Where has all the professionalism gone?

I’m old-school about a lot of things. I’ll admit it. That’s especially true when it comes to conducting business. Because of that, when I hire someone to do work for me, I expect them to do it as agreed and when agreed unless there’s been communication between the parties to the contrary. That is especially true when I work with someone for the first time. Sure, checking references helps weed out some of the problems but not all. That is a lesson I’ve been reminded of over the last couple of weeks.

The set up is one I’ve blogged about before. My mother’s house is over 30 years old. The retaining walls that were installed when the house was built were made of old-fashioned rail road ties. They did the job but time and weather have worked to destroy them. The result has been ever increasing flooding in Mom’s bedroom and bath whenever we get heavy rains. After the last flood, we decided enough was enough and I told Mom to go ahead and find a contractor to replace the uphill retaining wall.

Her tax man had suggested she use Home Advisors to help find someone. She contacted them and we looked at several options before settling on one. Our initial request for an estimate was returned within a very short time. Within a day, someone came out, did the measurements and said we’d get the estimate within a couple of days. The man who came out was very professional and seemed knowledgable as well. All looked good, especially when the estimates came in.

We selected the option we wanted and let the company know. Mom, being even more anal than I am about this sort of thing, made sure that she was clear not only on what she wanted but that the estimate was for a turnkey job, including tear out and haul away. Oops, the owner — not the guy we’d been dealing with — said. He was sooooo sorry but he’d forgotten to add in the haul away. That would be an additional $250.

I should have listened to my gut then but didn’t. It wouldn’t be the first time and now I sit here kicking myself.

We grumbled but agreed and asked when the work could begin. We were told it would start in about three weeks. Okay, no sweat. We’d hope there were no more heavy rains. Then we got an email saying the work would begin in two days. Oh, but wait, Ms. Green, We’ll work one day — on a Friday — and then we’ll be taking off for several days. (No definition for what that meant was offered). Because more rain was forecast for that weekend, Mom raised concerns about having the tear out done but nothing put in place to prevent further erosion  (there is an almost three foot height difference between our side yard and the neighbor’s, hence the flooding problem.). After a bit of back and forth, it was decided to start the work later.

Well, we finally get to Friday of last week. They were supposed to be here by nine. At ten the owner called and said they were running late but would be there “shortly”. Around noon, the guy I initially dealt with arrived. He instantly started the tear out. He was a good 3/4 of the way done by the time the owner finally showed up. They left before three, after tearing out the old ties and loading them onto their trailer. After getting partial payment from Mom, they told her they would return after dumping the trash and getting supplies. We didn’t hear from them again.

Until the owner emailed after ten that night. “Oh, Ms. Green, by the time we dumped everything and went to the bank to cash the check and then bought everything we needed, it was too late to come back. But I’ll be back tomorrow morning to knock the job out.”

Yes, my alarm bells started going off again.

I waited, wondering if they would really show up. Nope. Not here in the morning. No word from them by noon. At 2 I called and the owner said he and the other worker had discussed it and because of the chance of rain, decided not to work on our job until Monday. Oh, the other guy was supposed to call and tell us. Oh, he — the owner emailed us — except we didn’t get an email. But never fear. They’ll be out on Monday to finish up.

Now, I knew they wouldn’t finish Monday. We contracted for a retaining wall that has a footer. That means, if they knew what they were doing, they would have to give the footer tie to cure. Not that the owner ever mentioned it to us. But now I’m in the mood that I am going to let him hang himself and then report everything back to Home Advisor, etc.

Yesterday rolled around. No news from them about what time they would get here. No one at 8, 9 or 10. At 11 I called the owner. Don’t worry. They would be there soon. They were just waiting on the stone for the wall to be cut. (Now, how in the hell he was supposedly going to build the wall on Saturday without the stone being cut is beyond me.) So I went back to waiting. The worker arrived, with the stone, at 1320. He got out of his truck and started unloading ten minutes later. The owner? He was supposedly picking up more material and would be here “soon”. Hmmmm, goes me. I thought he was supposed to have picked up everything Friday. I think I’m seeing a pattern.

Oh, and the owner didn’t get here until 1415.

They laid the footer — not the neatest footer I’ve ever seen but adequate. Then they laid the first layer of stone. They were gone by 1700 hrs. Neither the worker or the owner told us they were leaving. Nor did they ask if it was okay for them to leave their trailer, with unsecured stone still in it, parked on the street — directly behind our neighbor’s driveway. Nothing.

Around 1900 hr,s, I emailed the owner asking 3 simple questions. First, how long would it take for them to finish the job? (they’d said it was a 2 day job and we were now into 3 days — not counting the days they didn’t work). Second, would they be able to do any work today or would the footer have to cure longer than overnight? Third, if they were coming today, what time would they be here? No accusations, no histrionics, just a comment that I was asking since they left without us having a chance to talk.

The response? Classic “let’s put the blame on the customers”. Complete misrepresentation of previous conversations. Not quite aggressive but he was very clear we were being unreasonable in daring to ask anything. No other customers would dare expect work to be done on days when there was rain in the forecast. (Of course, the rain was for the day after he was supposed to have worked, but that doesn’t matter). So on and so on.

Oh, and while he said he’d be back today to finish the job, he didn’t say what time. Mind you, he is the owner. He should know what his schedule is. At least I’d expect him to.

Three minutes ago, my phone beeped to let me know an email had come in. I checked and guess who it was from! The owner of the company. At 0835, he is emailing to let me know he has a meeting at 0900. But they will be out as soon as the meeting is over. Now, who among you believe he didn’t know about the meeting when he emailed last night?

Here’s the thing he doesn’t get. He will not be paid the outstanding balance until I’m satisfied with the work done. No matter how good the work is, once it’s done, any review I leave will include the frustrating business practices and the lack of communication. I am a ginger and I have a ginger’s temper. More than that, I know how to bear a grudge and nurse it like you nurse a good drink.

Any bets on what time he will finally get here to do the rest of the work? Side bets on whether the work is finished today?

12 Comments

  1. That reminds me of when we had our bathroom remodelled. They wee due to start on the Tuesday, after a public holiday, but rang to ask if they could start early because another job had finshed sooner than expected. Like idiots, we agreed. So the men turned up on the Friday and ripped out all of the old bathroom except for the ‘necesary’ – thank God they left that! Becaus on the following Tuesday, adtr three days with neither bath nor basin, they said they need to replaster beind the old bath – and it needed to cure for a week. I made a fuss, nd they reluctantly agree thatit only needed to cure for three days before they could install the new tiling. So that was another week with neither batch nor basin. Then of course the new tiles had to cure as well.before they could replace the bath with a proper shower and install the new basin, and their tiler ws fully booked for another week. In the end it was a full month before we had a fully-functioning bathroom and we were getting a bit smelly!

  2. Aaaargh. Not a ginger. Generally rather laid back, BUT.. that would earn them a prominent spot on the ‘Fecal Roster’ (as the CarTalk guys neatly put it).

      1. That was just before I discovered that they had blown all the circuits in the west half of the house — including destroying my computer.

        To be fair, they didn’t even try to get paid.

        1. Our guy emailed half an hour or so ago to say the job is done except for “a little mortar work.” Trust me, it is far from done and I’m waiting for the “come to Jesus” meeting I’ll be having with him. Right now, he isn’t going to be paid another penny until we’re satisfied with the work.

  3. Always hold final 25% payment for 30 days. Also, a GOOD contractor will have no problem with performance bonus v. penalties. We positively LEAP at teh possibility of performance bonus!

    1. Yeah. I keep reminding myself of that. Of course, they didn’t finish the job yesterday. And, once again, they left without saying anything to us and left trailer behind the neighbor’s driveway. We’re now taking bets on whether they come back today and, if so, at what time.

    1. Yep. I just went outside and did a video of the job and the state they left the yard in — including leaving a hose stretched across the front lawn. They are damned lucky Mom hadn’t been out and tripped. You guys really would be having to take up a bail collection then.

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