Friday, May 20, 2011

Why work when you can pay another guy to do it?

My father was a master cabinet maker / craftsman who could build, repair or remodel anything.  Be it woodworking, masonry, electrical or plumbing – he knew it all, and tried to share his wisdom with me.  I, on the other hand, never took to the trade (although my mother, sister and brother worked for the family business and soaked up all the training and confidence my father had to offer.)

When something breaks in our house I call a handyman to come fix it.  My dad has probably rolled over in his grave at some of the things I have paid to have installed or repaired.  While I can still hear his voice in my head: “If someone else can do it – we can do it,” I nonetheless pick up the phone and get ready to write a check.
Here in Brazil I don’t feel so bad. Labor is so cheap (which is a really bad thing for those of us who sell our labor to make a living) that it is often cheaper to hire a guy than do it yourself.  Let me offer an example.

We have a “Blindex” style shower in the bathroom.  That means the shower is surrounded by glass (no shower curtain). The door hinges are designed to use gravity to automatically close the door.  When you open the door the hinges twist and lift the door ever so slightly and then when you release it gravity lowers the door, hinges twisting, back to the closed position. Recently, the central pin in one of these hinges gave out (It was a good 20 years old).
Feeling very proud of myself I took the door off its hinges and set it safely aside until we could get this repaired.  At first I looked into doing it myself (gasp! – I know). I walked to the neighborhood glass and mirror shop and found that replacement hinges would cost between R$70 – R$90.  Then I would have to change them out and re-hang the door.
Not this Jim!

Somehow I never got the juice to actually begin the project. (Oh, really…)
With our birthday party looming we finally called a guy to come fix it.  In true Brazilian style, the guy had an idea for how to repair the broken hinge rather than buying a new one.  I am always skeptical of these funky fix-it jobs, but making it work on a shoestring is a proud art form among Brazilian handymen.
Long story short – the guy rebuilt the hinge using R$2 worth of materials.  Then we directed him to our electric-heating shower head which had long ago stopped functioning on two of the three temperature settings.  He bought a R$12 part and fixed that as well.
So if I had done the work myself I would have spent R$80 on new hinges and bought a new showerhead for R$60 – and maybe electrocuted myself.
Instead, our handyman guy used R$14 in parts and charged us R$40 for his labor.
It was cheaper to hire some help.  The jobs are done right. And I did not have to break a sweat.


Rachel said...

Nice work there both of you!

GingerV said...

No one who doesn't live here will understand this - BUT we pay a guy to come here and change light builbs. Look the ceilings are what 10 ft. and we don't have a latter or the storage for a latter, so we call and this guy come by bike, borrows a latter from the building, hauls it upstairs, climbs up, checks to see what type of builb is needed, goes out and gets the right ones, changes the builbs and take the latter away, now is R$40.00 but worth every penny.

GingerV said...

thats a ladder that we don't have.... so he borrows a LADDER - and we don't have storage for a LADDER. Jeez. I've not had a chocolate for 3 days and my brain is having issues with the sugar loss.....Lol.

Ray and Gil said...

I wish we had that option!
In New England, not only these type of "hired" help cost a fortune, they are usually super busy and take forever to come help you!
They all belong to Unions and are bonded and insured!
We miss Brazil more often than you would think...!