Rotorua retirees are quelling frustrations over tradies' minimum callout fees.
Age Concern's SuperGold Skills Service connects retired tradespeople with members needing maintenance work done for a lower price.
Age Concern membership costs $15 a year.
Rotorua manager Rory O'Rourke says many senior citizens need small jobs done that they are unable to do themselves and find themselves paying large amounts for the basic work.
"If they are trying to survive on a pension then a large trades bill that is not planned for is a huge deal. Often they will put up with the fault rather than get it fixed. Often this leaves them in an unsafe position, especially if it is electrical."
One Rotorua woman, who did not want to be named and was not an Age Concern member, using the SuperGold Skills Service told NZME about a recent leak she had fixed for $100.
She needed a 15mm washer replaced, an item worth 56c according to her bill, but the plumber was charged out at $90 an hour, not including travel expenses or GST.
"I normally would put a washer on myself, but I've got arthritis in my hands and I thought it would be hard to turn off the taps. It's such a simple thing that even a teenage kid could do it. All you do is turn a couple of things. Turn the main off, turn the washer on and put it all back on."
She said she knew where the main was and passed this message onto the tradesman.
"I was just astounded by the whole thing, the bill after he gave me credit for a GoldCard, was $97.82. For a 50c washer ... Well, I thought that was so excessive."
SuperGold Skills Service electrician Greg Ellwood said stories like this were common but said tradespeople had to cover their costs.
"By the time they charge their minimum callout fee and vehicle expenses, they haven't even started on the job yet. Not that I'm objecting to that because it's the way of life. They've got to make their money, and they've got a huge amount of overheads that I don't have."
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The 72-year-old, who first started his electrical apprenticeship at age 17, said he had had "lots of friendly feedback on cost efficiency" since first offering his services through Age Concern three years ago.
"You don't pay any vehicle fees or anything like that so it's a service there for people who want to have a light switch changed but can't afford to pay $100 to have it done. It would typically cost around the $30 mark with me."
Ellwood said "that little bit of money that comes in does help" for pensioners like him.
"It's not a huge money-making thing. It's not a business, no."
He estimated some months he did "a couple of jobs" and sometimes he had "half a dozen in a week".
Master Plumbers chief executive Greg Wallace said clear communication was key to avoiding misunderstandings or nasty shocks in invoices.
"Consumers should ask plumbers in advance about their callout fee – how much it is and what it includes – and charges for travel time. If possible, approach a couple of businesses to compare quotes."
He said sometimes jobs were more complicated than expected "so employing a qualified, experienced plumber will often pay off in the long run".
"Just make sure the plumber discusses any extra work with you before they start."
Wallace said callout fees depended on the service required, the type and extent of the repair, location of the customer and day or time.
"It is very easy to look at charges without realising the behind-the-scenes costs businesses must cover."
He said it took up to six years training to be a certified plumber in New Zealand. with ongoing fees to remain licensed.
Without the licence, said, "It's illegal to do restricted sanitary plumbing, gasfitting or drainlaying work."