Canadian Contractor

The Dilemma Contest: What should Jeffery Black do?

Help Jeffery solve his subtrade problem and win an awesome Dewalt tool!

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November 7, 2019 by Robert Koci

Each issue of Canadian Contractor, we run a contest where we ask you to help us with some answers for a contractor with a problem. If you think you have the right solution for this issue’s contractor, please email Rob Koci at with “Dilemma, Nov/Dec” in the subject line. If your answer is chosen, you will win 20V MAX* Compact Circular Saw with 5.0 ah battery and a 20V MAX* Compact Reciprocating Saw. Good luck!!

Jeffery Black, owner of Black’s Renos, had an opportunity to hire retiree Sam Mellon, a cheap, diligent, slightly incompetent labourer, to fill a hole or clean up a mess now and then. Mellon had some shortcomings, certainly, but with some attention, Black turned him into a serviceable labourer that could even swing a hammer. It was a good relationship that ran in the background and solved the occasional problem.

In the fourth year of Mellon’s part-time employment, work dried up. Black only spent about $23,000 per year on Mellon, but in this year of austerity all costs were being looked at. Alarmingly, when it came time to discuss cutting back Mellon’s time, Black learned that somehow Sam Mellon had turned his relatively inconsequential service from a job to an entitlement. Mellon was shocked to hear his hours would be cut back, offended by the very possibility and angry that his “work,” was being devalued. For Black, what had been a mildly annoying but effective labourer had become a petty, vindictive, miserable subtrade with revenge on his mind.

A week after their discussion, Black got a lawyer’s letter, as did three of his clients. The letter was a screed, outlining Black’s appalling business manners, Mellon’s excellent “labourer” credentials and how important it was that Black provide a formal apology to Mellon and reinstate Mellon’s hours.

Black could have taken the letter as evidence that Mellon was simply a crank, but the letters to his clients demanded attention. What should Black do? See the options at right.

What should Jeffery Black do?

  1. Ignore the letter and get on with running his business
  2. Confront Mellon and ask him to retract his letter
  3. Talk with his clients and explain what happened and then leave it alone.
  4. Engage his own lawyers and threaten to sue Mellon for defamation
  5. Something else.

Don’t forget to supply your answer by emailing at with “Dilemma Nov/Dec” in the subject line.

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