Jack Hope had to make a call again yesterday. A call to a person who asked one of the Hope Plumbing team members to come by after hours and do a job on the side. As usual, the plumber let us know so we could make a note that this individual isn't someone we want to do business with again, and Jack could call them up and ask why they thought this was okay.
The thing about Jack is he, in addition to founding and co-owning Hope Plumbing, has a Masters Degree in Philosophy. So when he says something is wrong or when someone does this they suck as a person, he isn't just throwing words around. He has evidence to back it up. So I decided to sit down with Jack and get philosophical answers as to why it is wrong to ask a plumber for side work.
Question: When you say it is wrong for a person to do this, what school of thought are you basing this statement?
Jack: There are essentially two sides to this, you are either a Deontologist or a Consequentialist. Deontologists say you should always do what you know to be right because failing to do so damages your morality. Consequentialists say that the consequences of your actions, not your intentions, is the basis of ethics. On either side, a person who asks for side work from one of our employees sucks.
Q: On the latter, what are the negative consequences of asking a plumber for side work?
Jack:From a selfish standpoint, or maybe fairness standpoint, you are basically stealing from me. It's taken me almost a decade to find a crew of licensed guys who are insurable, who I can provide expensive company trucks stocked with expensive tools and pay a quite a bit of money to every year. We've spent a lot of money building this, we've spent money on someone in the office to take your call, we've sent a plumber to your house, and so on. So when a plumber comes out there and gives you a price, and you ask for them to come by off the clock for cheaper, you are stealing from the business and the people who work here.
Q: Why do you think people do it?
Jack: Maybe they don't think of what they're asking in an attempt to save a dollar. It's a bad deal for them because, in the event of a house flooding, they are out of luck if they used a plumber who is not there through a licensed contractor. A house flooding is rare, but it does happen, and that is why we carry huge insurance coverage. A plumber off the clock isn't covered by our insurance and the homeowner will have no recourse if anything catastrophic happens.
What really bothers me, though, is that they are asking one of my trusted guys to risk their job and even break the law. In Indiana, only licensed plumbers can work on homes. They are not a licensed contractor when they are off the clock.
Q: What about the Deontology side? Is it morally wrong?
Jack:It is, and the people who do it know it is. This is why they ask the plumber and don't call me and ask if it's okay if this guy works after hours on the side. They know I'll say no, and they are trying to hide their actions. When I call them and ask if they know it is stealing, they often hang up on me and don't try to defend themselves.
We're a local business. It's not okay to steal from a business of any size, but a small business like ours can feel these things when they happen.
Q: So why do we blacklist anyone who asks a plumber for side work?
Jack:The homeowner has proven that they will try and take advantage of me whenever they can. Plus, I think they've proven themselves to be a shitty person, and none of us want to do work for shitty people. Quote me.
Q: Can I really quote you on that?
(This is why we love Jack.)