Tuesday, October 04, 2005

How many Romans does it take to change a lightbulb?

Actually, that's the wrong question. What will thieving Roman electricians charge in installing a new light fixture? The answer: 168 euros. It adds up this way: 40 euros for the phone call, 40 euros an hour for labor (in this case 2 hours, if you count the two espresso breaks and 45 mins driving around looking for a parking spot before double-parking out front), 20 euros for materials (electrical tape and wire), and the topper of course -- the customary 20 percent VAT, an EU-imposed sales tax in case you've yet to be fleeced by this acronym. Capite?

I am grateful for the light. I couldn't have managed it myself, mainly because it required installing a new wall-mount switch. And, I am generally clueless about do-it-yourself electrical work. But 168 euros!?! I've been muttering the sum all morning. At the news stand, at the barber shop, in my office (as I stare up at a ceiling fan that is now more expensive than a new air conditioner).

Of course, I must put this into perspective. Thieving electricians are a universal scourge. In London, if an electrican charged me the equivalent of 168 euros for anything, I would annoint him a saint and hand out his business card all over town. In New York, I'm sure I could haggle down to 100, but the obligatory all-inclusive tip/bribe/anti-voodoo spell would run me at least another 68 clams. What would it cost me in say Lima, or Bangalore or Freetown? (I bet Freetown is a haven for reasonably priced electricians) .

This is a worthy of an economic study, methinks. Now, that I have proper lighting I may start it myself. How much does an electrician charge in your town?

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