Recently, people whose insurance is ready for renewal have been receiving notices from their insurance companies that they must endure an inspection that could last a maximum of three hours, and permit the inspector full access to the house including attic and/or crawl space. Renewal of a policy is contingent upon this inspector’s filing a positive report that shows the house is properly built and protected using current standards, against a potential hurricane. Having a perfect stranger in your home for three hours can be daunting enough, but having him crawl around every nook and cranny taking photos both inside and outside the house can be quite unnerving, especially if you are a woman “of a certain age” living alone. That is not to say the inspector is a threat, in fact, reports from several people he has visited show he is not: he is a highly professional gentleman who goes about his job in a quiet, efficient manner. One Island resident reported that he even tried to assist her in finding one of her protective corrugated storm panels that was missing from a window beside her front door. The mounting hardware was there, but the cover could not be found and he considered it important enough that he said he could not file a positive report without having seen it. He said he would allow her a week to get a replacement, and even measured it for her and suggested she call either Lowe’s or Home Depot for a replacement. There was also a second unprotected area but he did not seem to think it was as vulnerable or essential.
Here’s where the problem began. The woman called several suppliers and found Home Depot could cut the 11-inch by 7-foot panel for her, at a cost of $32. They recommended that she not estimate the measurements, but to be accurate, they would send out one of their contractors to measure and install the panel.
While the contractor was at her home, she felt she might as well get an estimate for the second area that was without protection. The contractor from THD Home Services quoted her a price of $1,100 for the single piece, $2,000 for both, and said it would take three weeks. This was far from the $32 she had originally been quoted, and she needed the work done in one week so that the inspector could come and take a photo of it. When she questioned the disparity in price and the much higher cost, the fellow told her the permit alone was $500. Having had a previous experience with city building permits, she called city hall and was told a permit for a window opening is $70. When she mentioned the price the contractor had quoted, she was told that contractors can charge whatever they want, the price is $70.
The woman got her own permit, drove to Home Depot, had the corrugated plastic panel cut and put in place herself. A friend from her church installed the second protective area for a cost of $150.
Savings: approximately $1,748.
This experience reminded me of a second woman who needed to mail a package and three letters. She was leaving town the next day and as the post office was closed Saturday afternoon, she went to a parcel courier service. After taking care of the parcel, she asked if they sold postage stamps as well. Her three letters were going to Canada and required 85¢ each, and she had only 80¢ on each envelope. The clerk told her the cost would be $2.35. Thinking there had been a miscommunication, she said she wanted only three-five cent stamps. She was told there was “an upcharge” for US postage. Needless to say, she left without being gouged 75¢ for a 5¢ stamp, and said she will have second thoughts before going there again.
A little research tells us, that retail outlets other than the post office may charge whatever they want for postage — that doesn’t mean the educated consumer will pay it.
Is it a coincidence that both of these events involved women, who are in the “graciously senior” category? Fortunately, both had the sense to question what they considered outrageous pricing.
Since the consumer seems to be the victim of paying “the going rate,” perhaps those going rates would be a little more acceptable if we questioned them more often.