This week, a quality mark mailout backfires, John Humphreys ruins an innocent man's Sunday and how to deal with double glazing salesman
Dear Big Nose …
Concerns have been expressed to me over the government's shock tactics for attracting customers to its quality mark scheme. In a recent mailout, publicity material for the anti-cowboy initiative was sent to builders in envelopes emblazoned with the phrase: "Eight out of 10 potential customers of [company name] would prefer to employ someone else."

Richard Sapcote, chairman of a 150-year-old Birmingham restoration specialist William Sapcote & Sons, was less than impressed after he received one of these scurrilous missives. As he points out, the envelopes can be read by anybody and will therefore have had a harmful effect on his firm's reputation, even though it does not work in the domestic contracting market. Sounds to me like Mr Sapcote has a prima facie case for libel damages.

Here, take this buck
Peter Wearmouth, the controller of the NHS' construction and property programme, attended the "Movers and Shakers" breakfast event last week, where he revealed the story of how he received a phone call one Sunday morning from a breathless government health minister.

It seems that the minister had been chatting to grand inquisitor John Humphreys prior to a radio interview, and that Humphreys has mentioned the poor state of the loos in hospital where his partner was about to give birth. The minister no doubt pointed out that he couldn't authorise any special treatment, and then phoned Wearmouth to tell him to helicopter in a clean-up squad prestissimo.

At last we can sleep again
Those of you who concerned about the career of that doyen of construction institutions Alan Crane need worry no more. I hear Crane, whose role as head of Rethinking Construction is now all but defunct, is in line to take up a "roving ambassador" role for its successor body, entitled Constructing Excellence. Phew.

Chesterton luvvies hit the road
Property agents are not always the most popular of characters, so it's no wonder that those people down there are grinning. They are the cast of Chesterton's latest amateur dramatic offering Time after Time, which was well received at MIPIM and is now on a national tour of London, Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow.

Lock up your daughters
The daughter of legendary construction analyst Leslie Kent is clearly a chip off the old block. It has emerged that a few years ago, Kent fille told her dad that she wanted to travel the world and required some financial assistance. Kent promised to match any money she made. After she returned with £2500, Kent was forced to hand over a cheque for a like sum. Subsequently he discovered that his cunning offspring had borrowed money from her friends to bump up her poor old dad's contribution.

They can smell your fear

On the subject of cowboy builders, I am grateful to publisher Elliott Right Way Books for sending me a volume entitled Getting the Builders in … And Staying in Control. It is penned by a gentleman called Paul Grimaldi, who has worked in the sector for 30 years. His most choice advice is reserved for dealing with double glazing salesmen. The author quotes one of these fiends in human form as telling a customer that shopping around was “no way to do business”. Grimaldi’s advice here is: “These characters are trained to take advantage of soft targets, so the key is to remain assertive – and not too friendly.”