Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I Made a Contractor Cry Today

I'm not sure how it happened, but my window installer started balling in my bedroom today.  For a year and a half, I had been trying to get him to replace faulty jamb liners in the windows he installed.  He simply dropped the ball (for a very long time) and after I complained to the contracting license board, five days later he was at my front door.

It's not like he disagreed with me.  He told me a year and a half ago that he no longer uses my jamb liners and that he would replace mine with ones that worked.  Unfortunately, it took a formal complaint to get him to do what he promised. 

I have to admit when I saw him at my door, my blood was boiling.  He came over to measure so he could fix the problem but I just had to know...Why didn't you respond to my calls or e-mails for the past year?  Of course he couldn't answer. We went at it for about 10 minutes. It ended with him saying, "I draw the line.  You're insulting my child."  I'm not sure where that one came from but I realized then and there that my jamb liners and me were not the reason he didn't respond.  There was something else going on.

I found out that he was overwhelmed with personal issues-- a sick baby, his dad had to leave the country to have surgery, he felt anxious about his dual responsibilities managing his install business plus his dad's window shop, being a new father...  It all compounded and the client with the crappy jamb liners is one of many balls (I would assume) that was dropped.

As he told me about his feelings, he started crying.  I told him  I was sorry I got so upset and that it was OK.  We could start over now.  I understand that in the scheme of life, windows are just windows and that what really matters in life is people.  He said he understood why I was so upset and that he would have been upset too.  We both promised each other a clean slate.  I told him that everybody makes mistakes and that it's important to learn from them.  I told him that if life overwhelms him again, he should pick up the phone and be honest with his customers.  I think he understood and we made up with a hand shake.

In the end, the whole experience reminded me that the business of remodeling homes involves people.  People have other lives outside your remodel project.  They have illnesses to cope with; they have work and family lives to balance; they have problems finding answers; they have "to do lists" that go unchecked. They're just people.

It also reminded me of how important communication is.  No one is perfect.  No one gets it all done perfectly every time, but when you're in the service business it's important to be honest and to tell people what's going on.  Even if it's not the answer they want to hear honesty is always the best policy.

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