Cowboy builder/thief/just very unlucky?…

Cowboy Builder

I’ve been wanting to have some work done to the kitchen Chez Peewiglet since I moved in, and recently my employers recommended a bloke who’s worked for them, off and on, for over a year. They’ve found him very reliable, and so I asked him whether he’d be willing to sort my kitchen out.

He came to my house to take a look and was happy to do the work. We agreed that I needed a couple of lengths of kichen surface (whatever it’s called), a new sink and a new tap: £360, he told me the materials would cost. He said he’d need the money for the equipment up front in order to buy it, and since he’s been fine with my employers I didn’t see any reason to question that. There would also be two days’ labour, which seemed fair, to be paid for when the job was done. So, I paid him my £360 in the week before Christmas and that was the last I saw of him until I tracked him down in Bentham, where he lives.

For a month, now, he’s been promising to come back and do the job/return my money/bring me the equipment, but all promises have come to nothing. Yesterday I finally lost patience and went to the police, in the hope that they might ring him and give him a prod. They rang him and he promised (once again) to bring over the equipment: he told them he’d bring it this Friday, because he was apparently working out of the area this week. However, on going in to work this morning I learned that he’d been there all day yesterday (5 minutes from my house), and now I don’t hold out much hope of him coming on Friday after all since he’s clearly as happy to lie to the police as to me.

My employers, incidentally, for whom I’ve worked hard for a year, know all about this, but apparently think it’s perfectly okay to continue to employ him since they haven’t had a problem. Is that fair? I don’t think so. Apparently loyalty only works one way. Anyway…

I’ve set out below the chronology, as I put it together for the police officer. In my position, what steps might you be thinking of taking?

Friday 7th December Roy came to house to size up the job
Monday 10th December Roy came with brochure. Said he could do the job on Mon/Tue 17-18th December as long as I gave him the money (£360) for the kitchen surface, sink and tap by the following Wednesday so that he could buy it from Howden’s.
Wednesday 12th December Roy came to my house in the evening and collected the £360 in cash. Said he would go to the suppliers and buy the equipment.
Saturday 15th December TextsMe: Hi Roy. All ok for Monday? Shirl

Roy: Hi Shirl. Good for Monday. Sink comes first thing which I will pick up. I will phone Sunday to sought out times. Cheers Roy

Me: Brill Txs

Sunday 16th December Roy didn’t ring, but I saw no reason to be concerned
Monday 17th December TextsRoy (0742): Hi Shirl. Sink should be in by 11. Will phone you when I have got and am on my way.Me: Brill thanks S

Me (1101): Taking Piglet round block. Back by 1130 S

Me (1141): Hi Roy. Any word?

Roy: Still in lancs waiting. Will phone soon as.

Me: Ok Txs

Me (1200): Hi again. Has the delivery not arrived? How long from where u are to me? Beginning to wonder whether sink not coming. It’s lunchtime. Shirley

Roy: Not arrived yet. They will phone me as soon as it has. I am in Lancaster and want to get today or it will put me back.

Me: Are they normally reliable? Bit annoyed that it’s not come because had to re-arrange visiting father to be here today. I’d rather know instead of wasting whole day off. Any chance of checking with them whether it will be here today or not?

Roy: Big firm but independent delivery people. Do what you have to do today and I will move things around so that I can do Tues and Weds. No problem Shirley

Me (1218): Thanks but I’m working Wednesday. I can try to get the day off but will need to be sure the sink will come tomorrow.

Me (1403): Hi. I’ve spoken to Howden’s. The sink is in stock in Morecambe. Alternatively, Lancaster may be able to get one this afternoon if asked to do so. What do you suggest? I need to know when you plan to come as I work 5 days and have to make arrangements. Currently I’m working Wednesday. Please let me know ASAP.

Roy (1431): Thanks for that I will pick one up from there then. I can fit units and sinks in a day and then do the rest after you finish work.

Me (1458): Thanks. Tomorrow then?

I had no response from Roy and so I rang him, but his phone went straight to answerphone. He didn’t ring me back.

Tuesday 18th December TextsMe (0944): Hi. Wondering what time you’re coming. Can u let me know? Shirley

Me (1213): Roy, can you please tell me if you’re not coming so that I can go out. I don’t understand why you’ve not contacted me. Shirley

Again I tried ringing, but Roy’s phone went straight to answerphone and he didn’t ring me back.

Wednesday 19th December TextsMe (1336): Hi Roy. I’ve left you several messages now and you haven’t replied. Since clearly I can’t trust you, I no longer want you to do the job. Please return my £360 cash today or I’ll take appropriate action. Please ring or text to confirm that you’ll do so. Sincerely, Shirley
20-22nd December I continued to leave messages on Roy’s phone, but I heard nothing from him. I discussed the matter with Jane and Chris at the Inn where I work. Roy has worked for them. Jane also tried to contact Roy, but couldn’t get him. She told me that he had her white Citroen van (04 registration). I made enquiries in the village and was told that he lived in Bentham, behind [a particular] shop.
Sunday 23rd December I drove over to Bentham after work to see if I could find Roy. I saw no sign of the van, and wasn’t sure exactly where he lived. I eventually gave up and was just turning from Station Road back onto Main Street to drive back home when Roy emerged in Jane’s van from the narrow road next to the shop. I saw the white van, checked the registration and looked up to see who was driving. It was Roy.He saw me, looked shocked and pulled over on the other side of the road. I pulled up behind him.Roy came to my car, and immediately said he knew I’d left him many messages but that he hadn’t listened to any of them because he’d had no credit on his phone. He said he’d just been driving to the shop (across the road) to get some. He said he’d been in hospital with pancreatitis. I said I was sorry to hear that, but I didn’t understand why he hadn’t contacted me to let me know what was happening. He didn’t provide an explanation.

He again said he hadn’t listened to the messages and so didn’t know what they said. I told him that eventually I’d concluded that I couldn’t trust him and had asked for my money back. I asked if I could have it back, and he said he didn’t have it because he’d used it to buy the kitchen equipment.My main concern was still to get the job done, and so I told him that. I asked if we could arrange a new date, and he said we could. I couldn’t believe he’d do the same thing to me twice. He promised to ring me the following Thursday 27th December to make arrangements.When I got home I texted Jane to confirm what had happened.

Me (1518): Found Roy. Bizarre coincidence! He was driving your van onto main road as I passed [the shop]. Caught his eye and he stopped. Says he’s been ill in hospital. Don’t know what to make of it but main thing is we’ve spoken. Happy Christmas J xx Shirl

Thursday 27th December Roy didn’t ring me
Friday 28th December TextMe (1350): Hi Roy. Any suggestions re: dates for kitchen? Shirley

Roy: Hi. How about the 8 9 of Jan

Me: That’s fine but I need to know you’ll definitely be here as I’ll have to take the Wed off. Can I write it in my diary?

Roy: Sorry meant 7 and 8

Me: 7 and 8 better thanks. Is it definite?

Roy: Yes

Me: Great thanks. See you then. S

Thursday 3rd January TextsMe (1730): Hi. What time will u be here Monday? I have appointment and need to know by tomorrow morning whether to postpone it. Happy new year! Shirl

Roy: Hi shirl. Be about 8.30

Me (0035): Great thanks

Friday 5th January I saw Roy at work. He was doing some jobs for Jane and Chris. I said hello. He was around for a few hours. At one stage he said, “All set for Monday?” and I told him I was.
Sunday 7th January For the second time, I unpacked the cupboards in the kitchen and moved the contents into the sitting room, to have everything straight for Roy on his arrival the following morning.
Monday 8th January Roy did not turn up.


Me (0910): Hi Roy. When are you coming? Was expecting you 0830 Shirley

I had no response. I tried ringing but the phone went straight to answerphone.At about 11am I left a note on the door for Roy telling him I’d gone out for about 10 minutes and drove to work, to see whether he was working there. He wasn’t.I then drove to Bentham. I walked up [his street] but could find no sign of the white Citroen van behind [the shop]. I tried the carpark in Station Road but it wasn’t there either. I got back into my car and was about to drive home when I saw a white van turn into Goodenber Road, which leads to another car park. On the off-chance that it was Roy I followed it.

When I got to the car park I saw the van. It was Jane’s, and Roy was in it. I got out and went over to it. Roy got out.

I asked where on earth he was, and said he was meant to be at my house. He said he was having family problems. I asked why he hadn’t rung me and he said (gesturing to the mobile in his hand) that he didn’t have my number in that phone. I asked why he hadn’t driven down to [my place] to tell me, and he acknowledged that he could have done that.

We had a conversation. I asked whether he could come round and do the job once he’d sorted out his family problems but he said he had to drive to Leeds. I asked whether he could complete the job the following day but he said he couldn’t: it would take more than a day. I asked if he could finish it on Wednesday but he said he was having an operation on Wednesday. At that point I concluded that he had no intention of doing the job and asked for my money back instead.

He then said he didn’t have it: again he said he’d spent it on the kitchen equipment. He said if he took it back they might just give him a credit note. He said he uses a branch of Howden’s in Bury/Burnley on a friend’s account, because he doesn’t have an account of his own.

I said that really it was his problem rather than mine if they would only give him a credit note: he replied that it was both of our problems. I said I would report him to the police if he didn’t give my money back or do the job, and he said it was a civil matter rather than a criminal matter. I had the impression that this wasn’t the first time he’d been involved in this sort of conversation.

I then said that if he didn’t have the money then he should borrow it in order to repay me. I said I expected to get my money back either that afternoon or the following day, and I got back in my car. He came to the window and promised to ring me that night. He said he would definitely come to my house the following day.

Tuesday 9th January Roy didn’t ring or come to my house, but I found a text on my phone from him (using a new number).

Roy (0827): Hi Shirley. Sorry didn’t phone last night got back late. Won’t be at yours today as I still need to sought some things. I am in hospital this afternoon for an opp and Weds. Will phone you later to sought out what we are going to do. This is my new number. Sorry for all this agro. Roy

Me (0920): Hi Roy. Please arrange for somebody to return my £360 cash, today if possible. It’s clear to me know that you don’t intend to do the job. You can bring it this morning, or somebody you nominate can contact me on this number (or via work) to bring it later today. ShirleyAfter that I spoke to an old friend, and he suggested asking Roy to give me the equipment instead, since he said he had used my money to buy it. I could then arrange for somebody else to fit it. That sounded like a good idea, and so I sent a further text.

Me (0957): Hi again. On second thoughts, I’d rather just have the equipment you’ve bought as we agreed. You give that to me and we’ll call it quits. I’ll find somebody else to fit it. Can you or somebody else deliver it to me today? Please reply. Thanks, Shirley

Roy (1021): Hi Shirley. I will get some one to drop it off to you. Will phone you when they are on their way.

Me: Great thanks. Please tell them to deliver to [the village] Post Office (in Main Street) instead of my house. They will store the equipment for me until I can arrange a fitter. The number at the Post Office is[blah]. They’ll be waiting for delivery today. Shirley

Me (1316): Hi. What time is the bloke coming?

Roy (1600): Some time when he has finished work. Like I said I will phone when he’s on his way. Can’t do a lot more at mo in the hospital.

Me (1942): Still no sign of my property, Roy. Is it coming or not? If you really have it, and have spoken to a friend, you must have some idea of what time he’ll be here. Where is it? Shirley

I had no further reply from Roy. The equipment did not turn up.

Wednesday 9th January TextMe (1745): Hi Roy. Still waiting for delivery of property and contact from you. Shirley
Thursday 10th January No contact from Roy
Friday 11th January TextMe (0609): Hi Roy. Friday now. Will you be delivering my things today, or returning my £360? Please let me know. Shirley

At 1218 Roy left a voice message on my phone, as follows.

“Hi Shirley, it’s Roy. I’m gonna take your stuff back and get the money back for that and… erm… drop the money round to you. I’m working in Settle at the moment so as soon as I’ve finished here, if I get time, I’ll go and do it. If not I’ll have to do it tomorrow morning coz the place closes at lunchtime. Ok, thanks bye.”Roy did not turn up with my money.

Saturday 12th Januay Roy did not turn up with my money, as promised. He made no contact.Text

Me (1940): Hi. No sign of my money either yesterday or today. Surprise surprise. Thief. Shirley

27 Responses to Cowboy builder/thief/just very unlucky?…

  1. louse4 says:

    CAB, Trading Standards and the BBC’s Cowboy Builders. Good luck.

  2. BG! says:

    That’s an epic, PW!

    Yep, getting the CAB, TS and Beeb involved is a good idea.

    Hold out for a refund (or for the goods if you can trust their provenance) instead of trying to force him to do the work. You don’t want him to grudgingly do a poor job and then sting you with a hiked labour charge. Besides, if his work is covered by any sort of warranty or guarantee what are the chances of it being honoured?

    I hope you get it sorted soon. Good luck!

  3. louse4 says:

    Ooo! I do hope it gets sorted. Can’t wait to see you on TV!

  4. Gordon says:

    A good suggestion by louse4.

    I had a problem with a mobile phone company a few years ago. A few letters to the Trading Standards Office (near to the phone company) and the problem was resolved.

    Good luck with this issue.

    BTW are you still backpacking?

  5. The world’s full of wasters like this. I’ve no idea how you get your money back using strictly legal means (?small claims court – seems you had a contract…). I can imagine how irritated you are. Bah! Rude words!

  6. Mike says:

    Hi Peewiglet,

    So sorry to hear of this mind numbing bad luck you have with this tradesman.

    I guess it’s no consolation, but these kind of people always prey on the nicest, trusting people. I guess he’s broken a bit of that off you now, try not to get better over it.

    When we need tradespeople, we ring around and choose the one with a reasonable price but not necessarily the cheapest. Last time, we found a crew that only charged labour. They arranged the hardware order which was delivered after we paid the hardware company direct. I liked that.

    Doesn’t sound like there is much you can do with your employer, which is a shame seeing they recommended this person. Ideally, they should be putting some pressure on him to sort things out.

    I’ll bet he never bought the hardware, and all he is doing is delaying…

    Good luck with it.


  7. Laura says:

    Hi Shirley – Happy New Year! (Apart from the kitchen hassle, of course!)
    What bad luck! As far as I’m concerned you’ve been very tolerant and patient… sounds as though the guy has major problems as well as stealing from you,,,,,,,,,are there any other customers he’s ripped off I wonder?
    I’m not sure I’d trust him to do the work now anyway…….

  8. Mike says:

    r/better/bitter 🙂

  9. Mango Terrier says:

    Oh boy. What a shabby and squalid little scam. Checking at Homebase we find that:

    Two lengths of 2m worktop = £66.98
    A sink (with tap) = £34.00

    Total material costs = £100.98

    Leaving a £259.02 balance.

    If you have a written receipt for the monies you might possibly be able to go through the Small Claims Court. Frankly, naming and shaming is probably best – tho’ this puts you in a difficult position with your employer.

    But all of this takes energy far better used for the good things in life!. In your position I’d walk away and let this miserable wretch stew in his own juice.

    • peewiglet says:

      Txs Mango xxxxxxxx

      The surface, sink and tap are nice ones, and it’s quite possible that they came to £360 (um… well, I hope!)

      Have nothing in writing, but not too worried about that. 20 years in court taught me that one word against another is perfectly fine, as long as the one word is obviously truthful, as mine is (have got texts to prove he doesn’t deny anything).

      Not too bothered about position with my employer. Looks like (please God!) I may be about to be offered a better job elsewhere 🙂

      Know what you mean–my aunt gave me same advice–but just can’t bring myself to allow dishonest shit to get away with it. Will happily take on burden of crunching him!

      xxxxx Moi xxxxx Piggle xxxx Pissling — Love to Mazza and Gango 🙂

  10. Mango Terrier says:

    Later . . . have just talked with our local tradesman who reckons the labour for whole job would take no more than one day and cost around £180. And would cut up the old material to burn in your stove for free.

  11. vic scott builder of nearly 50 years says:

    why would your company employ a builder who had no phonecredit ,and no account at Howdens ..hes a cowboy a chancer gives us all a bad name ..take him to small claims court

    • peewiglet says:

      Will do! They prolly had no idea that he had no account/no credit. He just turned up and did the job. Different situation for them now, though, since he’s failing to respond to their texts as well.

  12. kevin smith says:

    it is always the innocent people that get conned there is an old saying “What goes around comes around”

  13. The small claims track is ideal for this sort of thing. Going after someone with no assets is a waste of time, but if he’s still working for your employers, it’s a fair bet that he’s got some funds. Having been through something similar, I suspect he’ll never pay up unless you force the issue.

  14. Phil W says:

    Good luck with this. But fear you may have seen last of your money 😦 What about small claims court – or is that throwing good money after bad?? Anyway, lesson learned not to pay up front even where they may seem genuine. Most builders have accounts so they can get their supplies before cash required.

  15. peewiglet says:

    Dear all,

    Thanks so much for your supportive messages ♥

    Update is that he texted me on the day he’d told the police that he’d deliver the stuff to say he’d just had a general anaesthetic and couldn’t drive, but if I sent a van round he’d get somebody to load my stuff into it. Yeah, right…

    Further update is that he’s now late on making payments for my employer’s van, and has failed to respond to texts of theirs requesting return of a piece of kit of theirs worth several thousands of pounds. Rough justice….

    I will sue him in the small claims court. I understand Mango’s feeling that it’s best to let it go, but it’s actually a relatively stress-free procedure. Not going to let this shit bully me into loss of the equivalent of 60 hours’ work.

    Your responses are all much appreciated ♥ Will let you know how I get on 🙂

  16. TJ says:

    just wondering how you got on? I came across your blog by accident whilst searching for builders in the Bentham area.
    Iam in a simliar situation with a thieving, conning builder. Who took me for near £3k and left the job 1/2 done. He never even ordered the materials he took the money for. Then found things missing. The thieving towrag!! I’m too looking at the small claims court route. So any advice would be welcome. Thanks. x

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