General contractors - how to earn my business

Bolding mine.

If you sincerely believe that then I don’t think there’s much I can say to you. A knowing and willful violation of law for personal gain is not dishonest in your mind?

Small businesses that don’t pay taxes often don’t pay taxes due to cash flow or profitabiity issues - i.e. its easier to skip taxes than it is to skip paying the tile supplier - the tile supplier stops shipping you tile - Uncle Sam is going to take a while to catch up to you.

And cash flow and profitability problems often get worse. First, you stop paying taxes. Then you stop paying your tile supplier, then suddenly, you are in the middle of a job and the tile doesn’t get delivered.

As a customer, you don’t want it to be your job when the accounting issues start impacting their ability to deliver.

Not sure what you mean by this. For the kitchen reno, after two GCs who both quited prices that included “everything” (though they would not write down what “everything” included), we went with a big-box home improvement store. This cost more money up front, but they did provide an itemized list…which is a good thing because their sub did a terrible did a terrible job and we had to have them out several times to complete the agreed scope of work.

Even their basic measurements were off. The cabinets came and would not fit the space. Lights installed off-center, stove vent not connected through the attic, etc. The store manager had the gall to tell me they were losing their shirt on the job - what should have been 6 weeks went on for six months. I filed a complaint with their corporate HQ and received a good portion of the renovation costs back.

Aside: does the US government have something similar to the Spanish certificados de corrientes? A certificado de corrientes indicates that a legal or physical person has fulfilled legal duties as per that particular branch of the government (they’re al corriente, ok as to the current date). If it exists, what would it be called?

My receipt from SS indicates I’ve paid them the last month and how much; my cc from SS indicates that I’m active (i.e., paying SS, which I wouldn’t if I was unemployed or retired) and current in my payments, but not how much they are.

The US government doesn’t offer any such proof of currency on bills/taxes.

Typically licensing to perform a skilled trade or business is handled at the state level and is renewed annually. In order to renew the license the licensee needs to pay the annual fee. So a current license is always proof of at least that much. Some states are more fussy and check their other taxing systems and will refuse to renew a license if delinquencies are found. Other states don’t bother to check.

Most municipalities require a “business license” for almost any profit making venture. This is mostly an opportunity to collect an annual fee, with a small dollop of enforcement of zoning regulations (e.g. running a walk-in retail business out of a single-family house is forbidden by zoning.) So again possession of a current license is proof the fee was paid at last renewal and almost nothing more.

Probably pretty simple when you’ve done it for 20+ years.

We hired a painter to paint the inside of my mom’s house when she passed. He walked in, looked at each room, made no notes, and said $2300. He showed us a literal ton of color chips close to what we wanted, and then, a few days later, painted little splotches of that color on the wall for us to choose. Then he said “pay me when I’m done.”

Then his crew came in and did a fantastic job.

He took no notes, other than the color and the 75% setting (i have no idea what that was for the paint color) and was off and running.

I doubt I’d ever hire a “landscaping guy” who left a card on my door, especially if it included a sarcastic note about my attention to lawn care.

Even if we assume that not paying taxes does indicate a dishonest person
it does not logically follow that paying taxes indicates an honest one.
A crook may pay taxes simply because he is afraid of being caught
not because he is particularly honest.

Usually with contractors people make one of two comments; it’s either “The work is shoddy/misrepresented” or “the price is too high.”

The tone of this thread seems to be be making the assumption that contractor behavior is independent from market forces. It is my belief that, on the contrary, contractor behavior is shaped by market forces. In other words contractors practice and behave as they do because they are catering to the market.

In your case, you are fine with paying a higher price for better quality; but you may be more of a market outlier than you realize. YMMV.

It works both ways…

Yes, I know you bought this entire place in 1970 for $17,000. Yes, I know the bathroom remodel estimate is over $4,000. You have never done any improvements to your house (and it shows). No one is trying to take advantage of you. Besides, your place is now worth MUCH more now. And last time I checked, I’m in your will.

Besides, I eyeballed that pickup in the garage. I see you had no problem letting go of $40,000 for that.

That should be, I’m not in your will.

What crosses a contractor off my list is if I feel like they are not listening to what I tell them I want. When we remodeled our kitchen, I wrote up a fairly detailed scope of work and gave it to each contractor who bid on the work. If that scope was not in their bid, I didn’t consider their offer.

The other big red flag is if they treat my wife differently than me; like if they clearly want to talk to the man of the house. No work for you.

My minimum expectations that are often not met are: Show up on time. Answer your phone. Return phone calls.

Boggles my mind how people who can’t do those things stay in business.

I have a real hard time even getting people to show up to my place. Its nice to know the economy is so fucking strong that people can just blow off business.


It may depend on where you live. On the Big Island of Hawaii, it is practically impossible to get a contractor to do anything. It seems there is more work than contractors can handle - so they can get away with blowing off customers. Since it is an island, options are pretty restricted.

If I were young and choosing a career, I swear I would think seriously about setting up a general contracting business on the Big Island.

My bro is a one-man contractor. In an area where he’s got a good rep.

He says his problem is he can’t get any work done because his damn phone rings constantly. Mostly with customers calling to ask when the next step on their job will get done. He’ll spend 5 hours a day on these inane status calls and 5 hours a day actually working. If he answered every call he’d spend 10 hours on the phone every day and only 10 *minutes *working. So he ignores about half of them just to get some work done. His voicemail is blocked to prevent the problem getting even worse.

He says that on a typical job he will spend more hours on the phone with that customer unpaid than paid hours actually doing work. So everything is always slower than everyone would like. He prices accordingly and is backlogged for months now. And was booked equally solidly all through the worst of the great recession back in 08/09.