Easy: write stuff down. Here are the guys I did not hire:
GC for a kitchen renovation: I was initially very encouraged, as they guy spent 3 hours go over fine details, climbed around the attic to look at structure, wiring, etc. I figured at the end he’d write it all down, we’d agree on the scope, and he’d come back with a price. Nope. Told me he had it all in his head. Estimate came back missing half the work, and when I called him to discuss he had no recollection of half of it.
Electrical contractor: same thing, even though I asked “don’t you want to write this down” as we had numbers aspects of work. I told him I wanted an itemized estimate. Quote came back: “$1500 - electrical work”. Told him so deal unless he itemized it so we agreed on the scope of the work.
Tree removal service: spent a half hour walking the yard, pointing out trees I had already marked, 8 in total. He quoted a price which I told him I’d think about, could he put it in writing and confirm what was included? “Sure thing.” Estimate comes back at the price he quoted, but only half the work we discussed.
Are my expectations too high?