Q: I asked an appliance repairman down the block to check my faulty refrigerator. He immediately ascertained that the outlet was defective and simply plugged the fridge into another outlet. He left a bill for $50, explaining that his standard rate is $50 for the initial visit. Must I pay the full amount of this bill, since he really did nothing?
A: You are required to pay this bill fully. By withholding payment of this bill you would be stealing from him, neglecting the mitzvah of paying wages, and violating the additional prohibitions mentioned last week. (SM”A 339:4)
Although the repairman did not explicitly mention that he was going to charge you, if you asked him to come in a professional capacity he is entitled to charge payment. Only if there was a clear understanding or indication that he was coming as a neighborly favor is he unable to charge. (See Rama C.M. 246:17)
It is always advisable to agree ahead of time with a worker what the charge will be, to avoid misunderstandings later. (Ahavas Chesed, end of Part I) If it is customary for the laborer to have a clear price scale, you are obligated to that amount even if you didn’t bother to verify it beforehand. This is because whoever hires a worker does so according to the accepted practice. (C.M. 331:1-2)
Authored by Rabbi Meir Orlian
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