No problem for a man like you

Some years back, I was installing cabinets for a client when they asked me if I could run some extra crown molding.

There was crown on the tops of the upper and tall floor-to-ceiling cabinets so we were going to be running crown anyway. I thought the guy was talking about a couple of pieces when I said, “sure,” but then he pointed to a huge stack of oak crown and indicated that he wanted crown in every room of the house.

The shocking part was he thought I would “just throw it in.” I mean this was a week’s work for two guys and only if the two guys knew how to run crown. When I pointed this out, the guy said, “It’s not that much. Should be no problem for a man like you.”

Yes, he actually said that. I have always understood the concept of the baker’s dozen and the idea that, sometimes, you have to sweeten the pot a bit. But this was just over the top. If it wasn’t so outrageous it would be funny.

So here’s the question: Where is the point at which “a man like me” or a “man like you” puts his foot down? How much extra freebie stuff gets tossed in as part of that baker’s dozen?

D.D.

COMMENTS

  1. Bruce Huff wrote:

    My father taught me this.

    I would rather work on my house for nouthing than your house for nothing.

    No freebies period

  2. Rick Henson wrote:

    Was there accurate documentation, drawings and specifications, detailing the SCOPE of the work? If the documentation was accurate then you could refer the customer to the documents. If the documentation was insufficient the you are open to a customer’s interpretation of what was discussed, not what was written down. That is a losing battle. If the proper documentation was in place you are dealing with a person that is either ignorant or trying to take advantage of your good nature in which case you need to hold the line and not proceed. By providing work for a customer without getting paid Trades become there own worst enemy and propagate the tendency for customers to take advantage.

  3. Joel wrote:

    Never.
    Extra work means extra charges.
    I admitt, if it were a piece or two, I’d be tempted to throw it in.
    However, what if an accident were to happen?
    What if the molding was substandard and twice as difficult to run than normal?
    Also something to think about; you’ll probably have to warranty the work, and what about the liability insurance? Those are costs too.
    If you feel obligated, give the customer a discount on the added work, but never give it away.

  4. William Picktt wrote:

    I have always told customers like this a short story. So….. you go to the grocery store and you are standing in the checkout to purchase milk, bread, and donuts. When the cashier rings your total up, do you grab a candy bar and say “I will take this without paying” ?!?! No, I say to the customer. You don’t do this and neither do I.

  5. Chuck Riccardo wrote:

    The problem began when you treated the request casually. Never never treat customer requests for work like that. But, then, you know that now. If they are very small requests, I take care of them while they are taking care of my bill.

  6. Ken wrote:

    Just tell him that paying the supplemental bill should be “No problem for a man of your financial means”. No, not really. Just kidding.
    .
    Throwaway comments are usually the ones that do the most damage. And when people “like us” are professionals and make things look easy, it gets even worse becuase the perspective is that it’s “No big deal, right?”.
    .
    Take the time to explain to him the added workload and quote him a price. Or ignore the comment altogether and say: “I’ll let you know tomorrow how much extra that will be once I run the numbers.”
    .
    I’ll bet he doesn’t even realize he was being offensive. He probably meant it as a compliment as to how well you work. Dealing with events like these are not ever easy, but you owe it to yourself and to the customer to educate them a little on how much extra this seemingly small request really costs.

  7. Mark Stevens wrote:

    A “man like me” would be happy to write up a bid for the crown job. Include a free install for the remainder of the kitchen in your bid but don’t tell him about it until you get paid for the whole job. If you lose the bid he gets what he pays for and you loose a PIA customer.

  8. Michael Fonner wrote:

    When someone asks me for something free, I usually ask them if they work for their boss for free! Freebies are ok when giving free food samples at Sam’s Club, not when REAL work is required.

  9. Gene Kelly wrote:

    If there is a good stopping point, then maybe I would finish out the wall or the room, MAYBE. But, from the way you described this customer I would probably adhere to Bruce Huff’s comment. I would rather work on my house for nothing.

  10. Mike Olson wrote:

    Your experience should be in the dictionary as the definition of chutzpah.

    When I was starting out a guy called to negotiate a discount on his quote. I told him, as was also stated on the quote, and I mentioned before quoting that my prices were fair and competetive. After some discussion I agreed to take off some of the installation cost if he removed his old mantel and was there to help bring in the new one. This would save bringing another installer.

    When I got there of course he wasn’t there and had not removed the old mantel. I learned then not to take any agreed discounts off the invoice ahead of time as I had to add it back on by pen.

  11. Rick Hopper wrote:

    As a business owner and employer I have an obligation to my employees, vendors and company to make money. I do not throw in any freebies. I will sometimes offer a reduced shop rate but in my world there are “no freebies”.

  12. Tom Conway wrote:

    Two thoughts similar to Bruce Huff’s post.
    1) I would rather sail all day and not make any money over working all day and loosing money.
    2) The longer I am at this, the more I realize how true the old adage, “No good deed goes un-punished” is.
    Freebies weaken your position with a client and I am in this to make money first and foremost. It took kids in college to hammer that point home.

    No freebies period.

  13. Ben Cooke wrote:

    There are the clients that are always wanting “just one more thing” and there is also the occasional client that is giving you a bonus or gift at the end for a job well done. I think it really comes down to whether the client feels they are doing you a favor by paying you to do good work or whether they’ve been lucky enough to enjoy the good favor to have “a man like you” available to do good work.

  14. Ron Southard wrote:

    Over the years, a simple rule that has worked well is NEVER change a price simply for the sake of “…sweetening the pot”; only when the scope is changed through an equitable swap (at least enough to preserve the illusion of equity). Then when a situation comes up like you describe, you simply ask what they want to leave out of the job to pay for the addition. If you get in the habit of yielding a little here and there, you’ll gradually always be expected to do so. The converse is, happily, also true … and much more palatable for you.

  15. Gene wrote:

    Extra work is charged time and materials for a professional (like me).

  16. C. Carroll Adams wrote:

    Everyone wants to produce a movie, they just do not want to pay the production cost.

    When I was learning woodworking from my grandfather in the late 1930s he cautioned about not giving away my time and materials. He explained that even if I had the spare time, when I gave away my services I was taking the job from someone else who probably needed the work.

    I started building cabinets for clients while I was a university student in the late 1940s. Sometimes are the deal had been made the client would ask for extras. As I had learned from my grandfather, what a client calls a free extra I call a change order. The second a client asked, I would whip out my change-order form book and start writing the additional specs. What did I have to lose? The client had already agreed to the original deal, signed the contract and made an initial payment.

    One of the most foolish mistakes we can make is letting the client set the price. My competitors who do so have been out of business a long time. I always provide top-quality work, on budget, on spec and on time. I cannot do so while giving away my time and materials.

  17. Carl Evans wrote:

    I will only throw in a little extra when unasked for well established clients and only if it will improve the job. And when I’ve done this I make sure they know I have done it. It’s the greatest advertising to come down the pike. They go on and on about how I exceeded there expectations to there friends and more work comes my way. The client that comes back time and time again is well worth the investment.

  18. george nichols wrote:

    hmmmmm just wondering what he throws in for nothing at his job? can you say nothing lol

  19. Alan Blough wrote:

    We’d all be better off to shut customers like this down real fast. What do they think, our time isn’t worth anything? How much “free” work are they willing to do at their jobs? I’ve got a hard enough time making money as it is. If I blow my estimate, they’re already getting “freebies”.

  20. Pat McGinty wrote:

    Just say: “I sure can’t make a gift of this to you, brother! But I’d be more than happy to sell it to you at my cost.” Then figure your materials liberally, multiply by three, and add your labor as your std. rate. Don’t forget tool wear. Now, if he doesn’t like the price – you’re off the hook.

    Don’t forget that this is exactly the kind of stuff you deserve when you low ball your deals!!! You’re attracting jerks!

    Too bad we don’t have a secret “mark” to place on, say, his mailbox or house number…..that would tip off the next unsuspecting artisan.

  21. BigStick wrote:

    We over react to the ridicules This is more then simple it is hilarious
    The answer is very short…..NO NOT POSSIBLE. Sir you cant afford me to do all that.

  22. PutnamEco wrote:

    It would depend a lot on the customer, if it was a previous good client I would go a little bit out of my way to do small additional things like change a couple switch plates or take a look at a sticky drawer, but if I really have to go out of my way, Like having to take extra time, say more than 15 minutes, it is not going to happen without some extra cash changing hands. I almost always leave a little left over material with them if they ask, like a few extra tiles or some off cuts of trim in case they have to make repairs at some time in the future. New customers with no previous history are another story.

  23. Doug wrote:

    I’ll bet your customer does not go in to his office and offer to work two days a week for free. Why then should you? We have a well defined scope of work in our construction agreement. Anything outside that scope of work is considered a change order, which is also well defined, and requires a signed document of its own and additional charges. This was hard for me to learn but very important. My work is as valuable as anyone else’s. So is yours.

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