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.
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".....
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
I'm just not going to pay anything up front anymore!
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
Maybe try to approach with a non-confrontational attitude and ask him how he
can resolve this problem?? Worth a try....
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.
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.
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
<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.
I understand your position, but all I'm telling you is what has been the
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.
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.
(Remove the Primes before e-mailing me)
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
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
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.
There's nothing wrong with putting down a deposit, especially if the person
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
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
and then another $30-40 after each snowfall. Because you gave him so much money
front, you've basically shown him that you're willing to be taken to the
he'll just ask for more money. After you've given him the money, you're pretty
hooped. If you only give him a small deposit, and he comes back saying that the
upon amount is too low, it's pretty easy to tell him to hit the road (since
out $50, instead of $300).
I've never had a problem. I'm happy to give another payment as a materials
only AFTER the materials have been delivered.
I'll NEVER give more than 15% as an initial, "hold my spot in line" deposit, and
never had a problem finding a contractor to agree to those terms.
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