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How Bad Did I Screw Up?

 
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Old 06-02-2020, 06:41 PM   #1
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How Bad Did I Screw Up?


So yes, I breached my contract and walked. Don't feel good about it, despite having legitimate reasons to do so.

Here's the situation: The client was a referral from a previous customer who I did some interior trim work and door installs for. Nice, upper-class neighborhood that I have a lot of experience in working for other GC's before I became licensed.

Red flags from the beginning which to my fault, I ignored because I was excited about the project, which I won't describe in detail for confidentiality. Total project cost, nearly $6000

Red Flags:

No.1: project was laid out previously by another carpenter, who for vague reasons, also walked. Layout had some obvious issues and was useless to me.

No.2: Client had offered to trade a vehicle to previous carpenter for his work.

No.3: Client insisted on purchasing all materials himself, using a big box CC so that he could defer payments for several months. Obviously this led to a never-ending string of questions regarding materials ("Why did you buy a whole box of screws when you only need half of them?" "If the cabinet box is inside the wall, why does it need to be 3/4" plywood?" You get the picture) Just typing this makes me cringe and I can't forgive myself for allowing such a thing. Throughout the week I was there, he mentioned several times that I may consider downloading a CC app on my phone. My contract, which is as simple as it gets, makes no mention of payment methods unfortunately (currently being addressed along with other issues). I agreed to select materials, then have customer service call him for a phone transaction. During the transaction, I overheard lots of talk about "old accounts", "new accounts", "try this one", try that one".

No.4: Continual adjustments to price against my better judgement, for minor design changes in order to meet his budget.

Second week, first thing in the morning, questions about my original estimate for materials and why it would be exceeded during a second run for remaining materials and supplies, despite repeated warnings early on that it most likely would be. Then, despite patiently explaining in two different ways and writing it down on paper, he simply could not grasp why the balance between my materials estimate and actual purchase amount, should not be deducted from my final payment for labor.

There's a ton I'm leaving out. Happy to explain in more detail for anyone interested, but long story short, the exchange started to become heated and emotions started to come to the surface - not on my end but on his. I knew at that point it was time to go.

I was careful in my words. No definite answers about finishing. I cleaned up well and put everything back in place. Loaded my tools and politely said I would be in touch shortly. He seemed slightly bewildered but not angry. My subsequent email was short and cordial, stating my resignation and that no further payments are requested beyond the 10% deposit already received. I was there for about a week.

Let the roast begin! I can take it.

Last edited by Carpenterlife; 06-02-2020 at 06:44 PM.
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Old 06-02-2020, 08:35 PM   #2
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Re: How Bad Did I Screw Up?


Sounds like they are further ahead than when you started.

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Old 06-02-2020, 08:35 PM   #3
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Re: How Bad Did I Screw Up?


sounds like you were either being greedy or hungry, maybe both.

Did you have a legal contract?

Do you have correspondence documenting the problems on the job?

you could be in trouble with the CSLB should they file a complaint. It appears that you abandoned the job without cause...

maybe fill one of these out to prepare for your future...
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Old 06-02-2020, 08:52 PM   #4
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Re: How Bad Did I Screw Up?


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Originally Posted by griz View Post
sounds like you were either being greedy or hungry, maybe both.

Did you have a legal contract?

Do you have correspondence documenting the problems on the job?

you could be in trouble with the CSLB should they file a complaint. It appears that you abandoned the job without cause...

maybe fill one of these out to prepare for your future...
Thanks for the application Griz! Not greedy but hungry for sure and as mentioned, excited about the project itself. Yes contract was legal but dispute was not documented (at least by me).

The truth is, I ignored red flags that normally would have prevented me from even providing an estimate. I changed, or went against many of my own business policies in order to accommodate a customer. My task now is to take a close look at my contract and make necessary changes, but more importantly, double down on the rules I have in place for how to conduct business.

Fingers crossed about CSLB. Such a small job and if anything, he owes me money (which I do not care to pursue in hopes that we can just call it even).

Last edited by Carpenterlife; 06-02-2020 at 08:56 PM. Reason: mistake
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Old 06-02-2020, 08:55 PM   #5
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Re: How Bad Did I Screw Up?


Quote:
Originally Posted by griz View Post
sounds like you were either being greedy or hungry, maybe both.

Did you have a legal contract?

Do you have correspondence documenting the problems on the job?

you could be in trouble with the CSLB should they file a complaint. It appears that you abandoned the job without cause...

maybe fill one of these out to prepare for your future...
I didn't abandon the job without cause. Just didn't follow proper protocol.
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Old 06-02-2020, 08:59 PM   #6
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I didn't abandon the job without cause. Just didn't follow proper protocol.
if you do not have progressive communication noting the problems etec, etc, and walked off the job that's abandoning.

if you have documentation after the fact it just looks like you closed the barn door after the horse got out.
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Old 06-02-2020, 09:00 PM   #7
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Sounds like they are further ahead than when you started.

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Old 06-02-2020, 09:08 PM   #8
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Re: How Bad Did I Screw Up?


Quote:
Originally Posted by griz View Post
if you do not have progressive communication noting the problems etec, etc, and walked off the job that's abandoning.

if you have documentation after the fact it just looks like you closed the barn door after the horse got out.
Got it. Being a good carpenter is one thing, and I feel I'm a great communicator, though I have a tendency to over-explain things to clients sometimes.

Business is a completely different animal and I can't say I take to it naturally. Working on it. Only been in business for a little under a year. Brand new greenhorn.

Last edited by Carpenterlife; 06-02-2020 at 09:19 PM.
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Old 06-02-2020, 10:27 PM   #9
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Re: How Bad Did I Screw Up?


Well, I guess you realize now that you aren't a Contractor.

Big difference between being a good craftsman, and being a good craftsman and a good businessman.

The latter are few and far between. Far too many of the former think they are the latter, and find out the hard way.

You should probably continue working for someone else. The mistakes on this project are too many for me to enumerate and explain.
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Old 06-02-2020, 11:35 PM   #10
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Well, I guess you realize now that you aren't a Contractor.

Big difference between being a good craftsman, and being a good craftsman and a good businessman.

The latter are few and far between. Far too many of the former think they are the latter, and find out the hard way.

You should probably continue working for someone else. The mistakes on this project are too many for me to enumerate and explain.
No, I am indeed a contractor. I just make mistakes from time to time. Don't you?

I have what it takes to be both. Not interested in working for anybody but thanks for the suggestion.
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Old 06-03-2020, 12:08 AM   #11
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Re: How Bad Did I Screw Up?


Iím confused on why you had a material estimate if they where paying for materials.

Your pricing should have been only labour and pickup fees for getting the material.

How much material costs are they upset about?
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Old 06-03-2020, 06:13 AM   #12
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Re: How Bad Did I Screw Up?


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Got it. Being a good carpenter is one thing, and I feel I'm a great communicator, though I have a tendency to over-explain things to clients sometimes.

Business is a completely different animal and I can't say I take to it naturally. Working on it. Only been in business for a little under a year. Brand new greenhorn.
It's good you're learning this now. It takes years to get this double role figured out.

I know plenty of good carpenters that scrape by, every year. They can't grasp the business side of things.
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Old 06-03-2020, 06:31 AM   #13
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Re: How Bad Did I Screw Up?


On the bright side, that's a handful of "lessons learned" from just one client relationship.

It doesn't mean you can't work with those types, but that you'll establish the relationship your way.

"So, I make the lists and you buy the material (and I will estimate how much you will spend)?" "Sorry, no."

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Old 06-03-2020, 10:24 AM   #14
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Re: How Bad Did I Screw Up?


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Iím confused on why you had a material estimate if they where paying for materials.

Your pricing should have been only labour and pickup fees for getting the material.

How much material costs are they upset about?
It's because the original estimate contained only a grand total and deposit request, which would have covered materials. No mention of material costs themselves (my normal way of presenting and estimate on a job like this) However, since this person did not have adequate funding, they needed to put materials on credit, rather than give me that large of a deposit.

So i revised everything so that materials had their own estimate and a much smaller deposit was requested, to be applied to labor cost. They needed to know how much they were going to spend on materials.

The dispute was only a few hundred dollars.
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Old 06-03-2020, 10:37 AM   #15
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On the bright side, that's a handful of "lessons learned" from just one client relationship.

It doesn't mean you can't work with those types, but that you'll establish the relationship your way.

"So, I make the lists and you buy the material (and I will estimate how much you will spend)?" "Sorry, no."
Yes! the bright side, lessons learned and the moral of my story here. Establish your methods for doing business (assuming you are ethical) and don't let a customer sway you into making changes to accommodate them, without extreme caution.
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Old 06-03-2020, 10:41 AM   #16
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Re: How Bad Did I Screw Up?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Seven-Delta-FortyOne View Post
Well, I guess you realize now that you aren't a Contractor.

Big difference between being a good craftsman, and being a good craftsman and a good businessman.

The latter are few and far between. Far too many of the former think they are the latter, and find out the hard way.

You should probably continue working for someone else. The mistakes on this project are too many for me to enumerate and explain.
didn't mean to sound defensive at all. Yes, tons of mistakes were made.
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Old 06-03-2020, 10:48 AM   #17
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Re: How Bad Did I Screw Up?


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On the bright side, that's a handful of "lessons learned" from just one client relationship.

It doesn't mean you can't work with those types, but that you'll establish the relationship your way.

"So, I make the lists and you buy the material (and I will estimate how much you will spend)?" "Sorry, no."
Exactly! You just have to say no sometimes. Let them be someone else's customer. Regretfully, I needed to learn this lesson over again I guess.
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Old 06-03-2020, 01:01 PM   #18
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Re: How Bad Did I Screw Up?


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No, I am indeed a contractor. I just make mistakes from time to time. Don't you?

I have what it takes to be both. Not interested in working for anybody but thanks for the suggestion.
I'm not sure if anyone told you this already, but you breached the contract and you want to keep the deposit, you gotta be nuts to think that will fly unless the guy is a total moron.

What you have to try to do now is tell the homeowner you will return his deposit if he signs a letter which states that he is letting you out of the contract and no further action will be taken against you.
If you don't make him sign it, you still have to give the guy his deposit back, and here comes a big BUT.
If this guy ever dealt with contracts, or if he has a friend who is an attorney, he can come after you within 1 year for the amount that he will overpay when hiring someone else.

In other words... If your contract with him lets say for 3k and now you walked out... he will look for another company and if the other company is charging him 4k for the job, he can come after you for 1k the amount over the price of your contract and he will win without blinking an eye.
So cover your a$$ you might get lucky by walking out
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Old 06-03-2020, 02:08 PM   #19
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Re: How Bad Did I Screw Up?


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Exactly! You just have to say no sometimes. Let them be someone else's customer. Regretfully, I needed to learn this lesson over again I guess.


If someone seems more frugal, I try to discourage them when we meet. I say you might get some sticker shop, because my line item estimates add up quickly.

They sometimes ask about hourly rate or daily rate. Sometimes that scares them off, Sometimes it doesnít.

Their ability to pay has zero bearing on what I need to charge.


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Old 06-03-2020, 02:36 PM   #20
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...

Their ability to pay has zero bearing on what I need to charge...

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however it is important for one to know that they do have the ability to pay...

remember, lots of people can't afford what they want...

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