SOPHIA MONEY- COUTTS MOD­ERN MAN­NERS What’s a posh name worth? Ask a builder

Why are trades­men adding cash on to quotes for peo­ple with fancy names? Do they not re­alise that some of us live in squalor, too?

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Front Page -

It’s rotten luck. Not only are posh peo­ple these days pub­lic en­emy num­ber one, blamed for ev­ery­thing from Em­pire to Brexit to tak­ing all the best roles in act­ing, now it tran­spires we’re be­ing charged more by builders, too. This is ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey I was emailed a cou­ple of days ago, which re­vealed that over 75 per cent of builders have charged more to home­own­ers who have “posh” names.

More than three quar­ters of the trades­men quizzed for this sur­vey said they’d given higher quotes to cus­tomers called Hen­ri­etta, Har­riet or Cas­san­dra. And my first thought on read­ing this was “Why is it only Jilly Cooper hero­ines hav­ing work done?”, but my sec­ond thought was mainly about how jolly, jolly un­fair this is.

I live in a base­ment flat in Lon­don that’s as damp as a dish­cloth, but I am ex­tremely charm­ing to any builder I call out, gen­er­ally on a weekly ba­sis when there’s a drama with my plumb­ing or an­other burst pipe or an alarm­ing patch of black mould that’s warp­ing the skirt­ing board and spread­ing up a wall. I make them tea, I make them nice cof­fee in the cafetière. I once didn’t have any sugar and had to give them two spoon­fuls of honey in­stead, but I hardly think that war­rants an ex­tra sting on the bill.

I ad­mit that I some­times don’t help my­self. Once, when I had some­one over to retile my shower, he spot­ted a cou­ple of framed pho­tographs in my sit­ting room and looked at me with awe. “You’re very im­por­tant, aren’t you?” he said. One photo is of me stand­ing with Barack Obama and An­gela Merkel at a G7 meet­ing in 2014, the other is of me sand­wiched be­tween Stalin, Churchill and Roo­sevelt at Yalta in 1945. I wrote a piece for Tatler some years ago about the art of ne­go­ti­at­ing, and the pic­ture ed­i­tor used photo trick­ery to su­per­im­pose me to be nes­tled among world lead­ers at his­tor­i­cal events. I have these two framed at home be­cause they make me laugh. The tiler thought that they were real. I made a men­tal note to change my night cream and ex­plained that, alas, they weren’t real and I was ac­tu­ally a lowly writer who was so un­der­paid that she could hardly af­ford to buy any sugar.

And yet per­haps he still upped the in­voice a few quid just be­cause of my name. Al­though I do some­times call my­self So­phie if I’m try­ing to down­play things.

The good news is the chap be­hind this sur­vey is called Tar­quin – poor man – and he’s launched a price­com­par­i­son site to clamp down on rip-off mer­chants. It’s called Ha­much. com, which goes to prove my the­ory that peo­ple lum­bered with silly names are of­ten forced to de­velop a sense of hu­mour so they can face get­ting out of bed in the morn­ing.

I hon­estly don’t know Tar­quin, I’m just out­raged that some of us are still be­ing pe­nalised on the ba­sis of what we’re called. I thought we were beyond that nowa­days, given that we have to be ex­tremely care­ful about what we call any other sec­tion of so­ci­ety. It’s poshism, pure and sim­ple. So I’m think­ing about start­ing a sup­port group. Only thing is I don’t have space to host it in my leaky flat. Have any of you got a spare cas­tle knock­ing about?


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