Bad Business Breakdown

In 2015, my mom decided to have her house painted and new flooring installed. She was still working at the time and was trying to “get the house in order” so that she wouldn’t have to deal with a lot of costly maintenance and repairs when she retired the following year. It was a good thought, but a bad idea – then and now.

Water damage underneath the bathroom floor.

The painter she hired was a basket-case, showing up at noon each day only to spend most of her time crying over her husband while she missed entire sections of the wall and trim and splattered paint on the cabinets. I remember my mom sitting her down and telling her that she was the messiest painter she’s ever seen. And the carpet folks – well, we suspected they were cutting corners but could never prove it until recently – when a bubble appeared in the linoleum in the guest bathroom and the “handyman” we called discovered the toilets had not been properly re-installed on top of the new flooring. Over time, a slow leak had rotted the subfloors and the linoleum in both bathrooms!

At first, my mom took it in stride, deciding to use this disaster as a chance to upgrade the 30-year-old toilet and vanity top in the guest bathroom. That’s where the nightmare really begins. She hired a handyman from an ad in our local Clipper magazine. His name was Mark and I was there with her when he quoted the price on the repairs. I thought it was outrageous and even said so, but my mom was not deterred. She wanted it done and she wanted it done soon. Over the next 3 weeks, Mark spent about 18 actual hours in the bathroom. He even took a week-long vacation in the middle of the project, leaving the toilet sitting in the bathtub. When he finished up, the cost of the repair was nearly doubled, and the list of new problems was longer than the original. Angie and I spent the better part of Friday afternoon trying to get the new light fixture to sit flush to the wall so that it would actually hold the weight of the light bulb without leaning forward. Then on Sunday, while my mom was mopping, she discovered an entire area behind the toilet where the floor is missing. Not the linoleum, the floor beneath it! The vinyl is simply flapped over an open space in the plywood.

I would love to spend the rest of this post talking about how the man who owned the flooring store stepped up to fix the problem his poor workmanship caused, but I can’t. He blew us off and told my mom that I was mean because I threatened to leave a negative review if he didn’t at least come look at the floor. I’d love to say that my mom’s homeowner’s insurance is taking care of it but again, that’s not the case. I’d love to hand out kudos to Mark for being a professional and fixing his mistakes, but as of today, I can’t get him to return my call either. So, what I will say is this…

I hate dealing with bad businesses!

I know not all businesses are bad but, honestly our experiences over the past three years have all been less than good…a lot less in some cases! From crappy landlords and real estate agents passing off shoddy work as a “beautifully renovated” home to a brand-new kayak falling apart within 30 minutes of hitting the water and a car dealership mechanic rewiring the car completely backwards when they were only supposed to take care of an airbag recall. (The car unlocked when it was in drive and locked when it was parked, and the door chime rang the entire time the door was shut. It took a month to get them to fix this problem. It wasn’t their fault, after all.) Yes, I am a bit frustrated with this situation.

But it’s not just local businesses. Last year alone, some of the biggest and supposedly most trusted companies in America were accused of bad business practices – Wells Fargo, Samsung, Equifax, Apple, and Uber among them. How can we trust anyone to provide a quality product when it’s so easy to get away with not doing so?

I truly believe that we’ve come to accept poor workmanship as a given. As I was searching for an image to use as a header for this post, I Googled “bad contractor” and was immediately inundated with photos, stories, memes, and even a couple of TV shows on the subject. It left me with the distinct impression that the bad far outweighs the good in the world of home improvement and honest contractors are like unicorns – imaginary or rare, at best. It’s sad, and it leaves me resolute about being more self-reliant and more vocal. Bad businesses shouldn’t break us down, when we are the ones with the power to break them.

As consumers, one recourse we have when bad things happen is to use our voice. We can report the bad business to the Better Business Bureau and the State’s Department of Commerce, write a negative review, go to the media, or sue in civil court. (I’m not a fan of civil suits though. Most folks spend more money in court than it costs to have the problem fixed by someone else and the time involved only prolongs the stress. But it is an option.) So today, along with this post, I’ll be writing a complaint to the BBB and a couple of negative reviews on the local and nationally affiliated businesses that we had the displeasure of dealing with. I hope that in calling out the people who have done wrong, I can impact their business in a way that they understand – by deterring future customers.

Besides our voices though, we each have the capacity to employ two even greater weapons – learning to do more on our own and withholding our hard-earned dollars from businesses that don’t deserve them. You may think that you don’t have the skills to remodel a bathroom, and maybe you don’t, but we all have the skills to pick up the phone or make a post on Facebook asking our true friends for recommendations of real people they trust. And we all have access to the Internet, which is great way to learn things you never thought possible before. How do you think Angie and I fixed that light fixture?? Yep, Google!

Have you ever felt ripped off by a business? What did you do to remedy the situation?

Living La Vida Local

Our friend Linda is the “Queen of Adventure”. Her bucket list is actually a barrel list, and I kid you not, she is out doing something exciting All. The. Time. A few weeks ago, she went tandem hang-gliding…by herself. As I am writing this post, she’s having a blast in Idaho…at a museum for potatoes. Linda has this knack for making the ordinary extraordinary. She takes selfies in front of road signs, poses with statues, and visits hole-in-the-wall places that can’t possibly exist on any map. And when she’s not exploring, she’s running marathons, volunteering, or coming up with some new scheme to get her husband to join in the fun…like going to a different fish-fry every Friday for few weeks. If Nike ever wants a less controversial spokesperson, I nominate Linda. “Just Do It” is her middle name!

Linda is an inspiration and often when I’m sitting on the couch on a Friday night pondering the age-old question of what to do with my weekend, I think of her.  What would Linda do? I sometimes ask out loud. Something crazy and fun, that’s what! So this past weekend, we had our own “Linda Adventure”. We got off the couch and explored our own backyard – Gallatin, TN – the “nicest place in America“.

On Friday evening, we perused the booths at the Market in the Park. Crafters from all across the area were there to sell their handiwork, from crochet hats to industrial chic furniture. We didn’t buy anything but we came back with a ton of ideas…like soup bowl cozies and so many things made from pallets that it would take an entire post just to list them all.

On Saturday morning, we drove to the neighboring town, Hendersonville, for the Tennessee Honey Festival.

And on Saturday evening, we took part in a culinary adventure unlike any we have ever tried. Part walking tour, part scavenger hunt, the event was called Grit, Grace, Grub, and for $25 we received a passport and map to visit 19 local restaurants. At each restaurant, our passport was stamped and we were delighted with a sample of their signature dishes. When I say sample, I mean a “southern-sized” sample, which is what most folks call a small plate. While the object was to visit 2 restaurants from each zone within 4 hours, we tried to hit them all. We made it to 15 of the 19, which qualified us for the $250 drawing. I don’t think we won, but we had a ball and even made The Tennessean (again!).

After seeing the size of the samples at the first restaurant, we went back home to get our cooler and a couple of to-go plates (and by a couple, I mean 5, which were all filled to the brim by the end of the night). We sampled some fabulous foods, from bourbon-glazed salmon to stuffed flounder in a crawfish sauce, pimento cheese sliders to frozen Greek yogurt topped with fresh strawberries.

A Southern-sized Sample of Salmon and Goo-Goo pie

We ate until we were stuffed and left with enough food to share with my mom and have 4 meals for ourselves. We eventually ate everything, by the way, and even shared our zero-waste project with the manager of one of the restaurants.

Sneaky Angie and her slice of Nashville Hot Pizza.

I think part of the reason this was so much fun for us is that we don’t go out to eat very often. Almost every restaurant we visited was someplace we’d never been. Except Prince Street Pizza. We love them. We love them so much, in fact, that Angie did something we’ve only ever joked about doing before – she swiped a leftover pizza! There was a large family in the room set up for the food tour. They weren’t part of the tour, just eating in the same room. When they left, they left behind half of a mushroom and onion pizza. Untouched and destined for the trash can, Angie rescued it and we had it for dinner Sunday night. Hey Linda, how’s that for adventurous??

As we sat outside Southern Juice & Beverage Company enjoying our frozen yogurt, I thought to myself, how different the world can be when we try to see it from someone else’s perspective. Since moving back to Gallatin three years ago, I’ve been reluctant to actually enjoy living here. I felt that if I gave in, I was giving up on our dream of returning to Florida one day. What I found though was that I was cheating us out of many extraordinarily ordinary adventures by thinking that the most fun we could have was someday and somewhere other than here. That’s not a very minimalist attitude, by the way.

Our friend Linda lives in a tiny town in Minnesota. The population is 1/5 the size of Gallatin (or about 7,000 people). If she can find adventure in her backyard, there’s really no excuse for the rest of us (and by us, I mean me). So from now on, Angie and I are going to live by the Linda Playbook, which if it were actually a thing would probably be filled with Nike ads and have a slogan like:

No challenge too big, no adventure too small. Just Do It.