Thursday, January 22, 2015

All the Guilt: Contractor Edition

Final box sacrified for my sanity.I feel like I should start off with two notes before I get into the main post today:

1) An update: My posts this past week most likely conveyed a sense of chaos over here in my corner of Chicago. Things were, and continue to be, a tad out of control. But the good news is that Desmond miraculously recovered the second we stepped foot in the pediatrician's office yesterday. Negative for strep, no ear infection, no fever, running around like a goof, etc. So he's all set to be the prince of his birthday party on Saturday.

Another miracle happened, in that I was able to stick to my schedule until 9 p.m. last night. I used the "Ah hell, it's my birthday" excuse once it hit 9 and continued to respond to about 450 birthday messages until midnight instead of doing client work. I knew my day was mostly free today and I'd get the serious stuff done. Then I thought, "Hey, since it worked so well, why don't I make a schedule like that for myself EVERY day?" And then I remembered a post I did way back in 2008 that reminded me why it's usually impossible for me to plan anything out hour by hour. Random crap would throw my plans off on a daily basis back then and has continued to do so every single day for the past 6.5 years. So I'll continue with my "two million sticky notes all over the place reminding me what I need to do when I get a chance" organizational strategy. I've survived this long.

2) A thank-you: Sincere appreciation goes out to everyone who sent me a birthday greeting in some way, shape or form yesterday. I enjoy those notes every year, but after the week I've been having they were especially welcome. Those messages actually inspired the idea for a great post that I've been working on for the past hour. But then I glanced at the clock, glanced back at the screen and realized I'd have to table that entry until I have more time because I was nowhere near finished and I have work to get back to. These are the consequences of my slacking late last night!

Why, yes. Yes I do.
So instead I'll write about one of my favorite (but that's the wrong word) topics: guilt. Obviously I don't LIKE guilt, but I sure do have a lot of it, and for a whole bunch of weird reasons. I actually think it warrants its own ongoing column, which I'll call "All the Guilt."

Today's edition of All the Guilt deals with the awkwardness I feel when giving feedback to contractors. Let me start by saying that I honestly believe contractors love working at our place, and we've found a handyman company we've used for over a decade, so it's often the same guys who come back time and time again. But my guilt exists whether it's someone we've used before or someone who's brand new. I get significantly uncomfortable pointing out anything they've done that might not be up to snuff.

Case in point: my conversation today with a painter that is here right now. But first, some background. We had this same company paint two bedrooms four years ago. When the guy (who was a new guy) was finished, I wasn't happy. I could see stroke marks all over the place and the old color still seeping through in several areas. But I couldn't say that to his face because of my non-confrontational nature, so I called the owner the next day and explained what was wrong. They had another guy (let's call him Dale) come fix everything up, and then I was both content and relieved.

This is actually similar to what my new home office color will be!Because of what happened last time, I was nervous about this latest project and requested Dale do everything from the get-go. Dale has helped us with a ton of other stuff around the building, and his work is always top-notch. But Dale wasn't available any time soon. Noooooooo! The owner could sense I was internally freaking out (like I said, they've gotten A LOT of business from us because something is always wrong in this place) and assured me the guys he put on the job would meet my expectations.

So they came yesterday and I left them alone all day. After Desmond was asleep, I poked around the second floor. Things looked good—but there were a few spots that looked like they could still use some touching up. I made a mental note.

The guys came back this morning and let themselves in with our spare key. About an hour ago, one of them came to get me to ask how I wanted a certain area handled. He explained that he was going to give the baseboards one more coat, and then I asked him a few questions about when everything would be dry, when it would be OK to hang pictures, and so on. I told him I was going to be on a work call later and wouldn't be available for an hour. He said he thought he'd be done by that point and would just let himself out.

"So you won't come get me again?"

"Nope, I think I'm all set."

"And you'll just leave out the front?"

"Yes, I think I'll be done in the next few hours and then the office will just send you the invoice."

I wish there were a STOP Feeling Guilty button, though.I had been looking all around during this chat and only noticed an obvious mark on one of the baseboards, which he already said he wasn't done with. I thought it was odd that I wouldn't do a final walk-through with him, but figured I could just call the main office later if I was unhappy. It appeared as though he'd done a great job, however, so I pulled the already-prepared tip out of my pocket (friendly advice: always tip well, but tip especially well to contractors you'll likely use again) and said thanks. He seemed genuinely pleased.

BUT THEN I got halfway down the stairs and remembered the spot I noticed last night. So I crept back up and knocked on the door and tried to find a way to casually walk over and inspect that area. But since there was absolutely no reason for me to be back up there I had to admit, "Oh, I just remembered I'd seen this one spot..." and then I found it and of course it was now perfect.

"Yes, I did another coat there this morning."

"Ah, OK. Awesome. Thanks. Bye!" and I scurried out.

Why do I feel SO AWFUL about checking on these things? This project is not cheap. I never, ever am a jerk to anyone, much less someone doing very hard and exhausting work in my home. So why do I feel so guilty about simply making sure I'm happy with the finished project?

Does anyone else ever feel like this? And if you think this story is silly, just wait until the NEXT installment of All the Guilt!

- e


Torigurl said...

I know the feeling. I feel guilty when I want something a certain way, but am non-confrontational enough to feel like I'm being too picky even asking for it. Sometimes I even feel lame for being a little picky about my clothes - it can sometimes be hard to find jeans and running tights that fit right because I'm only 5'5''.

Denise Schimmoeller said...

I am EXACTLY the same way. A few weeks ago, our cleaning team was here, and they brought a new trainee. I was working, in the middle of an urgent email, and I hear, "How do we get upstairs with this baby gate closed?" and some rattling around. 2 minutes later, I got up because the shaking/rattling continued, and I find our baby gate at the bottom of the stairs completely disassembled! No matter that it took me an hour 3 years ago to figure out how to get the darn thing attached to the stair railings to begin with! I sorta lost it (well, let's be honest, I didn't sorta lose it... I completely lost it). That poor woman. I immediately felt guilty, even as I struggled to put it together again. I apologized profusely for my behavior once I calmed down and vowed never to complain to the main office of the cleaning company because I didn't want it to cost anyone their job. I could see how nervous I made the trainee. I even told my regular cleaning woman that I would not be lodging a complaint. Nonetheless, I learned yesterday that the trainee is no longer with this cleaning service. I'm told that it was due to other factors, such as transportation issues which caused her to be continually late for work, but still. I know that these people don't get paid much, and for that few minutes, I wasn't so nice. So yes, I continue to feel guilty. Point being - whether you provide feedback in person or call the main office - the guilt is the same!