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My Contractor: The Bloom is Finally off the Rose

May 27, 2016 Barbara Ballinger

A few months back, I was singing the praises of my contractor and how I had found one who showed up on time each day, worked hard daily, cleaned up, listened, and seem destined to finish the job..and well! 

He sort of did but not fully. I spoke too soon, and alas that contractor has now followed in the footsteps of so many others in this profession that I've learned about after writing on the subject of houses and design for decades and having four homes worked on over the course of three decades. Now, at age 60+, I join the ranks of disgruntled homeowners who scratch their heads and wonder: Why can't contractors get one job finished before starting others, and what does client loyalty really mean to them? Maybe, zip! Is there no pride in their work?

I thought I had found a contractor at the right time. He was hungry--starting out, young, enthusiastic about getting work, and really wanted the job. So much so that I took a chance on him rather than give a certain job to the long-standing company that replaced my home's roof. This new guy’s work ethic seemed good based on a few simple jobs, and I felt good about his work, praising him and raving (sadly, too prematurely), sent him and his worker home with sweets and bottles of wine in appreciation. I fed his ego, too, which swelled to the size of Mars, I spread the word, he got more work, I wrote a glowing online review, he got more work, and when I kept trying to reach him to return to put the finishing touches on an almost finished job, he told me had had several HUGE projects and was just too busy now for moi. He said blithely, that he’d try to squeeze me in but no guarantees regarding the when! And then he had the chutzpah, make that CHUTZPAH, to take on so many jobs that he informed me he wouldn't have time to tackle my next job, which was supposedly going to be done as soon as spring arrived. Well, spring has sprung, and he's nowhere to be seen. Guess my bathroom job was small potatoes or chopped liver, take your pick of which food analogy you prefer!

Where are the leaders, the real professionals, in their field who can tell them:

  • Finish the unfinished jobs first and totally;
  • Service your existing clients before you cast your net too wide since they're often your best recs and bread and butter;
  • Don't take on too much work and engender bad will, which you will and it will come back to bite you.

And shame on me, too. I forgot the most important lessons of all that I had learned from past work done on my house: Don't pay in full until every single little bit of the job is completed to your satisfaction. Money, sadly, is the only thing that talks, not glowing recommendations or little gifts of appreciation along the way. Second lesson: Find a bigger firm that has grown and has a history because they know to service their existing clients well. They are still in business for a reason. Third: Don't write those glowing reviews online too soon, or you'll have to take them down which is what I had to do.

Are these the worst hanging offenses in the world? No, but they're what gives this profession a bad rap...and sometimes deservedly so.




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