Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Sobbing with rage

I met with the builder one evening last week. I had some queries about the bill for the work he had done and wanted to run through them before I paid him. He gave me 20minutes notice that he was coming round so I scarcely had time to find my paperwork before he was there.

My queries were simple. 'Why is the bill nearly double the estimate'. I had done my maths and my homework. I knew exactly what I had asked for as extras and I figured it would be a 20% increase on the original quote. You can imagine my horror when it was more like 70%.

I had tried to bring this up before but to no avail. My builder does not like to talk about money. Not at all. He likes to be given money without complaint. End of story.

Now, essentially, the builders did a good job, and at a good price. Even the inflated price was still a good price. But I resent being told something will cost X and then, once the work is completed, being told that actually is was Y + a few zeros.... I think that an estimate should be accurate within about 20%. I'm naive like that it seems.

Not a fan of paperwork, the invoice was a simple one sided page. On it was the original cost plus the extras which were lumped into two categories. Plastering and Joinery. I had already asked how the plastering had trebled in price when we had not done triple the amount of work. The builder produced his time sheet for 'time spent plastering'. Just one glance and I knew it wasn't accurate but what was I to do? he is the only builder for miles, also a neighbour, and I couldn't call him a liar to his face (quite happy to do so here though). I showed him the spreadsheet I had done which showed what was allowed for and what was extra. He went red and he went on the attack.

'Nobody else would have done this work for the price we did it' he spluttered.
'That's not the point' I replied 'you estimated for the work at the price you chose and that's why I went with you, not someone else'.
There was more spluttering and more along the same lines of what a bargain they were, how hard they worked, and that the cost is what it was. All this underlined with a sort of accusatory note that I was to blame for this and shouldn't be questioning him.

The thing is that in my line of work I run a lot of building jobs and I have never had this problem before. Then again I haven't had to deal with welsh builders before either.

The builder's son, who was there too, tried to calm him down and let me speak my piece, but to no avail. 'I've got men to pay, mortgage payments, children to feed' were all thrown into the mix. I felt myself flushing under the onslaught. I knew I was being steamrollered. I also knew that if I were a man I would not be in this position. If I were a man, or had rented a man for the evening, he would have a sane conversation about it and we would come to a compromise. I know this because other couples I know have used him and that is what has happened. 'He's very reasonable' the husbands say. Not this night he wasn't. My builder hates dealing with women and I was suffering because of it. I simply couldn't get him to listen.

To my intense rage and humiliation I felt my eyes well up and my throat tighten. These were tears of frustration and rage and though I could stop them welling over it was going to be obvious that they were there. I was fulfilling all his stereotypes and I was also being bullied into paying a bill that I didn't fully understand.

Several days later I am still bitter about it. I feel I have somehow failed myself. It is not the money (though now my emergency 'rainy day' savings have been horribly depleted which I hadn't wanted). It is the failure to communicate. That night, I felt that being single was not a good thing. I felt lonely.


Anonymous said...
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screamish said...

bastards....i dont know what to say to make that feeling go away...but it happens to men too (getting ripped off) and builders are famous for it. i guess i know what you mean tho, that awful feeling as tears well. i think women are built with this rage short circuit, a lot of us, at the point where a man would start shouting and thinking of physical action, we do an emotional meltdown instead. but that doesnt make us weaker for it...dont feel bad...can you find a way out of it? was it a QUOTE? or an ESTIMATE? makes a big difference....

Anonymous said...

Have been there and I feel your intense anger and frustration - nothing like that situation to make you feel lonely.

(By the way - I do have a friend with rather dodgy connections, he is willing to arange a subtle knee capping for a few jars of marmalade....)

Rose said...

Hello! Interesting blog. That does sound horrible- what I also hate is the tales of them starting with one quote and men being able to haggle them down to half that. It should really be like a shop, this is the price and that's it. People like him are the reason some people don't take on work on homes and it's appalling- imagine how an old lady or someone would be. It's disgusting actually! Gosh I got quite ranty didn't I!

Steve said...

Bastard! I hate bullies.

It sounds to me as if you have been had over purely because you are female and he thought he would get away with it.
Has he given you a correct invoice? Does he have a VAT number? If not based on his invoice and the hours he has worked can you work out if he is over the VAT threshold? If so, I would consider putting him under the same pressure as he put you under by writing to him asking why he hasn't issued you with a VAT invoice. Also, is he a member of any bodies? Are there any logos on his letterhead? You could contact them and ask them to get involved.

I mean sadly, if you've paid him then the top and bottom of it is that is the end of that however if you feel as if you have been ripped off and intimidated then I recommend a cold dish of revenge courtesy of HMRC and others! :)
You could always visit "blagger.com" and anonymously trash him there too!

You should have given him some mercury flavoured Marmalade.

elizabethm said...

This is just the worst feeling! I have had it in garages where the sense that I am being asked to pay for things which I can't challenge really gets up my nose. At risk of sounding absurdly pollyanna-ish, perhaps you just have to focus on the fact that he did a good job and, even better, he has gone and you have your house back.

notSupermum said...

Oh, I'm burning with rage on your behalf. I've been in this situation more than once, and it's completely infuriating. I learned very early on to ask for a quote for the 'completed job' so that they can't add on for extra hours. Once they've quoted for the completed job, that's it, that's what they get.

I'm so sorry, and the worst thing is you're right that they wouldn't behave like that with a man. So unfair and frustrating. xx

Tattie Weasle said...

Boy have I been there and been belittled and humiliated by builders - and there was nothing I could do except learn. That and take a large wooden stick to an overstuffed effigy of the horrid little man and whack it until it burst...actually very theraputic!

Heather said...

Oh i'm so angry for you. it makes you feel so small and stupid doesn't it. I hate people that treat others this way.

franzi said...

oh this frustration. i actually then get even more frustrated because i am frustrated...it's a vicious cycle.

don't blame it on being single. your builder seems to have a problem with women who are smart enough to find the flaws in their bill, that's it!

Anonymous said...

Horrible! Shame on him! I'd be angry as well.

Home Office Mum said...

I would have been just like you. I would have cried from sheer frustration and anger. I hate being bullied and I hate talking money. He sounds like a dick. Next time you need building work done/dealings with anyone who might drive a white van, let me know and I'll send over my ex-military husband who makes me die of embarrassment with the way he deals with tradesmen. So unfair that men seem able to do this better than us. This is why I work in a largely all female environment.

Welsh Girl said...

You are all lovely! The builder, on the other hand, isn't! I shall definitely be considering death by marmalade for him. I wish I didn't feel I had failed some test of adulthood on this one though. Grrr.

katyboo1 said...

Oh that's so horrible. I hate it when I get that crying with rage thing. It just makes it so hard to communicate when the other person totally misinterprets the emotion and just gah! Poor, poor you. That is utterly shitty. I have had exactly the same experience and it's so utterly enraging. xxxx

justmeagain said...

Grrrrr! I am spitting with rage on your behalf. I have also just had a similar rant about a bathroom quote that has mysteriously increased by £1000 before the work has evn started. Have no idea how I am going to cope when it DOES start in a few weeks time. I shall be a wreck.
At least, as others have said, he is gone. Forget it. There is nothing else to be one x

Anonymous said...

I think it's out of order to be honest. These work men, of any sort, get away with too much and we women often let them. The same thing happened to me in November 2008 when I had my dining room renovated. The painter did a great job, but he took longer than he needed and changed £100 extra which I was very reluctant to pay. But I did. I still feel foolish for not arguing about it.

CJ xx

Kate said...

What a bully and a horrible man. I would have done exactly the same thing as you. Don't worry, I'm sure karma will sort him out soon.

Kate x

Susie said...

You poor thing.

I want to say a few things.

First I personally have always found that when I cry with men I get my way. LOL-sometimes I even do it on purpose. Heck if they are going to stereotype-why shouldn't I use it to my advantage.

I personally especially since he is a neighbor would clear the air. I would either write a long letter or have a discussion with him with my points all laid out. I would tell him I do not want him to interrupt until I finish and then I will tell him all you felt. That:

-you should have not had to pay the bill till you understood it
-that his behavior in yelling at you was out of line and that he would not have dared behave that way with a man
-that his 70% overrun from the estimate was irresponsible
-that it is not your issue what his bills and commitments are. You were issued a quote and he should have taken things into account in his calculations.
-that you prefer to tell him to his face what you are feeling and thinking about him instead of bad mouthing him to other potential clients

That way-you have said your piece, he can do with it what he wants, but you have now empowered yourself by sticking up for yourself.

I also view things as lessons for the future. In the future, i would for instance ask for day by day hours on work-so you could challenge his bill based on hours. I would maybe have a male come with me on negotiations. It's your lesson to learn for future use.

Glad at least you were able to come on here and share about it and maybe now you don't feel as lonely. Remember, we can't control anyone else's behavior but we can control our reaction to it.


Rob-bear said...

I'm feeling so sad for you.

After the fire in our house, we had a repair crew come. They didn't do a very good job, and I had to fix up some of their work after they left for the day. But I wasn't paying them; insurance was. We did, however, sit down with them and insurance, and go over our concerns.

As for your contractor, I'd have paid him what he quoted, maybe a bit more. Then let him come to you, hat in hand, for the rest. Someone (all of us, really) need to help these people understand their responsibilities.

Welsh Girl said...

Katyboo - crying with rage is so CROSS MAKING. Which then makes me cry more. Aaargh.
Justmeagain - Hello!!! I can't find your blog by the way. Where did you go to? They increased your bathroom quote by a £1000??? Are you having gold plated swan taps? Learn from my hideous experience and insist on a fixed price....
Crystal Jigsaw - Do you think it is a politeness thing? We are unable to call them barefaced liars and always feel we have to do the polite thing and pay up?
Kate - Thanks for that. Karma should also mean I win the lottery (not all of it - just a few thousand would be fine)....
Susie - crying NEVER works for me. What is your secret??? I am definitely going to learn from the whole thing and next time I will go with a fixed price and keep a record of the hours so that there can be no confusion. Having said that, I bet it will still be hideous. There will be something else that I won't have thought of that they catch me out on. I appreciate the comments though.

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