On staff


Yes, that’s an extension cord running out of the cover.  The problem is the buried electric service to the pump.  In the spring, it looks like we’ll have another round of digging on the property to fix it. 

Would that I had one (staff, that is): I think I would start with a housecleaner. Wouldn’t that be nice? Or maybe a weeder, or a poison-ivy eradicator. But I’ll turn the compost piles myself, thanks.

But this is an interesting thing. Perhaps it is simply the kindness of neighbors, or life in a small town…I am not sure what it is. Our old house, though, has a series of repair guys (always guys) who seem to like to work unpaid.

This is a photo of our septic tank cover. It’s a bizarre system: we have clay soil, so we cannot expect the waste water to seep into the ground, so it’s pumped up, instead, to sand-filled Mont Merde, where it (hopefully) evaporates. So there is a pump down there under this cover that pumps the waste water up to Mont Merde, a pump that keeps tripping out the breaker first, and, once the breaker gets reset, it blows itself out! And keeps getting replaced for free. The only way we know the thing isn’t working is that the light in our powder room doesn’t turn on: it shares (not my idea) the same circuit as the pump.

And today our heating guy came and fixed our boiler again. For free. Somehow, this oil-fired boiler’s fuel pump (see? we have a pump theme going here) gets clogged, and the thermostat won’t kick the boiler on. We only know this because…well, it suddenly feels a LOT colder in here than it is normally. So we call and he comes.

The well guy works this same way: he came back twice just to make sure ours was working. And our electrician has come out a couple of times too since we had the upstairs rewired. So I scratch my head. I am not, you know, upset that these guys don’t want payment; they are standing by their work, after all, and are just doing what needs to be done. As a business model, though, this method is probably not taught at Wharton or Harvard Business School. Or is it?

5 responses to “On staff

  1. I moved to a town of 2000 from Chicago, and SF before, and the first time I took our car in for service, the guy left it with the keys for me to pick up after closing time. He billed me for the work… freaked me out! I was sure I was stealing my car, even though he told me to pick it up. Now, I always go back, maybe a great biz model!

  2. I think you’ve got a good thing going, even though it might be better if everything could get fixed once and for all. If you lived in a city, I have a hunch you wouldn’t be getting these things fixed for free.

    I lived in an old house once with various pump issues too. One never knew when something was going to get clogged up. The oil tank was the worst thing.

    I doubt this is a business model that is taught – but one never knows!

  3. Yeah, what is it about pumps? Our sump pump has been working overtime during these last few days with all the non-stop snow & rain we’ve been getting. It’s just a cheap little pump that I bought at Ace hardware & my neighbor installed, but I have to admit that I have listened to it kick on & off with admiration lately at working so hard & not burning out.

    It seems that workmen taking pride in their work is something that is sadly rare these days, but sometimes still exists in small communities. I love that.

  4. sounds like my contractor. Always seems that there are a lot of things “oh don’t worry, included in the price” that no one else would dream of doing. I’m grateful and wouldn’t work with anyone else… so the model isn’t all bad!

  5. Stacie: that cracks me up! Car people are such a mixed lot, though. I had one mechanic who’d drop the keys off at my landlord’s when I was a Chicagoan because, he said, he liked to walk (I lived 2 blocks from the station).

    Kate: Yes, there is definitely a downside about old things (cars, houses, people): things do wear out. Anticipating a breakdown is just kind of our m.o. around here. But it is nice we have these nice blokes to call.

    Artemisia: Hi! It has been a wet and snowy one, hasn’t it? Another funny thing we’ve learned about the guys that have worked for us here is everyone knows–and has an opinion on–every other workman. It’s quite funny. You don’t know whom to believe.

    Hayden: You’re lucky. It’s taken us a few hits and misses before we found these guys…and yeah, it would be nice if they’d gotten it right the first time, but, well. I kind of like knowing I can call someone if my boiler doesn’t kick on at 9:30 at night.

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