After getting over the initial, disturbing image brought up in the first line of Harold Brubaker's Inquirer article, "Main Line roofers say they are taking it on the chin from Amish competitors" (he really wrote those words), the questions that began to present themselves were, are Amish construction crews inconsiderate of their workers' well being, or are conventional contractors simply lazy and entitled. The answers probably lie somewhere in the middle and the clash in cultures amplify its newsworthiness.
While some call hiring Amish roofers "outsourcing," this isn't completely accurate. There is nothing wrong with shopping around and no one is sending their roof to India for repairs. One conventional contractor found a 38% difference in price between his bid and an Amish competitor. While he may not have the wiggle room to compete with the Amish, in the current economic climate many customers are not finding the wiggle room to keep a roof over their head.
Competition seems to be the name of the game anywhere in the United States except in the Jerseyvania Triangle where gangster style business practices have inadvertently led to the industry's own demise. Philadelphian's have forgotten that the free market also applies to construction and a surprisingly business savvy Amish community has reminded them.
I do however think that if Amish contractors continue to compete on the grid that certain necessary evils need to be addressed. For example, the Amish don't pay Social Security compensation for their employees because their Amish employees don't receive social security benefits. It's understandable that they would take advantage of the loop hole, but regardless of what benefits they choose to avoid, if they are to compete outside of a sheltered community, the playing field needs to be level.
But conventional contractors need to abide by the same rules. Instead of muscling Amish contractors into extorting their customers into spending more on less, customers should be muscling conventional contractors into learning a thing or two from their Amish competitors. Obviously consumers are tired of being ripped off.
The Amish show up on time, care about their work, and do more jobs in less time. True, they're not paying for a pool and don't have to pay a mortgage on a Main Line McMansion. But this is America, and that's the name of the game. The Amish aren't breaking any rules, and when the rules change they'll still be there to compete. Instead of complaining, conventional contractors need to get in and play the game.
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