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The water pipe farce


I’ve spent most of today battling through another increasingly farcical situation, of that kind that does just seem to crop up more than it should. I find it’s usually quite cathartic to write these episodes up, so here goes.

The note

It started when I went to my neighborhood management office to ask about a note on my door. The note said the water would be disconnected for a day, due to some pipes being re-fitted. It had been stuck on my door on Friday, saying the water would be off on Saturday whilst they installed new pipes

The water was still off on Sunday, but I’d kind of expected that, and the workers were still outside doing their job. When it got to today (Tuesday), I thought I’d better start chasing it up.

So it begins

The neighborhood office told me to go and ask the workers outside my flat to reconnect me. I went over there, and the workers said I’d have to pay them. This set some alarm bells ringing. Unfortunately, as a foreigner living in China, you do end up being slightly suspicious whenever money becomes involved. The workers told me to go and ask the office about the money.

The office said I did indeed have to pay some money, but it was just the water bill, nothing to do with the pipes. So I paid that, and was told to go and ask the workers again. They still wanted money, this time resorting to just rubbing their thumbs and forefingers together each time I asked. Eventually I asked how much it would be. They said 500元.

So off I went down the road to the estate agents’, as they’re the ones who should be covering stuff like that. They came with me to speak to the workers. The neighborhood office staff also turned up. Eventually it ended up with all four parties (me, the workers, the office staff and the estate agents) standing in my kitchen looking at the pipe in question.

A party in my kitchen

Everyone took it in turns to try to get me to pay for the new piping, and inexplicably the price kept going up. The more farcical it got the less willing I was to pay. The estate agents said that if I paid it upfront then, they’d reimburse me later, but I still refused.

By that time I had to go to class (I’d already missed two hours), so the estate agents said they’d phone me about it later. When they did, they were still trying to get me to pay, and the cost had risen to 1000元, again without explanation.

I kept refusing, pointing out that I paid 8400元 for six months’ rent about two weeks ago, and if that didn’t cover it then they might like to make use of the 1000元 deposit they were holding on to, or maybe even their 1400元 agent’s fee. Bastards. Wherever they got it from, they were going to get it back off the landlord anyway.

The final phone call

They said they’d call me at 3pm. They didn’t, so I phoned them. We argued a little more, with me pointing out that I had completely fulfilled my responsibilities as a tenant (paying the rent), so they might like to consider fulfilling theirs as estate agents (being wankers actually letting go of some cash for a few days).

They eventually consented, and apparently the work will be done today or tomorrow. For the time being I’m waiting.

I would love to speculate about why this happened, but ultimately I think it was just a combination of people trying to either pass the buck or make a quick one. Sometimes it is amazing how many people are willing to make complete dick moves at the expense of others.


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  • http://www.sinosplice.com/life/ John Pasden

    Heh… I’ll be watching to see how this turns out.

    The most amazing part of the whole thing to me, of course, is this part: “8400元 for six months’ rent.”

    • http://eastasiastudent.net Hugh Grigg

      Not the same in Shanghai then?

  • Charles

    When I was studying at 辽宁师范大学 the entire university was without water of any kind for a week and a half–the notices originally said one day, but it dragged on and on–while they refitted pipes under the neighborhood roads. It was frustrating to say the least.

    • http://eastasiastudent.net Hugh Grigg

      A week and a half! How did you get by?

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