How would you handle this? (Vendor dispute) loooooong

I own a catering company and last December we decided to have an open house showcasing our appetizers. Since we hadn’t been in the building too long, we didn’t really have any kind of signs in the windows. But, we decided that for the open house that it would be nice to get the windows lettered. I selected a company that has been in business for at least 30 years and my family has always had good luck with them (they also do framing).

This, believe it or not, is the short story… They came several days before the party to letter the windows. When the guy came he did not have a ladder so he had to borrow one of ours. Part of the design is scrolling banners listing what sorts of services we perform. Well, one of the banners was cut about an inch short so he said that he’d come back when it wasn’t snowing and put up a new banner. That first day that he came out I wrote him a check for 50% of the total bill and had planned to write a check for the balance when he came out next. After he left I went across the street and noticed that the letters on the banner part weren’t really very easy to read. So I sent him an email telling him this and he said that it was no problem and he would take care of it when he came back.

I contacted him in March to return and fix the windows. He didn’t make it out because once again this sign guy didn’t have a ladder. Well, since then we’ve been kind of slow and I let it fall by the wayside because I didn’t really want to shell out the rest of the cash. Fast forward to about 3 weeks ago when he finally showed up again to fix the sign and needed to borrow our ladder again. Apparently he hadn’t even read the email that I sent to him about making the scrolling banners larger so I printed out a copy of what I had sent along with his agreement to fix it. He took the printouts and went back to his shop to make bigger letters.

When he came back (I think he borrowed our ladder this time again, but I’m not sure) he put up the larger sized letters, but didn’t change the size of the background that they were on, so it looks a little bit crowded. Also, a different segement of the banner (on a different window than the one with the original problem) is now cut short about 3/4 of an inch on both sides. Honestly, it really doesn’t bother me too bad that the words are cramped in the banners, but I think it’s just sloppy workmanship that the backgrounds are cut too short once again.

So, finally, here’s my dilemna, I’m honestly tired of dealing with these people. What should I do? Just leave it as it and tell them that they should consider their bill paid in full? Get someone else to fix it and send them the bill? Have them come back out and hopefully fix it and pay them the rest of what I owe? Or have them come back out and fix it and don’t pay them anymore?

Sorry this is so long and complicated, but I guess that’s the way life is sometimes.

It isn’t really complicated. You contracted for some work. It was not done to your specifications, so you are not obligated to pay for it until it is.
Are they persuing collections for the balance? Tell them they’ll get it when the job is done correctly as originally ordered. Sometimes you have to be a bitch. Being nice just gets you half done work by the new kid who still needs some training. And why, I’d like to know, since having been there before you’d think they’d remember about the ladder, didn’t they bring their own when they came back?

I have been on the other side of this.

I did window painting as a side line to my graphic design back in university. This was before photoshop or any such thing that could give you and the client a pretty accurate representation of what the finished job would look like.

Most of my clients were great, but a few of them always had problems with the work. These were signs painted with a modified tempa paint on the inside of the window, so they could be washed off/redone seasonally or to promote sales, promotions and such like.

One client in particular seemed to “always” have a problem with my work. And he would call me to “complain” that my work wasn’t “exactly what he ordered” and wasn’t going to pay, or wanted to pay less than originally agreed.

Due to the nature of the painting, I couldn’t just go in and “erase” a section of the work. It all had to be redone from scratch. Invariably, “Horace” would want changes put in. (The signs were on a restaurant , and talked about their breakfast and lunch specials.) Suddenly the “4” strips of bacon was supposed to be 3, and it was some how my fault. Or the price had changed, and it was my fault.

My Girlfriend told me that he was basically getting me to alter his signs for free, when his prices or menu changed.

So I took a picture of his restaurant, the next time I had completely washed the windows, and then used a transparent overlay to indicate “Exactly” what the new work would look like on the photo, prices, spelling and such all specified and “signed off” by Horace. Except he refused to sign.

I looked at him and said. " No signature no work. I can not come month after month to change your sign." At that point he called me a scam artist and never did pay me the nearly $300 he owed me. The rest of the businesses I did work for were delighted by my work, and paid on time. Guess who the “scam artist” really was?

The point of this long story is that “now a days” any reasonable company that paints signs should be able to provide you with a “photo shopped” mock up of what your sign is going to look like from accross the street. And THAT is what you will sign off on, when the reality matches the design.

Shop around for this service and go ahead and contact the graphic and media arts department of your local college university. It does sound to me like the company you are currently working with needs to get its act together. (I ALWAYS had my own ladder).

Best of luck


Doesn’t address your problem but just recently a friend had a sign company come out to his new offices and do the lettering.

They said they wanted to do it on a Sunday so they wouldn’t be disturbed by foot traffic and he didn’t care.

Monday morning at 6:30 he got an angry call. They had done a perfect job but for some inexplicable reason removed all the other businesses letters and signs. :eek:

Howdy Neighbor!

I’ll be keeping an eye on the thread to see the general consensus.

My similar long-story-short:

I hired some web designers to build my website. I designed and wrote the entire thing, providing sketches and photoshopped mock-ups, all the text, and all the photos. It’s very simple, and very clean. All they had to do was write the simple HTML code for it, period.

They promised me they could get it done easily in ten hours of work, and would complete it within a couple weeks after I’d provided them with all materials. I agreed to a flat fee for twelve hours for the project as outlined. A couple weeks turned into a couple months, which turned into half a year. I’m pretty laid-back and wasn’t in all that much of a hurry about it, except after months and months where they kept assuring me it would be done within a couple days and it kept not being done, I started to get really frustrated. Finally, I gave them a hard deadline and flat demanded it be done.

They finally get it launched and it’s chock full of typos, deviations from my design, and serious coding errors. I ended up sitting in a chat program with one of the coders for several hours, going down a laundry list of stupid things that needed fixing: the wrong photos in the wrong places, the wrong text, an entire page I hadn’t requested, and on and on. It even appeared that instead of utilizing the magic of copy/paste they had a reasonably literate second-grade student hand-type my text from too-fast dictation, because though the gist was the same, it was rife with spelling and grammar errors that didn’t exist in the text I’d sent them.

In the midst of all of this, I asked the owner how much time left I had on my twelve hours. She says “oh, we went over twelve hours a long time ago, I’m going to have to re-work your invoice and get back to you, but I’d guess we’re at around 32 hours (at $50/hr).” I told her to think about it and get back to me.

The instant they uploaded it to my server, I made copies of everything and changed the passwords. I waited and waited for a ridiculous bill at three times the amount I’d agreed to pay, so I could go toe-to-toe with them over the whole thing, but didn’t hear a word from them until more than a year later. I received an email asking me if I’d ever paid them, and to give them a call with my credit card number so “we could get this settled ASAP.”

I never bothered to call them back. That was about six months ago, and I still waffle over sending them the originally agreed-upon amount, because I did end up with a basic shell of what I wanted. I was able to go back in to their coding and re-work the whole thing so it’s now perfect and functional, but it’s taken me endless hours of work which I really would have rather paid them to get right in the first place.

That’s precisely what I got. I would have insisted they keep working on it until they got it right, but I was sick of dealing with them and just wanted them out of my life and out of my FTP server. Would you pay for a half-assed job, if you took your half-done work and went home? I wouldn’t even be considering it if I’d have refused their work and started over from scratch with another company, but I was getting desperate to get something launched and went ahead and just patched up their work for myself. Should I pay them on that basis?

I agree that a sign guy without a ladder looks bad but it’s not very relevant since yours was freely available. You could have refused or maybe rented it. That would have looked worse though.

I’d go with option a) or c), depending on how much the sign differs from your specification and how poorly done it is.

Sorry I can’t solve your problem for you but I had to laugh at the ladder-borrowing. In Egypt, workmen NEVER brought any tools of their own. We had to provide screwdrivers, hammers, pliers, ladders, you name it. At least a ladder is unwieldy to tote around, so just maybe there’s an excuse for that. But a plumber who has no wrenches? Used to drive me crazy.

Copy your OP (edited slightly), and send it to them. How they handle a customer complaint is the real sign of how professional a business really is.

Mentioning the ladder is beside the point.


You’re telling me they don’t know if you paid them? Not exactly a professional bunch of folks, are they?

IF they ever hound you for the money, send them your original specs, what they ended up giving you, and outline what you had to do yourself to get it fixed. Then see what they say.

Yeah, no kidding. I couldn’t figure out if she was serious about that, or if it was just her way of broaching the subject.

That’s the attitude I’ve taken so far, but occasionally feel some guilt for having used some of their work, you know? I imagine it’ll be a year or two (if ever at all) before I hear from them again, and in that case I’ll probably end up sending them half of what we agreed upon.

I think it’s fair in Pie’s case, too–you paid half, they did a half-assed job. I’d call that even. If they want the rest, they can come do what they promised to do. Otherwise, you’re through with them.