Richart, a renovator in Southern Ontario, emailed me his entry in the Customers From Hell contest.
“A few years ago I had a customer call me to do a quote on a basement renovation. She had hired a designer to help her make decisions about finishes, etc.
She picked all the high end luxuries such as $500 light fixtures, a stainless steel laundry tub and the list goes on. Since that is what she wanted, that is the way I quoted it. The quote came in around the $50,000 mark. She felt that was high – so we worked backwards and pulled out a lot of the high end items and got down to a more reasonable $30,000.
Day 1 she started to add back in some of the items that we had pulled out. And that continued to the end of the project. We ended up back to the originally quoted job pricing. I had her sign off on each item as they went back in because of the bells and whistles going off in my head.
I submitted for first draw about half way through the project and had no issues with payment. She was very happy with the way the job was progressing. We finished the work on schedule and sent in the final invoice. The payment for the work was not made within 30 days so I called her to ask when she would be making payment – and she again said that she was very happy with the work and would send out payment immediately.
A week later I received a cheque for the work minus $5,000 with a note attached saying that by cashing the cheque I was agreeing that the work was paid in full and I would not be getting the $5,000. I then called her to ask her about the attached letter and the $5,000. She very quickly responded to me that she “knew” that it is not worth my time to go after her for the balance because of legal fees and the aggravation of collecting that money.
I again asked her if there was an issue with the work or if she felt that the invoice was not fair. She again just told me that I was wasting my time trying to collect. She had been told by friends that contractors will not pursue payment if there was $50,000 or less owing.
I went to see my lawyer and he told that it was going to cost as much to get the money as what is owed and I may not want to sue her in small claims because of that.
I hired the lawyer – took her to small claims and won the case with the help of the sign off sheets for all of the extras. The judge assured me that if I had not had the sign off sheets for the extras that it would have been a very difficult case to win. He also took a few minutes to lash out at her about not paying contractors if the bill is less than $5,000.
Yes it cost me almost the $5,000 that I got back but sometime you have to go on principle.”