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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We were hired to install a Harken batt car system on a Manta 42'. The customer was referred to us from a local sailmaker who sold the system and was doing the sail work. Jen estimated the job at 5 hours. Now this estimate was for removing the old Tides track and installing the new system. As it turned out, we were expected to remove the full battened main and the full battened genoa and transport them to the sailmaker where we would pick up the new system.
Since the customer lives out of town we received permission to pick up the boat and bring it to our shop which is about 1/2 hour away from his marina. We did this at no charge because it is much easier and quicker for us to do this kind of work with the crane. We also did not charge to return the boat to the marina.
The work went well. The new system was installed in about four and 1/2 hours. The next morning the sails were dropped off at our shop and I asked the sailmaker if he wanted to help us to reinstall the sails. He declined so we put the sails back on the boat. This means installing all the battens, sliding all the cars on the track, resetting up the lazy jacks and reef lines and reinstalling the sail cover for the genoa. They hadn't finished with the main cover.
After returning the boat to the customers marina, Jen completed the invoice and the total came to over 14 hours what with the sail removal, transporting and reinstalling.
We cut the bill down to 8 hours and called the customer. He had a freaking cow. Not because we had taken too much time, because he admitted that he had an estimate for 8 hours from another local rigger for the same job. His beef is that the total of the invoice came out to be about twice as much as the estimate. When I pointed out that we weren't figuring in the sail removal or even bending them on again, he said that we should have known that we were going to have to do that. I pointed out that often when I work with sailmakers, they do much of that work themselves. If only to satisfy themselves that the system they sold and the sail they modified was setting properly and everything was copacetic with the installation.
After a few more harsh words and being informed that he would never use us again, I decided not to prostitute myself further and told him that I was going to be sending him an invoice for eight hours. I thought about biting the bullet and cutting the bill in half, but since he already said that he would never use us again, I figured that I may as well bill him the whole amount. Which was considerably less than what we had actually worked.

I guess that's how some people can afford 1/2 a million dollar yachts. They try to screw the little guys.

You just can't please some people.
 

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Seems to go that way doesn't it?? The more money they have the harder it is to get it out of them (perhaps that's why they have it.....)

I certainly sympathize, it must be difficult running a business and having to deal with these types of you-know-whats.

Question.. are these types the majority? Hope not....
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Question.. are these types the majority? Hope not....
No. And therein lies part of the problem. The majority, the vast majority of my customers over the last 14 years are reasonable people who understand that it is difficult at best to provide spot on estimates and who will listen, understand and recognize when they are getting a good deal and professional work performed. I have gotten spoiled from dealing with good customers who research the people they hire and are willing to take a man at his word.
I will never do work for an absentee customer again without them signing off on the estimate first.
 

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I have worked in the service industry for many, many years, and this story is more common than you'd think. Now my experience is in computer network security and audit, but the fundamentals are the same.

I will not begin any job, however small, without a signed scope of work. The scope of work (SOW) details my responsibilities, the customer's responsibilities, my hourly rate for extra work and the process for the customer approval for any extra work. Additionally, the SOW details the limitations of my responsibility, and when, as a result of safety issues, I will be unable to continue work without a further disclaimer of liability. If I am asked to perform work outside the signed SOW, I get a signature (and sometimes a check, depending upon the attitude of the customer) prior to proceeding.

In today's business climate, I do not believe any small business can risk performing work without a 2-3 page SOW.

Since you are dealing with potential issues of life safety, I would be extra careful to have the customer sign a disclaimer should they authorize work which I would not consider a "best practice".

Anyway, that's my $.02 on the matter...

Eric Read
 

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Knot

This is a tough call what would have happened if you stoped when there was the extra work to remove things that we not in the quote ?

Or how do your NORMAL jobs react when you have to do a bunch of extra work without calling ?
 

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You can please most of the people most of the time. You can't please all the people all the time.

I have learned to do the quoted work, and nothing else unless I want to do it for free. In this case the sails loft would've caught hell, but you may have jepordized your relationship with them. BEST WISHES in the next customer being a sweetheart.......i2f
 

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I would have to agree with Tommays remarks. I understand that you went out of your way to accommodate the customer and from your OP it seems in many ways. I also can recognize that from dealing with quality customers in the past as you state you would not expect this response. You should be paid for what you asked without question. Especially after you explanation.

But, being a consultant to an industry with a large service department we incorporate guidelines that help to prevent this from occurring. When ever an estimate is given the customer is informed in writing it is subject to change. They are also informed that the job will not be started until any changes have been approved. It is very common to estimate a job and then once reviewed determined the cost will increase. The problem occurs when the one paying was not informed.

From reading your post over the years Knothead I would doubt your character is one to rip someone off. But in this instance lack of communication between parties seems to be the cause of the problem.
 

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Bingo. Being a professional, you really need to get this worked out with the client (owner) and any other contractors (sailmaker) ahead of time. Then the scope signed. Owners get pissed when pro's quote them one price and when they go to pay, it magically doubles. Doesn't matter if you can justify it or not.

It once took me 1.5 hours to get a single bolt out of a transmission. Sometimes you can't see all the 'stuff' that just pops up, but I'm not going to go out of my way to wash and wax the car and expect the owner to pay for it w/o notice.
 

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Midwest Puddle Pirate
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Eric is a wise man. You should have been calling this guy and explained that the bid was for ABC and now you are expected to do XYZ, and there would be an additional cost. There's one rule of thumb that we try to live by at my shop: It's easy to get cheaper. If it's not going to be the quoted price or less, give them a call.
 

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It may not be the customer...

We were hired to install a Harken batt car system on a Manta 42'.
...
After returning the boat to the customers marina, Jen completed the invoice and the total came to over 14 hours what with the sail removal, transporting and reinstalling.
We cut the bill down to 8 hours and called the customer. He had a freaking cow. ... he admitted that he had an estimate for 8 hours from another local rigger for the same job. His beef is that the total of the invoice came out to be about twice as much as the estimate. ...
After a few more harsh words and being informed that he would never use us again, [/IMG]
First of all, good on ya for cutting the time down to 8 hrs, in an attempt to keep to your estimate. However, I can see the guy's point, in that your invoice was twice what your estimate was.

It seems to me that the sailloft that referred him to you really set you up for failure here. I would have brought the sailmaker into the discussion to see if they could help make you whole, or mediate between you and the customer.
often when I work with sailmakers, they do much of that work themselves. If only to satisfy themselves that the system they sold and the sail they modified was setting properly and everything was copacetic with the installation.
Also it is likely that this customer complained to the sailloft about your invoice, and it would be in your best effort to get the sailloft's feedback as to their feeling about who is being unreasonable.

As I see it, the sailloft either believes in the work you do because they referred this customer to you, or they know the guy is a pain, and kept their work within their scope, and stuck you with the rest.

Moving forward, I would be sure that CLEAR expectations are set between you and the sail loft, and you and the customer.

I also would have let the customer know that you will not do any work for him in the future, unless it is explicitly detailed in a Statement of Work (SOW). If it ain't in the SOW, you ain't doin it. Your time in preparing the SOW should also be included with the invoice.

Finally I would also share your observations about this customer with other marine services (reputation works BOTH ways).
 

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Hey,

I have no dog in this fight. My only comment is that if I were the customer, I would have expected you to call and say something like "hey, you the original estimate did not include sail removal, installation, etc. I am happy to do the work, but it will probably cost you X additional. Would you like me to do it?"

I don't mind when the cost of work increases, I just want to be kept informed.

Barry
 

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Your time in preparing the SOW should also be included with the invoice.
QUOTE]

I have always considered the SOW as an overhead item. It is implicitly included as part of the hourly rate. Besides, an SOW has never cost me a penny. It has only served to protect the interests of the customer and myself.

BTW: I have always used the signed SOW as a selling point. It insures the customer knows exactly what their cost is going to be and it protects me from the ugliness of presenting a bill that has been (justifiably) increased. When I present the SOW, I always infer that I only work this way so that the customer will feel comfortable when they get their final bill. Since most other service providers don't use a formal SOW, I explain that that this is the only professional way to work together, and why would they trust a vendor that doesn't detail their work in advance.

Lastly; The SOW should probably be a 90% boiler plate document, with the details of work to be performed and costs therein the only custom bullet points. If you can create such a document, the SOW really only should take an hour or so to create.

Now I'm up to my $.04 on the matter...

Eric
 

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I would have liked a phone call if the bill was to double or even tripple.
I might have called the sailmaker and ask him what was going on.
It's not about the money as much as agreements and control.
 

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In quotes I send to clients the most important part of the quote is the section were I itemize the things that are NOT included on the quote but might be an issue.
In your case the quote should have a paragraph that EXCLUDES transporting the boat, crane time, putting on sails, installing battens, etc, etc.
Now when that stuff comes up you can call the client and make a deal.
Tell you what sir I will not charge you for the crane and moving the boat cause my friend the sail-maker told me to take really good care of you because your such an important customer, but I'm afraid the boss will make me charge you at least half of the extra time if you want me to do it.

Not it's a great deal and instead of telling his friends how you tried to rip him off and charge him double he will tell them how he get over on you and got the job for less that half price because he knows people.

Same price by the way just different salesmanship.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thank you all for the good advice.
I realize that it is my procedures, or should I say lack of them that precipitated this problem. I will be addressing that. The thing is, this hasn't happened much in the past. Almost never.
This customer lives out of town and wanted the boat ready for his next trip out here. That doesn't mean that I couldn't have used email to get a written estimate signed off and in the future that's what we will do.
My wife certainly did make subsequent calls to the customer as the job went along and we realized that the sails were going to add considerably to the estimated time. She assures me that she felt as comfortable with this customer and her communications with him as she has for the thousands of customers she has dealt with in the past. She was obviously missing something. :confused:
We will be amending some of our practices in the immediate future.
Thanks again.
 

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I recently found myself in a dispute with a boat yard on work they had done. I had some rigging issues and asked the yard to adress them before lauch. They started the work but found addtional items to be addressed. When I arrived to move the boat to our slip we discussed what they found and what needed to be done to complete the work. At that time, we reviewed the additonal labor hours and estimated materials to finish the job and I approved that plan. I paid for 3 hours labor for the aborted attempt to address the problem. In my head I added 30% to the new estimate for my I expected the unexpected part. When I got the invoice it was more than double the estimate and my 30% fudge factor. It included an one and half hours to formulate a repair plan and an hour to install a temporary halyard using the messenger line I left in place. I was livid about being charged a hours labor to "formulate a plan" to do exactly the work we had discussed previously, especially when the guy had already spent 3 hours on the boat. It wasn't like he'd never had a chance to see what needed to be done. I also questioned over an hour labor to pull a halyard. That he explained required a trip back to the boat yard to get an appropriate halyard. I offered my opinion that he should have known he needed a halyard from the previous 3 hours on the boat since it was in that condition when he did the earlier work, or he should have caught in in his hour long planning session, either way, I shouldn't be billed for his sorry planning. He also did one task that we had not discussed but that I agree needed to be done. However, he did it without consulting me and it was done differently than I would have done had I been consulted. In the end, he removed the charges for the planning and pulling the halyard which brought the bill to about 150% of the original estimate. However, the damage is done and I don't know if I'll trust them with additional work in the future, which is a shame since the whole issue could have been avoided with a couple of phone calls.

In my estimation if any service work is going to run more than 30% above the estimate there ought to be some phone calls or e-mails to the owner to avoid sticker shock. In my case my preferred option for the one task would have cost more rather than less but I would have preferred that method to address the issue.
 

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I had to have a job done on my boat where I had a new timber engine box made up ( I say engine box for want of a better description, it also was the attach point for the stairs and a few switches). Anyway, the chandlers at our local marina also does timber work, we had come to know them quite well, they let me run an account at the shop and will always give free advice and try to source stuff I need.
So I got them to make the box for me, trouble was I did not get a written quote as the guy basically needed to design a new box, the old one was full of rot and he said he could not work out a costing as he needed to "play it by ear" (my words not his) to see what would work best.
I was not happy with the old design and asked him to make something better.

End result was a bill much larger then I expected, bit of a shock really, but no issue with the quality of work.
It was a bit hard as we liked the ppl and deal with them a lot, had it been a total stranger I would have insisted on a firm quote.
So sometimes not through anyone's fault you can get bills that set you back on your heels a bit.

Mychael
 

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End result was a bill much larger then I expected, bit of a shock really, but no issue with the quality of work.
It was a bit hard as we liked the ppl and deal with them a lot, had it been a total stranger I would have insisted on a firm quote.
So sometimes not through anyone's fault you can get bills that set you back on your heels a bit.

Mychael
Well, if the bill is gonna be way bigger than expected, its always nice if at least the work is at or beyond expectations. Its much harder to be mad if the result is something you are pleased with.

Unfortunately, it seems these days all to often the bill is way more than expected with no communication and the work is not as good as if you'd done it yourself.
 
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