Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why contractors suck

Not to dwell on old news. . .but last week when the Rod Blagojevich (the soon to be former governor of Illinois) scandal broke into national headlines, I was not sure what was worse: was it the fact that he did what he did, or was it the fact that so few people were surprised?

I just don’t get it. And I’m not just talking about the way we’re getting bludgeoned from all sides these days by lunacy and scandal, but the frequency we’re forced to endure is astounding. On a lesser, but from the same “scratching of my head” philosophy, recently I was looking for a contractor/handyman to do some work on a bathroom. I called a few people to get a bid here is what happened. Keep in mind I live in Michigan, where we lead the nation in unemployment, foreclosures and divorce.

#1 person is someone I’ve met a few times and each time we talk he complained about how all the newly unemployed people in Michigan were “hurting his business” because they were underbidding him.

He lives less than a mile from the place I needed work done but didn’t want to come and give an estimate on the first few days I offered to meet him until it was “a good time for him.” We set up a time and he called a few hours before and cancelled because of a family matter, Being compassionate, I completely understood and asked him to contact me at his earliest convenience, preferably at a time (2 days from then) that we set while still on the phone. He didn’t phone back when he said he would. Fair enough.

#2 person was called and didn’t call back.

#3 person, a recently unemployed architect, answered his phone and we arranged a time to meet. After leaving the key for him to get into the house because I couldn’t be there, he sent me a detailed bid on the job.

I called #1 again asking if he could re-bid. He said he thought I was supposed to call him back and asked me why I didn’t! He then told me he was too busy but had a person to recommend (#4)

I called #4 and told him I needed a written quote and that the job was approaching with some urgency, but nothing immediate but needed to be done soon. Since he came recommended from #1 (who I thought I knew) he agreed to meet me 2 days later to take a look. When he didn’t show up 20 minutes after our agreed time, I left the premises and phoned him, telling him I left the door open and asking him to please take a look and let me know. He told me he’d email a bid in “a few days.”

When 6 days had passed and he had not contacted me, I phoned him asking if I could get something in writing from him as I requested initially. He said “ok” and a day later sent me a bid (though he couldn’t remember my name) that consisted of a dollar amount and nothing else.

He left me a message a day or two later stating if I wanted to talk about the quote I could give him a call, but would appreciate it soon because he had “other jobs” he was working on in the area.

I accepted the bid of #3, you know, the honorable guy who actually showed up and gave me something to look at? He offered to meet again with the owner of the property to walk through everything again and explain it in detail.

As an afterthought I emailed #4 back simply stating (very nicely) that since he basically didn’t tell me anything of substance in his “bid” I went with another contractor. Ten minutes later he called me telling me how unprofessional I was for not calling him back after he sent me the original “bid” and wished me good luck getting the work done.

Please tell me what’s wrong with this picture. Are my expectations too high? Why do I get hit with the “indignant switcheroo” when all I’m trying to do is offer work to someone?

Is it just me, or has common sense become all too uncommon?