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The question: Tradesmen

Ten tradesmen were facing prosecution this week after an undercover operation by Surrey trading standards officers. We ask: what is your worst experience with a tradesman?

The officers setting up the sting hired a house in Leatherhead and set up deliberate faults, then watched via hidden cameras as unsuspecting workers tried to fix them. One plumber was captured urinating in a vase, while a gas engineer charged £200 for five hours work - when all he had to do was flick a switch on a boiler. He then tested for gas with a naked flame.

One of my best friends is a builder.

He boasts his company motto as 'We may be slow, but we're rough'. I would trust him to the end of the earth. It is sad I cannot say the same about insurance salesmen, journalists, lawyers or politicians.

Paul Jameson, 49, head of highways and transportation management, Worcester

Although I do my own plumbing, painting, electrics and the occasional thorough rodding job, some very good tradesmen here in Exeter have sorted the TV, washing machine and PC monitor.

But, funnily enough, I have just this week reached crunch time on two badly fitted windows. Following legal advice, I yesterday faxed an ultimatum to my friendly double glazing company giving them 14 days to solve the problems with the windows they fitted in February 2003. Seven fitters or managers have come and gone during the year but none has solved the faulty beading, missing trim or hacked facia. Now, where are those forms for the small claims court?

Dudley Swain, 56, performance manager, Exeter

It is because of this very reason that I use tradesmen as a very last resort. My father was very much into DIY and luckily this rubbed off on me. I have tackled plumbing, electrics, brickworks, concreting and general woodwork in the course of house ownership, not to mention car, cycle and motorcycle mechanics! However, as we progress with technology the ability to take apart and repair is rapidly giving way to replacement.

Whenever I have to use the trade, I usually go by references from friends and neighbours rather than pick a name from the yellow pages.

Peter Hookham, 43, traffic engineer, Devon

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