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  • Christine Shuck

Lessons Learned


No Money Upfront

Life is full of lessons. We learn them every day. Even, it seems, in my 50s. The lesson for today?


No cash advances for supplies. No advance payment for any work. Period.


It wasn't a fun lesson to learn. And it hasn't been that long since a hit like this would have hurt for months, years even.


But just because I can take the hits a little better now, doesn't make it that much better. So let me tell you the sad little tale...


We had a buckling brick facade wall on Cottage West and it desperately needed anchors placed strategically to pull the wall back towards the frame wall. This would also stop the birds from nesting inside.


I asked around and a friend on Facebook who I knew from homeschooling recommended Mark Wilson from TLC Construction to me. I called him up, along with two others, for quotes. A few days later, I scheduled him to work on Cottage West and on the first day he asked for half of the amount "for supplies and to pay his workers." I did, and the next day he didn't show up. He kept telling me he was on his way but never arrived.


By the next day I had sent a rather terse message and he showed up that afternoon and done 3/4 of the work before finishing the job the following job. I wrote it off as having difficulty with time management. He had done a great job, after all. I hired him to put in three new doors and while there were some delays, he managed all three of them with few problems. He didn't ask for money for supplies since I had made sure to provide all of the necessary supplies and in one case, when we needed something else, he had gone and gotten it and I had paid him back afterwards.


Another job. Again no problems.


I was excited. I have projects up the wazoo that needed doing. I could see him working on all of them, and I was relieved that we could finally move forward with the Cottage East renovation with someone we could trust. As we were having some issues with HVAC at Cottage West, I mentioned off-hand that we didn't have central A/C in the main house. After nine years of living in this house, we have managed to place window units strategically and don't suffer too much from the heat. It's a dream I like to indulge in periodically, but likely we won't have central a/c for at least another 2-3 years.


"I just can't afford it right now." I said to him.


"What if I told you that you could?"


"Mark, it is far too expensive. I've gotten quotes before." And I had. Plenty of them. The cheapest I was seeing? $6000 just to handle the main level. We would need another $3500 (or more) to run a mini-split up to the attic, and the 2nd floor might need a separate system altogether.


He looked at everything and told me he was in the middle of moving and would GIVE me the 5 ton, one-year-old condenser unit he had pulled from a building. "I've got a mini-split for cheap too. $2100 and you can have them both installed."


I gaped at him. He smiled. I told him he wasn't charging enough. He shrugged. And yes, the thought of central a/c was damned appealing. Especially after nine years of sweating as window units labored to cool the rooms enough.


He asked me for $300 for supplies. I sent it via Venmo. He asked me a few days later for another $650 to purchase some 150' line set and I handed it over in cash. No receipt. No records. A handshake deal that was worth, you guessed it, the paper it was written on.


And while there was minimal work done. A pad for the condenser unit poured, for example, nothing more happened and he disappeared, even while telling me every day for over two weeks how he was "on his way to [me]."


So lesson learned. I know that I was honest and that I continued to be professional and courteous even when he was not. That's important to me for some reason. I didn't lower myself to his level. I didn't lose my cool and I acted in an ethical and responsible manner. I wish I could say the same for him.


I will admit, I am befuddled by how someone can so completely and totally befoul their own nest for what is truly a small amount of money in the bigger scheme of things.. It turns out that my FB friend and fellow homeschooling mom who had recommended him goes to the same church as he does. I reached out to her, told her what had happened. How likely is it that word of this will spread within that circle and others? Why would anyone want to do that to their own business? It feels akin to building a bridge, then covering it with napalm and setting fire to it yourself.


Now here is the crazy part of all this. I added up all of the work he did for me:

  • $1,000 for wall anchors and tuckpointing (next lowest quote $2,200)

  • $300 for three door frame rebuilds and door installations (next lowest quote $4,400)

  • $200 for four glass block window builds (never got a quote for these, but I'm guessing it would have been at least $400 with anyone else)

That adds up to $7,000 worth of work that he bid and completed for a total of $1,500. If I add in the $950 he stole, that's a total of $2,450 in costs to me. So I'm still ahead of the game by $4,550 and I've plastered his name on this website, on one of the biggest neighborhood FB sites in our area, and let a member of his church know. That's just... nuts. I'm shaking my head over here. Why would anyone do that to themselves?


More than anything? I'm relieved he didn't take me for more. Because if he had bothered to play the long game, he could have gotten me for a lot more than that as we forge ahead on our renovations of Cottage East and [drum roll] 1969 Holiday Rambler. More on that in a minute.

Plague Monkeys Round Two

All right, at this point, three weeks into getting over one plague and ending up with another, I've ordered every major supplement that combats colds and flus and they will be arriving post-haste. It's either that or give up my little plague monkeys, and I kind of love having them here. Just saying.


The youngest is to blame. Some nastiness from daycare that he brought home and spread to everyone. We are finally pulling out of it with the help of antibiotics. Nothing tastes right, though. I don't know if it is the antibiotics or what, but food tastes gross and I feel hungry, full, and queasy all at once. Yuck.


Some Writing Progress

I've managed just under 3,000 more words in the STR Success book. Considering I was down for the count all last week, I'm plenty pleased with at least some progress!


My family was duly impressed with my level of illness. When I go to bed and sleep all day, you know it is bad.

Short Term Rental Renovation Projects - yes, that's PLURAL

I am sooo excited! I have two projects I can't wait to get started on, and in a few more weeks, we will be charging ahead, top speed!


The first project is Cottage East, which has been waiting patiently for us to really dig in and get going. As soon as summer has ended, the interior demo will continue until we have all of the interior walls down to the studs. Then it will be time for the contractors to come in.


-Insulation

-Electrical

-Plumbing

-Drywall

-HVAC


You know, the works.


And Project #2? Well that is the lumbering monstrosity of a mostly already demo'd 1969 Holiday Rambler. I think it is around 24' in length although I have not measured it. It will serve as another glamping kind of STR and also possibly double in the future as an RV for our own use, should we ever decide to buy a truck again.


As for the interior? An empty shell right now, but...


1969. The summer of love. The first moon landing. The year I was conceived!


I thought I would share my idea wall with you. I have borrowed heavily from my Amazon wish list to create it, but I think it will give you a good idea of where we will be heading with the Rambler.



Meanwhile, I am struggling with what to name it. Mystery Machine? Summer of Love? Hilda? Aspartame? (I'm kidding... sort of). If you think of anything, let me know, I need all the help I can get!


On a side note. I would never in my wildest of dreams ever imagined wanting to return, in any way, to 70s decor. All of those oranges, browns and yellows [shudder]. That said, life is weird and flexible. With the colors above, I can see creating an homage to the late 60s early 70s. Just you wait, it is going to be fantastic!


Find Me on Facebook

Join my group General Malcontent's Grumbles and Scribbles on Facebook and get plenty of weird memes, the opportunity to read my newest releases for free, pics of the family, and other author news. I look forward to seeing you there!


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