Unreliable, Unskilled Service People Are Becoming The Norm - And Response (2)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Unreliable, unskilled, service people are becoming the norm in Chattanooga. 

I love what this town has become, but I worry about all of the obvious bad things that come with rapid growth. Lately, I am seeing the effects of the influx of new residents in the services businesses. Naturally, everyone is eager to make money and seize opportunities however, in my own personal experiences over the past year, I see a very evident trend of flim-flam one man shows with business names and just plain unreliable, unskilled people performing services.

I believe in giving the little guy a lift. I admire self-starters and entrepreneurs. Whenever possible, I give them a shot at jobs that are basic and uncomplicated but require knowledge of technique, application, and material. All I expect is the job to be done in a timely manner, in good detail, and areas to be as clean as they were before the job began. 

I have been disappointed by every researched and interviewed decision I have made this year. Now I know that if an individual says in his ad on Craigslist or his website that he is licensed and bonded, that I should ask to see proof of both. People will say anything to make you feel comfortable and assured.

References can be easily staged through friends and relatives and it takes excessive time to ride around to see what the individual says is proof of his good work, but I have even done that a few times. Unless you speak to the owner of the home where the work was done and decide, with your amateur  human psychology perceptions, that this person is not a shill, you can be very easily deceived.

I have discovered that  the kind of typical inferior "home remodeler," handyman, house painter, plumber, electrician, lawn service, jack of all trades, takes much more time in designing a false reputation for good work than he can ever deliver.  It is much easier than putting that effort into a fine finished product. 

I recently had a painter-drywall patch guy that was recommended to me by a man who advertises in my church directory, do some work for me. The man who advertises was too busy so sent his helper, who he said needed money. I was told that the young man was conscientious and did "expert" work.

When he arrived, he had no tools to paint or repair my drywall.  I had the tools and the materials. I just have a bad back and can not do-it-myself like I used to.  His painting of an area separate from the drywall repair was very good. He just didn't seem to be bothered by cleaning up the paint he left of my ceiling fan or in places where the ceiling meets the wall .

When he went to repair a place in my kitchen ceiling that was caused by an upstairs plumbing leak (literally made worse by a retired plumber I hired) he would coat with mud and sand, take a break for an hour, come back and re-mud. I called to his attention that each application needs to sit for at least 12 hours before sanding and doing another coat and that three coats is advisable - therefore, three trips. He argued with me that because the bag stated the set up/dry time for the mud was 20 minutes, it did not have to set between applications. Further, he did not even tape the open joint and I knew it would eventually crack. Upon his final coat, the young man said, "I will be back this evening to sand and paint." He never showed and never called. 

I do not expect to have to coach, supply tools and materials, and then pay money to inexperienced, arrogant phonies. No one should. What is even more frustrating is that these same problems exist in doing business with established service companies. 

I  had to furnish tools and materials to a plumbing company whose owner came to my place and gave an estimate to my wife.  When I literally, finished the job myself, and even had to hire someone else to perform part of the job the plumber left, I received a bill from the plumber for three times the estimated amount.

Florida used to be a breeding ground for this sort of sloppy, irresponsible service man.  There were hundreds of jokes told on the subject for years. As Chattanooga becomes more discovered and grows, this problem will grow. I don't hire anyone without first seeing licenses, bonds and insurance but that does not, in the least, guarantee that work will be performed satisfactorily, and in a timely manner...or even at all.  

Cleveland Wheeler 

* * * 

I feel your pain, Mr. Wheeler, but that's always been the norm.  You get what you pay for is the old adage and America is full of shade tree mechanics and jacks of all trades in this economy.  Stephen Mihms, history professor at Georgia State, wrote the book, 'America, a nation of Counterfeiters' con artists and capitalists who build America. 

And entrepreneurs doing their own thing don't like to be bossed around or coached around, having to argue with you how the job should be done. That's a given.   

An example for you, I have a 92 Chevy Z-24.  I recently paid my shade tree mechanic to install new head gaskets, radiator, and used heads from the junkyard because my old ones were cracked.  He came to my house, did the work in my front yard, crawled under that sucker in the cold, got all dirty and greasy, busted his knuckles on rusty old bolts, and charged me $200 and I paid him another $200 for parts.  He left off the heat sensor which affected the ECM unit, the heat gauge doesn't work any more, it takes a little longer to start in cold weather, I have to pump the gas pedal 15 or 20 times to get it to start, but no problem.  I'm a school trained army track and wheel vehicle mechanic, I'm just too old to do this type of work anymore.  

I would suspect you are the same way, but if I took it to a dealer, they would charge me upwards of two grand or more and invent other problems on this old of a vehicle.  The same goes for remodeling a house, painting, plumbing, electrical work, what have you, so as the old adage goes, 'you get what you pay for concerning top quality work' and if you're not willing to pay for it, then quit whining.   

Donald Woods
Knoxville 

* * * 

I have to agree, and the problem is not new. When I remodeled one end of my house into an apartment for my mother, the inspector insisted that I hire a licensed plumber, which I did. I will not name him. I watched him fairly closely, and the work seemed okay, except for some places where he did what I specifically told him not to do, in terms of pipe routing,  The work was approved by the city inspector, I paid, he left, and mother moved in. 

Then pipe joints inside the wall came apart. I had to cut into the wall to access them.  When removed and microscopically examined it was proven that they never had been soldered.  A year later we had a bad smell.  I crawled under the house and found raw sewage in the crawlspace. A joint in the sewer line from the house main bathroom to the apartment had come apart. It and several other joints had not been glued.  This contractor was licensed.  Since then I have done most work myself.   

When I was employed I also did maintenance work. The boss had a well advertised heat and air company install a new high-efficiency gas-fired unit to replace an obsolete three-phase electric unit. I was not involved. A couple of years later an employee called me at night and said "John, there is an electrical conduit that is glowing red."  I told him to cut the main power, and I immediately left to check it out.  I found that when the installers had put in the new gas-fired unit they used the old conduit as the neutral conductor.  They did this to avoid pulling another wire. Fortunately the high-resistance joint in the conduit was against a non-combustible surface or there would have been a fire. This work was done by a company whose TV ads we see multiple times every day. 

I could tell more such stories.  

There are some very good craftsmen out there. When I had vinyl siding put on my house, I decided to contract the work because I am now old and crippled up some. In my research, I looked at a lot of sloppy work on various houses. I finally selected Marter and Bell to do the work, and I was delighted with both price and workmanship. 

John L. Odom


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