Unless you service your own car (in which case you don’t probably need a garage) you’ll know that experience of taking to the mechanic who is explaining why you are about to become sever hundred pounds poorer, and having absolutely no idea if he’s being straight with you. I’m lucky enough to have learned through experience how my car works and I’m fortunate enough these days to have a garage I trust, but there have been times when I’ve confronted a lying mechanic and explained loudly enough for all the other customers to hear in no uncertain terms why he’s full of shit, and where exactly he can get off. I can’t say I don’t enjoy it when this happens because I do get a certain pleasure out of exposing corruption at every level.
This week we’ve come across two eyebrow raisers. The first was a woman who turned up with a MacBook and a 4GB memory module which she’s bought at an official Apple reseller. Our job was to install this for her, which would have been a pretty easy while-you-wait job had the memory actually worked. When we explained that she would have to return it we were horrified to find that she had been charged £120 for a SODIMM which should have cost less than £30. It seems garages aren’t the only culprits when it comes to taking advantage of middle aged women.
The second case was a small business using a single hosted Exchange mailbox. We were tasked with specifying and installing a replacement PC, and in the course of discussing their requirements I discovered that they were paying £110 a month for about 9GB of server storage for this mailbox. Now I know that this won’t mean much to anybody who doesn’t themselves use hosted exchange, but the point is that the going price for this service is about £10 a month. The original price had been about £50 a month, but then the mailbox had apparently reached an arbitrary size limit, and the company involved, realising that they had a real sucker on their hands, decide to really stick the knife in and more than doubled the charge. I initially assumed the customer was confusing annual and monthly billing cycles, but they were very organised and had all the paperwork to support the case for the prosecution.
Sadly we live in a world where consumers are at constant risk of the rip-off merchants, and it isn’t limited to the shady back street when companies such as Adobe think the great British public should pay 38% more than our American cousins. We might expect our politicians to defend us were they not too busy selling out to whichever corporate lobbyist is entertaining them this afternoon, or whichever media mogul they are most beholden to.
Personally I think there a lot to be said for an honest wage for an honest day’s work. I may not drive a shiny black Range Rover like most of the subjects of your average Watchdog exposé, but as any Land Rover driver will tell you, there’s a lot to be said for setting out in the certainty that you are going to arrive, even if it may take a bit longer because you’re doing it properly.