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?
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?