Looking for an honest espresso
Updated: Feb 10, 2019
[This post first appeared on Know It All Passport]
I recently read in a local expat group on Facebook a post by someone looking for a recommendation for an “honest carpenter”.
It turns out the person writing the post was actually looking for someone to install a custom wardrobe in their home. What ensued was a short explanation of the job (i.e., some shelves, a hanging bar, and a sliding door to hide it all) and the fact that the person had already received offers from two carpenters “for the same amount”. The person was clearly in search of a third offer significantly below this threshold. I read this to imply that both carpenters might be perpetrating highway robbery as the job was too simple for anyone to be paid such an exorbitant amount (NB: embellishment is my own). 
These kind of posts are rife on FB. To be completely honest (in the spirit of the sought-after carpenter), they evoke in me a tiny bit of sadness followed in quick succession by incredulousness and a fair amount of frustration. Why?
Well first, as I run renovation projects for a living, I would normally be able to reply to such a FB post with the names of at least two or three truly honest carpenters with whom I have collaborated in the past and who do magnificent work.
Next, before replying, I have to ask myself if the writer means:
Honest = can be trusted when left alone in your home with your stuff
Honest = does not lie
Honest = does not cheat
Honest = performs the task as requested
Honest = does not try to take more of my money than I believe they are entitled to take for the job I want and need them to do
Nine times out of ten, the answer is the latter. There is no question that most things (food, drink, entertainment, real estate) are more expensive in this corner of the planet than most others. Normally the carpenter-seeking homeowner arrives at this judgement because they come from somewhere else in the world where such a service or product can be had for much less.
But my point is this—should the implication ever be that said tradesperson is not “honest”? We don’t seem to apply the same logic to other professions. When was the last time you read on FB “Looking for an honest doctor”? / lawyer / banker / babysitter / cup of coffee???
The last one is particularly interesting as I have recent returned from Milan, the capital of Italian chic, refinement, delish risotto and amazing shoe selection. During that trip, I paid on average € 1.50 for an espresso whether I was sitting at a tiny backstreet coffee shop or in an open air café overlooking the Duomo. It dawned on me that back home (= in and around the city of Calvin), I am lucky these days to find an expresso anywhere for under Chf 3.80.
So I repeat, can anyone tell me where I can find an honest expresso?
 This free market economist is obliged to point out that everything else being equal, when one receives two identical offers, it is unlikely by chance (or for this Facebook-posting homeowner, bad luck). Assuming collusion between the two carpenters was impossible, the FB poster most likely received the true (or equilibrium) market price for the built-in wardrobe.