July 26, 2009 by David Gillaspie
Here at DG’s B&B we do things by hand. Paint with a brush instead of a spray system, water the flowers with a hose. One visitor wanted to change that.
“I’m an irrigation man, a water man, but not a plumber. I do my own plumbing, but I can’t do yours. Plumbers and irrigation men have restrictions on their license to stay out of each other’s way.
You need a system here. I walked around your property and I’ll tell you what you need: a six zone system with drip on the side.”
I showed him how I watered, pointing to the hose and the faucet.
“It’s not a faucet, those are in the house. Outside it’s a hose bib. That’s not enough. The system I install covers every inch of ground without hitting the pathways or street. It is scientific.”
He pulled out an album of work he’d done.
“I gravel the base of the utility holes for a clean look. See this one? I used crushed obsidian. Shine a light in there and it looks like black diamonds. Yours is the sort of place that needs this. You might be a guy interested in the irrigation business. Am I right?”
The man pushed up on me Euro-close, which is fine if he’s from Europe, too close if he’s not.
“It makes a difference in the value of your property, but doing irrigation systems is money in the bank. Listen, can you hear me. I’m going to tell you something few ever hear. I can turn a five hundred dollar valve job into a four thousand dollar overhaul. It’s easy with the right client.
See, I specialize in elderly homeowners. Once you start with them you just keep going. They are too polite to shut me down. Before they know it they write a big check and I’m on my way.
A man like you called me with an emergency. I told him up front that my emergency rates are time and half, and he still agreed. He wasn’t even old. For a hundred and eighty an hour I worked a shovel while he stood there. He didn’t say anything so I kept chipping dirt around his leaky valve.
Turns out it was a plumbing problem, but I got him to agree to replace his back flow. Most people wake up after I’m gone with a case of sprinkler remorse. I cashed his nine hundred dollar check, stopped by city hall for a back flow permit. When he called to cancel I took him to court.”
The ‘ick’ factor grew stronger by the minute. I put my hand in my back pocket and gripped my wallet.
“You’ll like this. I pay forty two dollars for a permit, and then tag him for five hundred in court. See, I’m a contractor. In my business a verbal agreement for work is as valid as a written agreement. Boom, cash in hand. The judge finds for me and I’m whistling out the door.
But this guy had a little more going for him. I always get my money. If I’m happy, it’s all good. If I’m not, then I can work a client’s credit report. Even though they paid they get a little reminder of who they were dealing with. But his guy knew to file a ‘Settlement of debt’ paper with the court.
He sent it to me to sign, which I never do. I may want to come back on some folks. His trick, which must have come from a lawyer, was to write on the back of the check “Endorsement of check signifies full and complete payment for court case, etc.” Then he filed a copy with the court. Smart move on his part.
Who is the true businessman though, a smart guy with a lawyer, or me. I got paid thirteen hundred dollars to not replace a sixty cent elbow in his main water pipe. He paid a plumber another four hundred. It’s the license thing again. I could have done it, but it would have been unethical.”
I thanked him for his time, but he wasn’t finished.
“The best part of taking people to court is the look on their faces when they lose. Then I ask them right outside the courtroom door if they want to write me a check. They grind their teeth on that. One old lady started shaking so bad I thought she might fall apart. That was a bonus.”
Out of curiosity I called his state board. Over twenty complaints from customers and he’s still licensed. I might be a hoser, but it beats dealing with a licensed crook.