best advice is not to go to small claims court. It is not worth the time or money. Leave it to your initial letter to the company and then your complaint to the Consumer Affairs Bureau. Otherwise, write it off as a lesson learned. You know where you erred in your dealings with tradesmen. Remember, never trust anyone. It is a maxim that has worked for me both professionally and privately all my life. Good luck.

Ok, you got duped. But to say Australian social customs prevented you from saying anything is rubbish. Yes we (I am Australian) are egalitarian, but we also call out BS when we see it.

Contact his company and if they don’t help you contact Fair Trading.

His company offered me a “quote”. I accepted, investing my time of an email response, being there when he turned up, and explaining the job. It was his job to provide a quote, not mine to stop him when he did something else.

He knew what he was there for.


I guess I really just don’t understand the sequence of events. Why would you let him begin a job if you don’t have the quote?

Dude. If I lived anywhere within striking distance would have come to your house and mounted the TV for about $50 bucks and a sandwich.

How did they itemize that invoice? I just can’t see how what you say you had done could have POSSIBLY amounted to that sum.

Interesting. :slight_smile:

After I explained the scope of work he said “I’ll get my stuff” (word-for-word) and went back to his van. I assumed he was getting something to do with the quote, such as tape measures or costing documents.

A few minutes later he returned with tools and bustled in, asking me to help him with moving the TV.

A very clever con. No Aussie man in this position would say “What about the quote?”.

Once again, I accepted an invitation for a “free quote” from a reputable company. Having accepted, it is not my job to prevent a bait-and-switch.

Two words:

Cultivate them.

There’s no way I would hire someone to do this.
No way. The mounting hardware comes with instructions.

Samsung TV comes with NO (ZERO) instruction on wall-mount.

Obviously they are aware of the complications.

It’s always your job to protect yourself from a con my friend. Learn to say wait a minute!

Any time you feel you are being rushed into something, it’s probably a con.

The old saying (in America at least) " you want it bad, you get it bad" is always applicable!

I can’t believe what I am reading. No Aussie man would embarrass himself by asking for the quote first?

It is ridiculous for you to even call this bait and switch. That is not what this was. You really need to take responsibility for your lack of action. You stood by on the basis of some free quote and then blame them when you didn’t get it? Ridiculous.

The Wall mount hardware sold separately, comes with all you need.
Where did you buy THAT from?

I needed some sewer drains replaced in my house. I called over one plumbing contractor and asked for a price. He said 7 or 8 hundred dollars. So, I said, which is it, $700 or $800. And, then he said $800.

There were a couple changes in the lines from the existing setup, and I still hadn’t paid them any money.

So, I watched the work proceed and the job was done adequately according to my specifications. If they had not done the work correctly, I would have considered paying them the lesser amount.

Story #2. I recently contacted some attorneys (I don’t know if you call them solicitors) about my will and estate planning. What I noticed was that they did not volunteer any information about the cost of their services. So, I had to push back a little and ask about prices. Well, it turns out they wanted 10% of my estate, to handle the legal matters. I think there’s plenty of room in this world for fair attorneys who charge reasonable rates.

Hold on to your money tightly and spend it like it was the last dollar in your pocket – do you really need this or that?

In this case, did you really need somebody to do this (what I consider a do-it-yourself) job?

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