Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Contractors... Sheesh, can we hold people hostage with our skills any more adeptly?

Part of my self assumed duties in the Rail Museum is to deal with contractors. Finding them, managing their quotes, tracking the jobs and authorizing payment when the work is complete to MY satisfaction. OK I got some skills but there are some things that I just don't want to do because they are beyond my skill level. I can build a cabinet, put in a hardwood floor, refinish fixtures (wood fixtures that is) but I will not do plumbing, electrical repairs, masonry nor anything to do with metal forming or welding. Just ain't got the chops.

I have to find these people and get them to give me a quote in the first place. This is painful because it requires them to put down the doughnut and make their way to a potential job site. And following the consult which takes all of maybe a half hour of their day, there are some who want to charge me for their time.

Next comes the fun part... After working their bid into the budget and getting approval from the city, I have to actually get them to the job site. Now if you are relying on your skills to get paid, does it not behoove you to show up and actually do the work? The last guy missed the first appointment, did not work up a quote, did not do a follow-up with me to say there would be delays... Nope he went to Florida for vacation for a week instead. Followed by a trip to Atlantic City for another week, and when he finally did show up (three days after his equipment was delivered for the job) he found out that the job was too big for him to complete with the equipment he had. He and his crew used the man lift to haul a chunk of our broken chimney off and LEFT! He has not been back since except to collect his manlift in the dark of night.

Today I had a pair of real craftsmen in to complete a job involving repairing our main entrance following a fire. Yep we can get people to destroy the place but fixing it is another story. Well after taking the job in September I called the supervising contractor to get the doors every Monday, Then Every Monday and Friday. Then every other day including the weekend. Well the doors arrived yesterday after 5 false starts and though they were well made and rather beautifully done, not everything arrived for the installation and these guys were acting like I was bothering them. Hey I even bought doughnuts to get them there. Well for the last two days I have hosted these prima donas as they short cut the door frame, did a sloppy job of trimming the doors and cut the doors too wide for the opening. And today they actually asked me when they were gonna get paid as they packed their trucks after the sloppy unfinished job was left in their wake. Well The hardware is not in the doors, they wanted to leave a shim holding the transom window closed with a nail, didn't puddy the nail holes in the trim nor caulk the door frame. Paid???? "If you get your shit together and finish some simple no-brainer crap then maybe I will think of signing off the job so you can get paid." They did put the transom window hardware on but the rest is still unfinished and I had to nail into my hardwood floor to keep the doors closed. Did I mention they have had the doors since the fire in July 2006? AGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!! is contractorcide a crime or will I get off on a technicality?

Maybe a creed or an oath is in order for people to qualify for a contractor's lisence.
We who have skills should not take money for a job we are il-prepared to do.
We shall ensure we are prepared with the proper materials and tools to complete the job.
We shall take pride in our work and let it show in the end results.
We shall create, repair, finish or cobble our projects to the best of our abilities.
We shall take responsibilities for our mistakes and correct them without incurring additional cost to our customers.
We shall humbly accept criticism from those who we serve. And if they are right take action to correct what our customers find wrong. And if they are inccorect we shall explain the discrepancy and ask if they would like us to correct them for a fair price.
We shall provide a bill and ensure we accept pay when it is available and not because we over extended ourselves or need to pay for our next job with money from this one before we complete it.

I do not believe the customer is ALWAYS right but they sure get the right to have an opinion if they have the check in hand.

Ok boys and girls if you got a skill and the confidence to use it for cash think twice before you tread down this path. It's a lot of responsibility and you should be fair and responsible to the customers.


Jim Wright said...

Good grief, where did you find these guys?

Damn, wish I was there - I'd get those doors in for you.

Transom windows, hmmmm, interesting, send pictures

Beastly said...

Jim That is the norm around here and from what I hear, for the rest of the lower 48. Terry and I had to do work on his house for the same reasons while I was out there. Though it took me three weeks to demolition, rebuild and finish a joist, sub-floor and hardwood floor in a 6 X 8 section of the Museum weaving it into the existing hardwood, I still did it for just my regular pay and reembursement for materials. Contractors must die!!!! sheesh we could clean up if we wanted to do that type stuff.

Steve Buchheit said...

Being chairman of Streets, Lands and Buildings in my little VIllage, oh brother, do I feel your pain.

We just had a large driveway poured. Now we're into contract fun because the contractor went over the deadline (once work was started we gave them 14 days to finish, I think they went 28 days). For this contract we had a stipulation that if they went over, we would deduct $500 a day (project was about $50,000). Fortunately we also hired a testing firm to check the concrete, the first 2 loads weren't up to spec. And the damn thing is still curing so my firetrucks are out in this crappy weather.

Oh, and trying to get a plumber to replace my water heater with a tankless one. Hello, doesn't anybody want my money? At least they could return calls.

Jim Wright said...

Jeebus, Steve, you still haven't got that water heater installed? I could have done it in an afternoon. Seriously

Shawn, did you guys finally get the chimney stabilized?

Jim Wright said...

What's with the piss-yellow background on your main page.

Janiece Murphy said...

I have yet to enjoy the chills and thrills of contractors. Our house was relatively new when we bought it, and hasn't needed any major work. I'm sure it's only a matter of time, though.

Joy. Something to look forward to...

Beastly said...

Hey man you got some more patience than I do. I went to contractors that I knew from my childhood here and they were the worst for showing up at all.
Nope that is the guy who went to Florida and Atlantic City. Still wobbling and the snow is still falling. I am worried the thing will break apart and fall through the roof. I avoid that room as much as possible.
Janiece, It's only a matter of time. If you do need work done make sure you get a written estimate, including material and labor. Check material costs through contractor suppliers and big box stores. Check with the BBB on the history of the contractors and if all else fails make a video appeal to the home improvement shows and play dumb.

Nathan said...

Hey Shawn,

Coming to you from Brooklyn by way of Jim's blog allllllltheway in Alaska. I need to rest before I go on.

My GF and I own a brownstone. We live in the bottom level (garden) and the 1st floor (parlor) and rent out the two apartments upstairs. Last time we had to get a new tenant, we decided to update the place first (new appliances, paint, etc.) I wanted to get a few quotes on refinishing the hardwood floors, and most of the contractors showed up when they said they would, followed up with a written or emailed quote promptly.

One asstard had his "office" in Queens (about 4 miles as the crow flies). He said he could come look at the place on Saturday morning between 10 and noon. Fair enough. He calls at 12:15 to say he's running late, but he's on the way. He calls 45 minutes later asking for directions...from his "office". Now, I'm a Location Manager, so giving flawless directions is part of my job description. That and there's all of 5 turns for the guy to make from start to finish.

He calls 1 hour later...He's in Manhattan. I ask him why the fuck he thought he needed to cross the East River to get from Queens to Brooklyn. (Both boroughs on the Eastern shore of the East River.) I give him revised direction.

He calls 45 minutes later. He's somewhere near Kennedy Airport, which means he's gone waaaaaay past my house and is at least 1/2 hour away if he can find my house. I tell him, never mind, if he can't find my house I'm not hiring him.

He says, "You mean I don't get the job?"

I'm silent for a moment and then say, "No, you don't".

Then he asked me for directions back to his office.

Fucktards. All of them.

Nathan said...

And I like the piss-yellow background. Jim, shut up and read your book.

Janiece Murphy said...

Shawn, based on the comments on this entry, I think we'll just move when work needs to be done.

Nathan said...

And since we've taught Janiece the most important lesson in home ownership, our work here is done.

Beastly said...

Piss yellow is reflecting my mood today so Shutup Shuttinup Sickie.
Nathan and Janiece, I am thinking of packing all my tools into the RV and heading out on the road to be the new Mr Fixit. The brownstone sounds too cool to be disposable and even if I charge mileage and crash on your couch, rent the equipment and raid your fridge I would still probably come in cheaper than most contractors in your neck of the woods. Janiece don't move just take some classes or do some gutsy stuff that you have never tried before. There is a huge amount of satisfaction in doing a good job and getting paid in pride for the job well done is money enough for your own home.

Jim Wright said...

Nathan, describe that brownstone again and you're liable to have visitors :) Love the story, hell, even I could have found my way around Brooklyn better than that guy.

I see you're feeling green today, Shawn.