In my last post I mentioned all of the house projects we have yet to finish. That was the short list, but it pretty much covers most of what we need to do inside our home. We've focused most of our efforts on our outside so it's mostly done, but some of our fences are in dire need of attention.
While inside our house it's the kitchen that needs the attention, outside our front fence is looking very sad and neglected. Our side and back fence also needs some TLC, but our front fence has become the current priority. It is about 4' high on a small bit of red brick. It's a wooden picket-style fence and is crudely painted battle-ship grey just like our house. We want to have our exterior of our house painted soon, the battle-ship grey is just not our style.
So this fence is quite rickety and full of holes from a beetle infestation about 10-15 years ago. When I say "crudely painted," I mean just that. I was obviously spray painted in a quick rush in an effort to put on a cheap face-lift before we bought the house. We cut back the plants that were doing poorly and found that there is no paint on the fence where those plants once grew large (or looked largely dead).
We got a good deal on the house knowing full well it needed work, so that's not the issue. It's that it's taking us a long time to get it all done.
We've had several contractors give us quotes on the fence and many of the quotes were reasonable, but we weren't very happy with what they wanted to do. One guy wouldn't build the fence unless we let him demolish and take away all the brick, for a hefty fee. Over the years Dave and I have come up with a pretty good idea of what we wanted, it's just trying to find the time to do it or find the right people to hire.
A couple of months ago two men came to the front door. They looked like Mormons, and I thought they were from the Church just coming to say hello (that happens from time to time, as I am Mormon). It turns out they were from a new contracting firm from Sacramento (Quality First Home Improvement) that just started branching out to do work in San Jose. They said they were doing work on our neighbor's house up the street and asked if we had any work they might be able to do. I mentioned the fence and they took my number promising to call. I told them they would have to call after 7pm or on weekends so they could talk to Dave since Dave would be making the financial decision regarding this job. They tried to get me to agree to have them look around our whole house to give us quotes on other projects (like painting the house, which I mentioned we needed done) and I said no, that we would start with the fence. They took awhile to leave, so long that my neighbor across the street called to ask if I was okay and if I needed help getting rid of them. He thought they were J-dubs (Jehovah's Witnesses).
A little over a month went by and we never heard from them. I started getting concerned that they were pulling some sort of scam and were trying to get information from me for who knows what purpose. Eventually we got a call and I made an appointment for them to come and give us a quote. Dave left work early to make that appointment and we canceled other plans to be here. Nobody came, nobody called. We wrote them off. Two weeks later they called again and pretended that they never spoke with me or missed that appointment. Being the peaceful type, I pretended not to be annoyed and decided to give them another chance. I made another appointment, and that appointment was kept by a man we'll call FJ (in an effort to protect the innocent who may share the same name). He was nice enough and seemed interested in knowing what we wanted. He also recommended that I attend a church he and his wife found because another couple or two at his church recently had twins. I have a church, thanks. There are twins at my church, too.
Another week or two pass and in the meantime the main office of this construction firm calls again, several times actually, and seemed to fail to know that FJ had already been out here. I told them that we were just waiting for the numbers. I told them that I did have a message on our machine from the night before from FJ saying he had worked through the numbers for us and had some photos for us. We made another appointment for FJ to call and give us a quote. Again, Dave came home from work early and we waited and waited. Again, nobody came and nobody called. Not long after that, FJ called again and wanted to come out later that week. I didn't want to tell him we'd be in Mexico, I just said it wasn't a good time and that we would see him the following week.
The following week at about 5pm (him knowing full-well that Dave doesn't come home until around 7) FJ called and left another message for Dave. It said, "I've got some pictures put together for you... give me a buzz when you get this... I had this stuff last week but your wife thought it would be better to meet this week and I have some time this evening so I thought maybe I'd swing by..." The way he said, "but your wife" irritated me. It just seemed to imply that I was standing in the way between Dave and this guy. Dave happened to be out of town again for a business trip but I told Dave to call him as soon as he got home. Dave didn't. Oh well.
So, nearly every day for the last 2 weeks Quality First has been calling us about 3-5 times each day. Dave spoke to them once and said he wanted to make an appointment and they promised to call back with a date, but they called back and seemed to forget that we were waiting for that appointment. Sometimes I would answer the phone, but I always told them that they had to call after 7 to reach Dave. Sometimes I would answer the phone and the person on the other end was too busy in a conversation with his coworker to notice that I had picked up and was saying hello. After awhile, I got so sick of them I let the calls go through to the machine, but they never left messages. They called in the afternoon, mainly, and disturbed many naps - naps that I really needed, or disturbed my contraction counting.
The other day I answered and it was actually the manager, or so he said. So, I told him very calmly about the 2 appointments that had been missed already and about the incessant phone calls. I informed him that I was pregnant with twins and under strict doctor's orders to rest up and that those many phone calls were disturbing me. I told him, still very calmly, that I don't mind the occasional phone call, but it would serve his company well to leave messages when they got the machine instead of hanging up and calling back several times. I also reminded him that Dave is the one they need to talk to and that they'd never reach him before 7pm (I was not about to give these guys his work or cell number). He apologized and said that he would make an appointment that would definitely be kept. I decided to give them, yet, another chance so I made that appointment and it was for last night.
Dave came home early and I started dinner. FJ came on time and brought a younger colleague. It seemed like he was showing the younger man the "ropes" in this company and sort of showing off, as well. We invited them in and the younger man was very nice and cordial, but FJ was loud and invasive, though also nice. I went back into the kitchen to tend to dinner while I overheard the two men giving Dave a very boring 20-minute spiel about why we should hire Quality First. This set my guard up, just as I'm sure it did with Dave. We don't like the hard-sell approach and that's what it sounded like we were about to get. I went and sat with them and looked at some pictures. FJ seemed to ignore my request for a simple lattice-style fence and instead wanted to focus on a very nice custom fence. Dave pointed out another fence that I rejected because of the 3" gaps between slats. FJ tried to put words in my mouth saying I wanted privacy. I tried to correct him, but I couldn't get a word in edgewise. I did mention that the custom fence would give us better protection from our next-door neighbor's pests (they don't tend to their garden) and would also probably look better along that edge, since we were considering putting the same type of a fence in the section separating our properties.
FJ then gave us a verbal quote for the custom fence, verbally adding up the figures for each element, leading us to a total of approximately $8,500 for a small fence. We had our side fence redone a few years ago for under $2,000 and it was a much bigger project. Dave balked at it and told him we'd go no higher than $2,500. So FJ said he'd sell us a simple fence for $2,500. I tried to say that if we were going to change our design intentions then we'd need to shop around before making a decision, and keeping to form, FJ cut me off. I asked how much a simple lattice fence would be. He said I didn't want a lattice fence because I said I didn't want to see the neighbors (I never said that). I told him that all along I wanted a lattice fence and that was the style we requested a quote for some weeks back the first time he came over.
He turned back to Dave and ignored me again, trying to get Dave to commit to paying $2,500 for a plain fence. Dave told him we were making no decisions tonight. FJ complained that he had more important clients he could be with and that he made 2 special trips to see us (plus one trip he made unbeknownst to us to come over and take measurements while we weren't home - I didn't like that at all). Dave said to him that if he didn't want to wait for us to make a decision then he could leave right now, that we were through. FJ tried to get Dave to reconsider and reconcile and hopefully listen to his offer. Dave agreed to listen to his offer. FJ offered to do the custom fence for $3,700 if we agreed to it right then and there. Dave again tried to explain that we weren't going to agree to anything under pressure or at the spur of the moment, that we needed time to think it over. FJ again complained that he was taking precious time to meet with us and that he'd not give us that offer again nor make another trip to see us.
I asked if I could say something and FJ so generously obliged me, for about thirty seconds. I tried to explain that while he was telling us his time is valuable, and he so eagerly and loudly agreed, I said that so was ours and that we had made... he interrupted me and didn't listen to me explain how we had made 2 appointments that weren't kept. I complained about the incessant phone calls and he said he only called us once (I know he called us 2-3 times personally, which he denied). I tried to show him the amount of Quality First calls on our caller ID but he seemed to be of the impression that his actions and Quality First's actions were independent. Fair enough, but isn't he a representative of Quality First? If he is with Quality First, then FJ should be culpable for their faults, just as they are culpable for FJ's faults.
FJ refused to listen to me and instead argued with me. I lost it. I had remained calm up until that point but I can't stand it when people use interruption as a method of argument and won't be reasonable. He was not worth it. I stood up, pointed at the door and shouted, "Get out! Now! Leave!" The looks on Dave's, FJ, and young guy's faces were not to be missed. It was funny. FJ got his stuff together so fast I couldn't believe it. On his way out the door he said something about "the twins" and "a couple of screamers there" and Dave and I are being kind by thinking he said, "good luck with the twins" (I said thanks!). Dave says the screamers comment was about us, but I suspect he may have wished for our babies to be screamers. I don't know and I don't care. I was just glad he left.
The young guy with him looked so astonished. Dave and I guessed that the young guy was there to watch FJ pull some magic sales techniques. I just felt like I was dealing with an Amway salesman and those techniques don't work on Dave or me.
After they left Dave and I hugged and laughed and I felt surprisingly calm.