Working class thieves, middle class professionals.

Watching a television programme called House of Horrors, where they expose dodgy traders through secret filming, I had to question a basic assumption held by the programme makers.

The entire programme was devoted to traders who overcharged for the job. Someone in the programme, for example, was charged a thousand pounds by a locksmith to be let into his own house after locking themselves out. A lot of the traders, in their defence, said ‘buyer beware,’ which is fair enough if you are a fairly wealthy buyer with reasonable critical thinking skills (’A thousand pounds! Hmm, might be cheaper to break a window.’).

One of the victims complained that the tradesmen seem to size up the value of the house and charge accordingly. But isn’t this exactly what solicitors do when they charge a percentage of the value of the estate to do the probate for example? Why are they not subject to undercover filming?

I’m not condoning the incompetent work and rapacious greed of these tradesmen but the entire premise of the programme was based on ‘the going rate for the job’, and it begs the question, ‘how is the going rate decided upon?’

Because these are working class traders doing a skilled or semi skilled manual job, it is assumed by our society that they are worth so much per hour. If they have the temerity to charge above that rate then they are considered thieves. Why doesn’t this thinking apply to solicitors or financial advisers who might charge hundreds of pounds per hour? A trainer told me recently he charges three or four thousand pounds per day for his services.

Why are these people not considered thieves? They charge what they can get away with, so why can’t working class manual labourers do the same?

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