Trouble At The Front Door

Wall Street Journal staff reporter Gwendolyn Bounds reports on a mortifying statistic in an article about the standardization of handyman etiquette.

Summer is key home-improvement time, and helping fuel these franchises’ growth is an aging U.S. housing stock; the average abode is 33, older than at any previous time in U.S. history and often in need of a little nip and tuck that major contractors are too busy to take on. Meantime, overall home-improvement spending by homeowners continues to tick upward, rising 5.2% from the end of the first quarter of last year through the first quarter of 2005 and totaling $126.1 billion for 2004, up 15% from 2001, according to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing studies.

As with any franchise outfit, standardization is vital to developing a unique brand and streamlined systems. In the case of franchised home helpers, protocols help distinguish workers from the rather laissez-faire world of local “Chuck in a Truck” servicemen who often get tapped for small jobs. Trying to toss out bad apples at the front lines, many handyman franchises run criminal background and motor-vehicle department checks on the techs they hire. About 70% of applicants fail right off the bat, says Andy Bell, founder of Handyman Matters Franchising Corp. of Denver, which manages 100 franchises in 37 states.

“We took a random sample of 100 applicants, and only 30 of them were qualified to work in someone’s home,” he says. The remainder had offenses on their records, Mr. Bell says, including aggravated assault, weapons possession, rape and child molestation.That’s just outright scary…

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