A reader uses a story to illustrate a lesson in working with contractors.
Regarding “Coast Guard asks Deepwater contractors for refund”: So let me get this right. The grass and weeds around your house have taken over. You’re too busy maintain your yard yourself, but you would like it to look really nice. You’re too cheap to hire someone to maintain the yard, but you’re not too cheap to ask your parents if they would pay for a lawn service. They own a stake in your house, so why not?
Dad comes out with Uncle Joe, and you show them around -- past the water feature full of green slime, the tree that fell in the wind storm two years ago, the shed with no roof, and the yard overcome by weeds and lacking even one patch of fescue.
Uncle Joe wants to hire the best landscaper in town to fix this mess immediately. Dad wants to put it out for bid to some medium-priced landscaper that can get it done and keep it maintained for a good price. You argue that Dad and Uncle Joe should transfer the funds to your personal account and let you worry about finding the best landscaper for the best price. Dad and Uncle Joe have more important things to worry about and agree to transfer the funds.
Now that you have the money in your bank, you need to find a landscaper, and you begin to give it some thought. After a week of finding no good solution -- while thinking about it and discussing it with co-workers -- you notice the kid down the street mowing his front yard. You ask him if he’s interested in maintaining your yard, and he says yes. The kid asks, "What do you want me to do?" You say, “Just make it look good and clean, and I’ll pay you $30 a week.”
In fact, you’re so busy you give the kid $360 for the summer in advance and tell him to get to work. The next day the kid flags you down as you drive past his school bus stop on your way to work and asks how he can contact you if he as any questions. You say, “Don’t worry about it. You’ll see from time to time, and if I see something I don’t like, I’ll let you know."
At the end of the summer, Dad and Uncle Joe show up one evening with Aunt May, mad as hell. Dad wants a full accounting of the lawn money because he says there is no grass, just cut weeds. The shed wasn’t fixed -- it’s been torn down and turned into a half-pike. What used to be shrubs in need of some pruning have been pulled up by the roots and are in a pile at the edge of the back yard. The place is a mess.
So you do the only thing you can to make Dad, Uncle Joe and now Aunt May calm down: You call the kid’s parents over to your house and show them the mess. They ask, “Didn’t you notice what our son was doing?”
“No,” you say. “I trusted your son to do the right thing.” The parents look puzzled and ask what you specifically told their son. You reply that you were very specific and told their son to make it look “good and clean.” The parents note that the property looks good compared to how it looked when the weeds were 3 feet tall, and it’s certainly clean -- not a single piece of trash anywhere.
“Not good enough,” you say. “I want my money back.”
Thomas Jackson Center for Equal Civil Rights
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