The Myth of the Reliable Contractor

I thought I saw a reliable contractor once. Turns out he was hammered. My point is this: Ever notice how most contractors are a little flaky? Doesn’t matter whether it’s the guy installing a new furnace or the dude replacing your deck or your brother-in-law’s nephew repairing your washing machine. They all seem to have the same concept of customer relations: they’re slackers. They fail to call you back, they arrive two hours late – if they keep the appointment at all –and then they leave after just 30 minutes on the job because the one critical tool is back at the shop.

Why is this? Why are most contractors so unreliable? I did some research on the dark web and stumbled across a Deep Dark Secret – That’s what it’s called: A Deep Dark Secret – the course all contractors are required to take –  and are sworn never to reveal to their clients, the homeowners.

It is an intensive seven-week seminar on how to deal with difficult customers – by which they mean, well, anyone who hires them and expects the job to be done on time on price. Of course, getting the job done RIGHT will cost you extra. Every Joe plumber, electrician, and roofer must pass the course to get their license. I went undercover to expose this scam. Unfortunately, no one bought my act as Fred the Welder. Go figure. Eventually, though, I was able to obtain an exclusive copy of the course syllabus from a disgruntled former HVAC guy.

Program Overview

Don’t take crap from just anyone. Take it from us! In Customer Relations with Annoying People – or CRAP, for short, you’ll learn everything you need to deal with pushy homeowners. You know the type: the ones who expect you to do the job WHEN and AS promised. Never again let a trivial contract keep you from blowing off that roof job and going fishing instead. Follow the key principles in this seven-week program and before long, you won’t be taking CRAP from any customer [Disclaimer: Because you may no longer have any].

Week One: The Initial Visit: Setting the Trap

Arriving on time at the initial appointment is critical to landing the gig. But don’t worry – that’s the last time you need to show up on time. You will role-play a scene from our patented “First Impressions” in which you inspire unwarranted confidence in your workmanship with vague references to previous quasi-relevant experience to create the false impression you’ve actually done this kind of work before. 

Week Two: The Estimate: Tightening the Screws

This module teaches you to turn a 15-minute job tightening a screw with a Phillips into a major demolition project requiring an excavator and a cement mixer (hiding the bodies is an upper-level course). Experience the thrill of duping customers into believing that a minor leak (which you will secretly make worse) requires taking the main level down to the studs for fear their house will collapse into a giant sinkhole. Instilling fear is key.

A panel of experts discusses how to use obscure terminology to make any everyday project sound far more laborious and costly than it should be, with phrases like, “Hmmm, I see that your Angular Discharge Tube is not feeding properly into your Compression Valve. That’s a serious a problem…” 

Week Three: Over-Promise and Under-Deliver

Master the technique of promising to complete the job in three weeks under budget, then actually delivering it in three months at double the original estimate. This session explains how to set up customer expectations, then slowly chip away at their false hope by routinely arriving late, leaving early and complaining about vital parts being on back order. Participants break into “Plausibility Groups” to compile a list of credible-sounding excuses. Want to spend the day drinking? Learn to say, “My truck wouldn’t start” with a straight face using our patented mirrors for instant feedback. Masters candidates learn how to get the client to pay for a new engine for your truck. 

Week Four: Taking on Another Project That Pays Better

A key skill for all contractors is blowing off a current customer when a better-paying gig pops up halfway through the project. Learn how to rationalize that this isn’t unprofessional. Let’s face it, you’ve got the first customer in a bind, so they can’t really drop you this far into it. Is it possible to juggle six projects at once without pissing off everyone and ruining your reputation? Of course, not, but this session teaches you how that’s really not your problem.

Week Five: Avoiding Customer Calls

Otherwise known as “PTSD: Practical Tips and Strategies for Deadbeats” – The How-To guide for avoiding customer contact when they begin to wonder if you’ve fallen off the face of the earth. Popular ploys include deleting messages without listening to them and turning off the phone for days at a time. It is crucial to avoid engaging with pesky clients asking why the kitchen light switch now sparks every time they flip the switch.

Week Six: Ignoring Complaints

If you’re a contractor, customer complaints are a given. Learn how to feign concern by promising to fix the issue without committing to any time frame. Skill-building exercises include blaming the customer for any misunderstanding and how you’d be happy to finish those previously promised repairs for an additional $1,000. We will briefly explore the ethical question, “Who says the customer is always right?” 

Week Seven: Over-Billing

This session equips you with a glossary of indecipherable construction-sounding terms to assist in padding your final bill. Easily transform a $50 service charge for shutting a valve into a $795 invoice for Pressure-Balancing the Discharge Flow to repair the Hydronic Shutoff Receptor. For an additional $49.95, you’ll go home with a three-ring binder filled with dozens of highly technical flow charts and electrical grid diagrams which have nothing to do with your actual project, easily attachable to your invoice to confuse your customer. 

After you have completed this seven-week program, you’ll be prepared to respond to any customer issue that could possibly arise – whenever you feel like getting around to it – which according to my calendar is not for another three weeks months.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

©Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2017


  • I have met a few like what you describe over the years when having work done on my house. When…
    Pat Odoms
  • Published On Feb. 14, 2018 by TEJ
  • I Have a Drinking Problem

    I have something to confess. It’s hard for me to talk about. It may even shock you. The fact is, I have a drinking problem. It’s been a struggle, but I’ve been clean and sober for the past six months. Before you congratulate me, I have another confession. I have also been clean and sober for the past 62 years and ten months. You see, technically, I don’t actually have a drinking problem. I have a not-drinking problem.

    I simply don’t drink. Never have. And that’s created many an awkward social situation my entire adult life. A lot of people have difficulty accepting this aberration – starting with my young adult daughters. In their college years, they attended many a party and chugged many a beer. “It’s what you do at college” they claim. Thus, they refuse to believe that spirits never pass over my lips. Nobody could be that much of a boring, uptight nerd, they argue, convinced I must be keeping from them deep dark secrets about my past.

    I attended a university where so many students regularly drank themselves into oblivion, that I started to wonder if it was a pre-requisite for graduation. The entry requirement at most fraternity parties was to chug a pitcher of beer upon arrival. Apparently, it was a violation of the Greek code of ethics to be on frat premises without consuming large quantities of alcohol. The only permissible exception was if you’d already passed out in the hall closet.

    Even now, when I go to a gathering, people just assume I’ll be drinking, like everyone else. The beverage selections typically are two red wines, a Zinfandel, three types of beer, vodka, bourbon, and club soda. Invariably, when I mention that I don’t drink, people assume the worst: I’m an alcoholic trying to stay on the wagon. When I clarify that it’s not that, they assume the even worster: I’m a holier-than thou Prohibitionist who looks down my nose at these sinners whose weak moral failings have led them the bottle. Excellent guesses, everybody, but no, that’s not why I don’t drink (although, yeah, drunken, two-timing Charlie over there making out with the fern is probably headed south when his number is up).

    Read More…


    • You'd enjoy Anne Fadiman's recent memoir: The Wine Lover's Daughter. The framework of the memoir is about how she just…
      Kathy Taylor
  • Published On Feb. 07, 2018 by TEJ
  • FIRE AND FURY – INSIDE THE TRUMP EARLY YEARS

    Unless you’re in a coma – or your name is Baron Trump – you’ve no doubt heard about Michael Wolff’s bombshell tell-all book, FIRE AND FURY – INSIDE THE TRUMP WHITE HOUSE. On its release day, F&F sold out in less time than it takes Donald to tweet “CNN is Fake News.”

    What you may not know is that I, too, have been hard at work writing a Trump exposé. Mine is called FIRE AND FURY – INSIDE THE TRUMP EARLY YEARS. If the title sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because Wolff copied me.

    My book describes a rich, entitled, angry, unstable, vindictive, erratic, undisciplined, lazy young child who hated to read. Thankfully for America’s sake, he eventually grew out of these ugly, infantile behaviors to become a normal, high-functioning adult.

    I interviewed dozens of childhood acquaintances, including teachers, classmates, and even his high school baseball coach. They paint a shocking picture of a deeply insecure child with a penchant for bullying, telling lies and bragging about his pee-pee size – and that’s all while he was still in the womb.

    Here is a sneak peek at the unsettling world of America’s 45th president several decades before he single-handedly (with a little help from Putin) decided to Make America Great Again.

    Donald John Trump was born in 1946 in Queens, New York City, the fourth of five children of Frederick and Mary MacLeod Trump. He came from humble beginnings, by which I mean his father was not yet a double-digit millionaire.

    When Donald was barely six years old, he mastered his first bicycle without training wheels. He boldly proclaimed to his father that no child in the history of the world had ridden without training wheels earlier than him. His dad didn’t dare tell little Donnie that tricycles didn’t come with training wheels…

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    • Did anyone ever tell Donnie that at one time, Queens was considered a shithole? I guess they climbed out of…
      mark
  • Published On Jan. 11, 2018 by TEJ
  • How to Infuriate Thousands Without Really Trying

    I will be the first person to tell you I’m far from perfect. Okay, maybe, the second person, Technically, my wife would be the first. In my six decades on this planet, I’ve said and done plenty of things that have annoyed people. In fact, my kids would argue this aspect of my personality is one of my defining character traits.

    But I’m not a bad guy. That is, I didn’t think I was – until I was informed of this fact by literally thousands of people from all over the country – in the space of a single day.

    Why is everybody so furious at me? I have no idea. Maybe it’s because I said Happy Holidays to someone instead of wishing them a Merry Christmas. Or maybe it’s because people are sick of me constantly posting videos of cute kittens doing stupid things on Facebook. (In my defense, kitten videos are simply irresistible.)

    Or maybe it’s because I recently published a book called I am So Sick of White Guys, with a cover illustration of President Trump depicted as a puppet of Russian president Putin. Yeah, that just might be what stirred the hornet’s nest. I don’t get it. It’s just a humor book, specifically a coloring book, with satirical renderings of prominent white guys like Steve Bannon, Paul Ryan, and Roy Moore, with snarky commentary about how they are misusing their power to ruin this country for the rest of us. Interestingly, according to Google Analytics, a tool that analyzes data about this blog, I lost 15 blog subscribers after they read this paragraph.

    Here’s what happened. I co-authored this book with a fellow humor writer, who I’ll call Sven Morgenstern, to protect him and his family from death threats. We wanted to highlight white male privilege in America, taking to task what we perceive to be corruption by President Trump and members of his administration. (Just checked Google Analytics again. Lost another nine subscribers with that previous sentence.)

    Read More…


    • Tim, i bought the coloring book and a couple of us are stymied by one thing: in a few…
      Shirley Freitas
  • Published On Dec. 29, 2017 by TEJ
  • Joe Biden Facing Claims of Decent Behavior

    [Washington, D.C. – December 5, 2017] Another day, another shocking conduct allegation – and this time, it targets one of the icons of American politics. Just minutes ago, the Washington Post reported that former Vice President Joe Biden has been accused of decent behavior in the presence of multiple women, and even several male colleagues in government.

    On condition of anonymity, one woman, who described herself as a former staffer, shared her ordeal. “I was alone with the Vice President in his office and he kept staring at my briefs.” Further details have emerged to substantiate her claim that he was dazzled by her body of work and how well she had written her amicus curiae legal brief about the dangers of air pollution from strip mining.

    Another female aide reportedly has a tape of Biden pushing her to expose her position – no matter how uncomfortable – on fracking without using protection.

    Still another woman was more blunt in her claims, admitting that she’d engaged in a longstanding carnal relationship with Biden, even having sex in his official residence. She later came forward and reluctantly identified herself as Dr. Jill Biden, his wife of 40 years.

    For decades, there have been whispers about Biden’s proclivity to engage in shocking acts of unsolicited civility towards attractive members of the opposite sex, as well as unattractive ones. Stories have long circulated about his tendency to avoid speaking in sexually graphic terms when around female subordinates, even in public.

    Several complaints have surfaced from people who have seen Biden put his arms around women, in what appears to be a caring embrace, usually during military funerals honoring a fallen son, killed in action. Read More…


    • You had me worried there Timothy. I was in another room when my wife read your blog and she said…
      Mark
  • Published On Dec. 03, 2017 by TEJ
  • My Sister’s Plot to Kill Me

    [This is a true story.]

    One of the following is something I have NEVER done. Can you guess?

    • Eaten oysters
    • Driven 1,300 miles with a rabbit and a parakeet
    • Gone skinny dipping
    • Jumped out of an airplane

    If you guessed, “eaten oysters” you are correct. But also a shout out to my many supportive fans who wrote in “humor writing”. Yes, I actually jumped out of an airplane. But don’t worry. Many of you will be glad to know I survived.

    Normally, I would never do something so stupid. It wasn’t even my idea. You can blame my sister for this reckless fiasco. For purposes of this story, and out of respect for my sister’s privacy, I’m going to refer to her as “Betsy” because, first, that’s her name, and second, I don’t give a rat’s ass about her privacy.

    The year was 1982. Betsy and I were both attending The Ohio State University. One day, for reasons unfathomable to me, she quipped, “Hey, let’s go skydiving!” I could only deduce she was off her meds – or perhaps she was looking for a creative way to avoid working on a term paper. I replied as any loving, older brother would – I berated her for being an idiot. But my sister can be extremely persuasive, by which I mean she questioned my masculinity. Eventually, after badgering me for what seemed like three days, but probably was closer to eleven minutes, I caved.

    Betsy discovered an outfit called Skydive Green County, in a rural community called Xenia, Ohio, where cows outnumber people 50 to 1. We dove into an intensive full-day crash-course on skydiving, which culminated in a static line jump out of a Cessna from 5,000 feet.

    At noon, the class broke for a 45-minute lunch. It took longer than expected for my Last Meal to be served, so Betsy and I arrived back 15 minutes late. I figured, we couldn’t possibly have missed anything important in that short interval. Turns out, I was mistaken – perilously so.

    After seven hours of training, the energy of these thrill-seekers was palpable – that is, of all but one. And he looked a lot like me. All I could think was, “How in the world did I let my crazy, impulsive sister corral me into doing such a daredevil act of insanity? Worse yet, I didn’t even use a 50% off Groupon!” My only consolation was that as a law student, I could one day sue my sister for wrongful death. Or maybe not.

    Read More…


    • Now did she REALLY try to kill you or did she teach you how to live?
      Rob
  • Published On Nov. 29, 2017 by TEJ
  • In Life, My Wife Got Shortchanged

    Dear Reader,

    This is a desperate plea for help. Not for me, mind you. For my wife, Michele. I don’t know how to put this delicately, but my wife suffers from VID – Vertical Impairment Disorder. She is barely 5 feet tall. And she has remained that height for as long as I’ve known her. I’m doubtful she’ll overcome her impairment any time soon. But I’m a patient husband.

    Nobody knows for sure why God chose to punish her by making her so short. Perhaps her parents stopped feeding her when she reached 4’9”. Or maybe, given that she is from Canada, where nine months of the year they live in total darkness, she didn’t get enough sunlight.

    Who knows why she is thus afflicted. I would ask her mom, who’s 5’1” or her dad, who’s 5’3”, but I doubt they can shed any light. One thing’s for sure: my wife is often overlooked – unless you look down – way down – to see her.

    My heart aches because there is nothing I can do to help her grow to a normal adult height – through no lack of trying. For a while I suggested wearing 8-inch heels, but that was a total bust. I kept falling over. Then I suggested perhaps SHE should wear the high heels. But she had this utterly silly idea about accepting the way God made her. But I would not give up. I bought her a grow light. However, the only thing that’s sprouted so far is the ficus tree. One time I surprised her with a dousing of Miracle-Gro. While it’s done wonders for our house plants (you should see the ficus now!), the only part of my wife that grew was her ire. Actually, she did seem a tad taller when she shouted in my face to turn off the hose.

    After several years of trying in vain to coax my wife to a respectable 5’5”, I concluded I was being terribly shortsighted. So, I’ve decided to accept her just the way she is. We are determined to still have a quality life together even though we may have to make a few height-restricted accommodations. For example, Michele can’t reach anything on the top kitchen shelf, so I often will stop watching TV to retrieve the fondue pot or maybe a tall vase for her. And I will do this gladly – unless the game is in overtime.

    Read More…


    • I know how crushing VID can be for the sufferer and for the family. You know my wife, and…
      Seth Greenblatt
  • Published On Nov. 16, 2017 by TEJ
  • The Seattle Seahawks’ Secret Weapon: ME

    I’m a huge NFL fan. I root for the Seattle Seahawks because I live in the greater Seattle area, so it’s the law. The Seahawks have been one of the best football teams in the NFL recently, going to the Super Bowl twice in the past four years.

    After every win, the Seahawks’ head coach Pete Carroll steps up to the microphone and gives credit to his offense, his defense, and his assistant coaches for executing a great game plan. But not once does he ever mention the team’s primary reason for their victory: ME! That’s right, I don’t like to brag about this fact – because I am one of the most modest, humble people you’ll ever meet – but I am the secret weapon in their success.

    In full disclosure, the players and coaches did play a part in last week’s victory by doing things like scoring points and keeping the other team from scoring. But week after week, season after season, Coach Carroll ignores what I believe is the single biggest factor whenever they pull out a win: I WASN’T WATCHING!

    Oh, I know what you’re thinking. I’m just another freakishly superstitious football fanatic who thinks their quirky rituals influence the outcome of the game. Like the Carolina Panthers fan Nate Bosworth, who must always sit in the exact same spot on the couch and consume exactly 8 cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer (two per quarter) to ensure his team’s win. Or like Bert Flanderson, who cheers on his Cleveland Browns by wearing his lucky shoulder pads and 42-year old Browns helmet for every game. (Bert, I hate to break it to you, buddy. It’s not working.) Or even Ethel Lembke, a rabid New Orleans Saints fan, who belts out Gloria Gaynor’s feminist anthem ‘I Will Survive’ in full Saints regalia before every game, to nudge her team to victory.

    These people, of course, are seriously delusional. Trust me, their peculiar rituals have about as much chance of affecting the game’s outcome as I have of convincing my wife to buy that Lamborghini I’ve been eyeing. But it’s a proven fact that MY viewership behavior directly influences, no, make that DICTATES the results. I became aware of my powers a few years ago, when I noticed a pattern. Whenever I’d watch my beloved Seahawks play, they’d lose – about 70% of the time. But when I didn’t watch, for any reason, they’d win in equal proportion.

    Read More…


    • Okay, Tim, so I ran a little long. The Mets weren't impressed, either, but you understand. I know you do.
      Drew Fisher
  • Published On Nov. 01, 2017 by TEJ
  • Home Cooking for Husbands Who Don’t Cook

    In our house, my wife does a lot of the cooking… okay, most of the cooking… okay, all of it. I’d gladly do more.  I don’t claim to be the world’s greatest culinary expert, but I can microwave a six-minute Stouffer’s Mac N’ Cheese like the best of them. For some inexplicable reason, though, my wife does not consider that “making dinner.” She once had the nerve to tell me toasting two frosted cinnamon pop tarts does not constitute “preparing breakfast” either. She’s so unreasonable.

    There are millions of husbands who love the challenge of preparing sophisticated haute cuisine meals using exotic ingredients like foie gras and arugula, with a side of home-made Dijon-pepper sauce. I’m just not one of them. I never grasped the appeal of laboring for an hour to prepare a lavish feast that I will scarf down in fifteen minutes, only to spend another 45 minutes cleaning up the four pots, five bowls, and nine ladles required to turn my kitchen into a disaster area.

    Hey, I can prepare a home-cooked meal every bit as well as the next husband who has never cooked one. But recently, my wife decided it would be a good thing “for our relationship” if I were to pitch in more in preparing our dinners. She presented a ridiculously lame argument about how she has been making the meals for our family for the past thirty years. I countered with a much more cogent argument about not messing with a good thing. Surprisingly, she didn’t take that as a compliment. In my defense, I handle all the clean-up after every meal. And I try extremely hard to make sure I whine about it out of ear shot of my wife.

    But my wife is no dummy – despite evidence to the contrary in the form of her decision to marry me. She had signed up for a service called Home Chef, which sends you a box filled with all the ingredients pre-measured to readily conjure up fancy meals like Salmon in Brown-Butter Tomato Relish or Sumac-Spiced Steak & Butternut Squash. Nowhere on their list of entrée options could I locate Chili Dogs with Fries. Go figure.

    Read More…


    • I would highly recommend that you stay at least a football field length from any room that contains a stove,…
      Eleanor rushworth
  • Published On Oct. 25, 2017 by TEJ
  • A Very Scary Fairy Tale – The Angry Orange Ogre

    Tim Jones: Hey kids. Wanna hear a bedtime story?

    Several young children: Yes, Mr. Tim! Please tell us a story!

    Tim: Okay, but I should warn you. It’s a scary tale!

    Johnny (age 9): I love scary stories, Mr. Tim!

    Tim: Well, if you insist. But this is a very, VERY scary story!

    Kevin (age 8): You can’t scare me, Mr. Tim!

    Tim: We’ll see about that, Kevin.

    Once upon a time there lived a mean and angry ogre called the TRUMP. The TRUMP was YUGE. He had an ugly orange face, like the scariest Jack-o’-lantern you’ve ever seen. His hair was made of golden straw. He lived in a fancy palace built of gold. And every few years, when the TRUMP tired of his latest wife slave, he would trade her in for a younger, prettier mail-order bride.

    The TRUMP was feared by all. If anyone dared speak ill of him, his orange face would turn red and his straw hair would stand on end and he would threaten to destroy them – or worse, sue them for all the pennies in their piggy bank. Oh, he was a very mean ogre!

    The TRUMP hungered for fame and power and palaces. So, one day, he declared he wanted to become ruler over the entire kingdom. He told the simple folk that their lives were miserable and that ONLY HE could make them happy again. They believed him – especially the ones living in the red villages.

    The peasants gathered throughout the land in record-breaking crowds, wearing his red cap, chanting his name and singing his praises. The TRUMP grew wild with power. He spread lies to incite his followers into hating foreigners and he warned them only to watch Fox News. Before long, all the simple folk believed that the TRUMP would MAKE THE KINGDOM GREAT AGAIN and they chose him to become their ruler.

    On the day the TRUMP took the throne, little did the simple folk know that the only creature he cared about was himself. He insisted that his servants only tell him good news about how his subjects loved him. And he banished anyone who questioned his wisdom, with these frightful words: YOU’RE FIRED!

    Read More…


    • Now you have gone to "FAR" .... covfefe
      TerryC
  • Published On Oct. 12, 2017 by TEJ