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PLUMB CRAZY; Dodgy tradesmen bill women more than men; Costs vary by 250 per cent in `postcode lottery'.

WOMEN are routinely charged more than men by plumbers, electricians, locksmiths and builders.

Researchers made over 500 calls to the four trades across 30 cities in the UK - and discovered that being a woman can be a costly business.

A plumber in Glasgow quoted a female caller pounds 40 per hour - 60 per cent more than the pounds 25 he quoted a male caller hours before.

Workmen also made the jobs out to be more difficult when phoned by women.

In Manchester, a locksmith told a woman that to gain entry to her home, her lock would need to be damaged beyond repair .

The same tradesman told a man in the same situation his lock could be picked without damaging the door and at no extra cost.

When two women reported blocked sinks, the plumber told them he'd need to "have a good old dig around".

Men calling with the same problem were told it would be a simple 10-minute job.

Pat Brady of AXA Insurance, who commissioned the research, said it showed women's suspicions that they are being taken advantage of are well- founded.

He added: "We put real faith in tradesmen when we invite them into our homes to help us out in often difficult and stressful situations.

"It's shocking to discover that so many tradesmen take advantage of customers' lack of knowledge about what is involved in a job and how much it should cost.

"Gender shouldn't come into the equation - a tap is a tap and a lock is a lock, no matter what sex you are or where you live.

"People shouldn't be afraid to challenge costs and quotes they feel are unfounded."

Homeowners also suffer from a postcode lottery, the survey showed.

The difference in prices varies by up to 250 per cent depending on where you live.

And eight out of 10 tradesmen don't include hidden charges such as VAT, parts, parking and clear- up, which can double the original quote.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 12, 2002
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