I was talking with my elderly aunt yesterday about what she had paid to have a tree in her backyard cut down and hauled off.
The fly-by-nighter tree surgeons she got to do the job charged her $800 for what would have taken my cousin (her son) and I about 1/2 a day’s time and labor to resolve. I’ve seen this happen to folks, particularly the elderly, over and over again.
Here are five tips to keep you relatively safe when contracting for any kind of service for your home, car, computer, etc.
1. Ask for help.
When you realize that something is beyond your ability to resolve and you’ll be needing assistance of some sort, the first thing you want to do is ask friends and family members (people you trust) if they or someone they know has the means to help you with your problem.
Often, as was the case with my aunt, someone near to you will have the tools, skills, knowledge, etc. to resolve your issue in a much more inexpensive manner than would be dealing with a “pro”. Don’t feel comfortable asking for favors? Fine. Offer to compensate in some way… barter, dinner, Walmart gift card, etc.
2. Get multiple estimates.
If you do have to go the professional route, make sure that you call at least three sources and request detailed written estimates for the services that they will be providing in the event that you choose them to take care of your issue.
You can use referral lists like Angie’s List to find reputable service folks. If their field of endeavor requires licensing with local or State authorities, you can also contact those authorities to do a background check on the licensed company you’re considering.
3. Make sure you posterior is covered (particularly with home repairs).
Never… let me repeat that… NEVER pay a contractor up front. Also, NEVER let a contractor sucker you into paying “for materials” upfront. A legitimate contractor will have the means to finance your job with his own funds.
Always… repeating here again… ALWAYS ask for a copy of all pertinent bonding and insurance documents, licenses, building permits, etc. And most importantly, do NOT pay one penny to any contractor (this is in regards to work on your home) until he has provided you with a final lien release.
4. Don’t tempt anyone.
When a serviceman has been chosen and is about to begin the work you requested, make sure you don’t put temptation in their path.
Don’t leave valuables in your automobile when you take it in for service. Don’t leave valuables in plain sight in your home when a service person or crew is present.
If you’re elderly and live alone, try to have a friend, family member, or neighbor present when the workers are in your home. It doesn’t hurt to be safe.
5. And lastly, pay promptly!
These folks are out there trying to earn a living. Even if it’s a large company providing your service. The cash flow provided by prompt payments helps the company pay its employees and vendors in a timely manner also.
Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to provide feedback (+ or -) to the appropriate folks. In other words, if Bob was particularly nice and amenable when in your home fixing your leaking toilet, don’t be shy about calling Bob’s boss and letting him/her know what a great asset the company has with Bob on their team. Same goes if Bob was an ass… call and tell the boss about that, too.
Image credits: clipart courtesy of http://www.clker.com