Metro 73

Friday 19 Jul 2013 6:00 am

My doorbell rang one lunchtime. It was a man claiming that he was in the area pruning foliage. He’d noticed that the small tree in our front garden was planted in the wrong place. Unless checked, he said, its roots would damage my wall.

Luckily, though, his skip was half-empty, so he could give me a very special deal to sort out the problem that I’d been unaware that I had and suspected didn’t actually exist.

Perhaps sensing my scepticism, he pointed up the street, saying: ‘There’s our van!’ As if having a van proved his business was genuine. He also had a sweatshirt with a company logo on it. No one could fake that.

‘It would usually cost you £140 but as we’re in the area and there’s room in our skip, we will do it for £70,’ he told me. ‘You would save £70.’

Of course, there was an even better way for me to save £70, which was to not give him £70 to carry out work that may not be required.

I’ve lived in this house for 11 years and the tree doesn’t seem to have made anything fall over yet.

Maybe I am sitting on a ticking time bomb and tomorrow I will come home to find a smoking hole in the ground with the tree beside it, swaying slightly in the breeze as if to gently mock me.

Then I will wish that I had taken up the offer of this altruistic stranger.

If I want to be ripped off by a tradesman, I am perfectly capable of picking up my phone and finding one myself. Once they start turning up on spec to con me, then I think they’ve crossed a line.

Surely common sense says you should never buy anything from any unsolicited person who has rung your doorbell.

I’ve had men offering to sell me fish. Of all the things that I might buy from a shady stranger, fish would come very low on that list. ‘Fancy eating something that could give you food poisoning from a source you won’t be able to trace with no recourse to complain? It’s all right, we’ve got a van.’

Did I want to put the life of my tree in the hands of a stranger? What if a man dressed as a doctor came to my door and said: ‘You’re looking a bit peaky. I think you’ve got appendicitis. Usually that would cost a fortune to whip out but as we’re in your street and we have a bit of room in our organ bin, we can do it for 70… Look, I’ve got a stethoscope.’

Oh well, if you’ve got a stethoscope…

At least the people who come to your door have to do a bit of legwork. The ones who ring you up about mis-sold PPI when you haven’t even been sold any PPI and don’t know what PPI is are dishonest AND lazy.

As a self-employed man with an empty life, I see it as my duty to keep these people in conversation for as long as I can. I can’t steal their money but I can steal their time. I faked interest for ten minutes before saying I didn’t require the dubious tree service.

What he didn’t realise was that all along I’d been planning to write a Metro article about this. He thought he was conning me but he was the victim of an elaborate counter-sting. It’s made me tens of pounds.

Money I’ll give to a conman tradesman who has the decency to wait for me to ring him.