Is it normal for a plumber to show up outside of scheduled appointments?
July 1, 2021 2:29 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to know if this behavior is normal or concerning.

We have small but ongoing issue at our rental. The landlord kindly hired a plumber, but his behavior feels a little odd to me.

First day, he calls early in the morning (before 8 AM) to ask if he can move up our 1 PM appointment. I say no, I have an appointment.

He calls around 11:30 AM, saying he's sending someone out right now, doesn't ask if it's okay. I say no, our appointment is at 1 PM. He passive-aggressively says, okay, fine, will figure out how to make it work. His staff arrives as scheduled.

He calls early this morning (again, before 8 AM) to say he needs a second opinion and is sending a different tech out today. We agree on a 1-3 PM time window. He calls around 11 AM; I miss his call. At 12 PM, his tech knocks on my door, outside of our scheduled appointment.

I text the plumber to tell him that he needs to confirm scheduling changes with me and cannot have his staff drop by unannounced. No answer.

Question is: Is this normal? Should I be concerned? Should I put my foot down now, or let it slide? To me, this feels boundary-pushing. The landlord is paying for services, but if we end up needing extensive work done in the future, I worry about this person continuing not to respect our time, and not taking "no" for an answer.

I understand that a plumber may want to make efficient use of his and his staff's time. If a time slot unexpectedly opens up, I totally understand wanting to make good use of it. What strikes me as inappropriate is his lack of communication and sending his staff over without my authorization.

Important complicating factor: Plumber is landlord's friend.
posted by aquamvidam to Human Relations (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My experience is that flaky people who can't keep a schedule or an appointment is pretty normal in the trades. I've encountered many who seem to not understand that I have other obligations, and I block time out in my schedule to accommodate the time they said they will arrive. That doesn't mean you have to let it slide, or that it's ok. But I'd classify this more as annoying and typical than concerning...
posted by primethyme at 2:31 PM on July 1, 2021 [25 favorites]

Best answer: I bet the plumber considers the landlord his client, and you are just someone occupying the space he is working in. He isn't looking for your approval because you are not paying him, which is reflected in how he's treating you.

I'd be more annoyed by this than concerned. I doubt this behavior will escalate to anything worse. If you are truly unable to accommodate timing changes then put your foot down. You have the right to control access to the space you're renting. Otherwise I'd let it slide. Like primthyme says, contractors have a reputation for living by their own, often inscrutable, schedules.
posted by TurnKey at 2:39 PM on July 1, 2021 [49 favorites]

I'm guessing it is normal for this plumber
posted by Glomar response at 2:40 PM on July 1, 2021 [6 favorites]

It’s a tough call- which is more annoying, what you just described, or when they never show up at all and leave you hanging? I think if I had to pick one of the two, (and I’ve had to endure both), I’d rather have your scenario. At least they’re showing up. Especially for plumbing issues, which can be very disruptive to daily life. I agree that in a perfect world you’d love to have prompt, accurate communication, but that doesn’t always happen I think.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:41 PM on July 1, 2021 [3 favorites]

Yeah, even in our apartment building which generally has pretty good management and repairs this happened. I was working from home and was free literally the entire day except 2-2:30 when I had an interview and they were told as such. When did they show up? 1:55. And then made a big deal about when they’d come back.

It’s typical but it’s ok to push back
posted by raccoon409 at 2:42 PM on July 1, 2021 [3 favorites]

I share primethyme's experience. Especially when the tradesman is the landlord's friend. They aren't working for you.

If you are truly unable to accommodate timing changes then put your foot down.

The only effectivel way to do this (if you're renting) is by moving.
posted by Rash at 2:42 PM on July 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

Document everything in great detail, whatever you decide to do.
posted by eotvos at 2:44 PM on July 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It strikes me as very abnormal for a plumber to give you a definite time instead of a window, and a two-hour window is much narrower than I usually get. I’ve always been told it’s because they can’t know how much time other jobs will end up taking. What you describe strikes me as annoying but not super out of line.
posted by FencingGal at 2:47 PM on July 1, 2021 [16 favorites]

Best answer: My favorite contractors are the ones who give me a time window, then text when they're on their way over (within that window).

It sounds like this guy is scheduling conservatively so that he/his people keep running early, and is also a morning person. And maybe trying to do your landlord a favor and fit this small project in where he can, rather than scheduling it more certainly a month or two later?

This guy would not be my favorite, but sounds relatively reasonable, and I'd prefer him to someone who schedules and then no-shows.
posted by mersen at 2:48 PM on July 1, 2021 [4 favorites]

He’s not “boundary pushing” in the sense that he’s trying to sexually harass you or harm you, if that’s what you’re asking. Service people like plumbers and so on never, ever show up at the appointed time, in my experience; they’re always either early or, more often, late. As you noted, time is money to them, so it’s literally costing them income to wait for a customer, and it’s pretty common for them to show up at your place early. This guy actually seems better than most, since he at least sometimes calls in advance.
posted by holborne at 2:50 PM on July 1, 2021 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Sounds totally normal, honestly.

Clients cancel, jobs take more or less than they predicted, etc. If they only ever showed up at appointed times, they'd have big gaps in their schedule, and they'd make much less (hence charge you or your landlord much more to compensate).

More typical in my experience is something like "I'll show up Friday between 1pm and 5pm" (or even just "Friday") "and call you when I'm on my way."

It's OK to say "no" if the new time doesn't work for you, but I definitely wouldn't say "no" just on principle.
posted by floppyroofing at 2:54 PM on July 1, 2021 [14 favorites]

Best answer: I just had this happen last week (only once, but still). So while I couldn't say how common it is, it's definitely not just you. They wanted to come a little early and said they wouldn't be able to make the time we'd actually scheduled. I wasn't able to accommodate them either and so all of us were less than pleased.
posted by trig at 3:04 PM on July 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for your feedback. It's good to know that this is common and not concerning, so I can adjust my expectations.

I'm usually over-accommodating, which I've been working on, and so it helps to have all of your feedback to calibrate. I've also primarily lived in big apartment complexes (log maintenance request online, they let themselves in and take care of it while I'm at work) so I've never scheduled these things directly, and I wasn't sure what was "normal."

I definitely want to respect his time and I don't plan to say "no" on principle, but I do feel more comfortable saying "no" when it's not a good time. I feel a lot more OK with this situation now. Thank you everyone!
posted by aquamvidam at 3:09 PM on July 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My dad is a tradesman. I assume he does this to his clients all the time because he also does it to his kids... It's super annoying!

HOWEVER. I think what people don't realize is that his job involves an enormous amount of multitasking. Any one job involves juggling getting the right parts, the right tools, and the right people all in one place at the same time, but often you don't know which parts/tools/people you need right away, or you find out you need a different one half way through. And the people you may or may not need may be busy and/or in another part of time -- actually the tools might be in another part of town too. Not to mention the parts, which may require driving either to a weird specialist shop (on the other side of town) in the middle of rush hour. My dad has endless stories about being in the middle of a job and realizing that the weird antique fixture he's jut encountered hidden behind an old panel can only be opened using this one tiny tool that costs less than a dollar but is only available from a place 30 miles away. And bear in mind that this may all just be for one job, but for several jobs that are all going on in parallel.

All of which is to say: planning out your work day as a tradesperson is super complicated. If he's calling you up early in the morning, it's because he's trying to figure out all the various stops around the city he's going to have to make that day, what to take with him, what to prioritize, what the traffic is going to be like, how long it will take the other person he needs to be there to get there, etc etc etc. If your plumber asks to come round at a certain time, it's not because he's being an asshole, but because there's a whole lot of logistics involves in getting all the right people, parts, and tools to the right part of town to do a job, and your job is only one of many. Is it annoying? Yes. Do you want your issue fixed by a professional in a reasonable amount of time? If yes, then you might need to be a bit more flexible.
posted by EllaEm at 3:14 PM on July 1, 2021 [57 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you EllaEm - that context is super, super helpful. I like to understand these kinds of things so I can try to make their lives easier. Again, my issue wasn't the rescheduling - it was the rescheduling without announcement, and perhaps the pushiness. But, with your explanation, I can relax a bit on it. I really appreciate your input.
posted by aquamvidam at 3:29 PM on July 1, 2021 [4 favorites]

Also keep in mind that there *are* limits to what you have to put up with, as a renter. It may be that the landlord is quite happy to allow his friend to be pushy and/or inconsiderate, because landlord isn't the one being inconvenienced by it.

Your jurisdiction likely has laws determining how this all works in your area. And, just because you're willing to be flexible in one instance because you really want a particular thing fixed does NOT obligate you to always be more flexible than what is required by landlord/tenant law. These laws may even include a minimum amount of notice. (Keep in mind that "emergency" level fixes usually fall under a different set of rules to get the problem resolved as quickly as possible. A contractor's impatience or poor scheduling does NOT make it an emergency, just the risk of harm like injury or property damage.)
posted by stormyteal at 5:46 PM on July 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

Just popped in to nth how very very normal this is. This is why people try to work from home all day when they're having work done on their house. Even if they've given a "window," the whole day is fair game. Sometimes even the following couple days if it's a time of year that's especially hectic for that trade.

Signed, someone who blocked off all of tomorrow as "possibly busy" for a work item happening at my house that almost definitely will take fifteen minutes of my time some point between 8 and 4...
posted by potrzebie at 8:51 PM on July 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

Totally normal and expected in my world. And right now any decent tradesperson is busy as HELL. The weird pandemic real estate market means you can’t get a roofer or a plumber on your terms right now. You’re lucky to get one at all. A good one is as busy as they’ve ever been.
posted by spitbull at 6:23 AM on July 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Flagged as fantastic, EllaEm.

I live in Maine, a rural state with some of the oldest housing stock in the country, and I bet that every tradesperson here has stories like your dad's about having to track down a part that's available only in one place, located in the opposite direction from where they have all of that day's appointments.

It's a recipe for juggling, squeezing, multitasking and delay, especially given the influx of COVID-driven newcomers from out of state who have bought oldish properties and are fixing them up.

Anyway, thanks again for the eloquent explanation!
posted by virago at 6:29 AM on July 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

Totally normal. Reading it as pushy or boundary-stepping sounds like your baggage / projection in this case.

You can say no / push back if you truly need to do so (because you’re not home) or even on principle if it suits you… and then it will just end up bothering your schedule even more to pick another date / time to be home and aligned schedules. It will end up being more hassle. I get it as a people pleaser myself but having gone through this many times I know Trades are in hot demand! It’s like doctors. Sometimes you end up waiting for their expertise.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:05 PM on July 2, 2021

« Older Minimalist weather forecast apps?   |   Uber/Lyft options for Hudson Valley Shakespeare... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.