That Time I was Exploited by a Day Laborer

March 2021: I read this essay and added commentary for Episode 464 of the Everything Voluntary podcast.

Oh boy do I feel completely taken advantage of, nay, exploited! I was in dire straits. My front yard was flooding. I wasn't sure why. I figured that my irrigation system's stop-n-waste valve was broken. It's been broken before. This time, however, the lawn was soaked around that area, so I knew that digging down 4 feet was going to be super hard with all that added water weight (mud!), and it was in the middle of the week, mid-day. No way was I going to find some help from neighbors, friends, or family. I was absolutely desperate!

I called my brother-in-law, and he said he knew someone that was available to help me. They showed up in a half hour. I don't know if it was the color of his skin or his lack of English speaking skills, but I knew that he was a day laborer. I've heard about these guys, and how they like to undercut their competition, the licensed professionals. Or how they may not know exactly what they're doing. It's a risk, to be sure.

I can barely manage to say it without getting so upset! He saw how desperate I was, and how hard a job I had to do. He knew that the only way he could earn my business was to price his services aggressively. And aggressively he priced them! For the 4 hour job, he was only going to charge me $60!! I had previously had a plumber take a look at the situation, and he quoted me $700, at a minimum. And here comes along this day laborer with the balls to offer his services for $60! No way the plumber can compete with that. This guy knew how to roll 'em!

I felt so ashamed of myself for agreeing on the price and allowing him to do the job. He dug the hole, found that the valve didn't have enough plumber's tape around the connection's thread, replaced it, tightened it, and the leak was gone. My shame caused me to end our agreement before he had a chance to fill the hole back in. I paid him his $60 (more exploitation, an unfinished job!) and my brother-in-law picked him up.

I sure hope I'm never in that situation again. Being the easy target that I was (thanks to my desperation), I was exploited to the tune of a measly $60. And off he went to exploit again! For shame!