Customer won't pay

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LadySpark
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Customer won't pay

Post by LadySpark »

OK so the most notable thing about this story is that it happened on 23rd December. I may have acted differently on another day.

Job advertised as electrician on my builder. Work described as fix fan and ceiling light in bathroom, put up bathroom shelf, put up bathroom mirror and seal around bath. Urgently needed before Christmas. I am a qualified electrician but not incapable of a little DIY and the non-electric jobs seemed easy enough.

Met the customer, a single elderly lady but not frail and not vulnerable, perfectly capable of knowing what she was doing.

Fixed the light/fan, put up the shelf (which turned out to be a floating shelf and rather fiddly), put up the mirror and sealed around the bath. Customer happy with everything except the seal around the bath, which she described as "too thick". The gap was big, the silicon I was replacing was a huge line but it was, indeed, thicker than the seal around the sink. Interestingly (with hindsight), she asked for my insurance details so she could get someone in to fix it. I said that I wanted her to be happy and I would fix it immediately. I really do care about leaving happy customers but, honestly, I also didn't want an insurance claim pushing my premium up for a line of silicon.

Then I dropped my drill battery onto her toilet cistern. The cistern lid fell off and cracked the toilet bowl. It was around noon on 23rd December. I apologised profusely. Again she asked for my insurance details so I looked them up on my phone and gave them to her.

I didn't want to leave her without a usable toilet over Christmas and I don't have much hope of an insurance job being sorted on Christmas eve so I offered to replace the toilet for her and obviously not charge to replace it as I broke it. It was a pretty common model - those tiny economy toilets that all the major DIY stored sell. This was a favour to sort it so that she was not left without a toilet over Christmas. I should have left it as an insurance job!

Anyway, I drove round several DIY stores, eventually found one with a toilet in stock, took it back, struggled to get it into her upstairs flat as I am not that strong and went to remove the old toilet. It had been attached to wall and floor with some kind of strong glue instead of screws so I had to break it and chisel it off and it took ages. Fitted the new toilet. I am not a plumber but I have done several in my own home over the years. I put tissue down and sat on it several times and flushed it several time then checked the tissue - there was a tiny drop of water on it so took it all apart again, more sealant, put it back together, no more leak. Bolted it to the wall and floor. Flushed several times, sat on it several times and not a drip on the tissue, not a wobble on the seat. Perfect.

Redid the line of silicon, looked great. So the customer had complained about the sealant but I redid it and it looked good. I broke her toilet and replaced it with an identical one. You could not tell that it was not the same toilet.

Asked the customer if she was happy now and she was. I offered to deduct £10 for the line of sealant as she should not have to ask me to do it twice, to which her response was "you don't expect me to pay do you? You broke my toilet and I have had to stay in all day!"

I felt that I had eventually done all work to her satisfaction and done her a huge favour sorting her toilet immediately instead of leaving her without a usable toilet over the Christmas period. She felt that she should not pay for anything because the job had taken longer than planned and she had planned to go shopping that afternoon.

I took tools out to the car and had a drink of water to calm down so I did not show any irritation to the customer. When I got back, lots of random people were in her flat. She had called her son to come over. She had invited neighbours to come in. Not sure who all these people were but they appeared quite suddenly and now I had maybe 8 people all telling me that she should not have to pay while she was in absolute floods of tears.

Before anyone goes down the delicate little old lady route, I am female, 5' tall, of small build, middle aged and always very polite. No way was I threatening to her so she did not need support. She seemed to be bawling her eyes out over a toilet that she had said was fixed to her satisfaction a few minutes ago. She was repeatedly saying that she needed to make an insurance claim - not sure what for as I had fixed the broken toilet and the sealant now looked good. I had already given details but gave them again to her son, who seemed to have the opinion that I was refusing to give her my insurance details. All the while the lady was bawling in a high-pitched wail.

I have tradesperson insurance as an electrician as my main trade. I did declare handyman as a second trade because I will do things like a bathroom shelf and mirror on the same job as an electric job if they are combined into one job and I can't pick and choose. However, I am not and never claimed to be a plumber. I am not sure I am insured to replace a toilet. The toilet is now perfect. No leaks, no wobbles, flushes perfectly, even made a huge effort to align to previous position (when it was glued) so no marks on the floor. Elderly lady has a working toilet over Christmas.

I can see that it must have been really inconvenient that she planned to do some last-minute Christmas shopping and I took longer than expected. If I were the customer, I would be annoyed about that. Is she being reasonable refusing to pay?

I accept that I should replace the toilet free of charge as I broke it. I am even happy not to charge for the line of silicon as a customer should not have to ask for things to be done twice. However, the electrical work and the minor DIY ie the original job were done well and to the customer's satisfaction so I think that she should pay for these. Has anyone ever had a customer effectively charge for their time before? Is it normal to not charge for the whole job if one part goes wrong?

Merry Christmas everyone!
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Gadget (Tue Dec 24, 2019 10:35 pm)
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Rorschach
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Customer won't pay

Post by Rorschach »

I suspect this little old lady has pulled a similar routine before.
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LadySpark (Fri Dec 27, 2019 4:52 am)
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Customer won't pay

Post by dewaltdisney »

It is a sad reflection of the times when you get these chancers trading on the good will of others. You did everything right and this is as typical a con as any. Carefully write it up so you can send it to your insurance company and get in first as a pre claim con trick warning for them. The old girl will think that a low value claim will be quickly paid out by the insurance, they can mess her around for ages, especially as she has no receipt of payment. Forget it and enjoy your Christmas and write it off to experience. I have always said that no good turn ever goes unpunished.

DWD
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Customer won't pay

Post by Rorschach »

Good advice there by DWD, tell the insurance company it's a con and the remedy work was carried out for free so no need for a pay out, then she can have some fun.

You definitely did the right thing by fixing things for her, it was your mistake/accident and these things do happen, sounds like you handled it very well. She should have paid you for the original work though, even though things went wrong but I suspect she was planning to moan about something to get free or discounted work and you got caught out.
Put her on your blacklist, family and neighbours too.
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Customer won't pay

Post by fin »

owld witch.

i had a kind of similar experience recently...

the lass i deal with at howdens had a little old lady come in to see her. old lady is partially sighted and i now suspect going a little bit dotty like...

old lady is complaining about her drawers so my friend goes of her own back to order replacement drawer runners for this old lady foc as a good will gesture. her manager though advises her against fitting them herself. so she asked me to fit them. i called round and fitted them for free.

i discovered that the actual drawer cabinet is completely knackered. however i had a damaged one that id got for free from howdens anyway so decided to take the drawers out of that to repair the existing cabinet.

second time i went with the drawers after maybe 30 phone calls asking where i am and even more to my local howdens branch.

had to mess on packing the drawer runners off the cabinet gables so that they would actually work correctly. all whilst this old lady is telling me stories about her evil neighbour (who i happened to know personally ) and about how the last bloke doing work had stolen from her and wrapped her ornaments in paper and how he was an evil man and how the police were involved. needless to say i got finished as quickly as i could and swiftly left whilst turning down any payment again. never again haha
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Customer won't pay

Post by fin »

ive also been waiting for payment from another job i completed in bloody october. job is perfect. get the feeling the client doesnt wanna pay for it though....
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Customer won't pay

Post by fin »

also..... was this old lady a retired teacher by any chance? they are often extremely difficult to work for and have in the past caused my dad problems on more than one occasion.
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Customer won't pay

Post by oz0707 »

Nightmare before Xmas indeed. I think the rouge customers are more prevalent on those websites
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Customer won't pay

Post by Bob225 »

take the job as a loss, and warn your insurance company of a possible fraudulent claim, the little old lady scam
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LadySpark (Fri Dec 27, 2019 4:56 am)
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Customer won't pay

Post by wine~o »

The fact that she was asking for your insurance details for applying silicon with a trowel speaks volumes.

As you get more experience you'll develop a sixth sense about which customers you should avoid.

As an aside the type of customer that uses the likes of "my builder" or similar sites are generally looking for the cheapest possible job, far better to join a local facebook group if you are finding work in short supply (I note that you were available at very short notice)

Also get some postcard type flyers printed up (Vistaprint are reasonable) Outlining your services, as part of the text have a line like "Keep this card handy, you never know when you'll need an Electrician" and distribute them locally when work is thin on the ground. Note don't shove them through the less well maintained properties doors, put them through the well maintained properties doors.
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LadySpark (Fri Dec 27, 2019 4:57 am)
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Customer won't pay

Post by fin »

just re read the originl post. cant see about a trowel wine-o?

it deffo sounds to me as though shes tried that sort of thing before. the customers high pitched wailing absolutely gives that game away. 99% of jobs go perfect but you get the odd absolutely horrendous clients.

a while back i went to price up some work for an asian family. a plumber friend of mine was working for them. he ended up going round and fixing all kinds of things that had nothing to do with him just to get his money out of them.

they asked me to fix creaking stairs and board out the loft in a huge house in a canny posh village near sunderland. when i went up the stairs the carpet was absolutely thread bare yet they insisted i have dust sheets and take off my shoes. the carpet was litterally only fit for the skip.

needless to say i didnt price their work up. a few months later i ended up on an emergency job on a windy night stoping their garden fence from collapsing into the street.. the bloke who put the new fence up didnt get paid....

i later found out another plumber friend did another bathroom and he had part of his fee witheld for damage to the very same threadbare carpet...

some people are just proffesional twisters and this little owld wife sounds exactly that
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LadySpark (Fri Dec 27, 2019 4:58 am)
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Customer won't pay

Post by Dave54 »

What wine~o says about the "sixth sense" is true.

I really did gt to the point where if I didn't like people I wouldn't quote. I guess I missed out on some work. I know for sure I missed out on some hassle. Tradesmen see each other on different jobs. They talk. It doesn't take long for the word to go around about bad clients.

As said, 99% of clients are great, but then you get the others. :roll:
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LadySpark (Fri Dec 27, 2019 4:59 am)
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Post by Job and Knock »

Rorschach wrote:
Tue Dec 24, 2019 7:54 am
I suspect this little old lady has pulled a similar routine before.
Me too. It's a good part of why I don't do many domestics these days - too many chancers out there, and life's too short. It's also why I used to photograph absolutely everything I did/do both before and after doing anything, no matter how trivial. If questioned I always say that it's for insurance purposes. I know a couple of guys these days who have a sort of body cam that they wear when they go to a house they've not been to before, in order to quash such behaviour. It's scandalous that any tradesman or woman needs to go to such lengths to protect themselves, but I feel that cowboys like Dominic Littlewood have done a lot to put into the minds of the general public that all tradesmen are untrustworth, incompetent chancers. My own personal experience is that there are no more idiots amongst the trades as a percent than you'd find in any other walk of life
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Post by fin »

ive thought of another one. did a lot of work for a lass a good few years ago. my dad helped her out loads and saved her a lot of money for a few different reasons. think it was basically an insurance job caused by a company diging the road outside.

she had us do a few other jobs and one of them was replace the bathroom. she was advised at the time to have all the waste plumbing renewed. however she would not have it. said to leave it as it was fine. sure enough about 3 or 4 years later she had a flood as the old existing pipework failed.

naturally it was all my dads fault.

he told her where to go in no uncertain terms when she rang up late at night ranting and raving like a lunatic :boxing: :boxing:

her hump catches fire when she sees me in the street now haha

also what job and knock says... my plumber mate at the house with the threadbare carpets did exactly the same on every job since that one. takes pics before anything gets done including pics of any damage anywhere that he spots.
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Post by Bob225 »

Wine-o was being facetious with the trowel remark eg. she (not the OP) puts her makeup on with a trowel and gets it delivered by a cement truck - other words it's on a bit thick

tbh i have seen some work done on housing Trust properties, the silicon has been smoothed with a thumb wrapped in a rag and is 30-40mm wide
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