I had a customer once, a retired restaurant owner, and she was passionate about cooking. She also had a reputation for being very, shall we say, strong willed with everyone she dealt with. She certainly wasn’t shy!
Well, she contracted me to do concrete countertops and a custom tile job for a back- splash in her kitchen. She wanted black concrete countertops with mirror glass, metal shavings and little buttery flecks of yellow stone – very bold and eclectic. She wanted tiles made with matching black concrete, and wanted me to embed silverware from her restaurant into them. She had collected a lot of this silverware over the years, and often used it in projects; she had wind chimes made with it, for example.
Well, there was a special set that her employees had given her, and as a joke (seeing as she was quite an assertive person) they’d bent the middle tines of the forks down, to resemble a certain hand gesture that was her favorite. She handed them over to me, and said she wanted them embedded in the tile. I said, sure, no problem, and got to work.
I arranged the tiles in a diamond pattern, per her request, and laid the fork that was flippin’ the bird front and center. She loved it, thought it was amazing, everyone was happy, job well done, etc. etc. etc. She even hugged me.
Well, fast forward a couple of days: this same happy, thrilled customer called and wanted the tiles removed. She said she couldn’t stand them, they hurt her eyes, she’d changed her mind and didn’t want them. I tried explaining to her that you really can’t just pop tiles off, it’s not that simple (something which I had explained, in writing, prior to doing the job, and which she had said, in writing, that she understood).
This customer, being of an assertive nature, was insulted that I wouldn’t remove the now-unsatisfactory tiles and do something else, free of charge. She had some very helpful suggestions, of course, such as having me paint over the tile, or just make new ones. Sometimes not laughing at your customer is the hardest part of the job, are you with me? Homeowners, I’m sorry, but you’re not always right.
Fast forward again through multiple conversations and angry phone calls, and at the end of the day she didn’t want to have her kitchen torn up, and I didn’t want to undo and redo a custom job out of my own pocket, so we went our separate ways.
Here’s the moral of this story: have a contract. Have a rock solid, iron clad legal document that will protect you, whether you are the homeowner OR the contractor. Understand what the options are and what exactly you’re getting or doing. For homeowners: don’t sign anything that you don’t understand 100%, and be very, very certain what you want. For contractors, don’t begin the job until you and the customer have reached a solid agreement and have it in writing. Be prepared to work with the customer to make them happy, if you possibly can.
If I hadn’t had a contract in this situation, and if the customer hadn’t signed off on the job after the installation, I would have been in a world of hurt. Don’t let that happen to you!
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As always, contractors, I wish you the best with your projects! I’d love to hear some of your war stories; head over to our Facebook page and post them on our wall!