Like medical doctors, dentists, serial killer clowns, my neighbors, and commercials that mysteriously go louder than the show I'm watching, I hate home contractors. In case I have any fans who are home contractors, I will say that I know there are some good ones out there. I know this. Somehow, however, I never seem to get that kind. (Well, there was this tile guy in El Paso but he was the exception. Despite the fact that he referred to himself in the third person, he was great and he did a wonderful job with the tiles. "The Meister is done with the tiles now," he would say about himself. "The Meister is wonderful," he would add arrogantly. Meister was the name of his company and it's also German for Master. I don't think he had any BDSM issues but we're talking about tiles so who really knows?)
We're moving soon. And we're sprucing things about the house. HIM was delegated to call plumbers about a leaky faucet. (HIM would typically change the thing himself but it's seized up and requires a little more plumbing knowledge than he possesses.) So HIM just picks a contractor out of the phone book without further ado. (Rookie mistake.) I was working on my latest literary masterpiece and happened to catch the contractor (Adam!) talking to my husband. "We had to drive all the way down here from Fairfax," Adam whined to HIM. I thought, "Well, that's a damn shame." "You do charge for the estimate," HIM said. "Say, what?" I thought. "And we have to do all this work in the crawl space," Adam whined further. "Wanker," I thought.
Then Adam settled down in the living room and I peeked in to see HIM waiting for Adam to finish his estimate. Adam has a big book out and he's muttering things like, "Code 5468. That costs $500. Code 345-b. That's $50 per yard. We'll need at least twenty yards. Code Wanker-1. That's another greasing of the..." (Wait, that last part was just my imagination.) (However, considering the size of that book, there might be a code in there about suckers. Might be. Oh hell there is.)
I retreated into my office, staring at my computer monitor but listening. (So much for writing.) I heard Adam say, "$550." I thought, "Well, it's a little higher than I thought it would be." Then Adam added sanctimoniously, "Each. Then there's this extra stuff." Finally, they broke out their calculators because the numbers were obviously too high to count on their fingers and toes. I heard HIM say, "Just a moment," and in he trots to show me the estimate. I could see a little sweat on HIM's forehead as he showed me the number.
$1550 frickin' bucks!!!!!!!!!! (I think this might be underestimated in the exclamation mark department!!!!!!!!!!!) To change two faucets?!!!!!!!!! I believe I lost consciousness for a moment. I think when the light dawned again I said, "Fucking no way in hell." Yes, those were my exact words.
Back HIM went to talk to Adam. (Adam didn't know he was dealing with cranky Fat Woman, the secret behind the scene CFO of the Bevill household.) My second impulse was to go into the living room where Adam was trying to add on more imaginary charges to his bill and tell him, "Get the fuck out of my house now. No, don't look at my husband. He won't help you." But I let HIM deal with it. HIM was trying to be polite. "We want to look at other estimates," HIM told Adam tactfully.
"But we came all the way out here," Adam whined again. I couldn't see his face but I was pretty sure he was having a vision of money slipping through his puny, greasy, guilt-manipulating fingers.
HIM was firm.
Adam caved. "Let me call my boss and see if we can lower that price," Adam backpedaled frantically. He went outside to use the phone in his van.
HIM came back in the office. I said, "He's a rip-off artist." Then I looked the company up on BBB because I am zen with the Internet and my Verizon FIOS works speedily. Surprise! The company wasn't a member. Not that that necessarily means that they're bad. But the 47 complaints they had in the last 12 months did and the fact that most of them weren't resolved added to their unsuitability. I said, "Pay him what you owe him for the estimate and never, ever, ever pay for another estimate again."
HIM whined, "But I never had to do this before." (I had a moment where I wanted to say, "Lay back and think of England," but I resisted.)
I said, "Grow a pair." (Not really.) I said, "I'll find a couple for you to call."
Adam came back in. HIM went to talk to the guy. "I got three hundred bucks knocked off if we do it today," Adam said proudly. I'm certain that he thought he deserved a medal. I don't believe he would have appreciated where I would have stuck the medal. I thought, "That's because you padded the bill by about $800, you cruddy piece of pond scum."
HIM held firm. I clapped mentally. "We're going to get some other estimates," HIM said.
"But I came all the way down here and I got you three hundred bucks off," Adam whined. Seriously the little nasty craphead said this. Honest to God, on my mother's grave, those very words came out of his mouth, as if GUILTING us would make us relent and say, "OMG, you drove twenty miles and we MUST compensate your measly ASS by bestowing the MASSIVELY overpriced work upon your contract. What silly fools we are?" (We did not say that. If HIM had even remotely started saying anything like that I would have shot out of the office and tackled HIM to the floor and muzzled HIM. Oh, he knows I would do it. But HIM is much smarter than that.)
Instead, I waited for HIM to answer. HIM was like Davey Crockett at the Alamo, except without the enemy soldiers shooting at him. I could even tell HIM was getting irritated with the minute git. "We'll get the other estimates," HIM said and all friendliness had left the building. I cheered...on the inside. (Secretly I wanted to rush out and scream, "Good job, you burning hunk of love! Take me now like a crappy historical romance heroine in which the Vikings invade England!" But I restrained myself. Again.)
I quickly found two contractors in the area with good ratings from the BBB. One came over a few hours later and had a free estimate at about $600. I tried not to be smug, but that didn't work very well.