There’s no reason to suffer though labor pains

On behalf of all of our fellow persons of labor, Fix St Louis wants you to know how humbled we are by your decision to celebrate us, of all people, this Labor Day weekend. I mean, I think we can all agree that VETERANS have earned their own day for celebrating their accomplishments. And I’m not going to say that fixing toilets and stuff is not ALSO important to preserving our unalienable rights. But anyway, golly gee, thanks.

To tell you the truth, based upon Fix St Louis‘ daily chats with homeowners, I have to wonder if Labor Day Weekend might have been invented so there would be at least 3 days out of 365 in a year when homeowners DIDN’T complain about their home repair contractors. The unreturned calls, the no shows, the rip-offs, the botched jobs, and the jobs that seem to go on forever-and-ever. Believe me, we hear it all.

But I’ve always sensed that much of this disgruntlement comes from homeowners’ frustrations from being at the mercy of a home repair contractor industry, whose work, and the way it is organized, they never fully understand. So as our Labor Day gift to you, let Fix St Louis help you overcome your labor pains by sorting it all out.

“Chuck in a Truck”

You know these folks, and probably even hired one at one time or another. These are the guys, sometimes with helpers, that drive up and down your subdivision all day long, who seem to do every type of home repair. Some are actually quite good – you’ll know who they are by how long they say you’ll have to wait for their services.

But hiring a Chuck in a Truck is high-risk, even if your neighbor Sally swears up-and-down about what a nice young man he was, and what a good job he did hanging her mirror. Did she perform a criminal background check on this nice young man (in my experience about 25% are convicted felons)? Can she tell if his work was done correctly to professional standards, or how well he could do your job if it’s anything other than hanging a mirror? Did she check to make sure “Chuck” had insurance so that if her house were damaged she would be made whole? Did she find his customer service rep to be responsive, and find helpful customer ratings on the Internet (sorry, I just threw those in as a joke)? To ask these questions is to answer them.

“The Tradesmen”

OK, now we’re moving-up another notch in the professionalism area. Here, I’m talking about individuals and companies that SPECIALIZE in a single trade, the big ones being plumbing, electrical, carpentry, roofing, siding, and heating & air conditioning.

You gotta be careful in this area because it is VERY EASY to draw wrong conclusions. Let’s say you ASSUME that SPECIALISTS are always better. And you’ve got a visibly obvious problem with a leaky pipe near or within a wall. Is it really best to hire a high-priced plumbing company to fix a leak any repairman could handle, then find someone else to repair your water-damaged drywall, or the cuts the plumbers needed to make in drywall, tiles, and floors to get access to the plumbing problem?

And, let’s say you ASSUME that the MOST CREDENTIALED tradespeople are always the best. There is not enough space here to explain what credentials like “licensed” really mean. And how the system can make it really, really difficult for even the best practitioners to get those credentials, while many lesser practitioners can. And how a license in a broad area like plumbing does not mean that the individual has experience with a broad range of issues within plumbing. And how when you hire a company that claims to be “licensed” it usually doesn’t mean that the person they send to your house is. Now, it’s not like these credentials don’t mean anything at all, but if you lean toward the view that, as in many other industries, these credentials were originally put in place by existing practitioners trying to increase their wages and protect their own interests, and they are kept in place by politicians who like their donations, you will swerve closer to the truth.

“General Sub-Contractors”

You’ve heard the term “General Sub-Contractors” that describes companies that handle larger projects, haven’t you? Uh, no you haven’t, because I just made up that term when I typed the last sentence.

Just be aware that most of the companies that handle large jobs and call themselves General Contractors, or Roofing Companies, or Siding Companies, or Whatever Companies, consist of a skeletal staff of sales and office staff employees, who subcontract out their work to who-knows-who, who are NOT employees, are likely not background-checked like employees, and can’t be controlled like employees. In other words, the folks working at your house are who-knows-who, who are employees of who-knows-what. Gee, what could POSSIBLY go wrong?

“Fix St Louis”

The last category of contractors is called “Fix St Lou…”. Hey, wait a minute – THAT’S US! Geez, I swear, I did not see that coming! We’re in a category all by ourselves. One-stop shopping across all trades, 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, at least when we actually pay them on payday (just kidding).

Well, I’m sorry if I took time away from your time to celebrate us, on Labor Day weekend. At least you spent a part of it reflecting on the true meaning of Labor Day, whatever that might be. But, we graciously give you our blessings if you want to think good thoughts about Fix St Louis the other 362 days of the year.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Fact-checking the handyman debate.
Who’s telling the truth?

Another round of Presidential candidate debates, and another round of wondering who, if anybody, is telling the truth. But, is it really all that different from when you’re debating which handyman to hire, and they’re all saying things that don’t quite add up?

So as a public service, Fix St Louis offers this handy guide to handyman lies. We were inspired by the political fact checkers at the Washington Post, who use a rating system that assigns a specific number of “Pinocchios.”

3 pinnochios
“For us, no job is too small”

I’m going to let you in on a secret. EXCEPT for Fix St Louis, no handyman wants your stinking little small jobs. They’d much rather be tied-up for a couple of months remodeling a kitchen so they can make money without the hassle of running around to find new jobs, or deal with customer service issues like call backs for repairs gone wrong. As a result, you might find some handymen using unsavory techniques to shake-off small jobs. Like try to up-sell you from a smaller job to a much bigger job (e.g. “yeah, this window is broken, but all your other windows are not much better and ought to be replaced, too”). Or double their price in the hope you’ll either reject it or make it worth their while.

5 pinnochios
“Can’t come next week, I’m going to my great aunt’s out-of-town funeral”

Don’t want to sound cold, but has ANYONE EVER been so close to a deceased great aunt that they were willing to sacrifice several days of wages to attend her funeral? What this means is that your handyman wants to spend time working for a customer he thinks is more important than you – one he thinks is worth YOUR inconvenience. Worse still, it often means you’ll never see that handyman again.

3 1/2 pinnochios
“Boy, that LAST handyman you hired REALLY screwed-up”

Homeowners fall for this one all the time. One of the least endearing aspects of the normative handyman is a willingness to falsely trash a previous contractor’s work for their own advantage. Yes it’s true that handymen screw things up all the time – it actually generates a lot of work for Fix St Louis. But, you’ll know it when you see it, without another handyman needing to point it out to you. Otherwise, if you hear this from a handyman, run away and don’t look back.

4 pinnochios
“Yeah, sure, we have insurance, even workers comp”

No, most handymen do NOT carry insurance, and even fewer are willing to pay the high cost of workers comp. This makes YOU vulnerable to paying the costs if the handyman damages your house, or gets injured on your property, or steals from you. And you will likely never be made whole. Look, I’D be the one lying to you if I told you I enjoy paying the high costs of general liability, employee bonding, and workers comp insurance. But these are almost entirely for YOUR benefit, and we view them as a necessary cost to US for the privilege of entering your home.

5 pinnochios
“I’ll need 100% of the cost upfront before I begin work”

This is an unreasonable request, and a red flag indicating you have hired the wrong handyman. By paying the entire cost upfront, you have removed all the incentives for the handyman to show-up, do quality work, finish the work on a timely basis, or finish the job at all. For residential work, I can think of only one exception – if an agreed-to repair between a house buyer and seller cannot be completed before the closing date, the best practice is to complete the financial transaction between the handyman and seller before the closing, then transfer the responsibility of the handyman to the buyer.

So, as Oprah’s spiritual advisor and presidential candidate Marianne Williamson might say, “what can we do about this dark psychic force of collectivized lying that leads to very dark work days?” To tell you the truth, there is no debate. It’s time to vote with your jobs, and nominate Fix St Louis as your preferred handyman.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Stairs and Pipes Forever! Presenting our Handyman Bill of Rights

When in the course of handyman events, the truth becomes self-evident that, while all MEN are created equal, all HANDY-men are not. 

It should also become self-evident that, while it’s unlikely any handyman will ever appear on Mt Rushmore without a hammer and chisel in hand, the country would LITERALLY fall apart without them.

As a highly-decorated handyman service, who has earned the coveted A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and Best of Home Advisor award, Fix St Louis acknowledges the awesome responsibility upon our shoulders. 

We pledge to risk our lives (even on tall ladders), our fortunes, and our sacred honor to make your home great again. And, we demonstrate this commitment by providing every Homeowning-American with these certain unalienable and enumerated rights:

  1. Fix St Louis shall not abridge your right to FREE estimates, and your ability to schedule SPECIFIC appointment times shall not be infringed.
  2. A well-regulated workforce being necessary for proper repairs, our technicians shall be armed with at least 10 years of experience.
  3. Our work shall be GUARANTEED for one full year, and we will provide a full-time CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE who may be petitioned for a redress of grievances.
  4. Homeowners have the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, so Fix St Louis technicians shall undergo drug tests and criminal background checks, and their work shall be bonded and insured.
  5. Checks and Balances: Customers may write CHECKS to pay their BALANCES. But, that would be soooo 20th century. Thus, they may also use any major credit card, and pay either online or by phone.

As we say here at Fix St Louis, “E Pluribus Unum” which, if I’m not mistaken, is Latin for “One Stop Shopping for Professional Home Repairs.” So, next time you’re thinking of calling just some “Chuck-in-a-Truck” or “Pete-in-a-Pickup” please consider calling us instead, to seek a more perfect union.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Each Blues game is TWO games in one

The way this old handyman looks at it, you’re actually watching TWO games every time the Blues play.

The first game, which takes place when the clock is running, never seems all that American to me. It features Blues players like Vladimir Tarasenko, Carl Gunnarsson, and MacKenzie MacEachern, who have similar names to Winter Olympics athletes who stand at attention on that 3-level podium while someone else’s national anthem is played. For recently winning the Western Division, the Blues were presented with the “Campbell Bowl,” which sounds like, and looks like, a gaudy, oversized soup tureen. Maybe the one used at Harry and Meghan’s wedding reception. And don’t get me started on the serving-ware they’re competing for next, named after LORD Stanley of Preston – a graduate of Eton, a prep school for over-privileged British boys, who possibly once held a hockey stick, but certainly never a toilet plunger or any other tool requiring manual labor.

No, the American part of the hockey game begins when the buzzer goes off signaling the end of the 1st period. Immediately rolling onto the rink is the ice-smoothing Zamboni machine, invented by and named after the son of struggling Italian-American immigrants. He used his newly-found freedoms to achieve the American dream by making something that makes ice hockey possible. Then, there are those ice rink walls and plexiglass, which have just endured a 20-minute period of being crushed, smashed, pounded, and scraped, while the audience cheered and laughed, humiliation that no building materials should ever be asked to endure. To handle that, folks pop-out with name badges sewn onto their uniforms that read “Chuck”, “Pete”, and “Zeke.” These hard-working Americans patch, paint, brace, and in all other ways make things new again. All done without hearing their names roared over the sound system, or accompanied by flashing lights, lasers, smoke, and foghorns. Now, that’s what I call America.

We at Fix St Louis like to think of ourselves as residential counterparts to that hockey game clean-up crew, except we ply our trade in similarly-damaged TEENAGE BOYS BEDROOMS. Someday, you just may need us for these:

Wall Repair

Fix St Louis is great at removing holes, dents, and dings from bedroom walls. Sometimes they’re just nondescript nicks, but other times the punched-out drywall is EXACTLY in the shape of baseballs, pucks, doorknobs, and fists, which can be pretty amusing to us, presumably less so to the parents. If your walls have some kind of sand texture, we can restore it in the patched area. And if you once tried to patch it yourself, and it still stands out because you couldn’t figure out how to smooth it or add that texture back, we can fix it.

Door Repair

Teenage boys can be pretty rough on doors, but we can remove all signs of abuse. Fix St Louis can put those sliding closet doors back on their tracks. We can repair the aforementioned doorknob-shaped holes in the adjacent wall. If the door “slab” (the part on hinges that swings) has been kicked and cracked, we can replace just the slab without swapping-out the entire frame. And, if the door “jamb” (frame around the door) has been split or cracked through forced entry, whether by an angry older brother, desperate parents, or the County SWAT team, we can handle that, too.

Painting

The key to painting a teenage boy’s room is doing the right prep work before the first drop of paint is applied. While the repairs above are a big part of it, they are not the only part. What about those posters on the wall that were mounted with tape, or rubbery white goop, or whatever sticky substance was immediately available when your teenager had the impulse to hang it? You may not like the way the walls look now, with a preening-for-the-cameras Yadier Molina, Ariana Grande, Metallica, or even Patrick Maroon. But you may like it a lot less after you see what’s behind them. Fix St Louis will make those walls paint-ready. And if your teenager went Goth, or through some creepy dark period you prayed he’d grow out of, so that everything is now painted black, we can prep the walls so they can be painted any color.

So, next time you’re watching a Blues hockey game, at the end of each period – sure, go ahead and take that bathroom break – but be sure to return for the All-American between-time show of the Blues’ rink-repair heroes. For all those Chucks, Petes, and Zekes out there, this Bud’s for you! Oh, and almost forgot. Let’s Go Blues!

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Fix St Louis to Throw First Pitch at Season Opener

Yes, it’s true. Fix St Louis will be throwing the first pitch at the season opener, even though the Cardinal’s season opened last Thursday. But, who gave BASEBALL the right to name the seasons, anyway? THAT will come as news to those who celebrate the Harvest Season, the Lenten Season, and the Monsoon Season.

We at Fix St Louis have our own seasons, too. As a reader, you know we recently ended the “FiXmas Season,” that year-end time when homeowners get their homes repaired for holiday guests.

But looking at the Fix St Louis calendar, we see that we are quickly approaching the “Thermal Equinox,” after which the TEMPERATURE and SMELL of the fresh air OUTSIDE your home are better than anything your air conditioner or furnace can produce inside. (Unless, of course, you live in Sauget, Illinois.)

So, here’s the first pitch of the season: If you have a working “Whole House Fan,” use it. If it’s not working, let Fix St Louis repair or replace it. And, if you don’t have a fan, let us install one. Your house will be more comfortable and you’ll see big savings in your air conditioning bills.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about listen-up, and go to your hallway and look-up. There’s a good chance you’ll see something on the ceiling that looks like the thing below. Now look at your hallway walls. See a switch or rotary dial you never knew was for? That’s how you turn it on. If your Whole House Fan is working, you will hear a big “whoosh” sound, followed by the louvers slowly opening. Fresh air will be sucked inside through your open windows and doors, flow all through your house, enter these louvers, then be shoved outside through vents and openings in the attic above.

Lunar-powered unit

BTW, these Whole House Fans are often MISTAKENLY called “Attic Fans.” Attic fans are a thing, too, but they are not installed in hallway ceilings, and you cannot see them from inside the house. They are only installed in attics, either behind gable vents or beneath roof vents. Their purpose is simply to remove hot air from the attic so that the ceilings below don’t become so hot that they warm-up your house or make your air conditioner work harder.

So as you can see, we here at Fix St Louis have our own seasons, we have our own fans, and we throw our own pitches. Could Dr Steve bobble-head night be far behind?

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

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