Friday, 6 November 2009

Some Feedback

I'll warn you the rest of this is a rant, so you may want to stop here. I see I need to capture some more pictures to illustrate my complaints, so will add those later!

I thought there was huge room for improvement in the way this business operated. For one thing, the foreman wasn't there more than 5-10 minutes morning and afternoon, just droppping off and picking up crew. I had issues with the brick layer, who was seemingly in charge otherwise. I wasn't very impressed with most of his work.

I didn't have a drawing or anything in writing detailing what Bill had agreed with the boss who bid the job. In spite of this, the guys were asking me what they were supposed to be doing.
I managed spend another £250 of Bill's money with just the wave of an arm and 'I think all that goes.' Bill wasn't unhappy with the result, but it frightened me to have made an expensive change so unintentionally.

The brick layer seemed to be thinking that half the concrete slabs were supposed to remain, which was completely daft. He had a drawing on which he relied, but it was wrong. Bill came home early that afternoon to help sort it; he found the measurements on the sketch that showed what was actually supposed to happen.

This company does decent brick paving, but I think they trashed my brick walls. One morning the brick layer pointed out a problem with the front wall in that the old brickwork on one side of the gate wasn't level with the other; he was going to have a problem making the brick wall level at the top enough to put the capstone back on. I'd made it clear from the start that I liked my old, coal smoke stained capstones. He was saying that to do a half-course of brick would add a couple hundred more to the cost of the job. He told me this first thing one morning. My initial response was "Why are you asking me? You are supposed to be the professional here!! What the hell do you mean it will cost more?!! Don't you think you should have spotted that problem before you ripped out half the wall, not after?!!" I remember opening and closing my mouth several times, and finally came out with "I haven't really had enough coffee yet to have any ideas here. I'll phone Bill and see what he wants to do." Bill, fortunately, was up to the challenge. He proposed leaving the post in place, which would alleviate the problem of matching the brickwork on the other side. So we have a gate with a post on either side, like before, plus another extraneous post with a matching capstone (which cost extra). It looks a bit strange, but it's not a big deal. The brickwork and the capstone look a bit wonky to me, but I don't look at it much.

The house is on hill and this slope was a apparently problem for them. They decided to put a big step in to make the back and front join up; big as in the long side of a brick. When Bill did his usual evening perusal, he asked me to see if they could sink the bricks about half way to lower the step and he suggested a place where they could make a second step if needed. I explained this to the brick layer but it didn't happen; they lowered it a bit, but not much. It did seem to me that if Bill stayed to talk with them in the morning or came home early to talk in the evening, things worked out. If I relayed the information, it got ignored.

The worst casualty, I think, was the brick wall at the back. They took it down carefully and re-used as many of the bricks as they could. Unfortunately, the brick layer didn't have the skills to maintain the slope of the wall and it looks strange. When I complained that it didn't look right, the brick layer and the foreman both told me it couldn't have been done any better because the bricks were old, etc., etc. When Bill got home the first thing he did was to put a level on it. As I understand it, the first and last principle of brick laying is that the bubble needs to be in the middle; this is not the case. I try not to look at that very much either; I'm thinking about growing some ivy over that section.

Bill paid the first half of the bill at the end of the first week, in cash. He made out a receipt for himself and had the foreman sign it; otherwise, I doubt he would have got one. Bill then expected to receive an invoice at the end of the job and to send a check for the balance, as with every other builder with whom we've done business. Turned out they wanted the balance immediately, like 5 minutes after they finished at 3pm on a Friday. The check was to be made out to their supplier so they could take it there on the way home. I wrote a slightly warm check that Bill covered via electronic transfer. Then I got a call from their office saying they were still short £50 and would I write another check. I did, but it was just another thing on the list about which I wasn't very impressed.

I took the foreman around, since he was there, and gave him my opinion about the work, ie all of the above.
Had I been paying for this job, I think I would have been way pushier and I certainly would have had something in writing to fall back on. However, the boss who bids the jobs spends 6-7 weeks at a time 'off-shore', which usually refers to work on an oil rig in the North Sea. Given that I don't normally associate brick paving and oil rigs I don't know what to think, particularly as his children go to school with one of our neighbour's children.

I rang his office today, as suggested by his secretary, to schedule an appointment with him. I want him to see the work his crew did and to see if he will put the brick walls right. Turns out he's only in the country for tomorrow and the weekend (he doesn't work weekends). She was only in the office for another 30 minutes; the office is closed until further notice, possibly even through Christmas, because there are no jobs. I don't know what to think about that. If he's not in the country he can't bid jobs; if he's not going to bid jobs, why put up a sign to advertise? I'll chase his office for a while longer -- a phone call a month isn't very hard. If worst comes to worse, I can always send him a letter with photos -- or a link to this post even.

Still, I thought I'd share all the excitement, not least the eye candy. (I'm referring to the brick paving, of course.) And there will be more to come next week!


Rick Stone said...

Here the local TV stations now have folks that intervene in these situations. Channel 4 had a segment called "In your corner" where they have a guy that does nothing but take up the peoples problems with local businesses. It appears that getting this on to TV and embarrassing the contractors on air gets a lot accomplished. Nobody likes bad publicity.

Shelley said...

I remember that show -- was the host Brad something or other? I deliberately wrote the post so that the name of the company would not come up on Google. That could always change. Will chase them a while first, though.

Rick Stone said...

Yep, Brad Edwards. He died last year from a sudden illness. A new guy has taken over for him and is just as bold when dealing with these errant contractors.