When we mentioned to the folks at Beacon Paint & Hardware on the Upper West Side that we were looking for a handyman to interview, they put us in touch with John Rahat, an apprentice locksmith and the former super of 12 buildings. A jack of all trades, he has been working as a handyman for two years (and can be reached at 917-327-8275 for small jobs in the NYC area).
If people need a handyman, is it a good idea for them to call their local mom-and-pop hardware store for a recommendation?
Yes, because that way someone local is vouching for the guy. Then if anything goes wrong, you can always call the store and tell them. If you try to find someone through Craigslist or whatever...well, the people who advertise on sites like that could be anyone. You just don’t know if they can be trusted.
What kind of jobs can you do?
I can do almost any work inside an apartment—anything handy, small electric, some plumbing. I can install new, fix or remove old ceiling fans, light fixtures, air conditioners. I can rewire lamps and chandeliers, clean difficult-to-reach windows, fix faucets, drains, do wood repair, fix broken chairs and tables. And of course anything lock-related. Small jobs—the in-and-out kind.
What jobs do you turn down?
I look at the situation; if I can’t do it myself, I let them know right away. I prefer to work alone, because otherwise it will cost me a lot more.
I avoid any heavy electric, like going to the breaker box. Heavy plumbing I don’t get into, either. Like the boiler room. I don’t go into a boiler room for nothing. And you don’t want to mess with the main line. Even pipes—I’ll only scrape the tops. I won’t touch the bottoms, because that could break the seal, and then you’ll have leaks or burst pipes.
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Have you ever had bad experiences with clients?
I’ve only had three bad experiences so far. One involved regrouting a bathroom. I don’t normally take on a job like that, because it runs into another day; you’ve got to go back and clean and stuff. Anyway, the woman, after the job was completely finished, called to say there was a scratched tile; she also told me she had to get really close to the tile to see the scratch.
So I asked, “Before I came, had you ever looked that close at the tiles?” And she said no. So I said, “Then how do you know I scratched it?” She wanted me to give her $50 back. I had added a lot of stuff to that job—done extra work—so I said no way.
Another time, I was doing a plumbing job and had to lift a sink up. When I raised the sink, the formica broke, so I had to redo that. The clients were upset, and so was I. I lost about $140 on that job.
And once I was helping clean a window in a third- or fourth-floor apartment, and the glass broke. It was supposed to be a two-person job because the window was huge, so I asked the owner to help me hold it. She leaned it against a chair, and it slipped. It was only half my fault, but I paid for the whole window. That was another $140 out of my pocket. But that woman was nice; she got me a lot of other jobs, so I came out okay.
How do you handle difficult or mean clients?
If you want stress, you’ll get stress. I try not to give stress, and I don’t want to take any. One client taught me a lot about life. She was a tough cookie—all business. She told me, “Be nice to mean people on the outside, but curse them out in your mind. In your mind, shout at them. It will ease the tension a little.” I have found that to be good advice.
What do you charge for your services?
It depends on the job. For example, I charge $75 minimum to install an air conditioner. If it’s a fifth-floor walkup or something, it will be more. I charge by the job, not by the hour. I try to come up with an amount where both parties will be happy. Once you hear my price, you’re gonna say yes. If the client is a college student who doesn’t have a lot of money, I’ll help them for less. Sometimes if the job is quick and easy, I’ll do it and just walk away without charging them at all.
Do clients tip you—and if so, how much?
I don’t always get a tip. Maybe just three times a week. Depending on the job, the clients will tip me anywhere from $3 to $10. Older people will give me $2.