Ridiculous Customer Stories

When you work in the home improvement industry, you get to know a lot of different types of people. Clients come from all walks of life, and they all have their own ideas about home improvement and how it should work. Most of the time, this isn’t a huge problem, because home owners will usually take professional advice when it’s offered. Sometimes, though, homeowners think they know better, and it can lead to some pretty crazy scenarios. This week, we want to hear your stories about the most ridiculous things that you have heard or seen from clients, and how you handled the situation.

Why We’re Asking:

Dealing with untrained homeowners is always an adventure. Even those who realize that a project is outside their ability to DIY will have their own ideas about how they want it done, and sometimes those ideas don’t match up with reality. Our experts have had to mitigate the space between client expectations and the real world on many occasions, and we want to know how they handled the situation–and maybe got a laugh out of it in the process.

So tell us, experts:

What’s the most ridiculous thing a client has done?

Are there any questions you wish homeowners would just Google before hiring you?
What misconceptions do your customers often have about what you do?
What are your strategies for bringing a client back to reality?
Has a client’s unrealistic expectations ever prevented you from finishing a project?

Homeowners usually mean well, but they often don’t understand the realities of home improvement. Share your favorite ridiculous customer stories in the comments below!

Experts, post your answers in the comment field below!

  • Mark Puglisi 09/16/13

    Our industry is a highly technical and regulated by about 15 different local, state and federal agencies. Most clients really don’t understand these rules and regulations that pertain to the products we use, the training that is required to obtain a license, and the amount of hours of continuing education to continue providing our services. The most frustrating part for a technician is being told what to do and how to do it.

    The level of training to be licensed technicians is very extensive and covers everything from insect biology, pesticide safety, equipment, application technique, label comprehension, MSDS, rules and regulations, and guidelines set by the Structural Pest Control Board. Many times clients want things done their way, often being a violation of the label or methods outside good business practices.

    I’ve seen homeowners do some very dangerous things with store bought pesticides. One of the worst I have seen is a homeowner had fleas inside his home, but didn’t think our method would work, so he had Chlordane (highly toxic termiticide from back in the day and now banned). Poured the full strength product into a Rug-Doctor machine and used it to clean his carpets!!!!! When using any pesticide the old saying “a little is good, so a lot must be better” does NOT apply in our business. Safety to our clients and technicians is the most important aspect to the services we offer.

  • Northeastern Exterminating 09/16/13

    The most ridiculous thing i saw a customer do is attempt to catch a mother raccoon in a attic. The price we quoted her was too high for her liking so we didnt hear a thing for a few days. Then a week later she called us begging to come remove the mother raccoon. When we entered her attic we saw a make shift raccoon trap with a mink coat, steel wire, and a laundry basket. Many homeowners dont respect the hardwork of us contractors and think we price gouge. We work hard, we have much experience and we charge the prices we do for a reason. Many of us are well seasoned, experienced individuals. We want to get paid what we are worth.

  • Sylvan Tieger 09/18/13

    A guy wanted his washing machine placed in a shower in case it should overflow and the step increased in height to act as a reservoir

    I told him it is a great way to get yourself electrocuted as the machine sat in water

  • 2 Thumbs up plumbing and remodeling 09/18/13

    In the plumbing industry we’ve seen our share of odd situations. The one I remember the most was that a client who bragged about being a good business guru. Actually broke into one of our work trucks on the job and stole our invoicing tabs. It had a few paid checks / Invoices in it. The foolish thing is that he was caught on video from the place next door. Really to this day I am confident that person has some serious issues.

  • Matthew Kettner/MLK Construction LLC 09/19/13

    The most ridiculous thing that I see in the construction industry is a client hiring a general contractor that doesn’t have the knowledge and experience to run the job efficiently. This is made repeatedly and we see it time after time. Sometimes a client decides that general contractor’s fees are too much and decides to act as their own general contractor and that normally is a bad mistake. It ends up delaying the project drastically and costs them thousands of dollars more.

    Another funny mistake that I’ve seen one of our investors make before is not comparing estimates accurately. We gave a bid for materials and labor for a project and competed against another contractor that only bid labor. Our bid was a few hundred dollars higher. The investor only looked at the dollar amount and hired the other contractor. When it was all said and done, the investor paid a lot more to get the job completed.

    • Nancy Dalton 09/20/13

      We spend a great deal of time preparing pricing that is accurate. We certainly hope clients compare apples to apples but I’m afraid that rarely happens. It’s usually lack of understanding or understanding that the term “white painted cabinets” does not constitute a specification of any type of quality level. I recently met with a potential client that was an economist. I mentioned that she should also view the work of those of us bidding to compare quality levels. Go out and see actual completed projects. She was surprised there would ever be any difference. Oh yes…. Great comments.

  • Mark Lavine @ Universal Home Improvements 09/20/13

    I had a client one time feed my guys lunch from food he was able to get from the dumpster behind the market. Yes my guys were real sick from it to. I also had a women client that wanted my guys to paint her bedroom walls and ceiling but before they did she had them take down had to be 15 nude pictures of herself from the walls. Everyday she would take a shower and would come out nude and flash my guys. I forgot to say the women was in her late 60s to early 70’s. Thank god I never saw any of it or I might have gone blind!

  • Nancy Dalton 09/20/13

    The most unbelievable situation was an old home with old 1940’s cabinets in terrible condition. The client wanted a very expensive stone countertop installed over the very bad cabinets. You can never replace the cabinets once the top is on. The second surprise was the 4 week old, very poorly done back splash was to stay in place. So the new counter was to go in below the bad new tile job. The tile then dictated the overhang of the countertop, which needed to be a different overhang in several areas due to the tile being run randomly past the cabinets. I suggested that the tile worth about 50.00 could be removed and re-done. No that was not what our client wanted.
    I always want our clients to be happy and 99 percent of the time they do listen to our professional opinion. This was not one of those times. They’re happy and I’m still shaking my head.

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