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


Most of the time, home owners who turn to professionals understand what the professional is there to do: ensure that the job is finished correctly, safely, and on budget. Sometimes, though, you come across a home owner who thinks he or she knows best how the job should be done, and just won’t listen to common sense. It seems like all home improvement professionals have stories about this kind of client, which is why last week we asked our experts to share their favorite ridiculous customer stories.

We noticed when reading these stories that they tended to fit into three basic groups. We hope that by collecting these stories here, we can help homeowners and professionals alike avoid these situations, even if they are sometimes worth a good laugh! Here are some of the most ridiculous things home improvement customers can do:

Cost Themselves Money

All too often, homeowners think home professionals are only thinking about their own bottom line, and out to price-gouge their customers. This couldn’t be further from the truth, of course, and suspicious, penny-pinching customers can often end up costing themselves more money when they don’t listen to the professionals. For example, expert Matthew Kettner says that homeowners often price-shop without considering the full picture:

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.”

Knowing what you’re paying is only half the battle–you have to also know what you’re paying for! Make sure you know what the contractor is including in their price estimates, or you could end up spending a lot more money than you meant to.

Similarly, if your expert is recommending that you approach a project differently than you originally planned to, usually there is a reason for it. Expert Nancy Dalton recalls one such occasion:

The most unbelievable situation was an old home with old 1940’s cabinets in terrible condition. The client wanted a very expensive stone counter top 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 that 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 counter top, 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.”

Home improvement experts want to give their clients what they ask for, but sometimes what you’re asking for isn’t the most practical or cost-effective solution. In this case, Nancy gave the homeowner what they wanted, but in the end it is going to cost them more, because those cabinets are going to need to be replaced long before the counter top is! Remember: the professionals are on your side, and it would benefit you to listen to their advice.

Compromise Their Own Safety

Of course, money isn’t the only thing at risk when homeowners don’t listen to the professionals and try to do things their own way. Extermination expert Mark Puglisi recounts one such occasion:

One of the worst I have seen is a homeowner who 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). He poured the full strength product into a Rug-Doctor machine and used it to clean his carpets!!!!!”

Obviously, this is an incredibly dangerous thing to do, and pesticide should never be used in such high concentrations. This is why extermination professionals exist–they know how to remove pests safely and effectively, and are aware of dangers you might not even consider.

Extermination experts Northeastern Exterminating have a similar story:

The most ridiculous thing I saw a customer do is attempt to catch a mother raccoon in an attic. The price we quoted her was too high for her liking, so we didn’t hear a thing for a few days. Then a week later she called us begging us 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.”

Home services cost money for a reason: these jobs are difficult, and often involved a lot of elements you may not think about. In this case, DIY wasn’t just a poor strategy–it was a dangerous one. Luckily the woman came to her senses and called in the professionals!

And it’s not just extermination that you should be wary of. Expert Sylvan Tieger offers up a similar story from his plumbing business:

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.”

What might seem like a great idea or innovation to a homeowner will often turn out to be an incredibly dangerous situation, and experts are paid to have the foresight to keep everybody safe. In general, though, if you’re considering mixing electricity and water, don’t. Leave the plumbing to the professionals and don’t question their judgement.

Harm the Professional

Unfortunately, sometimes the ignorance or poor judgement of a customer doesn’t just hurt them: it can also hurt the professionals they hire. Expert plumbers 2 Thumbs Up recall one such client:

The one I remember the most was a client who bragged about being a good business guru. He actually broke into one of our work trucks on the job and stole our invoicing tabs, which had a few paid checks / invoices in it. The foolish thing is that he was caught on video from the place next door.”

Needless to say, unscrupulous homeowners are a job hazard for most home improvement professionals, which means they usually have strategies for deal with them in place. In this case, the homeowner should have paid closer attention to the security cameras–or just kept his hands to himself and not tried to steal from the people who were helping him!

Sometimes, even seemingly generous gestures from homeowners can be risky or lead to harm for the professional. Expert Mark Lavine tells us about one such occasion:

“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, too.”

As a general rule, food in dumpsters is not safe to offer to others! If you want to risk making yourself sick that’s your business, but don’t put other people at risk, too.

image source: Whiskeygonebad