One of the good things about living in New York is that most of the time you live in an apartment that is maintained by someone else.
You don’t have the responsibility of getting stuff fixed; you just call up someone and they get it taken care of.
Recently some tenants of mine asked if we would have the fireplace in the property they are renting from us inspected and cleaned. I declined their request and told them the fireplace was not available for their use simply because it would have involved me having to deal with a contractor/workman.
After my last experience dealing with one over the summer while I was in London, that was something I really did not feel like doing again anytime soon. The tenants would just have to make do with the central heating cause there would be no snuggling up by the fire this winter…first world problems.
Now, before you accuse me of being a “slumlord,” let me give you the backstory.
On this particular occasion, we contracted this guy to do some painting and minor fix-ups around the house, nothing major. I already had a ballpark in my head as to what would be a reasonable cost for this job, but asked him to send me his quote, because you know, I always like to be entertained by a contractor’s detachment from reality.
Needless to say, a couple days later, I got a quote from him that is more than double the number I had in my head. Shocker. How is it that two people looking at the exact same situation arrive at such different conclusions? This isn’t Judge Judy.
At that point, how do you even begin to negotiate? We clearly were not speaking the same language. I was so disgusted by the whole situation that I just called him up and said that I didn’t need him because I clearly could not afford to pay him what he was asking and did not feel like haggling back and forth with him like we were in some Middle Eastern marketplace.
Well, sure enough he called back a couple hours later and basically said he has “revised” the quote and that he can do it for that price. Now you would think that this would make me happy, right?
Wrong! It actually made me angrier. I mean let’s face it, no one likes to think they are being taken advantage of and after that scam he tried to pull, how could I be assured of anything he says or does from that point out?
It is now very clear to me that no matter what country you’re in, it seems there are some absolute truths that are universal. One of those truths is that contractors and workmen will always try to get away with as much as you let them. As if that’s not bad enough, after you actually hire them, they end up acting as if they are doing you a favor. They show up late, leave early, make excuses, give you a quote that means nothing because they will always exceed it, and don’t clean up after themselves…the list goes on and on and on.
Well, after all that I ended up agreeing to contract him for the job, albeit reluctantly. As much as I wanted to tell him to go take a flying leap, I also didn’t want to have to go through the aggravation of trying to find a new contractor who may at best offer the same bid or at worst end up being more of a tool than this guy. I suppose sometimes it comes down to a simple case of better the devil you know than the one you’re yet to meet.
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