Thursday, 10 September 2009

I've been FIRED.

Since I work for myself, you will have probably already leapt to the correct conclusion that I haven't been fired by myself. Mind you, I did have to give myself a verbal warning last week but that is another story. No, this time, I have been fired by my builders. What makes this story even worse is that I hadn't even hired them yet.

Searching for a builder is a tiresome and depressing job. You want somebody you like, somebody with sensible prices, and somebody reliable. There is a local builder who I have worked with before but I have been avoiding going to him because he can't bear working for women. He thinks we can't possibly know what we want, or understand what we are asking for, and so tends to do what he thinks is right. This generally makes me apoplectic, very red in the face, and tempted to use his tools for purposes they were not designed for. So, I searched farther afield. I asked around for recommendations and finally was put in touch with a really nice firm. Well, 'firm' may be a bit of an exaggeration. Three guys who came highly recommended.

They came to see me and I liked them enormously. They understood what I wanted to do, and why, and my hopes, like a hot air balloon in May, started to rise. Their estimate came in. It was higher than I wished, but realistic all the same. I started to soar and dream of a house that wasn't a testament to seventies nastiness. However, due to the gold plated boiler requirements, I realised I would have to slash a third of the work off the budget. To do this, I needed a breakdown of the prices.

This is where it all goes horribly wrong.

I rang and asked if they could breakdown the estimate so that I could work out what bits could be done this year, and what would have to wait. 'No need to type it all up' I assured them, 'just scribble the figures on the specs that I gave you.' Two weeks later I had heard nothing. I chased them up. Still nothing. I left a shirty message asking where it was. Monday night I had a phonecall from John, one of the builders, apologising profusely for the slowness. They had tried to get in touch with me last week, he said, but I hadn't responded. I pointed out that they had my e mail, my house address and two telephone numbers and one of those would have reached me if they had sent anything.

Not wishing it to be a big drama I suggested they send me the paperwork by e mail or post so that I could give them a decision this week. I assured them that I wanted to go ahead with the work but I just needed to decide which bits had to be put on hold for a year. They promised me a response by the next day. Tuesday came and went. Nothing. Wednesday still nothing. I left another message wondering where the estimate was. Thursday I get an e mail. I shall copy it directly for you:

apologies but we are unable 2 help with your proposed works

No 'Dear Welsh Girl', no 'yours sincerely', nothing. It could have been from anyone. Anyone at all. That is quite aside that I can't bear the laziness of typing '2' instead of 'to'. Luckily for me the e mail address hinted at it being the builders. Otherwise I wouldn't have known who was firing me with one succint sentence.

I thought there was a recession on? I thought people wanted work? Surely you don't throw away £15000 of work this year with more to come for the next few years because doing an estimate is too hard? That can't be it? I think it is though. I have been fired by the builders I wanted to hire because they couldn't be bothered to do an hour of paperwork.

I don't think it was unreasonable to want a cost breakdown, particularly as I had assured them I wanted to go ahead, but couldn't do all the work this year. No, I feel certain that this is a direct result of me being a single girl. The builders have decided that I am tiresome with my need for estimates, and that they would rather work for someone who just says 'Whatever' to the costs and goes to the pub for a pint with them.

I know I should just move on, but this whole process has wasted two months when I could have been getting other builders in to estimate. I really did think they were the ones for the job. If I was married, or had a boyfriend, I bet they would have responded and produced the wretched paperwork when my other half requested it. Perhaps I should teach the Loyal Hound to write?

This is a huge thing to be doing on my own and it is frequently overwhelming in its enormity, both financial and emotional. Being fired by the builders I wanted to hire does not make it any easier at all.


Elsie Tanner said...

Welsh Girl

Had to respond to your post as had EXACTLY the same situation myself with builders (in London) - builders not showing up at all, quotes being promised for weeks or months on end and never turning up, getting a quote and then being told they can't do the work etc etc. Is utterly exasperating, exhausting and frankly bewildering - how do people make a living behaving like this??

All I can say is hang on in there, I eventually found a decent(ish) builder & the extension's still standing, so far...(or you could stick with the 70s look and spend the £15k on champagne & shoes)

ps I don't think the presence of a man helps - I had one with me & most builders were still rubbish

Mrs Jones said...

You have my deepest sympathy, I did a post a couple of weeks ago about bloody plumbers. There's a reason that British workmen have a bad reputation, and they do nothing to contradict it.

Cathy said...

I don't understand repairmen. Does having a vagina really make us not worthy of their attention. They wouldn't have done that to a man. It was plain rude to even send an email like that. No explaination or heading. I'd let everyone I know that they are not dependable. I had a half dozen men out here for my water line before I had the man from church come over to hear an estimate with me. How do these people make a living?
Hang in there and you'll find another one. Don't give up.

notSupermum said...

The plus side is that you found out they were rubbish BEFORE they did any work for you. I know it's depressing trying to find a decent builder, I've been there - but recently I found a gem of a builder. So far he's done a couple of biggish jobs and several small ones, and he is reliable, on time, clean and tidy and reasonably priced. Oh yay!! I'm going to be hanging onto him for dear life - sadly, he's too far away from you to help :-(

Good luck, hope you find someone soon. x

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, I am familiar with this sort of thing but there are ways to turn it around. Anyone in UK over age 55 can get a list of recommended workers from Age Concern (gulp, gulp, it doesn't hurt too much!) If you have any work done where the main contractor has to hire in a worker, say an electrician, plumber, there's good leads for you, and vice versa. Another way I've managed to actually get people through the door to give me quotes (I'm only working to fixed quotes on this renovation) is to approach workers at their current workplace. All the workers currently here ( have come recommended by one builder who is also a neighbour. Seems 'they' are more scared of punters than we are of them. I watched a tv programme recently about rogue builders and seems a good thing to do is to check out if they have county court judgements against them, if they've been bankrupt, and also (not sure how to do this) if Trading Standards have ever been involved. I also talk to my local Buildings Control inspector from my local council - very useful person to know and he is also in contact with our planning dept (they share an office). It is a hard and challenging situation but I think as women our ways of approaching this sort of think is healthy. Good luck. liZZie

Anonymous said...

I am absolutely livid and speechless after reading about your terrible builders. Clearly a case of arranging to have them pushed off the end of Llandudno Pier. I am repointing a large area of an outbuilding at the moment and doing well even if I say so myself. This was an enormous money saving on builders, how those three can give up such a good contract as you were giving them beggers belief. I am going off to cry in a corner with rage for you (this will spoil my looks and not yours so that you can look stunning for the next lot of 'builders').
Wendy (Wales)

justme said...

Oh no, WHAT a nightmare! But I am inclined to think that its probably as well that you found out now. If they can't do, or can't be bothered to do, accurate costings at this stage, I am guessing that they would have come in WAY over bugdet on everything.
I am not sure to what extent it is just down to being single, or being a woman. There seem to be so many dreadful stories about builders. Its a miracle anyone ever gets ANYTHING done. I certainly can't seem to get it organised. You really would think that in a recession, people would WANT work?? But apparently not....
No helpful suggestions I am sorry to say, but if you E ,mail me your new address, I will send medicinal chocolate!

Anonymous said...

Dealing with builders as a single woman is a barrel of laughs! I engaged a team (who came recommended) who subsequently screwed up the work completely and stole all my forks - what's that about??!

Have since found a gold plated handiman who I keep on speed dial. But I'm afriad he's miles away in London.

Is Loyal Hound handy with a chisel?

Rob-bear said...

Oh the indignity of it all -- being fired by one's tradespeople!

There's this thing about everybody getting a university education. It's bunk. In Canada, we desperately short of trades, and they can charge an arm and a leg for shoddy work. (We had a fire in our house a year ago; getting it fixed was NOT a good experience.)

I wonder if Loyal Hound will help you do the work?

Welsh Girl said...

Elsie - It's oddly a relief that it is no easier when there are two of you trying to deal with it! Imagine how much champagne and how many shoes I could have if the budget went there.... No. Stop thinking that! Bad Welsh Girl. There will be NO shoes or champagne until it is done!
Mrs Jones - It is baffling isn't it. WHY don't they care? I am obsessive about good customer relations in my job and would never behave that way. Why should it be different for them?
Cathy - It was rude wasn't it? Not just me being neurotic?
notSupermum (though actually she is!): Are you sure your lovely builder wouldn't like a six week working holiday in Wales????
Lizzie: I might try the building inspectors route - it's a cunning plan.
Wendy - I was livid too. Now I am calmer and have moved on. New builders coming this week to price up. Fingers crossed it goes better this time, I shall be tear free and armed with biscuits. No builder could resist!
Justme - Recession? What recession? The builders who don't have work have put their prices up to make up for it and those that do couldn't care less that the clients don't have as much money. Bah Humbug to the lot of them.
Mud - They stole your forks? Really? That's just downright odd. Loyal Hound has a tendency to eat the chisel handle. Not helpful at all.
Rob-Bear: Same problem here. Bring back apprentices and pride in workmanship. Please. Loyal Hound has assured me that he will be helpful in stripping wallpaper and creating sawdust by chewing through random bits of wood. Excellent stuff.

Rob-bear said...

Well, at least you can count on Loyal Hound for something. Glad he's prepared to do something to earn his keep.

Cal said...

Oh bah, boo and sucks. That's horrid.

I remember that a (male) friend who has done major, major building and renovation works on two properties now with remarkably few problems from builders once said that the thing to remember with builders is that if they had any more brains they wouldn't actually be builders.

ie don't have high expectations, particularly when it comes to communication, business sense etc etc and then things will be OK.

Milla said...

this is horribly familiar. We were turned down, too, and the affront still rankles. Idle bastards. We ended up with some right low renters but ... they did the job, cost several meaningful thousands less than the shirkers had threatened and the house is still standing. Ish. V wearing business.

Welsh Girl said...

Cal - That seems horribly unjust to builders, though no doubt fair. My expectations are always foolishly high. I idiotically think people will have pride, and a work ethic. Will I never learn?

Milla - I'm relieved I'm not the only one to be at the receiving end of this. It does rankle doesn't it. I find myself wanting to ring them up and shout 'WHY, WHY?' down the phone in an over dramatic fashion. Might do that anyway. It sounds therapeutic...

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