When you move into a new house and renovate it at the same time, you recognize very quickly who among the multitudes of contractors, service providers and vendors that you’re working with actually respects your money. And who, pointedly, does not.
But first, a note on all this money. Do we normally have tens of thousands of dollars to throw around on home improvement? No. We have this opportunity because the equity we built in our previous home over 17 years afforded us the funds to set aside at settlement for this purpose. The amount is finite—until we’re able to start saving again from our day jobs, which takes a lot longer than signing papers at a settlement table.
We have a budget and spreadsheet to track how much we’re spending from that budget. Unforeseen expenses mean something else gets crossed off—not fun, not cool.
This post was prompted by a deeply upsetting confrontation with one of our suppliers last week, but the experience has caused me to appreciate, by contrast, the outstanding companies and individuals we’ve been fortunate to work with in spite of that bad apple.
First, my cautionary tale: I won’t name the company directly where we spent nearly $14,000 on new appliances for our kitchen, but its initials, appropriately, are BS. When we moved and realized we had a kitchen with a downdraft vent, the fast-talking manager said no problem, we didn’t need to trade in a range we’d already ordered because a new vent was coming on the market that would rise up from the counter; we didn’t need a vent to come down from the ceiling. Great, I said. He gave me a sheet with the specs so I could hand it over to Nadia and Richard at Aidan Design, who are designing our beautiful new kitchen.
But here’s the thing: the sheet didn’t contain all the proper specs, and he didn’t tell me to look to the website for the more detailed install specs. Fast forward to last week. We are having installation problems. I call the manager because now I’m thinking we need to return everything and get a new range with a built-in vent. I’m looking to him for help with this problem.
His first question: Is it out of the box? The range? I asked. Yes, he said. Of course it’s out of the box, and so is the vent. Well, I can’t sell it new then. You have to pay 20 percent restocking fees. We just spent $14,000 with this BS company, and he’s only concerned about his next sale. He adds insult to injury by telling me that if we’d hired them for the install, none of this would have happened. My contractors were at fault for not doing their homework.
Restocking fees would cost several hundred dollars—that’s a bed for our guest room, or shelving for our living room. Not fees to a guy who didn’t give me the full information about a new product he was selling me.
Thankfully, Richard Suburan at Aidan dropped everything. He figured out a way to install the vent within the existing parameters of the kitchen island that’s already built. He got creative. He solved a problem. The BS guy? Not his problem, he said. He won’t be held responsible.
I knew I shouldn’t have gone back to them. Years ago, under a different manager, we bought a microwave from BS and I went to go pick it up. I was about eight months pregnant. The guy puts it on a dolly and wheels it out to the sidewalk where my car—a Honda sedan—was parked. Then he leaves it there and starts walking back inside. “Wait a minute, can you help me get it into the car?” I ask. No, he said. Liability. But you can have our delivery service handle it for $150. Excuse me? You’re not going to get it in the car, he said. You’ll be coming back inside. And then he was gone. Well, I got it in the car. Myself. With a belly out to HERE.
I’m done with all the BS. But it’s made me love people like Nadia and Richard at Aidan Design all the more.
Or Vini and his crew, who stained the outside of our house so beautifully, at the most reasonable price I’ve ever seen. I asked them to stain the steps leading up to our house, which by then looked sad against the new work, and he told his crew to stay in the hot sun for three more hours and get it done at just a tiny additional cost.
Or Marcelo, who un-built and re-built our sectional sofa to get it out of the tiny basement in the old house. I asked him to move the extra chaise in his truck too (not just the main sofa he had to break down and reassemble) so I could have the whole sectional set up in the new family room before the movers came a week later. Without a word, he and his guy got it up and out.
Or Frank, who takes care of our plumbing problems, and always addresses me as “Madam.” At the old house, we continued to have issues after he came to fix a toilet, so he returned on his own time to get it right. No charge. At our new house, he came to put in some new faucets, but we didn’t have the right attachment parts. No problem, he said. He’d go to Home Depot and take care of it for us.
These people are honest brokers. They know your dollars are precious. They don’t take advantage. And they don’t talk fast. They have my loyalty—and continued business—forever.