Wow! That was some storm last month. Fortunately nowhere near as bad as 1987 though.

I’ve been happily helping collectors with clock parts and free advice for some years now and many leave very nice feedback comments without asking on the various online Directories that list me, and on Google+ too. Sometimes, I even post out parts at an agreed price but without charge until they are sure they can use them. Then when they’re happy, they can make PayPal donations or just post a cheque. Only once has anyone tried to beat me down on the cost of something afterwards and I blogged on that occasion (see Joe). But last month there was another hiccup that caused me to think that I should really be getting the funds in before sending the goods out. It’s not the money (usually, it’s too small a sum to worry about) but I give my time and advice freely to help people and I don’t like it when they try to take advantage of me.

A couple of months ago someone emailed me to tell me that he’d damaged his Hermle clock and asking if I could get the parts. What he needed was a suspension spring and I happened to have a new movement of a similar type. It cost me over £200 so I offered him the new spring for £10. That’s great, he said, telling me about some other clocks that he would like me to fix, too. He then asked for a second part for the same clock, which he’d previously tried to solder back together. His description was very vague and by now we’d exchanged a dozen friendly emails so I rang him to clarify what exactly he needed. It turned out to be a pendulum leader and I quoted £30 for a new one as I could take it off the same spare movement. I also said that based on what he had told me a third part (the back cock) did not sound safe as the pendulum hanger, which is riveted in place, was loose and so could drop out. I took this part from the same new Hermle movement and sent him all three items first class the same day, telling him to return anything he didn’t want to keep. With the back cock (£10), the total would come to £50 but I gave him the option of returning anything he couldn’t use and paying me for the rest. Well they fitted and he installed them, so within 48 hours the clock was running perfectly again.

Two weeks later, with no payment or returns, I reminded him and he said he’d since found the parts on eBay and offered me £15. When I suggested he buy those instead and return mine, he explained that he couldn’t as he’d already sprayed them silver to match the clock. So in spite of not paying, he’d treated them as his own. Without my guidance and experience (and free advice) he would not have known what to search eBay for so I was pretty miffed. He then ordered new ones from two different Ebayers in the US and said he would have them sent to me direct. It turned out that with postage, this penny-pincher had saved all of £5 but he had’t considered the imposition of import duty and VAT on arrival (or the collection fees for these taxes, imposed by the international courier). Or indeed that they simply might not turn up. That was eight weeks ago and there’s still no sign of the replacement parts. Maybe the address he gave them was inadequate for delivery to me because as I explain on my website, it’s incomplete and nothing is to be sent without asking me first. It maybe there was Customs duty and VAT to add on import; maybe the US sellers just took his cash and never bothered posting them. I may never know but after providing a first class service, I’m out of pocket.

Frankly life’s too short too become too irritated by toe rags like this – fortunately, he’s only the second in four years or more so I can live with it. I just thank myself lucky that I didn’t accept the other two much bigger projects from him.

I suppose I really should insist on payment upfront in future but I still like to think that on the whole people who share my appreciation of clocks are trustworthy folk. And after all’s said and done, this is only a spare time hobby – if it costs me a few quid now and then, it still a whole lot cheaper than golf membership. I will be a little more cautious next time though. I’m not a religious person but I do believe that what goes around, comes around so I don’t expect to bump into him in the afterlife.

Fireworks have been going off round here for about two weeks now; they’ll be a lull soon and then as Christmas and the New Year approach, they’ll be more.