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Crooked Contractor

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"Honest Jake" Phillips, handling no job too small or too dirty, as long as he finds bank robbery loot.

Marge: Wait, there's still one last thing that doesn't make sense. Why did you start fixing our roof and just disappear?
Ray: That's easy — I'm a contractor.
Marge: [laughing] That's right, you're all crooks!
The Simpsons, "Don't Fear The Roofer"

A small household crisis, like a faulty pipe or a leaky roof is likely to hit everyone at some point, and when it does, someone profits from it.

The Crooked Contractor comes in two flavors, the Criminally Lazy and the Plain Criminal. The criminally lazy is paid an hourly wage, shows up late — if at all — and doesn't exactly rush the job. The plain criminal flavor includes scammers who e.g. "inspect the roof" and leave behind holes so large you have to hire them to fix them. There's occasionally also a third flavor in the form of "dude who bit off more than they could chew" - this is what happens when contractors who are inexperienced or who specialize in one field but are trying to learn the ropes of another take a job that's well beyond what they're capable of. The difference between the two is that the well-intentioned ones will generally own up to their mistakes (that's not to say that weasels don't exist), while the crooks will disappear and leave you with an uncollectable judgment if you manage to sue them.


Offices located next to Honest John's Dealership.

Known to happen in Real Life every now and then. If you end up the victim of his shenanigans, you can contact your local consumer protection agency (if you're American, this tool will help you find the right number to call).


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     Comic Books  

  • Tintin - Tintin: The Castafiore Emerald Mr Bolt takes several weeks to get around to fixing Cptn. Haddock's steps out of apathy.
  • Any and every handyman ever to appear in MAD. Clerks (especially post office workers) get equally bad reps. One gets the impression that MAD's writers have a lot of frustration to vent...
  • The Punisher: In one story, Frank's narration explains how a Mafia-owned construction company gets an order for four bags of cement but only sends three. As complaining leads to a nice pair of cement shoes, the builders just order more cement, with the eventual cost being pushed on the taxpayer.
  • Robin: After the Cataclysm hit Gotham a fair number of sleazy contractors started pulling off a scheme where they collected some money for repairing damaged places up front and then left never to be seen again. When some of these crooks tried to pull this on Tim's father and Jack wouldn't listen to Tim's warnings Tim tracked them down, got his dad's money back and turned them in to the police.

     Fan Fiction  

  • Pipe Fitter in the Friendship is Magic fanfiction Three Hundred and Sixty Degrees of Saturation (part of the Triptych Continuum'') hits pretty much every point of both the Criminally Lazy and Just Plain Criminal version of this trope. On the Lazy side of the spectrum he is chronically late, singularly uncommunicative and when he does actually start work he is prone to wandering off for extended breaks that can last most of the day. On the Criminal side of things he has a tendency to overcharge, tries to double bill both Rarity and the Ponyville Town council for one lot of work and threatens any would be competitors from settling in Ponyville (or have established plumbers in Canterlot attempting to travel out to Ponyville).



  • A plumber in The Godfather, who was decisively outbastarded in about one minute when his client got wind of it, of course.
  • The Money Pit revolves around this trope. Walter Fielding is swindled into buying a house, only to discover it's a fixer-upper, as every last nook and cranny is worn down enough that it's in need of repair. The contractors he hires to do the job take advantage of the situation by exploiting his trust and finding excuses to repair and rebuild pretty much everything except for the fountain of the peeing angel.
  • Super Mario Bros. has Scapelli, who makes his Establishing Character Moment by talking to Daisy about how her archaeology work is getting in the way of his construction contracts like a standard big-shot member of The Mafia and sends goons (who don't even bother to avoid wearing stuff with the company logo) late at night to sabotage the site.
  • The Mask has the two garage guys, who are rather obviously inventing car defects for them to solve. Once Stanley dons the mask, since they spent so much time talking out of their ass, he gives them mufflers.


  • Discworld has the Ankh-Morpork Guild of Plumbers and Dunnikin Divers. Motto: NON ANTE SEPTEM DIES PROXIMA, SQVIRI ("Not Before Next Week, Squire").
  • Robert A. Heinlein's story Its Great To Be Back! two recent people who have returned to earth from the moon deal with a plumber who isn't a crook but refuses to help them for petty reasons.
  • One of Harry Graham's Ruthless Rhymes is a comment on contractors who inflate work time by "accidentally" leaving tools behind:
    I warned poor Mary of her fate,
    But she would wed a plumber's mate!
    For hours the choir was forced to sing
    While he went back to fetch the ring.
  • The Father Koesler mystery, Death Wears a Red Hat, features corrupt roofing contractors targeted by the main villain. In part, this demonstrates that the character, having run out of truly evil people to kill, has started on more minor criminals.
  • In the book of Big Trouble Dave Barry wrote about a prison contractor who used garage-door openers to actuate the cell doors. Hilarity Ensues when someone drives by and hits the garage door opener by mistake.
  • Rally Round the Flag, Boys! has landscaper Minton Evans, whose excuses for disintegrating lawns include "them atom bomb explosions." Minton is part of the ruling class of Putnam's Landing, which includes Waldo Pike, an equally dishonest hardware salesman, and Doc Magruder, a family doctor who got his degree from a diploma mill and isn't afraid to ask his patients, "What's psoriasis?"
  • In Molly Harper's Half Moon Hollow vampire romance series, Jane encounters this in the initially lazy version, where the contractor for Zeb's new house seems to spend more time getting drunk than actually doing work. Then she learns that Zeb's in-laws are paying the contractor to sandbag the work in an effort to get his bride to live at home. One threat later, and the work is being completed much more rapidly.

     Live Action TV  

  • The page image: in the Monk season 7 premier "Mr. Monk Buys a House", Monk moves into this new house. He finds an off-centered lamp, and calls over a handyman he met in a hardware store, "Honest" Jake Phillips (Brad Garrett). He comes to take a look at it, then starts a house-wide demoliton project extensive enough that Monk and Natalie are left cowering on the steps as Jake and his assistant "Honest" Ramone hack away at the walls. Turns out he was after a hidden fortune left behind by the last tenant of the house. His accomplice and lover killed that occupant to prevent him from telling the secret to anyone else, though she told Jake about it. Jake stabs and kills her in her house after Monk catches onto her. When Monk and Natalie find the bloodstained murder weapon on Jake's toolbelt, he takes them hostage by shackling them by their legs to a claw-footed bathtub. After finding the money, he shoots and kills Ramone, before Monk and Natalie knock him out by pushing a wall down on him. They manage to crawl down the hall to send up Morse code smoke signals from the fireplace to Stottlemeyer and Disher, who barely arrive in the nick of time as Jake recovers and prepares to shoot his hostages.
  • The premise of the show Catch A Contractor. Adam Carolla (a former carpenter himself) and a married couple (one a contractor, one a private investigator) visit homes of people who've been screwed over by a bad contractor. Adam and the crew then track down and confront the contractor, and make them come back and fix/finish the job.
  • In Tracy Beaker Returns S2E12 Grandad there's Xanthe the antique seller. Frank desparately needs money for his grandad's headstone, so Xanthe buys his pocket watch for £100 and tries to sell it for £75,000. She repeats this trick later when Tracy offers her a car with the number plate X4NTHE. Since this reads Xanthe it was worth at least £100,000 to her.
  • The Commish had a contractor who stopped working on his kitchen.
  • Life had an episode revolving around contractors who would take the roof off a house, then demand more payment than was contracted for before replacing it with a new roof.
  • The Leverage episode "The Snow Job" centers around a contracting company that does deliberately shoddy work as part of a scam to repossess houses.
  • In one 80's comedy show, Those Two Bad Guys kidnap some bored heiress but instead of a ransom note she keeps writing suicide notes. So they take her to a baseball game to try to convince her that life is worth living, and she asked them what they did before they got into kidnapping. 'Fake Roofing'. At the end, she is happily helping them rebuild their failed roofing buisness by drumming up new customers.
  • Holmes on Homes. Mike Holmes is a general contractor who goes around and fixes what the other contractors did wrong. And some of what the other guys did wrong is freaking horrifying.
    • Holmes points out that in Real Life, most bad contractors are an aversion, as they are often decent people who got in over their heads—e.g. a carpenter who tried his hand at plumbing—but there are some who really are crooks.
  • In Fawlty Towers, "The Builders," Basil hires O'Reilly, a cheap and unreliable builder who doesn't show up on time. Sybil hires a professional, who successfully repairs the hotel. Basil calls O'Reilly again in order to prove that his original choice was the best. O'Reilly fails miserably. Hilarity ensues.
  • Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses has been known to dabble in this when the market trading isn't going so well. In the episode "Who's A Pretty Boy Then?", after stealing the job of painting Denzil's flat from Brendan O'Shaughnessy, he then offers his services when Mike says the brewery want the pub painted. Mike says Brendan has already put in a bid of a thousand pounds. Del immediately offers a counterbid of two thousand pounds.
    Mike: Hang about, hang about. Why should I turn down an offer of £1000 and accept one of £2000?
    Del Boy: 'Cos of all the advantages it has to offer, like my unique profit-sharing scheme. The two thousand pounds would be disbursed thus: Five hundred pounds for vous, and five hundred pounds for ve.
    Mike: What, you mean I get five hundred quid?
    Del Boy: Oh, yes.
    Mike: And what about the thousand that's left over?
    Del Boy: We give that to the Irishman and let him do the job!
    • Also done in the famous episode 'A Touch of Glass'. Del Boy and co offer to clean some chandeliers at a wealthy lord's mansion, and most obviously don't know a thing about how to do so. Cue Falling Chandelier and hasty retreat.
  • The King of Queens but they're not lazy, they're Russian, drinking Vodka before work is a lot more important, and they only get coerced back into actual labour if Doug parties with them, wearing the poor sod out.
  • A few appear in Midsomer Murders, mostly of the scammer variety (one is involved in a Real Estate Scam wherein he claims the house has a lot of problems which he "fixes", allowing his lover at the real estate agency to jack up the price). A lazy variation appears when Barnaby needs something in his house fixed.
  • British reality show Cowboy Builders tracks down various crooked builders, and redoes some disgruntled client's unfinished project.
  • George's jack-of-all-trades mate Jerry from George & Mildred is incredibly shonky, and no supplier will ever take a cheque from him. At least, not twice.
  • British series Rogue Traders (now part of Watchdog) has Matt Allwright going after these and confronting them afterwards.
  • One episode of Homicide: Life on the Street guest-starred Bruno Kirby as a plumber who had been imprisoned after the deaths of some clients. Their house was destroyed in a gas explosion after he misrepresented his credentials and did installations he wasn't qualified for.

     Newspaper Comics  

  • Dilbert has had several strips about this, but the most obvious one is when the contractor promises to come back on Monday, then shows Dilbert the calendar of the service industry's space-time continuum. No Mondays.


  • One episode of Dragnet revolved around a sting operation to bust crooked television repairmen.

     Video Games  

  • Ghostbusters: The Video Game:
    Venkman: The Architect?! That's not so bad. The contractor—that's what kills ya!


     Western Animation  

  • Aside from the roofer Ray (who is also an example of this and he lampshades it — it's just that he's a nice enough fellow that the fact only Homer, who he's befriended, has seen him leads to worse problems for Homer), The Simpsons had this in many episodes, like the plumber who wouldn't do anything about the family's leaking pipe, until Homer did the Stonecutters secret greeting, after which the plumber just tightens one screw, stopping the leak.
    • Averted with 'Surly Joe' the foundation repairman, who turns out to be quite friendly and helpful once Homer actually pays for him to do the repair. However Homer still chases him out of the house in anger when Joe tries to tell him how to prevent the issue from occurring again.
  • In King of the Hill episode "After the Mold Rush", after the Hill residence sustains minor water damage, a man from an insurance company declares the house infested with mold in hopes of turning a profit from the situation. The Hill family quickly catch on and play his own game after they discover how easy it is to become a certified mold tester, then start testing the conman's own home by sticking the tester right next to Bill's exposed feet.
  • Garfield and Friends: Swindler was the Plain Criminal sort in "Home Sweet Swindler".
  • One of the secondary crooks in C.O.P.S. is Louie the Plumber. Big Boss employs him to build hide-outs, secret passages etc. for his criminal empire — and to break into safes and bank vaults. He's also lazy; his toy bio notes 247 building code violations and two convictions for "use of substandard building materials."

     Real Life  

  • A similar scheme to the one used by Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses (See Live Action TV) was perpetrated in the 90's and 2000's by Dutch contractors when bidding for government contracts.
  • The military contractors who bill the government $19.99 for a chocolate chip cookie can probably be a trope onto themselves.


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