V. disappointed with Mr. Handyman

the_crispycritterJuly 8, 2006

I decided to go with this service which is very expensive, particularly for the first two hours (total $229.) The technician was far from expert as advertised, the appointment made in advance was broken, the "administrative" staff not easily reachable.

My guess is that the technicians are not being paid the top dollar which is being charged to customers.

Just want to pass this on to those tempted that a call to Mr. Handyman would solve all their repair problems.

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I hope you're doing something about this. Venting here may help, but a phone call to a supervisor might be better.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2006 at 7:27PM
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It looks like Mr. Handyman is a franchise system. Thats not to say thereÂs anything wrong with franchises but rather your experience may not be indicative of the entire system. Depending on the size of the franchise, the person you dealt with may be the entire staff. Businesses (just like people) arenÂt perfect are the measure of a truly successful business is how they resolve customer complaints.

By definition a "handyman" shouldnÂt be a technical expert. They are, to use the phrase, "a jack of all trades, master of none." Again, thatÂs not to say thereÂs anything wrong with handymen and an individual handyman may well be quite skilled in any number of trades. You donÂt necessarily need a master electrician to replace a wall switch or a master plumber of repair a leaky faucet. But if you do need a "technical expert" then you should hire person that specializes in a particular field. Just like if you needed brain surgery youÂd look beyond your family doctor.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2006 at 7:48AM
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Mike_kaiser: ugh....Mr. Handyman DOES advertise itself as bringing you the equivalent of a licensed carpenter, licensed electrician, etc. they do NOT advertise as "hey, we're merely handyman, and absolutely no reason to hold us to any professional standard." Please. They charge professional rates, so they should be accountable to standards of that profession. I bring all of this up here is because people who themselves aren't expert on home repairs, will mistakenly fall for these guys and think they are getting quality work. Now how would John Q. Public know where and when he better not mess with a handyman (who is of course a licensed electrician, but not "that" ?? licensed..)... Please.

The concept behind this franchise is exceedingly appealing especially in metro areas where small jobs get increasingly difficult to schedule. In its appeal is its danger. Hence my posting as a warning. Folks, PLEASE, if you need a little plumbing, a little electric work, a little carpentry work, it won't kill you to make three calls. Being lazy and making one call on my part turned out to be more error prone, forced me to make many more follow up calls when they screwed up the scheduling they initially set up. And somehow, *magically* there was no one to call back at the call back number when they rearranged my appointment on me. And the quality of the carpentry repairs was abominable. The person they sent me was not a professional.

Kudzu: The entire franchise network was aware regarding my displeasure on the scheduling mess up not to mention when I discovered that my address had fallen out of "the system" twice. I know a dysfunctional system when I bump into it so I won't bother going back for more punishment. The best way to deal with this is a) not to do further business and b) to let other people know what a scam this is (at premium prices).

Roto-Rooter is a country wide franchise that keeps up its national reputation exceedingly well. I go to them for all my plumbing needs. I know what professional service is and I did not get it in Mr. Handyman. In the future, I will collect all my little carpentry repairs along with a bigger project to entice someone to make it worth their while to come out for my job. And I'll spend a little more time calling around until I find the right carpenter, electrician, what have you. I won't be lazy again!

I'd love to hear what independent electricians, carpenters and plumbers think of Mr. Handyman.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2006 at 12:46PM
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I've come to the conclusion that it's almost impossible to find handimen who do really good work. In order to make money, they take the easiest, fastest approaches to a job. Good carpentry takes time...using a level, drilling and countersinking screws rather than driving them in with a hammer drill, cutting out notches and checking angles, etc. takes time. Most of them we've used would have been acceptable framing carpenters, but finish carpentry and woodworking skills are timeconsuming and costly. So far we've had two good jobs out of about 8 and we're really careful of getting good recommends from discerning friends and try to vet them before going ahead. We've spent the past two weekends trying to put casings on closets that were built so far out of plumb that squaring them up is a real geometry challenge.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2006 at 4:12PM
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Ive looked through the Mr. Handyman web site and I dont see any claims about being an expert or the equivalent of a licensed tradesman. Most of their claims seem to center around "being on time", convenience, customer satisfaction, and that no job is too small. Their "about" page starts with, "Mr. Handyman is a professional handyman service." Even their list of "common jobs" doesnt contain anything related to plumbing, electric, or roofing three of the most commonly licensed trades and has a disclaimer, "In some states, services are subject to state licensing requirements and may not be available at all Mr. Handyman offices."

Regardless of their advertising or claims caveat emptor still applies.

A "professional" is simply someone who gets paid to do a job. A doctor is a professional, as is a lawyer. Prostitutes and garbage collectors are also professionals.

$229 for two hours sounds a little high for a "handyman" service -- $75 per hour (two hours onsite plus an hour travel?) -- but rates will vary greatly around the country. My reading of their web site is that while they dont provide estimates they can give you some idea of what a particular job may cost based on similar jobs that theyve done in the past.

Certainly if you are dissatisfied with the service you received, it would be best to contact the franchisee that served you. Failing that you could contact the corporate office at:

3948 Ranchero Dr.
Ann Arbor, MI 48108
734-822-6888 (Fax)


    Bookmark   July 9, 2006 at 6:07PM
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I find your reply interesting. I am a plumber and my boss and I frequently disagree on the issue of craftsmanship.
His way of doing things is get in there and take the most economical/fast way to finish the job. This could mean skipping certain code issues or using the correct materials instead of what you have on the truck.
When I do a repair I think of the following things.
1. How would I want it done.
2. Is this the best solution for the owner.
3. Did the work I done represent me in a positive way.
So the debate comes when he says customers don't want to know anything more than it's fixed. If I tell a customer it's going to take "some time" they usually get very wide eyed. So, the question is do you get what you pay for? This depends on two things, the company and the tradesman. It seems the best way to protect yourself is find a person you like and stick with them. I have to agree with my boss, sometimes people just want it done quick and cheap.
I wish more people like you appreciated a tradesman.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2006 at 6:32PM
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There reason its hard to find a good handyman is that its hard to make a decent living as a handyman. All too many folks expect a handyman to work at a wage less than what an equivalent tradesman would earn yet expect the same level of craftsmanship. And they expect him to have a fairly large skill set. "Hey, while youre here could you look at" Nobody hires a painter and asks him if he can fix the water heater too. That kind of stuff makes scheduling very difficult. Customers frequently dont describe problem accurately. A "small" drywall repairs turns out to be a 2 square hole or some rotten trim turns out to be a rotten window and framing damaged by carpenter ants. To use an old Swedish word TANSTAAFL there aint no such thing as a free lunch.

For those who have never been self-employed generally fail to appreciate the complexities of running a business:

1. When you sell your time the ONLY time you make money is when you work. There are no personal days, no sick days, no bereavement days, no paid vacation.
2. Then theres "self employment tax". For those who get a regular paycheck theres usually a line on your pay stub labeled "FICA". Well, the employer pays an amount equal to that number to the Federal government on your behalf. The self-employed get to pay the entire portion (15%). So if youre working as an employee and earn $25 per hour you earn $25 per hour. The self-employed charging $25 per hour actually earns $23.13 per hour after paying their "self employment tax".
3. Theres generally no unemployment compensation although some states allow sole proprietors to pay into the state funded UC fund.
4. Decent health insurance for a family starts at $5,000. Want prescriptions, dental, optical, low co-pays and lots of coverage, expect to pay upwards of $12,000 annually. That assumes youre in good health and can even get health insurance.
5. Disability insurance is extra too.
6. A "business" phone line is more expensive too.
7. So is a "business" checking account.
8. The record keeping and bills need to be paid. None of which is billable.
9. If you have employees, the administrative side of things is 10x worse. My employee John is a dead-beat dad and doesnt pay his child support. I get an order from the court to garnish his wages. First I have to listen to John complain, whine, and try come up with a way to avoid his obligations. Then Im required to withhold the garnishment each pay period, generate a check, address an envelope, put a stamp on it, and make sure all this happens within a certain number of days of the pay day. If John leaves my employ, I need to write a letter to the court informing them of Johns change in status. If I dont I can be hauled into court and fined or even jailed. What do I get for my trouble, $1. Yup, I can withhold a whole extra dollar for my troubles.

For handymen or anyone in the trades there are additional concerns:

1. Especially for a handyman you need a fairly large collection of, often expensive, tools. A handyman might be a plaster in the morning, a carpenter at noon, and a tile setter in the afternoon.
2. You need a means of transporting those tools. Insurance is generally more expensive for commercial vehicles or those used for business.
3. You have to maintain those tools. If your drill breaks and you need it today, you either need to buy a new one or rent one while to old one is being repaired.
4. You have to insure those tools. Theft from trade vehicles is very common and you can loose a day or more making up a list for the insurance company and buying replacement tools.
5. You have to maintain an inventory of repair parts and assorted small items like screws, nails, nuts, bolts, etc. Since its pretty hard any more to buy a handful of nails the handyman typically ends up with a dozen half full boxes sitting on the shelf. Sure a box of nails doesnt cost much, but buck here and a buck there adds up to several thousand dollars of inventory over time. Money you dont earn interest on.
6. If youre above board youll most likely need a business license for every town you work in. That can run anywhere from $25 to $150 per year, per town. Towns often require some insurance and perhaps a bond.
7. Every time you walk into someones home you assume some risk. Nobody is perfect. Scratch a cabinet, spill something on the floor, or you might hit a water pipe if you drill a hole in the wrong place and you can be out a days pay or more. Cut a piece of trim wrong and you cant go back to Home Depot and ask, "May I have another piece please".
8. As a handyman its very hard to be efficient. All the tips and tricks you pick up as, say, a full time carpenter take a lot longer to acquire when you only do carpentry 10 hours per week. Thats why one person doesnt build most homes.
9. Then theres competition that comes from an unlikely source older, semi-retired men. "But the last guy only charged $15 per hour!" Sure he did. Hes probably got a pension, no mortgage, his kids are grown, and his former employer is picking up a big percentage of his health insurance bill.

Im sorry if I got a little long winded here but I thought it was important to give a good overview of the situation.

Thanks for reading!


    Bookmark   July 10, 2006 at 9:09AM
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Your experience echoes my own. I try to find people by word of mouth and it is hard. I've found that older people do better work. No matter who I hire, I pay them 3, 4 times more than I ever earned which I resent. I had skills, too, just not worth as much as a man who wants union wages.

The next carpenter I plan to try charges $20 an hour which is a lot to me, but if he does the job right, it will be worth it. Sometimes I diy if I can.

I hate hiring contractors now because they don't do the actual work and just pad the price to skim off the top for their "expertise" and you don't know who they will have doing the actual work and how well they will oversee it.

Thirty years ago things seemed a lot better, I've been at this a long time, now, and standards are not what they used to be everywhere, even with so-called professionals. There was a different work ethic and people seemed, overall, to do better quality work. I've had some real disasters since. And trying to get something done on the cheap doesn't always save in the end.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2006 at 11:20AM
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Thirty years ago things seemed a lot better, I've been at this a long time, now, and standards are not what they used to be everywhere, even with so-called professionals. There was a different work ethic and people seemed, overall, to do better quality work.

I think there's enough to talk about on both sides. I think customers are far more price-sensitive and far less loyal than they used to be. Most people don't think twice about buying goods or services from someone else despite the good service they may have gotten last time. People move and change decor far more frequently than they used to and have less of an incentive to spend a lot of money maintaining things properly because they likely won't be around for the aftermath. And many products generally are not built as well as they used to be; many are designed not to be repaired, but to be replaced.

None of this is an excuse to do poor work, but it does indicate that the folks who get hired are the ones who can work to a price point. When that happens, corners can get cut -- either in the work itself, or in margins for taking a little extra time or buying better tools ...

I ended up hiring a handyman for a major update I'm doing in my house. His hourly rate is equal to mine, which doesn't thrill me, but he knows his stuff, and, in the end, the house will look much better for his doing the work at an even trade for my salary than it would if I worked for myself "for free" in what little spare time I have.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2006 at 10:28AM
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I think part of the problem is that the dollar went further in the past and workmen didn't get in such a darn hurry to finish the job and get on to the next one. They used to work at a more leisurely pace, now everything seems almost frantic.

You are probably making a good decision to hire someone who makes a salary equivalent to yours. But that is no guarantee he will do a better job. You have to rely somewhat on your intuition and what you know about him. Of course, you can supervise the ongoing work which helps, too.

Staying with someone who has done good work for you in the past? Makes me laugh. The businesses are closed and the workers long gone, you wouldn't know where to find them if you wanted to. Some of mine are dead.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2006 at 12:04PM
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You have to rely somewhat on your intuition and what you know about him. Of course, you can supervise the ongoing work which helps, too.

Yeah, supervision helps, especially since I turned into the GC on this project ... I did have help in finding him, however; I subscribe to Angie's List and the line on this guy is that he isn't a speedball, but he is meticulous and he does good work. He also was smart enough to tell me which things I might want to hire out because they are not his forte.

Staying with someone who has done good work for you in the past? Makes me laugh. The businesses are closed and the workers long gone, you wouldn't know where to find them if you wanted to. Some of mine are dead.

We're a little luckier than most here in Minneapolis/St. Paul: people tend to stay put here. A large remodeler or franchised repair company might have a fair amount of churn, but people don't tend to move in or out here.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2006 at 10:32AM
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I have used a handyman service 3 or 4 time and have always been very satisfied. They have charged by the job and not the hour. I hired one the first time for what I thought was a very simple job. Sanding down 8 doors after I installed new carpeting. He came prepared with sawhorses, a circular saw, a belt sander and drop cloths. It was not as simple as I thought, but he did a perfect job, cleaned up and charged what I thought was a very fair price.

It was hard to go through the yellow pages and find anyone who would come out to cut down a few doors.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2006 at 2:59PM
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I have no experience with Mr. Handyman, but have used Handyman Connection (also a franchise) as well as two local contractor services. I consider them a great boon to couples like my husband and I, who both work and are not terribly handy. They all charge at least $75/hr, which is quite a bit less than our auto mechanics charge. We have had work done by several different contractors, and like most customers, have our "favorites" that we ask for as our first preference.

The only disappointment we have had was a plumbing connection that has (still has, in fact) a slow leak that I need to have redone. The contractor tried his best, came back twice afterwards. Then tragically he was in a horrendous auto crash and is now permanently disabled. But his other work was fine; we were, and are, quite happy with it. I'd already realized we need to find a "real" plumber to deal with this issue anyway, there is some other evidence that we may need that specialised skill set.

We've been fortunate that we have had no bad experiences, although there is one contractor that we prefer not to use -- his skills are fine, we just don't get a solid feeling about his ethics. Nothing truly bad, but I wouldn't be surprised if he pads his time a bit here and there, and we did not like at all how he treats his helpers. One of those "nice upstream, bad downstream" types, and that doesn't fly well with us.

I frankly don't think workmen were any better "in the old days" then they are now. However, there are a lot FEWER people in blue-collar work now, then before. The majority of us work in white-collar jobs, and there's still just as many mistakes being made now as before, it's just that these days they're on paper, not carved into wood or stone.

We live in a house built in 1940 and it was shoddy to begin with. It has nothing to do with quality of workmanship; the developer who built this house was famous for slipshod, cheap work. My sister-in-law now lives in the developer's house about two miles away from ours, and it's amazing they haven't had some sort of catastrophic accident in the last 10 yrs, that place is built so poorly. The old guy didn't care, he died rich and that's ALL he cared about.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2006 at 4:37PM
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A last note..

One important point of my brigning up this issue in this public forum: I want to make the corporation responsible for their claims. I have NO interest in complaining about individual performance. When I hire a "corporation", they are responsible for who they hire and send out. I want the corporation to be accountable. And I hope that more people felt this way (maybe ENRON would not have happened had more people had eyes and reported what was going on.) It is up to us, to cry fowl when the corporation has not met up to its stated claims. For me, the damage was DONE -- both to my pocketbook and my sensibilities. My time is valuable and my money is good too.

Plumerty: I know many people who care about craftsmanship. (Ya, I do KNOW there are those who take the cheapest, shortest route out). But becuase I respect my own profession, I accord the same to others. Also I do consider my home to be my investment, and I like to think when I replace or repair something in my 20 year old home, it will last me and/or the next person for a good duration. Just a closer look can show just how solid a job was done. People can put blinders on, or they can LOOK. SO, I do look, lots of my friends look, so let's just keep them standards going! :-)

I know friends who have sold their houses, sailboats, and what not so very quickly because they were in great condition.

I hope the independent carpenters and electricians et al. realize that their good services are needed and appreciated.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 12:56AM
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I ran my own handyman business for several years on a part time basis while I worked a 40 hour job and then full time after I retired from the 40 hour.

I had a pickup, covered trailer, and a LOT of tools. I could literally build a hounse with the tools I had---less HVAC and waste line plumbing. In fact, I volunteered on Saturdays with Habitat for Humanity---and my trailer was all that was needed on a jobsite.

I did not have to make a living from my business---so charged less. By the job usually. That is a terrible way to operate---you never know when a problem will happen on any given job. I was aware of that and still got caught in the problem solving(meaning extra costs).

I quickly found by only charging $20 an hour or a smaller than average flat rate, I was actually losing money. Extra trips for parts, tool upkeep, incedentals not included in the bid---nails/screws/etc.---and other costs of doing business took a lot more money than I figured.

And I did not have an office/secretary/receptionist/staff/accountant/CPA to pay.

Due to local, county, state, and federal laws---running a business is very complicated and expensive from the start.

I even considered becoming a Not-for-Profit business and rely on donations for work----but found that was worse.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2008 at 10:15AM
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Out here in ca., unless you have a state contractors license, you are only legal to do a job $500.00 labor AND materials per address per year. Most towns require a handyman business license at that, which is worthless as the $500.00 rule still applies. Hard to make a go of it with those restrictions!

    Bookmark   November 17, 2008 at 3:43PM
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In theory, many customers want "a fair price for a good job from a reliable person". But over time even good customers that trusted you on many occasions go astray, tempted by the dollar or a conversation from a friend, and the "cheaper guy" somewhere - sometimes it's your last quote on a particular job that will do it, despite your good history with them and trying to educate as to what's involved.

Sometimes it works out for them, and other times they're calling you back after a while asking if "there's anything you can do" for something someone else did.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 1:55PM
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I don't know much about requirements to work for this franchise but another similar franchise tryed to sign me on without knowing that much of my background on me, if that tells you anything. The franchise itself takes off the top of the price of the job- so it will be more expensive ! $229 is outrageous.
I am self-employed & semi-retired like "handymac" above. I charge $25 an hr. for a full hr of work to the best of my ability, and I find it hard to get ahead of it also, and am in a very similar situation. But I love my work & helping good people. If you find a good knowledgeable "jack of all trades" that works hard & does good work, it is well worth it. Or you can get someone cheaper per hr, but isn't as knowledgeable & takes him twice as long & is inferior work, so which are you farther ahead with?.......... MrMike

    Bookmark   November 21, 2008 at 9:32AM
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Should have also mentioned that along with the non state licensed legalities of being a handyman in our area, working by the hour is only legal if the homeowner/customer covers you with their own workmans comp despite what insurances you might carry. Our state was to introduce a "handyman" state license, but so far it has never materialized. It would basically be a limited states contractor license similar to a builders, but limited and allowing for unlimited bidding/ flat rate work.

Never made sense to me that a plumber can get 95.00/hr while the "jack of all trades" handyman who does plumbing as part of their service can only get a far lesser wage. Oh well!

Franchise handyman outfits out here are state licensed same as a builder. The franchise has the license that covers the "handyman" employees.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2008 at 10:54AM
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Hi there,
I just thought I would put a couple of cents in here.
I have called on "professionals" a few times, and have always had to fix something when they were done, even after having them come back THREE or FOUR times. My wife told me once to call the BBB before calling a roofing company about fixing a leak in between the chimney and roof. I did not call, nor did I ask friends or family for advice. I picked the first name I saw in the phone book. AAA roofing or something. Great idea. They gave a $600.00 estimate with 6 yr warranty. First time it rained it leaked. Called them. They came back out, ran out of nails, my wife heard them say. When it rained again, Went up to attic and found 3 inches of nails sticking through the roof and leaks. I won't tell you the rest of the sad story, but I ended up going up and fixing it myself, because I had to. I called the BBB later and found that they had been removed as members because of unresolved problems with unhappy customers. Silly Me.
Don't ignore your spouse, and ask around for someone you can trust. Handymen can be just as good as professionals if they are good and trustworthy. It's really person not position I think. But that's just my opinion.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2008 at 3:27PM
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