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5 Ways Contractors Trick You Out of Your Money

We have all heard the horror stories about the Big Bad Contractor!  Contractors, in general, are viewed as dishonest and homeowners shake in their britches when something around the house breaks. It is unfortunate, because I have met a lot of contractors and most of them just want to do a good job for their clients and be able to sleep at night. They are normal people who picked a profession that has a lot of variables and it is a balancing act that is very difficult to maintain 24/7, 365, without issues.  

Imagine trying to juggle multiple objects of varying size, weight, and angles, while someone from the sidelines throws in more objects. That is what it is like to be a contractor! Joe fell off a ladder and delays the tile job, the plumber got stuck at an emergency and needs to schedule his part for another day, the homeowner had to reschedule last minute and yet demands the contractor gets done with the project by the end of the week or they will write a bad review.

The contractor’s job is volatile at best and the moment they lose control of the juggling act, they are labeled as bad and their reputation is threatened with the homeowner’s ability to review them or spread a warning about them across social media.

I always try my best to share things like this, because I think homeowners need to understand, going into any relationship with a contractor, that there needs to be a little bit of levity on their part.  With all these objects being juggled, it is likely that the contractor might forget to call them back or would be behind on getting them an estimate. When your hands are on fire, getting the fire put out as quickly as possible, with the least amount of pain as possible, becomes the contractors reaction to being overwhelmed.  In other words, they have to quickly focus on what causes the most pain for everyone.

Do they finish fixing an issue that has them trapped under a house in the mud, or stop everything and run back to their truck to call and say they are going to be an hour late?  The homeowner waiting for them to make the time window doesn’t care what the issue is, they have dinner at 6pm and this rotten, lying, so and so, didn’t even have the dignity to call and say they would be running late.  Is this person a bad contractor? Ask the homeowner that didn’t get the call.

Now, on the other side, let’s look at what people would usually view as a good contractor. The company has tons of resources, a fleet of trucks, can guarantee they can be on time, and when the technician arrives they are super friendly and look very professional. They must be good, because I see them on TV all the time and they offer financing and they are the official contractor to my favorite sports team. When you look on Google, they have hundreds of 5 star reviews!  THIS has to be a good contractor right? Let’s dig a little deeper. They are on TV all of the time, so their marketing expenses run into the millions. They have a fleet of decked out trucks and are fully stocked, so their daily cost for the fleet is running into the tens of thousands, they have SALES technicians that are trained to the hilt and earn a commission when they sell something. It is their job to get into that house on time, be friendly and helpful, and find anything that has a potential of ever breaking down in the lifetime of your home. Oh, and by the way, if we knock all of this out today, we can offer a huge discount and give you zero percent financing (for 18 months and then the interest kicks in).

If you give us a great review on Google, we will give you another $200 off or your choice of season passes to Six Flags!  Now THAT is a good contractor right? Well, not that they are bad at their job, but you now just paid up to 4 times what you needed to pay to fix the original issue and was sold a bill of goods that was nowhere near necessary.  By the way, even these guys could run into an issue and be an hour late, BUT a sweet representative from the office will call and let you know.

So the point of my rant is that it is very difficult to label a contractor as good or bad.  There needs to be a lot more thought that goes into it, than a missed phone call or whether or not they arrived on time.  I would wait all day long, and even be willing to reschedule, for the honest contractor that can fix my problem at a fair and honest rate and won’t try and take me for more than is necessary.

However, as I promised, these are the 5 ways a contractor can trick you out of your money and take advantage of you.

1. Misdiagnosis. You have seen the sting operations on TV. This is basically just a direct lie typically covered up by a bunch of technical jargon.  Don’t just take their word for it, make them show you and explain how they came to that conclusion.

2. Bait and Switch. There are two types of Bait and Switch

  • Couponing– these are the ones who advertise an extremely low price and then after getting to your home reveals what it will really cost to fix your “particular” problem.

  • The Product Switch – The contractor sells you the upgraded model of whatever and actually installs the lesser model since most of us do not know the difference.

3. Under Bidding. When a contractor knows they are competing against other contractors for your business they will sometimes give a lower bid and once they collect your upfront money they “find” an unexpected problem and has to add that to the bill.

4. Ding Dong Ditch. The contractor gets money upfront for materials and disappears off the face of the planet. Nowadays with the ability to get a disposable phone, it is incredibly easy to disappear.  Make sure you do your research and no how to physically get in front of the contractor with ease.

5. High Pressure / High Fear sales tactics. Many companies have changed their format to a commission based selling scenario for their technicians. Commission doesn’t rule someone out, but it obviously opens the door for a technician to use pressure or fear to get a bigger paycheck. It really all depends on how the owner trains their people, but if you combine high overhead with a commissioned sales technician, then it stands to reason that they need to get more money than necessary out of you.

Here at The Good Contractors List, we have worked with hundreds of contractors and there has been only one that I would consider bad and we exposed him AND ourselves on the Channel 11 News!  We messed up and we paid for it, but we did our best to warn anyone else about doing business with them. Click HERE for the story!

In conclusion, when looking for a contractor, I would do my research.  Do more than just read through their website. Go to the Better Business Bureau and see how long they have been in business. Google their name and the owner’s name to see if you can find anything derogatory.  Read through any reviews you find and see if there are any negative patterns that seem to be consistent. Look at the size of the company and aim for the ones who appear to be professional, but maybe not over the top in resources or marketing prowess. Even if you get a referral from a family member, do research on the referral and make sure they are reputable beyond your cousin’s one interaction with them.

Then, go into the relationship understanding that they are dealing with a lot of variables and there could be something that doesn’t go perfectly. It will mean a lot to them to have you rooting them on and working with them to give you what you need at a fair and honest rate.