A new study bucks the myth of the cowboy builder and reveals how the elderly and vulnerable benefit from tradesmen who go above and beyond to meet their needs.
Although the stereotype persists, the research by AXA Insurance reveals that 82 per cent of tradesmen regularly help out those in need for free.
The survey found that 35 per cent of tradesmen have worked unpaid because they felt sorry for a customer.
Meanwhile, a further 38 per cent have knocked money off the final bill for the same reason.
Most tradesmen – 70 per cent – will help out with chores or run errands after work if they see that an elderly person is struggling to get to the shops, take the bins out or take the dog for a walk.
Those who are most likely to provide extra help are painters and decorators, 90 per cent of whom said they regularly go beyond the call of duty.
One painter and decorator related how he ran an elderly client to hospital after a fall and stayed there overnight.
When another customer’s husband died, the same tradesman said she had no-one else to turn to, so she called his company: “We sat and talked, comforted her, got her an evening meal and stayed for a further five and a half hours that evening.”
However, the research found the cowboy stereotype still persists.
Despite having had mainly positive personal experiences, the study found that 62 per cent of the population agree it’s fair to label tradespeople as ‘cowboys’ or ‘rogue traders’.
When asked the reason for the ‘cowboy’ image, the public and tradesmen agreed that it was mostly down to TV shows like ‘Rogue Trader’ and ‘Cowboy Builder’, citing news stories second.
Darrell Sansom, managing director at AXA Business Insurance, said: “Unfortunately, there are a minority of people in all professions who will exploit vulnerable people, but our study showed that your average tradesman will show great compassion to someone who is struggling.
“Elderly people should not live in fear of calling out a tradesman when repair work needs doing – there are simple checks they can make.
“Being a member of a recognised trade body, having insurance and giving a guarantee before work begins are all hallmarks of a professional. It’s worth thinking again though if a tradesman asks for money up front, doesn’t return your calls, or doesn’t turn up when agreed.”
He continued: “You should expect and demand the best behaviour from your tradespeople. These days, in contrast to the stereotype, tradesmen who wolf whistle, swear or leave houses in a mess are a rarity. Just two per cent of those we surveyed admitted to wolf whistling; only six per cent have ever sworn in a customer’s hearing, and an impressive 66 per cent consider tidying up afterwards as just part of the job.”