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:
- Leave a scathing but truthful review on the company’s web-site;
- Pursue the $180, first through his company and then, if necessary, through the law;
- 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?