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You could have gotten it cheaper, but …

July 11, 2012
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

You just bought something and are showing it off to a friend when they say they could have gotten it cheaper someplace else. Been there and done that? Or you had your trees trimmed by a licensed arborist, and your friend knows a guy who does trees "on the side" for half the price. You got your roof repaired by a licensed and insured roofing contractor, his friend would have done it cheaper.

He knows a guy who is "good with cars" and will come to your place and change your oil and repair your car. You know where this is going, but do you know why established brick and mortar businesses charge more? It's not just the cost of the bricks and mortar. It's the cost of being responsible for the work. It's for guaranteeing that his tree trimming will not kill the tree or they will replace the tree or if his man falls off the roof it will be on his insurance and not your homeowner's insurance. It is the cost of being there to come back and take care of loose ends that may crop up from the job. It is the cost of responsibly disposing of the trimmings or old shingles or used engine oil or whatever, and not dumping it in the woods somewhere. It is the cost of maintaining an address and phone number that you can use to contact them if you have a problem. It is the cost of advertising, which exposes them to the marketplace pressures to be competitive and to being criticized in various media. It is the cost of government licensing, which may not guarantee competency, but might show proof of bonding or insurance, and show a commitment to the trade, so that you might be reassured that your mechanic of today won't be an out-of-town carpenter tomorrow, when you need him to come back and finish something on your car.

Consumer advocates have been warning us about using unlicensed "shade tree" types forever, and yet the lure of that lower price entices us. "Let the buyer beware," says the old adage, but that really isn't a fair description of the marketplace. Doing business with a reputable, established, insured and licensed business is far less risky than that. Criticism of a business, in any media, is very serious to established businesses, but useless when applied to an unknown gypsy, drifter, or other shade tree type. That criticism is a constant pressure on good businesses to keep their customers happy, even though they can't match prices with unlicensed competition because of their higher overheads.

Unlicensed "fly by nighters" have a hard time getting established because government puts a lot of hoops out for them to jump through. If they don't charge enough to cover those expenses, they'll never make it. In the garage business the waste disposal expenses are humongous. (I always wanted to use that word.) Some regulations are nearly impossible to comply with. We just hope for reasonable inspectors. Unlicensed, uninspected operators with no base location cannot possibly comply. We, the public, all end up with antifreeze and other contaminates dumped on the ground and leaking into our drinking water sources. If we continue to use the unlicensed people, perhaps another adage applies, "You made your bed, now lie in it". But we're all in the same bed. That sounds kinky.



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