An agreement should be a freaking AGREEMENT!

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In late November I hired a guy to shovel my driveway for the 2005-06 winter season. I live southeast of Buffalo, NY so it snows quite a bit. He first quoted me $250, and then he changed it to $300 when he saw that my driveway was longer than average. I agreed to pay $300, and I agreed to give him $150 up front and the balance in January. Last weekend he showed up unannounced asking for the balance. He really caught me off guard, and I had company and didn't want to get into an argument, so I just paid him. Meanwhile, it has snowed a couple of times since I gave him the first installment and he only showed up once to shovel my driveway/sidewalk. But since the snow wasn't too deep, I let it go. I know the snow was deep enough to shovel because he shoveled the driveway/sidewalk across the street (he works for them too). Now today he shows up (and we had some lake effect snow last night) and he wants more money. He says that I have a really long driveway and I should pay him more money. I tell him very nicely that I understand he has a business, but that I agreed to pay $300 and that is all I am willing to pay, and if he feels that it is not adequate, he can refund the rest of the money I already paid him and I'll find someone else. He says, let's talk about this again when I finish your driveway, and then he goes out to shovel. While he's out there I'm inside steaming because this is the second person who has done something like this to me (the first was a drywaller who quoted me one price and then demanded more money after he had done just enough work in the room to make it impossible for me to scrap the whole job). But I decided that I wanted to be reasonable, so I decided that I would agree to pay him more money under two conditions: First, he would do my driveway so that I can leave the house by 8:00am on weekdays (the two times he showed up he didn't even get here until after 9) and second I would pay him the new balance due some time in February. Well he had a fit. He wanted the money now. He said that my driveway is a lot of work and he's very trustworthy and it's not like he won't show up if I pay him now. I said I've already paid you $300 and you've shoveled my driveway twice. Even if I agree that it's worth more than $300 for the whole year (and I don't necessarily agree on that) I do NOT agree that the balance is due NOW. How the heck does he figure I should pay him another couple hundred dollars NOW???
I have definitely learned my lesson this time. I'm not hiring anyone to do anything anymore if I have to pay them a deposit up front. People can really suck sometimes. I don't know if these guys would do this to me if I had a husband or boyfriend living here with me who could deal with these kinds of things, but I tend to think not. I can probably kiss my $300 goodbye. He probably won't show up to shovel anymore, and I guess that's what I deserve for paying him up front. The only reason I even trusted this guy was because I watched him LAST YEAR do the shoveling for the people across the street, and he was very reliable. But I guess reliability isn't everything.
Lesley
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You have a few options:
1) Write it off as "lesson learned" and in the furture get something in writing with a signature.
2) Tell him you will be reporting him to the city/town officials (some plaves that won't do you any good), or
3) Have a nice sign ready the next time you have a good snowfall "advertising his piss-poor services".....

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I am definitely writing it off as a lesson learned. I'm not sure getting something in writing would have mattered. The drywaller who pulled the same thing on me last year signed a contract, but that didn't stop him from demanding more money half-way through the job, after I'd already paid him more than half in advance per our written contract.
I'm just not going to pay anything up front anymore!
Lesley
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Most contractors require a downpayment before starting a project. Always go with a reliable one (ask your friends and neighbors). Any contractor that DOESN'T have some kind of written contract (signed by you and them) should probably be avoided.
Another thing: Always use a check or a credit card so you have a record of the transaction.
Maybe try to approach with a non-confrontational attitude and ask him how he can resolve this problem?? Worth a try....
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Actually, I decided to use this guy because he was doing such a great job for the people across the street. I guess I should have SPOKEN to them first instead of just seeing what a good job he was doing and then ASSuME-ing that it was safe to hire him.
It may be that most contrators require a downpayment, but I just don't feel comfortable taking the chance anymore. Maybe it's not too bright to walk away from this with THAT being the lesson learned, but I'm certain that if I stick with this rule--never paying anyone up front--I won't be so easily screwed. Since I bought this house I've used five contractors. The ones that gave me trouble are the two whom I had to pay up front. Two of the others were great and wouldn't take any money up front. They both did excellent work and I use them still (for heating, plumbing, electrical work, carpentry and drywalling). The fifth one quoted me an exhorbitant price the first time out so I went with one of the other guys who did great work for half the cost.
By the way, I did try to approach the situation non-confrontationally. The whole time we were having our conversation about "mo money mo money mo money" I was being very nice, reasonable, soft-spoken even. However, he was the one who was getting really pissed off because I wouldn't agree to pay him NOW. He ended up turning on his heels and just walking away from me in the middle of the discussion. I wasn't going to stand there in my driveway in the freezing cold, so I just went in the house.
L
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I have another idea:
Move to where there is no snow....
;-]
(In a couple of years......)
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Dr. Hardcrab wrote:

The better idea is to take his ass to small claims.
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Yeah. That'll help defer some of the moving bills....
;-]
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As a HVAC contractor in SC, I normally ask for 1/2 down on contract jobs, and get it. Huwever, I normally provide a 3 to 4 page WRITTEN proposal that we both sign and date. It spells out what I will do and what I will not do, the payment terms, my insurance, extra charges for changes and any discounts for options not taken.
Next time get it in writing and pay by check. Doesn't need to be typed, but should have his name and address & your name and address. Small operator like that probably can't handle credit cards.
He sounds like a real jerk. Still send him the letter, return receipt requested so you have proof of delivery. If he refuses it, you may get proof of that also. Then go to small claims or magistrate court. Filing fees are added to the award in many states. If you lose, it will only cost some time and the fees in most cases. (Check with the magistrate on that). Worth the try. He may be doing something ilegal if he has no license or tax certificate. Check your local government jurisdiction. Some areas allow work without license, some do not.
Good luck.
Stretch
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Dr. Hardcrab wrote:

This is Turtle.
What does a Snow Shovel look like ?
TURTLE
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http://www.nps.gov/lavo/lavo_plow_gallery_05.htm
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I see this statement made pretty often, but I frankly don't understand it. I think it's kind of an urban myth that the customer "should" pay anything up front. I've been using all the usual subs for 30 years in doing full property rehabs and development and I've never had to pay anything up front. In cases of very high material cost, I have a few times paid for the material once on my property. In this area, contractors can cover their risk with property liens. In terms of reputable contractors, I have never even had one ask for upfront money.
bill

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<rant on. And not necessarily aimed at you>
So you are saying I should get NO money up front, show up at someone's house with $3500 worth of equipment, install it, get it up and running and then I am supposed to sit back and wait for the customer to pay me when they feel like it? I know of VERY FEW companies that will do that.
We write up a proposal/contract (and, yes, with all of the fine print and legal mumbo-jumbo) that requires a signature and 1/3 down in order to even ORDER the equipment for the job. Then the balance is to be paid according to their credit history with us. They may get billed for the balance, they may have to pay it on the spot, or sometimes we spread the balance out over 12 months (with no interest. Call us crazy, but we do).
I understand what you are saying. There are plenty of unscrupulous contractors out there that will either take your money and run OR do a sub-par job and leave you with a mess. But how many deadbeat customers do you think are out there??!! I should just take money out of MY pocket, buy the equipment (and install it) and then HOPE that they will pay me back??? It DOES happen. And don't tell me "Well, companies can write that loss off." Yeah! I got the money and time to get a lawyer and take someone to court.
We are booked up until the 3rd week in January so we are not hurting for business. If you want a job done (right now), you'll have to wait AND you will have to pay me 1/3 up front or you can go somewhere else.
<rant off>

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I understand your position, but all I'm telling you is what has been the case here. It may be a difference in community, in that the vendors and customers know about each other pretty well and in my case (and most other property guys I know), I have always paid 100% immediately at completion. I'm talking about projects that are wrapped up within a few days (roofing, flatwork, footings, siding, windows, hvac). If you can stay booked up with your conditions and only $3500 worth of equipment, more power to you.
bill

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On Sun, 18 Dec 2005 13:32:28 GMT, "Dr. Hardcrab"

That's the way it works with us and our contractors, as well as for those we contract to do work for-with one exception: To be Paid Upon Completion. And there are no exceptions. Thus far, with more than several decades of experience hiring contractors and being a contractor, we've never not paid anyone, and we've never had any one not pay us.
It can and does work that way.
-- John Willis snipped-for-privacy@airmail.net (Remove the Primes before e-mailing me)
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I need some verification here.
Is this man a contractor or just a snow shoveler?
If this man is a contractor, the OP probably has recourse through agencies in their own state. My state considers it a felony to contract without a license, and they actively and vigorously pursue people who violate that law.
Or, was this person just some rummie who was hired to shovel snow? If that is the case, agreements are worth the paper they're written on. He said, she said. Small claims court? Well, did you get it in writing? Did you get a receipt/cancelled check? If you get a judgement, do you have a bank account number that they can get it from? You can win a case, but never get paid.
Sounds like a lesson learned about being stupid with money and hiring someone to do work.
Paying in advance before the work is done!
I only know one type of workman who charges like that on a regular basis.
Steve
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A prostitute?
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snipped-for-privacy@buffalo.edu says...

You paid HALF up front? Way too much.

There's nothing wrong with putting down a deposit, especially if the person you're hiring is in demand - a deposit shows them that you really want their business. You may have a hard time hiring _anybody_ if you won't pay anything as a deposit.
As a general rule, 15% of the total contract amount should be more than enough as a deposit. The rest of the money should be paid out as the work is completed.
In the case of your snow shoveling guy, you could have paid him around $50 as a deposit, and then another $30-40 after each snowfall. Because you gave him so much money up front, you've basically shown him that you're willing to be taken to the cleaners, so he'll just ask for more money. After you've given him the money, you're pretty much hooped. If you only give him a small deposit, and he comes back saying that the agreed upon amount is too low, it's pretty easy to tell him to hit the road (since you're only out $50, instead of $300).
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Try finding a contractor that only wants 15% when something more than labor is involved......
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I've never had a problem. I'm happy to give another payment as a materials draw, but only AFTER the materials have been delivered.
I'll NEVER give more than 15% as an initial, "hold my spot in line" deposit, and I've never had a problem finding a contractor to agree to those terms.
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