Always get more than one devis

Last week I contacted a couple of local tradesmen out of the pages jaune to do some sandblasting of my vaulted ceiling (my friends and builders didn't know anyone to recommend as they'd never used this service). Anyway the first one turned up without a tape measure or ladder. He walked around the house, shaking his head telling me it's definitely not 3 days work. More head shaking and Yes it's a lot of work. Yes it's a sacre boulot, sacre chantier, yes Madame your house is immense. Have you thought about cleaning off your walls? I could sandblast those...the Euro signs were literally rolling round his eyes.

I tried calming him down by telling him I AM actually prepared to go up on scaffolding 4m high and replaster the ceiling if the sandblasting wasn't an option as we DONT have budget anyway but our windows chap suggested it wouldn't cost too much to do as he'd done it himself in a few days on his house (but sadly as it's a messy job he didn't volunteer to do it again - I DID ask!)

I wasn't warming to the first sandblasting chap at all, everything he said was irritating me. He kept going on about a job he'd done for other Anglais in a village nearby which immediately made me think he was going to try to stitch me. He wouldn't give me a price per m2 (which I have had for nearly every other part of the work we've done in the house) and kept saying I'll do a forfait pour vous Madame. My skin was itching. Next I told him I only wanted the lower part of the beams cleaned off neatly as the upper parts would be covered by wood fibre insulation. He insisted he couldn't do that and had to do the beams the same all over. I then said I didn't want 2 of the beams doing as they will be hidden in the roof cupboards so I would just use a wire brush myself. He said oh Madame I will do those for free. Yes really free.

So eventually after much umming and aahing over how big a job it was, I ushered him out and he said he would need to come back the next day to measure up. I phoned him later and gave him the measurements myself. 40m2 and 7 beams of 9m long 35cm deep. He insisted on coming back the next day. He turned up with his dad this time and the two of them repeated yesterdays performance. Much moustache twizzling and trying to work out how much money they could get for the job. Then they tried to say I had betes in the roof beams (which I know there are not, the mark they were pointing to was one the builder did when taking the chimney out).

They still didn't bring a tape measure! He wanted the plans for my house, I said please do the quote based on 40m2 and 7 x 9m2 long beams.

He then said he wanted 150 euro to do a test and would deduct this from the fee if I accepted his revised quote. He told me that the job he did for les anglais was 3000 euro for 5 beams that were about a third the length of mine). I knew at this point his estimate would be ridiculously high. I asked him to email me the quote and I would see about a test if the quote was acceptable.

Next day he called me asking why he hadn't had my plans. I said he doesn't need them and anyway I sent him my email address for the quote yesterday. He then asked if I had any other quotes. I said yes of course, I have requested others. Doh! What did he think I was stupid?!? Surprisingly I haven't heard back from him yet.

Next came another company who immediately were open with pricing per m2, were very clear on TTC and HT, outlined the scaffolding cost, the clean up cost and the risk of having to do a second pass if the first pass wasn't sufficient. This quote was sent within 2 days and is in my opinion reasonable for the work. The chap was professional, highlighted risks but didn't overegg them, he was interested in the ecological aspects of the project and noticed those aspects not just the size of the house. He came with a tape measure and a sample of all the different grades of sand and explained which he would use for which job and why.

Two totally different experiences, one will get the work if we go ahead and have the budget and one definitely won't. I'm happy that the devis I have actually received is inline with the average price for this type of work (I regularly check french building forums for price per m2). If you can research the term in french I highly recommend this as there are lots of french forums where individuals share their costs so you can be sure you are not being arnaquer (ripped off).

I have no doubt that I must seem an easy target for some - being English, female and carrying a toddler round the building site, but I'm not naive, believe me Monsieur Moustache I've had to deal with far more Merde on this project than you would ever believe and so your dodgy sales techniques won't work on me!

Onwards and the roof beams and beyond. Eventually.

I have recently had 3 quotes on a small flat (painting the walls and doing several other jobs) and one quote was double the amount of the other! What a shock. Now, I wasn't quite at the end of my surprises:the third quote was over TREBLE the amount of the first!! Oh, and the first (who did a good job) could fit the job into his schedule, the others thought I should wait until it was convenient for them...

Just love it. I was in construction (before my move to to sunnier climes - must speak to the OH about false advertising) On one job where the crew were bunking off to go to the builders merchants I decided to take a firm hand. Announced that I would go whilst they got on with the job. All time classic response 'Girls are not allowed to drive the lorry - you are not insured!' Amazing how the offer of a P45 changed perceptions. On the whole the industry is changing but worldwide us 'girls' still have the odd misogamist (or shirker) to deal with. You are such a star and the house will come in on budget I am sure - a bloody miracle in any country.

Veronique, we have been waiting for three years and this latest saga is after giving up with the first guy.

I agree regarding the wait, we had to wait 9 months to start our job for our builders but it was well worth the wait. I've had the 'forfait' devis through today which was also amusing as all the prices were HT. It was as expected much higher than the average for the work and has been done on a fee basis rather than m2.

Local builder has just left after relaying a new drain in the courtyard. We agreed the price last June and despite having asked his wife to remind him on a number of occasions, he has only just got around to it!

Some people are a waste of time because they aren't very well organised or a one-man band; some very good artisans are massively busy and booked up 6 to 9 months ahead so they don't always fit in a devis for a possible job they in any case won't be in a position to do for ages. I am very wary of artisans who can do (especially bigger) jobs "immediately" because if they are any good they should be booked up, at least that is how it works where I live, it is frustrating when you want things done yesterday - but if you want a good job you have to wait. I have never yet had any reason to complain about work my artisans have done, and over the 15 years I have lived in my house they have had to do A LOT.

We have had two chaps round to give us a devis for extended the terrace. We need new wooden supports and decking.
Neither of them have sent us their estimates.
The other day I was passing the house of a new person in our commune. He does pool maintenance, so I asked him if he could come and take a look at our pool and give us estimates for overwintering and opening and the summer chemicals. He said he would come the next day. We are still waiting.
Just what is it with these people? Do they not want to work or do they not need the work and why are they so rude?

I find it depressing just how many tradesmen I can label 'an idiot' after the first 2 mins of a meeting.

Where do these guys pick up their customer communication skills?

The behaviour detailed by Suzanne seems to be almost textbook in France and when I meet one I get rid of him as soon as possible. On the plus side he did at least turn up. I find about 30% of appointments we make end in a no-show.

Recommendation as always is the best way to choose a service (especially where the person doing the recommendation has actually paid for the services of that company) but sometimes where it isn't possible and you end up using pages jaunes just like Yellow Pages back in the UK - tread with caution and as I say always get more than one devis.

My builders are both local, honest and French. I would highly recommend them to anybody. They have been brilliant. They were recommended by a friend after they'd done work for her which she was very pleased with. If I could, I'd use them to do everything but there are some things they are not expert in and prefer we use specialists. They've always treated me with respect and they know how I look up every detail so they just explain it clearly and they make sure I understand everything. We've had some hilarious moments and enjoyed a number of good bbq lunches. They work long days but have a decent lunch and when the job needs finishing they stay and finish it. If they say they are going to be there, then they usually are. Sometimes difficult to find in any nationality but these two are national treasures.

Hurrah for you, no, not all women are stupid and gullible and just waiting to be tucked up by male chauvinist con men! Have had the same experience myself-one even said he would come back when my husband was there. A salutary lesson for all.

I know this, I think many see a pot of gold when we Brits request work. We have a Portuguese builder now, he lives here in France and has done for over 20 years and is well respected - best of all like us he is a foreigner... he seems to be 35% cheaper than most of the local French builders and even better if we move to trades he doesn't cover his connections are also cheaper than us going direct.

We've compared him to Architects and maître d'oeuvre and he consistently is best. Friends of mine (outside of our part of France) also have a similar experience, with other builders - using those of not French origin seem the best fit for us Brits