Wheelin’ and Dealin’
When you’re working to update or upgrade an entire home, nothing (to me) is more painful than writing a check for something you’ve already paid for.
That’s right. While writing a check for the down payment on those cabinets or flooring material can be tough, it’s even worse if it’s a check for labor that needs to be done a second time.
Remember when I told you about our water-damaged kitchen floor? As Murphy’s Law would have it, of course it’s the only floor we’ve replaced thus far (aside from the tiny guest bathroom/laundry room). It had been finished less than 6 blissful months when we had to tear a chunk of it back up again.
There it is, with the so-called underbelly of “moisture-barrier” exposed.
Our installer and general handyman-type-guy Mike came over to pull up the flooring (which is a click-and-lock type laminate not glued to the subfloor) and take a look at the damage. Only a couple of boards were truly damaged, but unfortunately we still needed to order a whole new box of laminate because we barely had any leftover from the first install.
Great. Now I had to deal with the sales guy again. Here’s the thing you should understand about flooring places. Many of them will have the guys who work in the store selling the material. We’ll call them “sales guys.” Then they have the guys who work out in the field doing installs. We’ll call them “install guys.” (*Please excuse my generalization by using the term “guys” when describing flooring people. I’m sure there are plenty of women in the industry, but my guys were… well, guys.) Now here’s the important part: the install guys do not necessarily work directly for the flooring company. Many of them work for themselves and get hired out to do labor for the flooring company.
Here’s how this works. My sales guy Jimmy also happens to be the owner of the flooring store. When we originally ordered my floor from him, he charged us not only for the flooring material, but also for the install. Then he hired Mike to install our floors. This means we paid an inflated price for the install because Jimmy needed to pay Mike, but he also took a cut for himself. Nothing wrong with that – it’s one way stores make profit, which they need to make a living.
However, here’s where it gets tricky. When we needed labor done a second time, we were kind of stuck going through Jimmy once again because we needed to order new material – otherwise, we would’ve gone directly to Mike and saved a buck.
So here’s what happened:
I called Jimmy, who said he’d send Mike to look at the damage. Jimmy told me this visit would not cost anything.
Mike came over and asked if he could pull up the flooring to look at the damage. Mike told me this would not cost anything. Five minutes later, a bunch of my floor was missing, along with a bit of the baseboards.
Jimmy called me the next day with the quote. He said it would be $466.83 at a minimum!!!
I asked him to break it down for me. He fluidly rolled off a bunch of items and their costs, including $125 for “labor from the other day.”
“What?” I asked.
“Labor from the other day. You know, when Mike came over.”
“I was told that wouldn’t cost anything, Jimmy.”
“Jimmy, I don’t let anyone do any work in my house without first asking how much it’s going to cost. I was told, Jimmy, that 5 minutes of labor, which I easily could have done before Mike arrived, wasn’t going to cost me anything.” I tend to excessively use someone’s name when I start to get upset. “But now you’re telling me it cost $125??”
“Oh, well I didn’t realize we’d told you that.”
Huh. So if they hadn’t told me that (or if I hadn’t asked), I basically would have gotten screwed.
Jimmy reneged on the $125, but he told me Mike would not be putting the baseboards back on. I told him that was fine, since his guys didn’t bother to caulk and finish it the first time. All I had to do was nail it back up. However, since Mike is such a great guy, he put it up anyway. We didn’t tell Jimmy.
What’s the lesson here, everyone? When you are dealing with a vendor, please remember the following things:
- Do not be scared. You are hiring them. Not the other way around.
- You are allowed to ask questions. This kind of goes along with the first, but I want to make sure it sinks in.
- Ask for an itemized list of costs. Again, you are paying these people – most likely a substantial amount of money. You have a right to see where it’s going. How much for the flooring? The moisture barrier? Are they replacing any subfloor? How much for the labor? And don’t do it over the phone, like me – go into the store and look at the list in person.
- Sales guys aren’t necessarily horrible people out to take you for everything you’re worth. However, they are (understandably) trying to make a buck or two for their company. It’s just important for you, as a consumer, to pay attention and make sure you’re only paying a fair price for services received.
Ladies, you wouldn’t pay full price for half a bikini wax, would you?
Didn’t think so.
And guys (or ladies), you’re not going to pay $100 to wash your car when you could do it for a fraction of that in your own driveway.
My point is, it pays to be inquisitive.
And look! My floors are whole once again.