Tricks of the Trade – Hilarious Fools Errands

Tricks of the Trade – Hilarious Fools Errands


If you know anyone who’s involved in a trade, you will no doubt have heard about the hapless apprentice who was sent out looking for a glass hammer only to return red-faced and empty-handed. Or the same guy who a week later went on a wild-goose chase for a skirting board ladder.

Tradespeople, it seems, can’t get enough of practical jokes and pranks, and stories of the best – or most mortifying – of these do the rounds for years. Sending for some non-existent item that sounds semi-plausible is perennially popular, with the left-handed screwdriver being in big demand. More often than not, it’s the unwitting apprentice who’s the butt of the joke, so focused is he or she on learning the ropes. But most accept it as a rite of passage and bide their time, hoping for the last laugh.

Whatever the prank, they usually end in the same way, with workmates falling around laughing and having a good story to tell when they down tools.

Here are some of the funniest tricks of the trade we have come across. Feel free to take some inspiration for your own shenanigans from the list.

Wild goose chase for unsuspecting apprentices


The sucker in these situations is generally the apprentice, unaccustomed to many aspects of their trade when starting out. This makes them the perfect target for these pranks.

Sending for fictitious supplies is one of the oldest tricks in the book. The variety of items that people have been sent in search of over the years is extensive, but here are some of our favourites:

  • stripy paint
  • tartan paint
  • can of amniotic fluid
  • replacement bubble for the spirit level
  • battery-powered electric plug
  • glass hammer
  • rubber nails
  • skirting board ladder
  • left-handed screwdriver
  • hammer grease
  • bucket of steam
  • reversible drill

Strength test

If you’re ever asked by a builder to hold a bag of cement or plaster over your head, don’t take the bait. He’s not testing your strength or endurance, despite what he might say. Once you have hoisted the bag into the air, he will cut the bag, dousing you with cement. If he’s really mean, he’ll have a hose on standby to drench you so that the cement can start to set.


Looking for a ‘long stand’

Here’s where our unsuspecting apprentice is sent on a made-up errand, this time for a long stand. When the person enquires about the long stand, they will be told it’s in the storeroom, which inevitably involves a lengthy wait.

The long stand involves standing like a stooge waiting for the sales person to return. On some sites, people like to take bets on how many minutes the person will wait before realising they’ve taken for a fool.


Messing with the plumbers

One of the fastest ways to worry a plumber is to go around with a little plastic bottle filled with water – and walk past the stub outs, pouring a few drops of water underneath each one.

The plumber will start to go a little crazy, thinking the stub outs are leaking and need to be fixed. This creates a lot of work as he tries to find the source of the problem. You can let them squirm for a few minutes before revealing your sneaky water bottle. Be prepared to run!


Messing with someone’s hardhat

When it comes to messing with possessions, a lot of people won’t take kindly to it. The exception is the hardhat, as they are generally left lying around, begging for some fun.

Just make sure that the structure and safety of the hardhat is not compromised, as the last thing you want is an accident that results from a prank going wrong.

A common prank is to freeze someone’s hard hat in a 10lb block of ice. Another trick is to draw a line of chalk around the radius of the inside of the hardhat. When the wearer begin to sweat, chalk will start streaming down their face.


Placing smelly items in hidden places

This can turn everyone’s stomach so make sure you don’t have to work nearby. The prankster gets a fish, or something potentially foul smelling, and hides it where it will lie undetected for a while. This could be underneath the seat of a car or in a locker. When it starts to stink, no one will find it funny but a few months later, it might get a hollow laugh.


The helper trick

Your boss, who is overseeing the entire construction job, is on his way over to the site to see how the work is coming along. You tell the subcontractors – your plumber, electrician and painter co-workers – who are unaware he’s the boss, that one of your helpers is on his way, to make full use of him.

Having asked him to carry a brick-laden hod up three flights, empty the bins and make tea, watch the reaction when they discover he’s not your man Friday after all.


The free money trick

This is a common trick that can be used on and off the job site. You get a €2 coin and superglue it to the ground. Each person who walks by and sees it will do everything they can to try and pick it up.

Watch as they are initially perplexed when they can’t get the coin off the ground. Some people will go off and come back with a tool to get the coin unstuck, while others will be embarrassed and walk away, pretending they didn’t see anything.


Best (or worst) of the rest

There are some pranks that can go too far, and make you more enemies than friends. No one, for instance, wants to be stuck in a portable loo for a couple of hours after someone has parked a van in front of the door trapping them inside.

Another iffy prank is telling an apprentice to dig a large pit, saying you will hand them down the tools they need to finish the job, only to remove the ladder and leave them stuck in the hole.

As you can see, tradespeople love to pull all sorts of pranks on their co-workers. Every day, they come up with more and more creative ways to fool people. If you have any good tales of tomfoolery, please send them on.