Brian Edwards Media

I have had it up to here with non-assertive (big girl’s blouse) tradesmen!

This is going to be short and sweet. I have had it up to here with non-assertive tradesmen. These pathetic wimps, wusses, chicken livers, cream puffs, crybabies, fraidy cats, milksops, momma’s boys, pantywaists, sissies, yellow bellies and big girl’s blouses do not have the cojones to tell even a little old lady they can’t concrete her drive, fix her leaking roof, build a kennel for her Dobermans, replace her kitchen incinerator, paint her picket fence, stop her garage door making graunching noises, clear her blocked drains or find out why her front door-bell isn’t working FOR THE NEXT SIX #$*&@*%#! MONTHS!

Oh no, the little old lady might be unhappy about the delay, she might get a little bit cross and tell them that it was ‘rather disappointing’ and she’d hoped to get the job done ‘a little sooner’ than in six months. And that might make the tradesmen quail and quiver and wet their pants with fear. 

So they don’t tell the little old lady they can’t do the job for six months; they tell her that they’re pretty busy at the moment, but they can probably fit her in next week or the week after ‘at the very  latest’. And when the little old lady rings three weeks later and wonders why they haven’t come to do the job, Dave, the foreman big girl’s blouse, says they’ve had a lot of guys down with mild depression and someone will be there next week ‘for sure’.

And three weeks later, when the little old lady rings Dave, he says that a really big job came up in Hamilton and what with so many guys still down with mild depression, it just hasn’t been possible to get round to her place. And the little old lady tells Dave she thinks this is ‘not entirely fair’. And Dave, reeling from this verbal onslaught, promises on his mother’s life that someone will be there tomorrow or his name’s not Dave. (Which it isn’t actually, but that’s another story.)

And every day for the next month, the little old lady rings Dave’s cell phone and gets a message that Dave ‘can’t come to the phone right now’ but her call ‘is valuable to me’ and please leave a message and Dave will get back to her ‘right away’.

And every day for that next month, the little old lady left Dave a message and Dave never got back to her. And she eventually died of loneliness and a broken heart because none of her friends came to visit any more. Or so she thought. You see, her friends had actually come to visit – several times. But the little old lady’s door-bell wasn’t working and she didn’t hear them and they went away.


Now the moral of this story, which turned out to be neither short nor sweet, is that it should be mandatory for trade apprentices to attend assertiveness training courses where they could learn how to say ‘No’ to members of the public pleading with them to do a job sooner than their  commitments allow. The training would include model conversations, illustrating the principles of ‘assertive refusal’ and ‘cracked record’ under the general heading  ‘You have to be cruel to be kind’. Here is an example:

Little Old Lady: I was wondering if you could possibly build a kennel for Hercules and Xena, my two Dobermans, before the cold weather sets in next month.

Derek the Chippie: I’m very sorry, Little Old Lady, but I’m completely booked up until September.

LOL: September! Oh my dear, that’s much too late.

Derek: It is a long time away, isn’t it? But, as I said, I’m completely booked up until then.

LOL: But that’s almost Spring.

Derek: It is indeed. Doesn’t time just fly past. Can’t keep up with the work myself. That’s the problem.

LOL: But a dog kennel! It’s not really a big job, I’m sure you could fit it in.

Derek: I’m sorry, LOL, I couldn’t. Not until September.

LOL: Well, the  Hire a Hubby man said he could come within a fortnight.

Derek:  Perhaps you should get him then, if it’s urgent.

LOL: But I don’t want him. The late Mr LOL  always said you were the best carpenter around.

Derek: That’s very nice. And I’d love to do the job. But not until September.

LOL:  But why not? Why can’t you say you’ll come sooner?

Derek: Because if I told you that, I’d be telling a lie, and I’d have to make a lot of excuses for why I couldn’t turn up and you’d be even more upset than you are now. But I do have a couple of suggestions.  You could get the  Hire a Hubby man to nail a tarpaulin over that old woodbox you don’t use any more.  As a temporary measure. Or maybe you could go and have a look at Animates. They’ve got some very nice kennels there that might just suit Hercules and Xena. Hold on, I’ll find you the address and phone number.

LOL: You are so kind, Derek.


Wasn’t that reasonable? Much better than making promises you can’t keep, then having to ignore dozens of calls on your mobile from irate customers and, finally, having to turn the damn thing off permanently or leave the country.

Stop lying, you big girl’s blouses!.  If you can’t come for six months, say you can’t come for six months. Everyone will be happier, including you.


  1. Tradesmen may be the most obvious purveyors of this type of behaviour but I have experienced it from insurance companies,retailers,repair shops, and hospitals to name a few.The desperation for custom seems to be a business essential.

  2. There is another avoidance/displacement trade trick–this one favoured by plumbers and electricians. The slimier ones have two sets of tools. They disappear. Their tools–one set– stay behind on the job. LOL can see them in a neat pile outside the bathroom door. So she is reassured that “I’ll be back on Thursday morning–latest” must be true.

    In the meantime the electrician/plumber (cross out whichever does not apply) is pulling the same stunt somewhere else, or dealing with a squeaker/richer/more profitable wheel.

    I know whereof I speak…

  3. Yes, I too have experienced this phenomenon, but the one that really gets my goat is where a tradesman comes in to do a repair job, and after examining the tap/drain/wiring etc in question tells me (while clucking his tongue and shaking his head in disbelief) how the tradesman who installed/repaired the item must have been a total cowboy, as he’s made such a terrible job of it, followed by a long description of what the previous guy did wrong. Happens almost every time. I’ve come to expect it now. Sigh.

  4. Most of my encounters with tradesmen have been unenjoyable. As a rule I treat them with deep suspicion, which is justified in most cases. Just watch their minds tick over, sorting thru their arsenal of excuses, when you hold them to account over shoddy work.

  5. In a country which is the epitome of the “few degrees of separation” principle, I can’t believe all you folk don’t actually personally know somebody in each of the essential trades!

  6. After many years and many issues I have a selection of reliable tradesmen I use consistantly.I am always prepared to wait for service (unless its an emergency)and feel comfortable that the job will be done correctly.Holmes on Homes is a classic example of bad trade behaviour.

  7. i’m an ex pat in aus and from here you can see the structural problem

    all the competent new zealand tradesmen are here earning heaps while the australian system prevents social welfare recipients coming across so you have a changing or increasing ratio of the useless to useful in nz