Need Advice Dealing With The Customer From He**

I am currently dealing with one of those customers that you wonder why in the world you took the job.

Some background: It was to wire up a old construction residential property. Being that I did not how long it will take, we made up time + material. I gave the customer an estimate of 3 -4 days for a 2 person crew. And told him probably closer to 4 days.

After all the roughing was done (just under 3 days) went to go get paid. He came back with a few arguments. Here are three of them, I am wondering what most people would do in such a situation. I admit there is a possibility I may be wrong, so I want to see what others say

1) Complaint number one is that I charged him for when I was there the night before the crew was starting to prep the job site. I dropped of 10+ boxes of wire, ladders, tools and other material. He says that shouldnt count. My response is that my crew would normally need to do it and bill for it (two people), so I did it the night before myself.

2) Whenever we work on a job (that is not a construction zone) we clean up afterwards (sweep, vacuum, etc..). His complaint is that why did he pay my hourly rates to clean up, while he has a cleaning lady who is much cheaper. My response was that he should have stopped them from cleaning then (it was less then an hour). This is the only one where he may be right, but I dont know and I am willing to waive it for that hour.

3) He is upset that it took so long. Even though that is the time I gave him as an estimate, he believed it would take much less. And that probably the reason why it took so long was because I used some unskilled workers to pull the wire. He then goes to say that he brought some other people now in and they said it should not take more then 10 hours (and he says if he would have used his workers it would have taken on 7 hours). My response is that: A) He should have shopped around before hand B) The experienced person was working with an experienced tech and the young person was pulling wire which he actually can do faster then the older tech C) That doesnt even make a difference as I gave you my time estimate and I am under it. And the reason why I had to use the experienced person was that one of my other techs walked off the job because the homeowner was standing on top of them saying why are you doing it this way, why not this other way, etc..... (The homeowner is in property management so he feels he knows how to do all the work)

What would you do in regarding to these 3 points?


How many hours did you quote him not to exceed? How many different rates? How many hours are you billing?

I quoted for everything (including final) four days, two person crew, eight hours a day. So 64 hours. We finished rough at 40.5 hours. I charged $80 per person per hour. All that was left was to install 8 cameras and 10 intercoms.

We have (fortunately) only ever had one client do this to us. In the end, it took months to collect.

We did the following: send him the invoice, remind him at 31, 60 and 90 days that the invoice was due xx days ago. Stuff gets lost in the mail, so it might be wise to e-mail it and mail the hard copy. If he does not respond or responds that he does not wish to pay, have a lawyer write a nice letter indicating what the next steps are in the legal process. Most of the time, this is enough to get people moving.

At the end of the day, $2400 in labour for the job you described is reasonable. 7-10 hours for 8 cameras in a multi-residential housing (not to mention 10 intercoms), would mean that nothing was strung nicely or hidden as best as it could be.

It sucks that at the sum you happen to be charging for this job, it's not worth the money to hire a lawyer to fight it. Any time taken out of your day (or evenings with family) costs you and I'm willing to bet that your client knows this and is hoping you'll give up or take a lower amount because it's not worth the trouble. Scumbag is a polite word to call him, because he knows exactly what he's doing.

Best of luck, it sucks that this continues to happen.

The hard part was the basement (it took 2 days). The ceiling was double sheetrocked, and we had to cut and snake wires in order to get the intercoms to the right place on the main floor.

If he signed off on your estimate - and you are under it, tell him to pay up.

If he won't, you don't need a lawyer for small claims court.

Take you an hour to file the claim yourself - and I bet he pays before the court date.

Im afraid thats what I may have to do

By posting the question I assume you have already tried to work it out like gentlemen. Your choices are very clear. You can ask him what is reasonable, accept his offer and remember the lesson; or take him to court. I would work out something reasonable and learn my lesson.

Do you have anything at all, prior to commencing work, in writing/email/text/toilet paper?

If so, he should pay all of it. If not, you have no one to blame but yourself, respectfully. I don't mean to sound condescending, but I am assuming you don't and you really should know better.

As to the first point, it was time and materials and delivering the materials speaks for itself; it is part of the job.

To the second point, In all likelihood, you had some wire and materials that should not just be put into the trash. Often, wire should be disposed of properly. Even if you are not environmentally sensitive, your crew is responsible for their work and waste. That is commonplace.

As to his third point, no matter who he got after the fact, he accepted your offer, and by your account, you were under the estimate.

If you have anything in writing, even after the fact that would lend credence to your contention, then you can take him to court. There is no crying in baseball. If you decide to, send him a snail mail letter that he has to sign for. After that, send him a notice of intent to take him to small claims. Then by all means do it.

It will be much easier to make your case with something written, but there is a theory in business law called "unjust enrichment". He cannot refuse to pay a legitimate bill. If he agreed to the terms, he should pay.

You have an opportunity to salvage this and be the bigger person in the process. I would be interested in how it turns out.

I wanted to close this out before the end of the year, and I really did not have patience to go through any headaches with him. I offered a $600 reduction and he didnt want it. He feels that he shouldn't pay for anything because it took longer then others told him it should.

I dont think I have anything in writing from beforehand, but I do have a text from after and we are in a single party state as far as recording is concerned and I have recorded the phone call where he admits I gave him the estimate but he felt it would be much less.

I'm afraid I may have to go the legal route

He feels that he shouldn't pay for anything because it took longer then others told him it should.

With that thinking if his entire project goes over schedule its all for free right? what line of work is this guy in? you will most likely always find someone/company who can do the job cheaper and faster (at least in their mind), that doesn't change the fact that he hired you to do the work, whether or not it is in writing he allowed you and your crew to knowingly improve on his real estate and for that he owes you... with that said it is entirely up to you what you will ultimately settle on but fwiw the price you had listed is very fair...

If you have something, even after the fact and you feel that strongly, go for it. I wonder if he would tell the GC on his house the same thing or is it just you folks??

Write up an invoice for the full amount. Send it to him. Put your terms on it and hold him to it. If he doesn't pay within terms make a courtesy reminder call, then another stronger call that mentions collections, then a demand letter (that states when it will go to collection), then follow-through on it if he does not pay. (Most don't want their credit impacted by being sent to collections).

Of course, this likely means he will not be a future customer--although I sense that is already out the window and mutual!

And this is why I have never, in ten years, done any residential jobs except for very close and personal friends.

I refer all others to Eagle Eye.

I hope you did not finish the camera project. This person needs to not be negotiated with, this person needs to be taken to small claims court. If you have as signed quote and came in and invoiced him under the number of hours quoted he should be thrilled.

I agree. Residential projects can be nightmares with limited profits. I prefer commercial as most management in the field I'm in has to be relatively sane and professional or they would not last. On the other hand I did fire a hospital recently, got fed up with the beet red alcoholic security director. fed up with the beet red alcoholic security director...

Was he both addicted AND allergic to alcohol? Rare, but even more tragic.

Agreed. The Peoples Court does not look favorably on those who try to stiff their contractor...

Relevant case law.

#1: why should your time be free?

#2: this is a no-win - if you didn't clean up, he likely would have wanted to charge back for his own cleaner's time... and probably with his own markup thrown in. If he wanted his own cleaner to do it, he should have specified that in advance.

#3: "He says if he would have used his workers it would have taken on 7 hours" - well then why didn't he? He probably would have paid them $15/hr, too. Why did he even waste your time? He went into this knowing how much you expected to charge him, and you came in cheaper than that anyway... if he knew his guys would do it faster and cheaper, he should have just done that in the first place.

My answer to this would be to give him the option: pay your agreed upon rate, or you go back and rip out all your wiring and tell him to go right ahead and have the other guys do it cheaper. Make sure to take every last scrap of wire with you, too.

Oh, and don't clean up after yourselves.

Why rip it out? Spite don't pay the bills, man...

If he goes back to remove the stuff, then he is out the original fees to pay for the work already done, and the hours of future labor to yank all the stuff back out....

It sounds like he has a slam dunk small claims case against a deadbeat scumbag. Said scumbag is trying to renegotiate terms after the contracted work has been performed. That is a straight up no-no.

File the claim, pay a fee for whatever process servers get these days and once served, I bet the scumbag pays up before the court date.

I bet the scumbag pays up before the court date.

Probably right. Though anyone who would fold just on a summons would probably also pay up when confronted with an indignant and irate integrator with a bill in one hand and bolt cutters in the other.

Rip out the stuff and then sue him for breach...


The scumbag is employing the tactics of a classic bully. Bullies don't negotiate - they push until they receive resistance.

1. There was at least a verbal contract and the job got done, then he starts pissing about the manner it got done and refuses to pay.

2. Honest businessman offers a discount to satisfy dickweed customer just to be done with it.

3. Bully sees this as weakness and refuses generous offer from honest businessman and now assumes the honest businessman is also a pushover - since he didn't receive any real pushback on his initial refusal to honor his contract - and will continue finding any stupid reason he can think of to justify his stupid position.

Bullies can not be negotiated with.

Small claims court is designed to deal with this particular type of scumbag.

Doug Llewelyn's mom didn't raise no fool...

Small claims court is designed to deal with this particular type of scumbag.

We agree on the scumbag, maybe not on the particular kind though. This guy is not garden variety. Remember, he has not paid a dime!

OP should not negotiate, but simply state "You have not paid me per our agreement, I am taking back my property (cabling etc)."

If they refuse to grant him access to the property to get his materials, then it's straight-up stealing. Call the Sheriff. Remember he has not paid a dime!

I would say this guy won't pay on being summoned, and he won't show up in court, and he won't pay the judgement.

What then? Find out where he works and try to garnish him? Good luck.

I think it's a mistake not to leverage the thing that is of most immediate value. You can still sue him.

What's the down side of telling him you want your cable back?

That's the thing that makes this site great.... we both have differing methods that we would utilize in a scenario like the OP described.

Which is best? Would either way solve the OP's problem? No way to tell, really...

I just hope it works out for him - whatever it is he decides to do. :)

That's the thing that makes this site great....


A couple times I have just walked away from the projects, 90 or 100% finished. A quality of life issue.

Why rip it out?

He thinks his guys can do it faster and cheaper, so... let them.

Spite don't pay the bills, man...

And neither does the deadbeat. Obviously removing it all is the course if he absolutely refuses to buck up - after all, you don't want to leave him with all that work completed and ready for his use.

If there was equipment involved, you'd be repossessing that... why not the cable as well?

Agree with scumbag label My state(Alabama) we can file a mechanic lien. No conveyance of property unless it is stettled Show up with intention of removing your equipment because of non payment. No one wins with jerk like this.

You may want to check some RSMeans Cost data publications. They give labor hours and rates for virtually every item you can think of (not that you should have to, if you have it in writing on a document signed by the Owner). You can use that data to dispute his claims that it should not have taken you so long. I cant believe that he is complaining about the wire delivery and clean up (its called project "staging" and normal business practice).

Based on what you have said about this guy, it is unlikely you will have success getting paid unless you take him to court (have your attorney send him a letter). I cant imagine what the warranty service will be like. This guy will be a long term pain and he could hurt you with bad reviews, so watch out.

unfortunate , but there are people like that , and sometimes you have to weigh out the cost of recovery vs the risk of courts.

FYI , usually when we come across these types of people, we take the loss, get contracts in order , process to the letter of the law , and make sure its painful , so they have to pay out in attorneys and litigation.

Our contracts have been set to allow for a (4 times the value for recovery ) if anyone goes to court

Be very detailed in verbiage and who,what,when,why s

and Remember words are binding in courts so say as little as possible when making commitments to perform. Keep in writing, Always buy time to collect thoughts and details

or we very graciously put them in a place where they hang themselves in the legal system.

Keep them on the hook so to speak until we can recover the loss's. If someone else has to get the edge on them to make out on the deal.

Sometimes it s just cheaper to negotiate and walk away. after you collect what you can , shut all lines of communication and doors so they can never screw you again.

As stated above bully's only respect a hard wall of opposition and strength

Chances are removing your material will result in having to restore the property to original condition, i.e. patching and painting to a level that will never be acceptable to this guy.

Depending upon the law in your jurisdiction, consider placing a lien on the property. It may take a while (years perhaps) but you will get your money. Any transaction involving the property will have to address the lien. You mentioned the he was a property manager. If he is not the owner, the owner will not be pleased if his tactics result in a lien.

What do you guys think of charging a flat rate based on your best guess as to how long it'll take you to complete the job? Sure, you'll get screwed sometimes when something unexpected crops up, but it'll all come out in the wash because you should occasionally finish jobs faster than expected too.

I also hope stories like this reminds everyone to always get signed contracts.

If you need some local boot on the ground to help with the request and removal process, you could always organize an IPVM flash mob at a given address and time.

First round is on you!

I suppose you are in the US, I'm in sweden, it may be some differences.
But I see your claim is undoubtedly correct and true. You schould not give them up.
I always send an written quote on our agreement on what is included (and very rarely what is NOT included), either by e-mail and/or mail, and see it comfirmed in some way. Either by demanding an answer e-mail with at least a simple OK, or signed as a simple contract, as a security for both of us.

Problem 3: do not give it up. You charge him far below your maximum bid.

Problem 2: I always clean up the heavy dirt, and material that can be hard for the private person to get rid of. there may have been a motive for you to clean up?

Problem 1: Of course you shall be paid for the transport. But maybe not for overtime, although it was in the evening.

Someone already mentioned a mechanics lien. Check your local laws on this. Where we are, a lien must be applied within 60 days. This is how I would handle it (remember that I am not a lawyer).

30 days past due - send letter of Intent to Lien.

60 days past due - Lien property.

90 days past due - Letter of Intent to go to collections.

120 days past due - if still not paid, turn it over to a collection agency and write it off as a learning experience. The collection agency will report it as a collection on the home owners credit report and that is very damaging to their FICA score.

If this home owner is in property management, being a bully and hasn't abided by his side of the contract, he has taken the first swing. Don't back down.

Good luck.

The fact you don't have it in writing weakens your position considerably. Always get it in writing, no matter how small the project. It protects you from customers like this and gives you an iron clad agreement you can litigate with.