Dealing With The Workmen Haggle


They say no one can make you feel inferior without your consent, but does the same hold true for someone making you feel cheap? Here’s what happened…

A few months ago, I completely renovated my bathroom.  I had a set budget with a tiny bit of wiggle room, and I hired an honest, quality contractor who came highly recommended.   Of course the job took a little longer than planned, and of course small changes were made  during the job that slightly increased the overall cost of the renovation.  But I had approved those increases, and my contractor communicated well along the way – we completely enjoyed working together…that is until he gave me the final bill!

Out of nowhere, he had charged me for things like replacing a switch plate and door stop (that he had surprised me with on his own), he doubled charged for buying paint, and he charged for the time he decided that his tile guy needed to re-tile an area because he could have done a better job…  It all added up to be over $1,500! I was shocked.  He never mentioned that all the ‘nice things’ that he was doing without consulting me were actually going to cost me!

I invited him over so we could through the bill together and determine what was a fair final price.  But when I started questioning the bill, he became so offended that ‘I didn’t trust him’, that he insinuated that I was cheap to haggle over $25 here and $50 dollars there.  He threw his hands up in the air and said “pay me what you want”- “Really, Mr. Drama?”,  I said.  I couldn’t imagine this normally sweet man purposefully playing me.  He actually appeared genuinely upset to the point I started questioning my own behavior.  I became so flustered and felt, well… so cheap that I deducted the double charge for the paint, and paid him the rest!

Isn’t it normal to negotiate with contractors and workmen? Was I being cheap or frugal to question charges on the list?  Or was he being cheap to charge me without letting me know in advance?  If someone makes you feel cheap, does that mean you really are?  Did I do the right thing or did I get bamboozled because I let him push my buttons, and I lost my footing?  How would you have handled this cheap vs frugal situation?

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3 Responses to “Dealing With The Workmen Haggle”

  1. Leslie says:

    Your contractor was being totally cheap. I have had this same experience a few times, and I know how you felt. I think contractors and workmen bid on a job to GET the job and once they get into it they think “this is more work than I thought”, so they start adding things here and there so they can charge you more. This is so unfair cause you chose them to do the work for many reasons, not the least of which the bid fit within your budget. To change the price without consulting you stinks and is CHEAP!! If you were told it was going to cost so much more you may have chosen a different contractor or maybe eliminated something or spent less on a faucet, or whatever. By not being honest he took those options from you. I know first hand how unpleasant it is to be accused of not wanting to “pay for their work” even though you didn’t agree or appove the additional work. I think these workmen bank on the customer feeling cheap and not liking how that feels, so they pay the extra money. I think the best way to not get into that position is to declare upfront that no additional work will be paid for unless it is added to the contract and signed by you. I think you were smart and frugal to review the bill the way you did. You were not obligated to pay for his additons, but I understand why you did. I have been there.

  2. Rick says:

    I have a great common sense, normal business practice suggestion. When contracting for services, always put things in writting and have signed. In the written short contract you must stipulate that any and all changes and their related costs are to be signed off on in writing, at the time of the authorized change. This avoids the awkward moment of failed expectations and confrontation at time of closing. Business is business.

  3. Erin says:

    This is all great advice! I don’t think you were being cheap, but I agree that having it all in writing in advance and telling the guy, “I’m not paying for any “hidden costs” and “Make sure the job is done right the first time because I’m not paying for redos!”

Any Thoughts?

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