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So my regular plumber who has serviced my boiler for several years has become quite unreliable lately (hard to get hold of and book) and I’ve booked someone else to do the annual service this year.

My regular plumber text today asking when they can come do the service.

What is a good way to tell them I don’t need them?

I want to make sure they understand I’ve already booked an alternative plumber and I’m not changing it but I don’t want annoy them in case I need them in the future.

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    Have you talked with this plumber about their unreliable service? – sphennings Feb 13 '18 at 15:30
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    No, I'm rubbish at complaining, hence my question here :-) he's also hard to get hold of so most communication is via text. – Notts90 Feb 13 '18 at 15:35
  • Did you attempt to contact the regular one this time or did you go straight to the alternate? – Monica Cellio Feb 13 '18 at 23:14
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    @MonicaCellio I called them, they were too busy to talk so offered to call back later. They didn't so I booked someone else then they text a week later. – Notts90 Feb 14 '18 at 7:42
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    @Octopus When it comes to plumbers in the UK - it's definitely an IPS question. – Bilkokuya Feb 15 '18 at 13:27
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You tagged this question assertiveness. I want to go a bit further than the other commenters: the main thing for you to learn in this situation is how to become comfortable telling a service provider you no longer require their services.

Essentially, you're "firing" your plumber. There's no point dancing around that fact. You have a right to use any plumber you choose, and your current guy wasn't up-to-scratch (hard to get hold of, as you put it), so you found someone else.

This is not a pleasant thing to tell someone, so it's natural you're worried about annoying them. However, being overly concerned with being nice in situations like this might cause you pain in future.

You can remain perfectly pleasant and civil when you tell him you've found another guy. There's never any benefit to getting aggressive, and, as you say, you might need to use him again in future.

However, your mindset should not be "how do I show this guy that I'm considerate of his feelings?" or "Am I sure I'm in the right? Maybe I should have given him more time, after all he's a busy guy". In a personal relationship, this might be thoughtful and considerate behaviour — in a business relationship, this kind of attitude will lead to someone taking advantage of you sooner or later. (Maybe not by this guy, but by another service provider, or someone you deal with in the course of your employment.)

A better mindset is: "I've made the rational and justified decision to use someone who provides a better overall service. The most helpful thing I can do for the old guy is to tell him why I'm switching — I needed someone who was available and responsive, and my new guy does better on those particular things."

For example, you could reply to his text:

Thanks for getting in touch. Unfortunately, I've hired someone else to do the job this year. I would have hired you again but I couldn't get hold of you.

As I said above, what you say to him doesn't really matter (he'll have had this happen 100s of times), what's more important is getting comfortable being direct in these situations.

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I don't think it hurts to let them know why you booked with someone else.

We'd have booked with you but we really couldn't get hold of you. I'm certainly happy for you to take it on next year if you are going to be more contactable again.

Something like that allows for an interpretation that their uncontactability was an aberration, perhaps down to personal matters and that if you are assured that's in the past things can get back to normal.

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    I like this because it is obvious, and it gives the plumber a chance to improve. People should give (constructive) feedback more often. – Martijn Feb 14 '18 at 8:16
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    I would rephrase the "more contactable" to something like "when you are less busy". The current wording sounds a bit passive-aggressive to me. – xLeitix Feb 15 '18 at 7:00
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    The trouble is, if you say ‘less busy’ that doesn’t make it clear that the OP couldn’t get in contact with him to find out if he was too busy or not. When the plumber has been in touch at their own convenience to say they have capacity to do the work, ‘busy-ness’ wasn’t the issue: being contactable was. I don’t see why expressing the real problem would be more passive aggressive than pretending it was a different problem. – Spagirl Feb 15 '18 at 8:21
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    @xLeitix Passive-aggressiveness is characterized by indirect communication; Spagirls answer is very direct and thus not passive-aggressive. In fact, I'd argue that using "less busy" makes it more passive-aggressive. – marcelm Feb 15 '18 at 17:19
  • @marcelm Thanks for that, its useful for me to hear what people think is and isn't direct. I sometimes get accused of being direct to the point of bluntness or even sharpness! – Spagirl Feb 15 '18 at 17:23
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I think it is as simple as:

I have already booked service with another plumber.

This a busy plumber. They don't want any fluff.

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    Exactly. Plus if they're that busy and hard to book they're not really going to miss the work. – mickburkejnr Feb 14 '18 at 13:18
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    If they're really busy right now, I don't see them bothering to text customers who haven't scheduled anything. – T.E.D. Feb 14 '18 at 15:29
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    @T.E.D. Just addressing how I perceive the question. – paparazzo Feb 14 '18 at 15:34
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    @T.E.D. On the other hand, they can consider reminding people of regular checks a good thing to do as the regular checker. – yo' Feb 15 '18 at 9:40
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    Hey, thanks for the answer! Can you please explain exactly why you think that this is a good idea? Why do you say to take this course of action? What’s the thought process behind this answer? As this currently stands, this is essentially a “Try this!” answer. We require that answers provide some sort of explanation for why they are suggesting this solution, and unfortunately, at the moment this answer doesn't appear to do that. – Mithical Mar 14 '18 at 21:03

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