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?