An agreement should be a freaking AGREEMENT!

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Um, Lesley, that's because you are exercising poor judgement. On the snow thing, you are dealing with a bum, not with a contractor.
There is no reason to pay someone up front for shovelling your snow. We have people who shovel for our houses -- we settle up every couple of snowfalls.
There are some areas where I would be happy to pay up front --- I've just ordered mirrors for a dance studio, 50% up front; custom cabinetry, 50% up front.
As a homeowner, I would be happy to pay a deposit on things like new windows, a new furnace or a/c unit, or on any custom order. It is a matter of judgement. (Home Depot's policy of requiring payment in full for goods plus installation in advance, as an example, sucks big time. Only a fool would go for that, and judging by home depot's cash flow, there are a lot of fools around.)
I'm a well established remodelling contractor. I generally require a ten percent deposit on jobs over ten thousand dollars; under that, I don't bother with deposits.
On the larger jobs, the deposit does little to protect me. I have to pay framers, electricians, plumbers, HVAC, boarders, tapers, finishing carpenters, painters and so on ... plus the materials whether or not you pay me. Their contract is not with you, it is with me.
So ... I do trust homeowners. If I feel at all uncertain of them I politely decline the job.
In your case, I would make no further investment -- emotional or financial -- in the situation. Buy a snowblower, hire a high school kid, whatever. What's gone is gone. Focus on what's ahead.
Ken
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Paying anyone up front for anything other than materials is foolish.
If someone asks for advance payment for a service, it's a big red flag that they are insolvent. If they are insolvent, there's a good chance that they will never deliver the service.
If you pay up front for materials, pay only on delivery of the materials to your property. You can always get a material list from the person you're hiring and buy them yourself.
If I'm contracting with you, and don't know you, I have to calculate my risk. You need to do the same.
--
The moral difference between a soldier and a civilian is that the soldier
accepts personal responsibility for the safety of the body politic of which he
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Darn good post. Thanks.
Steve
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Never pay anyone up front if it's in any way possible. Most of these 'people' out there are untrustworthy morons. We had a guy in to lay laminate flooring a couple of weeks back. He ripped up the carpet, and started leveling the floor with cement. The last thing we heard of hime was when he said he'd be back at 9.00AM the next day to lay the floor. The good thing was, we hadn't paid him a cent - but we were left with a concrete floor for two weeks.
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I guess I'm a bit lost. He bid to clear your drive and walk for 250/300 for the entire snow season regardless of the number of storms? If it snowed 10 times, he made decent money assuming he can do it in less than an hour. At 20 times it doesn't sound good for him. I've seen pictures of some of your snow storms. I wouldn't want to try to shovel the snow high enough to get it off the drive, especially after last week's pile. I just don't understand anyone agreeing to an unlimited number of snow shovelings. A set fee per time makes more sense to me.
How do kids make "coke money" now days? I don't happen to live where snow is an issue anymore.
(top posted for your convenience) ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Keep the whole world singing . . . . DanG (remove the sevens) snipped-for-privacy@7cox.net

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Actually, a lot of snow removal contractors do that here. Ever since I moved here a couple of years ago I have only seen it done this way. They quote you one amount no matter how much it snows. And, if it hardly snows at all, you still have paid the same amount.
My driveway is pretty long and narrow. Last year I hired someone with a plow and I had to pay one amount for the whole year, except that it became clear right off the bat that his plow was too wide to fit down my driveway. He would only go halfway and a couple of times he actually plowed my driveway while my vehicle was in it, so now I had a pile of snow behind my car and of course lots of snow between the front of my car and my garage. It was a disaster. I've been looking and looking for someone with a smaller plow but no one who plows around here seems to have one. So I decided to go with a guy who shovels instead of plows. I guess I can't really call him a contractor. He shovels in the winter and does landscaping in the summer--mowing lawns, trimming shrubs, does spring and fall yard cleanups, stuff like that. He also said he does something with concrete in the summer. . .
Anyhoo, I appreciate everyone's input. . .
Lesley
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They might make a deal to shovel snow for a season, take a deposit and when they find the price of the coke habit has gone up they demand more money up front. A local "day labor" office can provide "labor" from ex-cons, etc... and even provide worker's compensation - you pay the office and they pay the labor (a pay as it snows plan).
I agree with the OP... it prolly would be different it a husband or boy friend would of made the deal. Not to say the results would have been any better, though!
Oren
"My doctor says I have a malformed public-duty gland and a natural deficiency in moral fiber, and that I am therefore excused from saving Universes."
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Lesley -- women like you make me cringe.
It doesn't have anything to do with having a husband or boyfriend around. It has to do with the amount of initiative & brains you have.
If I have to pay someone to do something for me - I always get a WRITTEN contract. Duh.
Stop being helpless, and shovel your own snow. Or buy a snowblower. That's what most real grownups do. Especially living in Buffalo, with all that lake-effect snow.
I don't have a husband or boyfriend, and I manage very well. I shovel my own snow, cut my own grass, fix my own plumbing, etc etc. These aren't mystical skills that only men have. Women can learn them too.
Sheesh -- evidence of the dumbing-down of our school system.

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