It’s fair to say that most of us don’t want to pay more than absolutely necessary for any product or service, but is cheapest wisest? The first step is always to define what it is we’re looking for, perhaps a television or a car. Or tree work.
We may hone down our selection based perhaps on a brand or a specification, and that makes it relatively easy to purchase specific products: a trip around the online stores will generally produce an attractive price way below the recommended retail; wait a day or so and your new TV is there at your doorstep.
But services are rarely so simple to procure, especially if you’re not sure exactly what it is you need, and this is certainly the case for all sorts of tree work. It’s a market which offers the full gamut of people and qualities so how can you be sure what you’re getting? The fact is that anyone can call themselves a tree surgeon, and armed with a van, some cheap vinyl lettering and a set of ladders, they can look like a tree surgeon too. Their price may be very attractive, but at what cost?
Mercifully in the UK we have some excellent benchmarks we can call upon to help us make an informed decision when it comes to tree work. The first of these are the British Standards covering both tree work (BS3998:2010) and tree consultancy on development sites (BS5837:2012); these provide very clear guidelines for both specifying and undertaking works. If the person providing you with a quote isn’t familiar with these (particularly BS3998) then perhaps they’re not the right person for the task. Not sure if the work is specified properly? Then a quick call to your local council’s tree officer should help.
Secondly we have a broad range of arboricultural qualifications in the UK covering tree work. It’s not necessary for all of the team to have a degree in the subject, far from it, but evidence of professional training should be a minimum prerequisite. Most companies should be happy to email you copies of their certificates on request; don’t be afraid to ask for these either, after all it’s your trees they’re going to be working on.
Finally, the industry has an excellent trade body in the form of the Arboricultural Association. Their Approved Contractor scheme is based around a rigorous and ongoing scrutiny of a contractor and gives an assurance to you, the customer, that the company has met very high standards in a range of areas including insurance, quality assurance, health and safety, staff qualifications and customer care.
So to return to the example of the new telly, how do we know we’re buying the right product? It’s pretty easy really: we visit the Arboricultural Association’s website and seek quotes from Approved Contractors local to you. Ask them questions, ask their opinions, and don’t be afraid to ask about their qualifications and insurances (even though the Approved Contractor process will have already verified them).
Bottom line: cheapest is rarely wisest unless you’re confident that you’re on a level playing field.
You can find details of the Arboricultural Association’s Approved Contractor Scheme at http://www.trees.org.uk/Directory-of-Tree-Surgeons.