I just say no when friends ask me to do a survey for free

It happened again last week. It occurs at least twice a year and you know it’s coming the moment you pick up the phone.

I refer of course to when friends want a freebie survey. I admit I have always been loath to oblige and now I refuse point blank.

Last week was a classic example. The mobile rings and suddenly I am talking to someone who I haven’t met or thought about for donkeys years and he wants to know how I am? Yeah right.

To be fair he strung it out for five minutes before the inevitable – “Actually Simon the reason I am ringing is because the old bird and I are buying a house and wondered if you’d take a peek at it old boy”.

Then followed the embarrassing bit about money because I knew he didn’t want to pay and he knew that I knew he didn’t want to pay. Then I said no and off he went in a huff with his bottom lip trembling like poor old Harry Redknapp after missing out on the England gig.

The reason I always say no isn’t remotely financial. It’s because I don’t like the relationship between the humble contractor, that’s me, and the client, my opportunistic friend, becoming confused.

My friends’ ideas of free surveys are that I’ll whizz round for five minutes to make sure the place is still standing – which is fine until you miss a healthy dose of dry rot which would have been picked up had the job been done properly.

I take the view that dinner parties are to be avoided and regard them as mini disasters waiting to happen

I now take the view that dinner parties are to be avoided at all costs and regard them as mini disasters waiting to happen.

The problem with social gatherings is that I get drunk and God only knows what twaddle I’ve spouted at two in the morning when asked about planning permission and class orders.

And that is of course the serious point here. It doesn’t matter if you give your advice free or that you were out of it at the time.

If I give advice knowing it could be relied upon then I am as liable as liable can be if I get it wrong.

A few years ago I met a solicitor at a drinks bash who had the right idea. He agreed with me and admitted that he never gave free advice and then let me in on a neat little trick to prevent it happening again.

Obviously, I was all ears. He said that if anyone asks his advice at a party he bills them for £100 the next morning.

Brilliant I said, and thanked him for the tip. The morning after I received a bill for £100 and that’s a true story.