Why Gillette should have called us first

I just watched that controversial Gillette TV commercial, the one suggesting most men are violent, harassing, sexist, and condescending bullies. Maybe I should have been offended. But, I just assumed it was some sort of marketing gimmick, maybe to make men feel so depressed and ashamed of themselves they might consider using more of Gillette’s razor blades on more parts of their body, especially their throats or wrists.

But apparently, I was wrong. Gillette is out to change the behavior of every man in America, using the moral authority they’ve earned by being world-class experts on removing unwanted facial hair.

Look, I’m just a simple handyman in no position to judge the genius of Madison Avenue. Unlike Gillette’s ad agency, I couldn’t drive-off 30% of a best-selling brand’s customers even if I wanted to. But if I may be so bold, I’d suggest that rather than paint all men with such a broad brush, they might have done better to focus in on that subset of men who PARTICULARLY deserve the scorn of women (and men) — HANDYmen.

Yeah, I know, I know. It’s not fair to condemn the entire handyman industry, just because 95% make the rest of us look bad. And maybe it’s sexist to presume that all handymen are MEN. But to tell you the truth, while I have HEARD that handywomen do exist in REAL life, REALITY TV is the only place I’ve ever actually seen one. And even then, doesn’t it seem like the closest thing to a power tool Fixer Upper’s Joanna Gaines ever holds is a ballpoint pen? Not that you can blame sexism for the near absence of handywomen — after all, it’s not exactly every mother’s dream for her daughter to become one.

So let’s imagine for a moment, Gillette had a 2nd lapse of common sense, and made the questionable decision to turn over its entire advertising budget to yours truly, Dr Steve. And let’s say I immediately changed their campaign from “The best men can be” to “The best HANDYmen can be.” Wouldn’t these common failings of handymen ring true?:

Toxic Unreliability

If you’ve worked with Fix St Louis, you know that, unlike everyone else, we set firm, scheduled appointments — an exact time, an exact date, and we confirm it by email. We don’t say things like we’ll show-up “sometime between 8 and 12 noon if we’re running on time” or “someday next week depending on when we finish our last job.” That’s not fair to you because it leaves you tied-up at home for hours, unable to leave for work or errands, while constantly glancing at your watch and calling your handyman who never picks-up. In fact, it’s not uncommon for handymen to never show-up and never contact the homeowner.

HandyMan-splaining

Trust me, every handyman with the sole exception of us does NOT want your SMALL jobs. The more tied-up they are on big jobs, the better — more total dollars, more continuous work without gaps in their schedule, less time chasing new jobs, less need to deal with customer service issues, etc.

But they’re not going to tell you that. Instead, they’ll tell you that if you knew as much as they did about home repairs, you’d realize that a bigger job was needed. For instance, they’ll “HandyMan-splain” that it can’t be fixed, so it must be replaced. Or that, “yeah that window can be replaced, but frankly all of your windows are pretty old, so you really need to replace them all.”

An even worse practice is the handyman giving you an estimate 2-3 times higher than they would normally charge for that small job. If you turn it down, no loss because they didn’t want that job anyway. But if you accept it at that price, they’d be happy to do this job that does not take them much time, but gives them a good profit.

Micro-Deceptions

These are the often little, and sometimes big, untruths handymen tell to smooth over the situations from the items above. If your handyman is in the middle of a project, and would rather work on a bigger project than finish yours, you may suddenly hear something like he has to be “out-of-town next week for a few days to attend an aunt’s funeral.” By design, you’re not going to feel like challenging that excuse because it’s about a death in the family, even though no one in human history, with the possible exception of the British Royal Family, has ever had more than a week’s notice of a funeral, much less had to spend several days out-of-town to attend one for an aunt.

So, hey Gillette! Doesn’t this make Fix St Louis “the best a HANDYman can be?” Wait, don’t answer that! On 2nd thought, maybe you should just stick to unwanted facial hair.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

‘Twas the night after FIXmas. Not a faucet was dripping, not one in the house.

It’s hard to be nestled all snug in your bed, while visions of a flooded basement dance in your head. We get it. Amidst your pre-holiday schedule there arose such a clatter, you had to defer a few home repair matters. Yes, you INTENDED to get those dripping faucets fixed during the pre-Christmas FIXmas season, but that time flew-by faster than Cupid, Donner and Blitzen.

So, why not make your FIRST New Year’s resolution one you can cross-off immediately – a resolution that will give you great tidings of comfort and joy for all of next year. Shutdown that drip-drip-drip on ALL of your faucets. Every last one of them. Not just some phony PARTIAL shutdown like from our perpetually-leaking Federal government, but a REAL TOTAL shutdown.

Kitchen Sinks

Don’t mean to laugh, but it’s funny listening to homeowners describe the stages of denial and grief they go through before they finally accept they need our help to stop their kitchen faucet leak. At first, they try to convince themselves it only happens sometimes, then they convince themselves it will go away by itself. Then they go through a sort-of “bargaining” stage where they put their lever handle through a choreographed set of movements with an unusual ending position to make the dripping stop.

Yes, we can fix those leaks. But honestly, among our happiest customers are those who learn in the process that newer faucets don’t have a separate spray handle because it’s built right into the faucet stem, and as long as we’re out there they’d rather have us install one of those.

Bathroom Sinks

These faucets drip, too, and we can fix them. But could this be a sign from the heavens that it’s time to replace that crummy faucet, which you never much liked in the first place? Folks are often reluctant to call us for this dripping because they think it’s too small a problem to bother a contractor with. Well, that may be true for everyone else, but NOT for Fix St Louis. Remember, we SPECIALIZE in small jobs.

Exterior Faucets

What about those faucets sticking out from the sides of your house, usually low to the ground? These faucets are probably the MOST susceptible to leaks. Not just dripping from the spout, but also spraying all over the place when you turn them on. Sometimes, they even leak within the wall!

The two most common causes of these exterior faucet leaks are: 1) VERY low temperatures freezing the water inside, until it expands and bursts the pipe walls; and 2) Since these faucets tend to be used very rarely, gaskets that have become hard, dried, and compressed, so they no longer do their job.

Sometimes we can fix these faucets from the outside. Other times we can replace them easily with a new frost-resistant faucet if there’s an unfinished room or drop ceiling on the other side. Worst case, we can make the replacement by cutting-into the finished/painted drywall on the inside, then either cover the cut area with a plastic access panel (to make repairs easier the next time) or patch and paint the area. BTW, a specialized plumber, who will not provide one-stop shopping like we do, is more likely to leave you with a hole in your drywall, maybe with the cut piece of drywall screwed back in place. Instead, we’ll leave you with a fully-restored wall – mudded, taped, properly-textured, and painted.

Water Shut-offs

Ever notice those hard-to-reach faucet handles behind your toilets, beneath your sinks, or in various places in your unfinished basement? Sometimes they’re handy if you want to shut-off the water to a particular fixture, but not shut-off all the water in the house. Well, those can drip, too, and Fix St Louis can fix and replace them. Folks seem to like it when we offer to replace them with the new ones that have a lever that just needs a quarter turn to shut it off, instead of turning a circular handle round-and-round-and-round.

Look, we get it. “Faucets that don’t drip” is not the reason for the season. We reluctantly acknowledge that Mariah Carey wouldn’t have gone platinum with “All I Want for Christmas is a Faucet that Doesn’t Drip.” But after all the holiday craziness is all over, and you get around to it, give Fix St Louis a call. You deserve a few silent nights.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Teee-Veees mount-ed over an open fire, wires hid-den that don’t show…

Ah, another tune bound for the timeless collection of treasured FIXmas classics. Perfect background music for the current pre-Christmas season when homes get repaired for the holidays.

Gone are the happy golden days of yore, when a roaring fire could keep the family together in rapt attention for hours. Thankfully, there’s still 500 TV channels, so they can occasionally turn away from their texts, Instagrams, Snapchats, and Tweets, and gaze up in awe.

But until big screen TV’s hover like drones, or science invents a cure for gravity, you are probably going to need some help getting that formerly-named “boob tube” mounted on a wall. Tapping nails into walls won’t do it, even if you use those fancy-schmancy j-shaped picture hangers. And what if the wall surface is BRICK, like above a fireplace?

Beyond that, so let’s say you DO have the wherewithal to get that TV mounted on a wall. What about all those wires? Do you really like the way they drop down to the fireplace mantel shelf, snake off to one side, then down to the floor?

This is how we at Fix St Louis get to play Santa. We don’t perform the magic of delivering gifts to all the world’s children over a single night, but we do perform the magic of mounting TV’s to any wall surface. And while we might not be able to slide our handyman bodies down chimneys, we do know how to hide wires by fishing them through walls.

So imagine waking up to this on Christmas morning. There’s a TV above your fireplace, and hidden behind it are two things the TV is plugged into – an electrical outlet and a jack for the audio/video wire. Now look to the table, shelf, or cabinet to one side of the fireplace. There’s that cable box to which you point your remote, and behind it are two things it’s plugged into – an electrical outlet and a jack for an audio/video wire that is connected behind the wall to the jack behind the TV. See? No wires are showing!

At least in this one area, your life can be as perfect as the lives of the characters in a Hallmark Christmas movie. Your home can be as perfect as theirs, too! In any event, it’s a start.

So as the clock ticks down to the time your guests arrive, keep Fix St Louis in mind for those repairs you hoped to complete in the nick of time before St Nick arrives.

Now, let’s go for a big ending on our song:

Though there’s things to fix, in less than twen-ty days…

Merry FIXmas, to you!

Merry Christmas and Many Happy Repairs from Fix St Louis!

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

On the 12th day of FIXmas, my handyman fixed for me…

Could it really be the FIXmas season, already? Those few weeks before Christmas when the reason for the season is getting your house in shape for holiday guests?

No time to waste! Let’s kick things off, turn to page 12 in your FixSt Louis songbook, and this time I want to hear EVERYONE singing, even those of you way back in the cul-de-sacs:

On the 12th day of FIXmas, my handyman fixed for me:
12 toilets running,
11 dryers venting,
10 drains a-leaking,
9 mirrors hanging,
8 doors weather-stripping,
7 outlets sparking,
6 tiles a-laying,
5 wax toi-let ri-ings,
4 falling shelves,
3 French doors,
2 pendant lights above,
And an off-track do-or on a pan-try.

Wow, I’m going to need a minute to compose myself. That FIXmas classic never fails to bring to a tear to this old handyman’s eyes.

But, there’s work to be done, so let’s wrap-up with one more timeless favorite. Let me hear you on 1, 2, 3…

It’s beginning to look a lot like FIXmas,
Everywhere you go.
Take a look at the caulk and grout,
’round your shower and bathtub spout,
And clogged drains causing sinks to overflow.

It’s beginning to look a lot like FIXmas,
Cracked tiles on every floor.
But the best thing there is to know,
there’s still time before guests show,
At your own front door!

Merry Christmas and Many Happy Repairs from Fix St Louis!

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Labor Pains: How contractors should REALLY be categorized

It’s Labor Day weekend, when we all relax and turn our attention to “labor” — although I’ve never been sure what exactly that requires us to do. Just as I’ve never been sure who or what we should be reflecting upon on “President’s Day.” For some reason, Labor Day just seems to make me think of eating a hot dog.

Well, just in case we’re supposed to be reflecting on “labor”, let us here at Fix St Louis tell you about something you should understand, but probably never did – how to categorize the laborers who fix homes like yours.

“Chuck in a Truck”

This type of home operation usually consists of a handyman and a pickup truck, plus a helper who sometimes tags along. Even though these folks individually might have VERY small businesses, collectively they do more home repairs than anyone else.

While some of these handymen are quite good, the list of their problems is quite long. Hardly a day goes by when homeowners like you don’t tell me about them. The problems begin the moment you are given a word-of-mouth referral from that well-meaning neighbor, friend, or relative, who told you about that nice young man who fixed something in their house.

So how much does this well-meaning individual KNOW about the handyman you are about to let into your home, and expose to your personal possessions and family members? Did they run a criminal background check or drug test? Do they know whether he has insurance to cover damage he might do to your home? (BTW, the answer is almost always “no”). Do they know what skills he actually has, across which trades, and the relative quality of their work in each? Do they know whether this handyman would even WANT your small job, letting bigger jobs from others get in the way? Do they know how consistently this person shows-up on time or shows-up at all? What they don’t know could hurt you, and often does. ‘Nuf said.

“The Specialists”

This category consists of companies organized around a single trade or area, usually plumbing, electrical, and HVAC (heating & air conditioning).

In my opinion, the reason so many repair companies are specialists has more to do with workers’ desire for higher wages and job security than what consumers actually ever wanted. It all started with some reasonable government regulation to ensure safety in home repairs. But as a segment of the workforce became organized. they began to exert influence over lawmakers based on good intentions, but also understandably out of their own self-interests. As a result, the government mandated recognition of specific, segregated skill areas, and protection from competition for skilled workers through a series of credentials and regulations. So now, for instance, if you call a plumber for a leak that has damaged your ceiling or walls when the plumber leaves, you will still need to call someone else to fix that damage.

“General Sub-contractors”

You may have heard the term “General Contractors” used to describe companies that can handle an ENTIRE large project, including all trades needed – e.g. plumbing, electrical, carpentry, painting, etc. But if you peek behind the curtain, most of these companies are really General SUB-contractors because they consist of a small skeleton sales and administrative staff who subcontract-out the work to others.

There are real downsides to homeowners that are baked into this standard company structure. For instance, think about what might go wrong simply because these contractors do not personally hire the actual workers entering your home – they do not personally check-out workers’ backgrounds, or screen them for things like their skills, temperament, immigration status, or criminal record. Also, let’s say something goes wrong in your job. These contractors don’t have the power to make things right by commanding these workers to return immediately and handle the problem without generating additional costs for you.

“Fix St Louis”

The last category of contractors is called “Fix St Lou…”. Hey, wait a minute – THAT’S US! Geez, almost forgot. We’re in a category all by ourselves. One-stop shopping for all your home repairs. Technicians who are our OWN employees. So we know all about their non-existent criminal and drug histories, their skill levels, and their easy-to-work-with personalities.

Yup, you might say Fix St Louis has eliminated most of the labor of finding labor to fix your home. More good news – you have now met the minimum requirements for reflecting on labor on Labor Day. My apologies if your hot dog is no longer hot.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Handymen owe you more than ‘just a little bit’

We mourn the untimely passing of Aretha Franklin, one of the truly great voices of our time – someone who measured by today’s standards could even get Simon Cowell to stand up from his chair and hit the gold buzzer. Looking back, it seems like her 1967 hit “Respect” was perfectly timed, marking the end of an era in which Americans openly showed respect but didn’t talk about it, to our new era when Americans show a lot less respect, but can’t stop yapping about it.

So, we’re going to plead “guilty” to being dinosaurs, still following the pre-1967 rules for how to treat our customers. Sorry, but we at Fix St Louis just happen to think you deserve MORE than ‘just a little bit’ of respect:

R-E-S-P-E-C-T Your Time

No waiting, no wondering. We schedule FIRM, SPECIFIC times for our visits, not a time window, so you don’t have to sit around all morning or all day waiting for us to arrive. We also take away the wondering whether we’ll EVER show-up by sending confirmation emails and calling you when we are on our way, before the appointment time has arrived. After work begins, our technicians will “check-in” and “check-out” with you if they need to run out to pick-up a part, so that you can squeeze-in errands like a trip to Walgreens, the vet, or anywhere else. In fact, the only time we insist that you be present is at the very beginning to make sure there are no misunderstandings about the work you want done.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T Your Money

You will know EXACTLY what your job will cost in advance. Fix St Louis provides FREE estimates, and we provide FIRM prices. Since we don’t charge by the hour, you don’t have to take frequent nervous glances at your watch, worried about what it will all cost.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T Your Home

We’re there to FIX your home, not make ourselves AT home. We will minimize the “footprint” of our workspace so that we intrude as little as possible. And, we will haul away all debris and clean-up after ourselves. Also, no need to worry about your possessions – our technicians have passed criminal background checks and drug tests, they are bonded, they are covered by workers comp, and we carry liability insurance.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T Your Authority

So, here’s a throwback from an earlier era. We won’t call you by your first name unless you request it. To us, you are Mr. Jones or Ms. Smith. It’s a small way for us to express that we are honored you selected us, that we fully acknowledge you are the boss, and that you deserve more than just a little bit of R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

There’s a line in the “Respect” lyrics that goes “Take care, TCB” which, thanks to the miracle of the Internet, I now know is short for “Taking Care of Business”. So, maybe Fix St Louis should change its slogan from “One Stop Shopping for Professional Home Repairs” to “R-E-S-P-E-C-T…that’s our way of T-C-B”. Hmmmm. Maybe Aretha had a gift that I don’t have. What do YOU think, Simon?

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100