Tuesday, 30 October 2007

T-mobile account management

This is priceless: because we now have a certain number of lines with T-mobile, we have been assigned our own "account manager".

But we can't get hold of this person (no direct line, and if they are unavailable, and presumably most of the time they will be on the phone to other customers given that that is their job, we have to leave a message. We have been waiting a day and a half for a call back so far), so we can't place an order for more lines.

Best of all, the ordinary people in the call centre are NOT ALLOWED TO HELP US. Only our account manager can now access our account. Last week (before we hit the magic number of lines which entitles us to this "improved" level of service) ordering a new line meant making a call, sending a confirmatory e-mail and handset would arrive the next day. Easy.

Now we have to wait for our "account manager" to call us back to carry out the trivial task of adding another line to our account. Just awesome.

Need any odd-jobs doing? Visit www.0800handyman.co.uk

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Should I have discounted this bill?

Just come off the phone after a very difficult conversation with a customer who is convinced we were overcharging her.

We attended her rental property back in August and carried out a list of jobs for her (she was not present).

She has a clear recollection that our man, Morgan, called her at 2.30 in the afternoon and said he estimated he had another 30mins to go. So she thought he finished at about 3pm. Morgan's jobsheet records he finished at 4.55pm, two hours later than that.

She is convinced Morgan made a mistake on his jobsheet. We are convinced he left at 4.55. We think this, because:

(a) that is what he wrote on his jobsheet
(b) he remembers calling the customer mid-afternoon, but does not think he said he would be finished in half-an-hour
(c) he didn't do any other jobs that afternoon: if he really did finish at 3pm for sure we would have sent him on to another job
(d) he recalls being there till pretty much the end of the day

On the other hand, it is hard to understand why the customer can have such a clear recollection of this conversation about finishing in half-an-hour if that conversation didn't take place. My best guess is that conversation did take place, but Morgan just underestimated what else there was to do, or later on noticed some other tasks on the list, or whatever.

(Note that the customer does not think Morgan was fiddling his hours, she just thinks he made a mistake)

The situation is not helped by the fact that this all took place in August - the customer says she discussed all these issues a while back with someone else in our office, but whoever that was didn't note down the details of the conversation and / or didn't act on it, which is a bit of a cock-up, to be honest. Had we dealt with this whole issue a week after it happened I suspect it would have all been a lot easier.

Anyway, as I did in a similar situation which I posted about here, I stuck to my guns and insisted that we charge for the time which we firmly believed we spent there.

We had already discounted this bill for other reasons: (1) we had originally charged her 30mins for a visit which had to be aborted because the tenants would not let us do the work at the appointed time, we agreed to waive this charge; (2) she felt that because we had had the benefit of seeing the work during the original aborted visit we should have come with all materials ready for the second successful visit and not spent time fetching them during the second visit (we always charge for time taken to fetch materials, but we agreed to waive an hour of the second visit again as a goodwill gesture) (3) we bought a tin of paint which was the wrong colour (no argument there, we shouldn't have ever charged for that).

So, we had already discounted 1.5hrs off this bill, but the customer wanted another 2hrs off. I declined to offer this.

I am sure the customer will pay the revised bill, but she is convinced she has been hard done by and will no doubt be relating this tale to her friends. If you are that customer, and are reading this, please feel free to post your version of events as a comment and I will publish it.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Freephone number back up

Looks like Opal have fixed whatever it was that they broke and our freephone number (0800 426 396) is back up.

Opal freephone numbers down - please use our landline: 0207 978 6674

Opal telecom's entire bank of non-geographic numbers (including, helpfully, their own customer service numbers) seem to be down this morning, and that includes our own 0800 number.

Please kindly use our landline:

0207 978 6674

until Opal fix this.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Is flat 18% capital gains tax (CGT) really so bad?

Gosh, everyone (e.g. Real Business, Supper Club, FSB, etc.) really is up in arms about Darling's new flat CGT tax. I thought we free-marketeers were supposed to like flat, low taxes? Isn't that what our next chancellor, George Osborne, keeps talking about?

Sure, if you sell your (long-established) business in May of next year, then 18% vs 10% looks tough. But if you buy some shares now, and make some money, and sell them in May of next year then 18% vs 40% looks good to me.

We do very well in this country when it comes to government-approved ways of avoiding capital taxes (EIS allows you to invest in an unlisted company and pay 0% CGT; EMI allows you to get share options in a company and pay 0% CGT; ISAs let you buy listed shares and, yes, pay 0% CGT; plus Child Trust Funds, etc. etc. Don't rock the boat, all this other stuff might fall off).

Politicians usually tinker around the edges of the tax system. You've got to hand it to Darling for being a bit ballsy - it is quite daring to just cancel, in one afternoon, a plank of the tax system that has been around for decades. Well done. I still might sign Duncan's petition though.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Retail maintenance

Further to earlier post about office maintenance, worth mentioning that we also do plenty of maintenance in shops.

Similar types of jobs, to those we do in offices, things like:

- Fixing shelves and other shop fittings
- Fixing lighting in the shop
- Small plumbing jobs like dripping taps, WC flushes, etc.
- Fixing doors and windows that don't close properly
- Touching up paintwork and so forth

Here are some examples of shops that use our handyman service for their day to day maintenance:

- Reiss
- Nike
- The BBC Shop
- Unwins (until they went bust)
- Rigby & Peller
- Benjy's
- Subway
- Ocean
- Nelson's Homeopathic Pharmacy

and many more shops and retail outlets.

Plus restaurants like

- Bombay Bicycle Club
- Tootsie's
- Gourmet Burger Kitchen
- Square Pie Company
- The Real Greek

So if you run a shop or other retail outlet and need maintenance from our handymen, give us a call on 0800 426396.

Need any odd-jobs doing? Visit www.0800handyman.co.uk

Office maintenance

We do lots of office maintenance, especially in central London (City / West End), but we'd love to do more. It's pretty much impossible to bid on "office maintenance" on Google Adwords because that keyword is dominated by cleaning companies. Quite why dozens of cleaning companies are hankering to sell cleaning contracts to people who really want office maintenance (cleaning is hardly maintenance), I don't know, but it means that the cost of bidding on that keyword is very high.

So, I'm going to blog about office maintenance instead. We already occupy the #2 spot in the natural search results on Google for "office maintenance", I'll see if this post gets in there too.

Here are some of the sorts of things we do when it comes to maintenance in offices:

- Putting up shelves
- Putting up noticeboards
- Fixing minor plumbing issues (leaking taps, WCs that don't flush, etc.)
- Changing lightbulbs
- Fixing flourescent lights (replacing flourescent tubes, starters, ballasts as needed)
- Replacing lights
- Assembling / disassembling furniture
- Touching up damaged paintwork

You get the idea. So if your office needs any of those kinds of oddjobs doing, give us a call on 0800 426 396 or visit www.0800handyman.co.uk.

Need any oddjobs doing? Visit www.0800handyman.co.uk

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

More red tape myths - age discrimination regulations

Which bit of the EMPLOYMENT EQUALITY (AGE) REGULATIONS 2006 does Kirsty Rogers, a lawyer quoted here in Personnel Today, not understand?

Ever since Age Discrimination regs came into force, busy-body human resources experts have been bandying around misleading claims that words like "experienced", "dynamic", or "energetic" in job adverts are illegal. I am not a lawyer, but to me the law seems pretty clear, and this is what is says:

Direct discrimination occurs where, because of B’s age, A treats B less favourably than he treats or would treat other persons unless A can objectively justify that treatment.

Indirect discrimination is taken to occur where –
• A applies to B a provision, criterion or practice which A applies equally to other persons; and
• that provision, criterion or practice puts persons of B’s age group at a particular disadvantage; and
• B suffers that disadvantage.

If B can show that he suffers in this way, then the provision, criterion or
practice is indirectly discriminatory unless A can show that it is a
proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

(This, and excellent explanatory notes are freely available from the DTIs / BERR's website)

Note the last bit: "unless A can show that it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim."

Sure, specifying a certain level of experience would likely put a 16yr old at a disadvantage to a 30 yr old (i.e would be indirect discrimination according to the definition above), but if experience is important to the employer (and why would it be specified if it was not important?), then I'd be amazed if any court or tribunal denied that this was a "proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim".

This is how urban myths about red tape arise - it is not from government, or Europe, or the courts. But from press releases sent out to garner publicty for the sender's organisation, whether they are a law firm, business organisation, or some other special interest group. Would Personnel Today have reproduced DWF's release if it had just said "age discrimination regulations just a matter of common sense, really". No. But they happily reproduce the sensationalist statistics, even headlining it "One in five job advertisements still fails to comply with age discrimination legislation". In the opinion of this law firm, they don't comply with the law. But has any tribunal or court found against an employer for legitimately asking for experience? Or liveliness? Or dynamism? Of course not. And if they do, I'll eat my hat.

Need any odd-jobs doing? Visit www.0800handyman.co.uk

Friday, 5 October 2007

What's happening at DeWalt? Problems with DC935KSF XRP 14.4V cordless drill

We have had some real problems with DeWalt drills lately. We have for a long time preferred the DeWalt DC984K2 XRP 14.4V, but this has recently been superceded by the DC935KSF. We must have owned well over 20 of the old DC984K2s, and we can only recall two ever developing a fault.

These are serious bits of kit, costing £250 a pop from Screwfix, and get heavy use from our handymen, so we are pretty fussy about them working properly.

But of the four new DC935KSF models that we have bought, two have developed faults that have required them to be sent back: in one the chuck would not lock closed and kept releasing the bit; with another the chuck just wasn't centered properly, so the bit would wander around.

Plus, the slowest speed you can run the drill at is too fast to be able to grip the chuck with your hand to make it lock onto the bit (any regular user of drills will know what I am talking about: rather than screw the chuck in by hand to grip the bit, you just hold the chuck still and gently use the drill's power to close the jaws onto the bit). If you try and hold the chuck it just whizzes out of your grip. You have to turn the chuck manually, which makes changing bits a chore.

And none of our handymen like them - the older model just feels to be better quality (although DeWalt insist the replacement is a huge improvement, saying that the chuck, motor and battery are all of higher quality than the old one).

We won't be buying any more of this model of DeWalt. Screwfix have kindly agreed to swap our dodgy DeWalts for the Makita Lithium-Ion BHP440SFE 14.4V even though the Makita costs a bit more, which is very nice of them. This Makita might be a little lightweight for our use, if so then we will probably upgrade to the Makita BHP441SFE Lithium-Ion 14.4V

Need any odd-jobs doing? Visit www.0800handyman.co.uk

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Changing a light fitting / wiring a light

Changing a light fitting is the sort of job that a novice DIYer would expect to be very easy, but it actually often isn't. The novice DIYer might expect to see three wires - live, neutral and earth. But most of the time they will see a whole lot more wires than that.

With most light fittings, the ceiling rose doubles as a junction box, so you have one cable coming into the rose from the previous light in the circuit; then a cable going down to the switch and back; and then a third cable running off to the next light fitting.

We always ask handyman candidates to describe the wiring they would expect to see inside a ceiling rose - if they answer correctly straightaway, that gives us a pretty good idea that they understand how lighting circuits, and domestic electrical circuits in general are set up.

There is a good picture here of how a typical light fitting is wired.

Need any odd jobs doing? Visit www.0800handyman.co.uk.