Avoid being ripped off

14 July 2020 | Life Style

Your trusty ten-year-old car suddenly gives in; your geyser bids farewell in the middle of winter; or you experience a blackout during the early morning hours. Except for the utter dismay, the first thought that usually follows is ‘who can I call’ and ‘how soon can it be fixed?’

Shortly after the repairs have been carried out, the bill arrives and reality hits you. Would it have been cheaper to buy a new house or vehicle instead?
The best way to save yourself from being ripped off by unscrupulous service providers, is to be proactive. Do research on potential plumbers, electricians or mechanics beforehand. This prevents you from opening the telephone book (or googling it on your cellphone) and calling the first number that pops up in an emergency.

Besides testimonials or word of mouth to find out about reliable professionals, when doing your research also make sure to ask these questions:

-Is the service provider licensed and insured?
-How long have they been in business?
-Do they offer a 24 hour emergency service?
-How much overtime do they charge and what is their response time?
-Do they offer guarantees/warranties on the work done?
-Could they give you a list of at least five clients as references?

The next thing is to avoid emergency situations by ensuring that routine preventative maintenance is done on your house and car. This could be a good opportunity to test the plumber /mechanic /electrician that you have done your research on, and the cost involved would be less than repairs that may have to be done in an emergency.
Most importantly, remember to share your experience with others. This could prove invaluable to a friend or colleague who may find themselves in the same situation.

When choosing an electrician / handyman:
-Be wary of a contractor turning up at your door offering a great deal for his services and saying that “he was just in the neighbourhood”. Also check their vehicle for company logos and a number plate.
-Dishonest electricians may attempt to overuse technical jargon that you don’t understand as an opportunity to take advantage of the situation.
-Be wary of constant changes in prices, like when the initial price is too good to be true and then suddenly doubles or triples.
-Check if they use dirty or broken equipment and if their tools are in disrepair, as this shows a lack of professionalism and a low quality company.
-Be careful if they ask for a large deposit. Make your payments with a bank card in order to leave a paper trail.
-Get a written estimate for major repairs that need to be done, indicating the projected time and costs involved as well as payment method required.
-If in doubt, always try to get a second opinion. There have been cases where scam artists sabotage equipment on purpose.

When using a mechanic:
-Ask for the old parts when something was replaced on your vehicle.
-Educate yourself by learning the basics on your motor vehicle so that you don’t give scam artists the opportunity to rip you off due to a lack of knowledge on your part.
-A diagnostic tool can be plugged into a vehicle and used to find out what’s wrong, and if the mechanic is telling the truth.

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