A week after moving into our house and the night before I was due to fly to Germany on a business trip, the hot water cylinder tank decided to spew litres of boiling water from the first floor of the house.
Perhaps I am unlucky, but a similar thing happened in our house in London one evening. On that occasion, we called an emergency plumber to help stop the torrent of water as it rose unrelentingly.
If you've ever called an emergency plumber in London, then you'll know that by the time they have finished the bill is larger than the value of your house. I know plumbers need a certificate to fit gas appliances, but it seems when it comes to fixing leaks some have a licence to print money too.
So you can imagine when it happened a second time, in a house we had just got the keys for, I was thinking this is going to be painful.
I Googled local plumbers and found one two streets away. He arrived 15 minutes later, stopped the flood and told us what it would take to put it right. I braced myself for the inevitable fleecing, wondering if I'd need a second mortgage to pay this superhero. I asked how much and he told me £15. I laughed, thinking this was his way of softening the blow, but no, this guy wanted £15, the bill for the same job in London had been £350, just to turn the water off at the mains.
Of course, I paid him on the spot.
Since that event about 18 months ago, Mike has attended to several minor plumbing tasks in the house - find a competent and decent tradesperson, and they are worth their weight in gold - perhaps that's how some emergency plumbers calculate the bill?
Anyway, we are about to embark on a new building project on our house ala Grand Design kitchen, which makes my studio build seem like a weekend DIY job. I can't help think this is my wife taking revenge, or at least reminding me that anything I can do she can do better and bigger.
Part of the process of creating this new kitchen is to demolish the back of the house. One part of that houses the oil-powered heating system, something I've hated since moving to Ireland; it requires I remember to order oil. When I lived on the mainland, I just turned on the heating and gas magically powered into the house. So we needed to replace the oil-powered boiler with a new gas one.
We needed to have a gas supply installed first by a gas company. When they fitted it, they told us they could offer us a great deal on replacing the boiler, interest-free credit for two years, what a great offer which I thought was too good to miss. Then they told me I had to use one of their 'accredited suppliers' (for the word accredited read the word kickback.)
My hero plumber Mike was not on the list and therefore couldn't get this job worth £3000.
Then I remembered all the times I had done favours for clients, little jobs to get them out of an emergency, on the promise that when the big gig came then I'd be the one to get it. I bet you've heard that line too? The fact is that seldom did they keep their promise.
One of the values of the blog is 'do the right thing, whatever the cost.' It's easy to say something like that but if you mean it then sometimes it is going to cost you money.
I had two options, interest-free credit or find the money some other way. I decided the right thing to do was to take the hit, miss the 'cheap money' and give Mike the work. He deserves it.
I don't think I'm a saint and I'm not telling you this story for any other reason than to say this, we often complain about people who promise us a great job if we do them a favour and then who let us down when the megabucks job happens. But if we act in the same way then we are no better. I'm hoping that my small act of taking care of someone who took care of me will be contagious.
Last week I won moron of the week. I put my baby daughter in the car and put my wallet on the roof as I was doing it. Then I drove off!
As far as I was concerned, I was never seeing my wallet, cash, cards and driving licence again. A few hours later I got a call from the police; someone had found my wallet and taken it to the police station.
Decent people still exist.
There are a lot of people in this industry who will let you down, who will offer you work and then not keep their promise. It seems we all have a list of stories of this kind of stuff happening to us; it's enough to make you wonder why you bother - it's a fair question.
But let's not allow those negative experiences rob us of the opportunity to do the right thing when presented with the options. Even more, let's not allow the poor attitudes that pervade our industry stop us from doing the right thing... whatever the cost.