What the fuck is wrong with the construction business around here?

After the last time when three different construction companies came out and looked at our back porch project and then didn’t get back with us, we let it go for a while because of Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. This time, we used a different service and two construction companies claimed to be interested. Neither one of them bothered to make their appointments to give us a bid. One even called once to reschedule and then didn’t make his rescheduled appointment.

I don’t know what the fuck their problem is. I have a project, and I have the money to pay for it. What I don’t have is someone to actually come do the fucking work. Maybe they think it’s not worth their time. It’s not exactly a big project. Maybe they don’t want to waste their time coming here for a bid. But what they’re apparently too stupid to wrap their tiny minds around is that 1) I don’t pay for something without having at least some idea of its cost, and 2) I’m not handing over the bigger projects (like the bathroom) without some idea of their quality.

If you’re going to make an appointment, you should fucking keep it! I hope every one of them falls off a ladder and gets a nail-studded two-by-four rammed sideways up their ass.

What I really don’t get are the ones that come out and take a look at the job, then tell you they’ll send you a bid in the mail.

And then you never hear from them again. Not even a phone call. No “We’re sorry, but we’re too busy right now to give your project the priority it deserves. Please consider us for your future roofing/plumbing/electrical needs.” No callbacks when you call them, thinking perhaps they got your address wrong and that’s why you didn’t get their bid. Nothing. WTF?

GAH. Contractors have been such a pain in my ass.

Two weeks ago, we had a landscaping company come out to look at our backyard–we needed it graded so we’ll maybe have a little bit of drainage and it won’t be a mosquito-infested swamp come summertime. When the guy came the first time to give us the estimate, he said he’d be here at 5:30 and showed up at 7:30. After not hearing from him for almost a week, I stopped by the office to see what the hell was up. He said he was SO glad I’d come by, because he’d lost our number, we were next on the schedule and they’d be here first thing the next morning, early. I called at 10:30 to see where the hell they were, and he said they’d be here “very shortly.” The guy finally showed up at 12:15. I wouldn’t have really had a problem with that except that I’d been told “early” and “first thing,” neither of which apply to times after noon. At least that one, somebody actually came and did the work, even if their scheduling and communication is completely shitty.

The following day, a handyman was supposed to come and give an estimate on installing a new kitchen sink and associated hardware. He said he’d be here at 11, maybe 11:30. At 1, I gave up on waiting for the fucker and went out to do some errands. He never, as far as I know, showed up at all, and I’ve never heard from him again. My husband asked if I’d called him, and I said, “Fuck no. He can’t call me to let me know he’s running late or whatever, I’m not calling his ass, because he’s not getting the job.”

Sure, I’m unemployed right now and have a much more flexible schedule than most people, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have anything at all better to do than sit around all fuckin’ day waiting on you jerks. If you’re going to be late, do me the courtesy of FUCKING CALLING ME. Grrrrrraaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrr.

My father’s house was wrecked in the hurricanes at the end of last year. He has been out of his house since September. They started work on his house 2 weeks ago.

They’re preparing you for the inevitable moment when they get the job, do half an hour of work, say they just need to run to the building supply store and never return.

Is there any other industry where this much poor customer service is tolerated?

I can’t point to a specific one, perhaps monopolies like cable providers or your local phone company. It’s a seller’s market out there. I still can’t figure out why these guys still advertise in local media outlets.

When you say back patio, I assume you mean a mason. If that’s the case, try going to a local masonry supply yard in your area, tell them you’ll be buying your materials thru them and ask them to recommend a few of their most reliable contractor customers.

I’ll bet I’ll get flamed for this but it’s the Og’s honest truth. My friends moved here to NC a few years ago. He is an independent contractor who ran a very successful business in NY. References out the ying-yang, many awards, fantastic reputation. He literally has more work then he can possibly do for these reasons (given by his customers):

He shows up. On the appointed day at the appointed time. Miraculous, apparently, because no one ever expects him to. If he says “I’ll see you Monday at 9am!” they are honest to Og stunned when he pulls up ready to work.

He…wait for it…DOES THE WORK. At the price he quoted.

He does it in a timely manner. (Alternately, my landlord hired some freaking idiot to do the siding on my house- it took him 6 months to complete it and it was the worst siding job I’ve ever laid eyes on.)

He doesn’t demand all the money up front then skip town.

He completes the task and is available if any follow up issues occur or more work needs to be done.

Apparently these qualities never, ever occur in a contractor here because he hears nothing but horror stories of people who don’t keep appointments, show up just long enough to get paid some money then quit, people that do half a roof and skip town (leaving a huge hole in the roof), people who find 1,000 extra things that need to be done, etc. He had no idea that his every day work ethic would pay off so soundly when he moved here. He often gets jobs with no references given because he’s from NY (much as many people dis NYers, they do love us to work for them and tell us so).

I don’t understand it at all, but it’s extremely common here.

I find it mildly ironic that the most reliable, hard-working contractors/builders in CA tend to be the illegal immigrants you pick up for a day’s work.

I’ve always said there are three industries in which treating customers horribly is what the business is based upon.

Insurance. Both health insurance and auto insurance. (And probably homeowner’s too – I haven’t yet experienced the joy of attempting a claim.) Ever try to get one of these companies – to whom you pay for policies – to pay out on a claim? Some are better than others, but all require proof and are suspicious of you until you prove the facts and convince them that you’re not trying to commit fraud. The customer is always wrong until she proves herself otherwise.

Banking and loans. Another industry where you have to prove who you are, your ability to pay, etc. before they’ll deal with you. And just try to convince your bank that they charged you that monthly fee in error. The customer is always wrong until she proves herself otherwise.

Credit. In dealing with the major credit card companies, as well as the collections agencies and the credit reporting companies. Same thing. They assume you are a lying sack of shit deadbeat until you prove yourself otherwise.

And finally: the IRS is allowed to abuse you, chew you up and spit you back out again, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. Unless you’re a really organized pack rat with rock-solid documentation and pristine returns.

All are examples of treating the customer like crap, as opposed to simply ignoring the customer as the contractors in the OP do. The next best comparison I could make is in cars: repairs and sales. The customer is a dumbass until proven otherwise. And sometimes, even then, they’ll still try to swindle you out of everything you’ve got.

Folks in the construction trades are often there because they’re good at their craft, not because they are good business people. A huge void exists between the two.

Scheduling, budgeting, sales skills, interviewing, all the rest of the nuts and bolts of business management isn’t something one readily learns while wearing a tool belt. Were it not for several years in a suit, I’d be obtuse to these issues, also.

Geeks are often in their trade for the same reason and there have been quite a number of software companies that have suffered from horrible customer service. But, by and large, geeks tend to understand that suits are a neccesary evil that are required to handle the whole business end of things and stuff needs to happen on a deadline even if it’s not as good as you like it.

How come construction workers apparently don’t get this? Is there a massive undersupply of construction workers at the moment?

Around here, yes.

There are a few large firms doing mostly commercial, but residential and remodel is dominated by the independent contractor. As one of those ICs (who also subs himself out to other ICs), I can testify to the current phenomena of there being a shortage of available skilled workers. And there is a huge black hole in the number of newbies or young people willing to learn and be trained. So, some jobs make take a while to get finished.

But, I always make any possible timeline problems well known when talking to a potential customer. I make my appoinments and I use my phone, both to call and to answer. My bids and contracts spell out everything in detail. A lot of my customers appreciate the ability to contact me or be contacted via e-mail. Common sense and/or retail training may be making the difference here, tho many friends and family might argue with me saying I have common sense. :wink:

My fellow contractor/subcontractor freinds and I discuss these problems with each other and have come to some conclusions. Namely, there are lot of asses out there making our trade look bad. From scams and cons to low quality work and laziness, it drives us bonkers. And makes me mad.

I would apologise for our trade, but I’m not going to join myself to those jerks that make it hard for all of us whatever side of the job we’re on. Trouble is, there seems to be a lot more of them in recent years.

I think part of the problem, at least here in Ontario, is that there is no licensing system in place and pretty much anybody with a hammer can start up an IC business. This can create real problems. Their pricing often undercuts serious contractors and the poor quality of work and instances of incompetence or fraud undermine the reputation of the business as a whole.

These characters are thriving right now due to a massive construction boom that has been going on here in southern-Ontario for the past couple of years that has been keeping all of the big guys and most of the small, competent guys booked several months in advance.

I work in the design end of the business as a structural drafstman and the engineer I work for is often called out on jobs to fix problems created or exacerbated by some of these idiots. I recently went out to a job site to review a pole barn that was being framed and was shocked to find that the contractor (who had recently disappeared, probably due to a drinking problem) had completely ignored the design drawings and built whatever the fuck he felt like. Seriously, not a single member had been erected according to the drawings. Strangely, he was the one who hired us to produce the drawings and paid us for them when they were completed. Why pay us for drawings you’re going to completely ignore?

Needless to say, when the engineer told the owner that the structure would have to be torn down or seriously reinforced, the owner threw a shit fit and started ranting about lawsuits. I don’t who he would sue, though. The contractor has disappeared, the engineer is just doing his job and the municipality has backed him up on his decision. Basically, the owner is fucked.

If we had some sort of licensing and qualification system in place, the number of these instances would seriously decrease, prices would stabilize and the reputation of the business as a whole would improve. Most of the serious contractors I deal with agree these points.

Anyone (at least in Canada) who wants to see the best and worst of home renovation contracting should watch Holmes on Homes on HGTV. I don’t know if the show is available in the US, as it’s filmed in the Toronto area and we see it on HGTV Canada.

The show is about a home renovation contractor, Mike Holmes, who comes in to fix the mess left by a previous contractor. He points out what was done wrong, gives tips about how to avoid these problems, and then fixes them (and how!). This guy is the “gold standard” who I will measure contrators against if I ever need to hire one.

Just a quick addendum to the above. The Holmes on Homes Website shows that the show is also broadcast in the UK, Australia, and NZ. Nothing about the US.

If you’re stupid enough to believe this, then you deserve the shitty service you receive from your communications providers. There are more options now than ever before for obtaining these services.

Way to wildly fly off the handle there, UncleBeer.

In most places around the US people have to have Verizon do the phone lines and activate service and Time Warner/Comcast/whoever the local cable company is to run/repair cable and switch on service.

And if there isn’t cable service to your part of town, you’re SOL until THE cable company gets around to it. Well, there’s always satellite. If you have a view to south. You can’t just call Randy’s house of Cable and have someone put up poles or dig a ditch and run cable service to your house.

Or can you?

According to the trade journals, yes. In many areas of the US there are far too few teens interested in a future that includes a tool belt, a pickup truck, splinters, sunburn, mud, and a purple thumb.

There are a multitude of vocations that offer bigger bucks than you can make as a GC, without the aggravation. Unless a youngster develops a love for trades work, they are unlikely to pursue it.

Again, even the Union apprenticeship program does an excellent job of teaching the craft, but business acumen has to be acquired elsewhere.

For every lousy contractor out there, there are 487 homeowners who try to get the lowest bid possible.
My dad used to own a constuction company (concrete and agricultural buildings) and quite often he was outbid by another company who would add “forgotten” items after they won the contract and in the end the customer had to pay more than he would have had he hired my father’s company. Quite often when a customer had been burned previously and wanted to add a another building to their farm my dad would get the contract.