…but it was not bargain.
As you probably know, I’m an introvert, and don’t really like talking to people. Once I get started, sometimes, it’s like someone put a nickel in me, and I won’t stop talking. And I know, to non-introverts, that looks like someone who likes talking to people. No, that’s the mental/verbal equivalent of starting to jog just a little too fast down a hill, and you’re just desperately trying to keep your feet under you.
We had the first tiny part of a kitchen remodel project to have done – removing the filthy, not-sponge-wash-able popcorn ceiling removed, and something else put in its place. We were thinking we’d prefer smooth, but every contractor we talked to had some variation of the same story:
“Well, we can do that, but often what you’ll find is the original builder did a popcorn ceiling because it’s cheaper, and hides a multitude of imperfections. Might have to skim-coat it 2 or 3 times. Yadda yadda yadda …a couple hundred more expensive. What most people are going with nowadays is Knockdown Texture on their ceilings.”
Having been reassured at least twice that a Knockdown ceiling can be painted with a semi-gloss or satin, and can be sponge-wash-able, we’d decided (from phone conversations with contractors) that we were going to go with Knockdown before the first of them even made it out to look at the job in person and give us an estimate/quote.
The first guy to come out, we liked. Easy-going, friendly, and had that right flavor of confidence.
The 2nd guy to stop by was also confident, but with his other mannerisms, and facial expressions, I got the feeling that doing our little job on a non-lake-shore property, he would be sort of “slumming it”. Like – he’s too good to be working on this shit-hole.
The 3rd guy (who, early on, I was pulling for and hoping would be the guy) missed the appointment completely, then when I texted him to ask if he was coming, had a lame excuse, but suddenly sounded super interested in getting the business again. I blocked him on my iPhone.
So we went with the first guy. Nice guy. Here’s his quote…
Yes, we’d talked about two different ways of doing the ceiling – Smooth or Knockdown. But since that decision had been settled in my mind, I was no longer thinking about the Smooth ceiling option anymore.
Couple days later, after we’d actually chosen which dude, I un-folded this on my desktop, looked at the bottom line (because the price is always the bottom line… always) and did not re-read the whole thing. The numbers that stuck out to me were $750 check, $650 cash. So I stopped by the ATM and got out max cash withdrawal several times over the next several days to be sure that I’d have enough on hand to pay him, plus any cash that I needed for other things, plus any wiggle-room for “I didn’t know I’d have to work around these ceiling fixture screws” or “a big chunk of drywall fell down – it was held in place by the popcorn ceiling and paint.” You know – it’s an estimate, not an absolute fact yet.
A Month Later – Two Days
It was the Independence Day Holiday Weekend when he came out to do the actual work, July 5-6 (Fri-Sat). I kinda prefer to be here when workmen are going to be in my home. Not that I’m naturally distrustful, but if I have misplaced anything (and I do that a lot), I hate having that “maybe so-and-so stole it” thing creep into my head at all. So it worked out great that I was WFH that Friday, and wasn’t going anywhere on Saturday either.
Mid-day Saturday rolls around, I’m getting multiple Nest Cam notifications that the front door camera “spotted a person” and when I check I can see it’s the guy hauling stuff back to his truck. Then I hear the loud squeak of his truck tailgate. He’s packing up. It’s time to go in and talk to him. In person. Using my mouth and words and shit. My heart starts to race a little. Stupid, right?
See, I’d been thinking all along, that a $100 discount for paying cash is pretty steep. I’m sure he only does that because some other motherfuckers have given him a check, then cancelled it, and then it’s been a whole thing where he has to decide if it’s worth going to Small Claims Court, or whatever. It’s tough to stay above board, slingin’ mud on people’s ceilings, I’m sure.
Also, I had already been super impressed with how meticulously he had taped and plastic-barrier’d our kitchen and entryway area, such that we were getting no dust flitting throughout the house… which we had been dreading. He was only half-way done with the job, and we were already thrilled. So my plan had been to split-the-difference on that cash discount. I mean seriously, this was such a small job, it didn’t seem to me to be worth extending such a deep discount.
I come in to verify that he’s wrapping it up. He is. I extemporaneously ask a question I had been rehearsing repeatedly in my head: “So I suppose this is the time I hand you fistfulls of cash. What’s the damage?” See how adorable I am when I’ve had time to rehearse my witty extemporaneous-ness?
He says, “Uh, I don’t remember… I think it was four-fifty?”
I mock-bluster, “Oh, that doesn’t sound like enough.” and start heading downstairs to grab the estimate (pictured above), which was folded in half and full of $100 stacks of $20 bills, each stack turned 90-degrees from the previous one, to save doing a lot of adding aloud. I come back upstairs, estimate in one hand, and cash in the other, and lay the estimate down, and point at the $650 number… the bottom-line-est number on the page. The number that has been in my head for several weeks.
“It was six-fifty.” and I start pulling off stacks of bills, “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.” I believe I have split-the-difference and tipped our friendly, conscientious contractor $50 for having done such a fine and tidy job.
His response, naturally, expectedly, was, “Oh, thank you!”
I figure, nobody ever pays him more than asked. Ever. But I’ve already said more words than I want to, and I didn’t further explain that I thought $100 was too much of a discount, and I was meeting him in the middle. If I had, perhaps he would have noticed that I had looked at the wrong number in the first place, and correct me. Nope. I gave him no opportunity. He was thanking me for a 47.4% tip. And, of course, that sounds exactly the same as thanking me for a $50 tip.
But see? It turned out great.
I’m a fucking buffoon, but it turned out just great.