Sunday, July 28, 2019

That time I got ghosted by some shoddy painters

"Ghosting" is a dating term referring to the case where one party in the relationship simply disappears with no word to the other.  They never officially break up but instead just stop answering calls and texts.  This week, I got ghosted by some shoddy painters.  Being ghosted in a romantic relationship must be extremely painful and frustrating, but actually, being ghosted by my painters was the least painful and frustrating part of this experience and probably the best outcome for me.

After my recent window and door installation, I had needed some paint touch-ups inside, and I realized that the exterior frames around the windows on the west side of the house were chipping pretty badly.  I didn't want to spend days on a ladder scraping lead paint off my window frames, so I decided to hire a painter.  I found a guy (Mark St. John from DunnRite Painting, Inc. Lic #723044) with a lead-safe certification and experience working on other old houses in this neighborhood and good reviews on Yelp.  When he came by to give me a quote, he seemed really competent and knowledgeable, and I felt good about it, so I hired him.

I waited for about 6 weeks for him to get finished with other jobs, and during that time, communication wasn't great.  I finally heard from him around 2pm on a Sunday saying they were ready to start work the following day.  I asked what time they would be arriving, and he didn't respond to my message until 7pm that evening, saying that they would be starting at 7am the next morning.  Great, thanks for the warning. <eye roll>

He arrived with his crew, went over the work to be done, and then he left, leaving just his crew to do the work.  He did not give me a written contract. I was stupid and didn't realize this or think about it until later, but actually, this probably worked in my favor in the end.

Right away, I wasn't super confident in the work the crew was doing.  They were getting dust everywhere and weren't even wearing simple dust masks (so much for lead-safe practices), they didn't take down the door I'd asked them to strip and paint but were instead just kind of scraping away at it as it was flopping around on its hinges.  They didn't strip or fully scrape off the chipping paint, and I didn't realize what was going on until they had instead filled in the cracks between the chipping paint with wood filler and then primed over it.

After they left for the day, I inspected the work more carefully and decided that I was NOT satisfied and that I needed to say something about it.  I texted the boss saying I wasn't happy and sent him some photos, asking him to come over the following morning to go over the work and discuss a solution.
They primed over still-chipping paint.

Forgot to do the side of the trim.

Used wood filler to conceal chipping paint.
All-around sloppy job on the door I asked them to strip.

My full list of complaints, which I ultimately sent to the boss later, was as follows:
  • Failure to adequately scrape or otherwise remove existing paint from surfaces, instead doing only minimal scraping and some sanding and then priming over surfaces that still had chipping paint and applying wood filler to conceal chipping paint
  • Failure to adequately control sanding dust inside the house when working outside by closing the windows or applying plastic covers to the insides of the windows when they needed to remain open
  • Failure to adequately cover floors and furniture inside when working inside
  • Failure to vacuum or adequately wipe dust from surfaces prior to painting
  • Using a shellac-based interior-rated primer on large exterior surfaces
  • Reluctance to remove door hardware prior to painting
  • Painting portions of the kitchen window trim that were not requested and without first preparing surfaces
  • Applying paint in the bathroom that was lumpy
  • Neglecting details, such as the edges of the exterior trim

This all made me very nervous because I absolutely hate having confrontations with people, and I knew this was going to be very awkward. Plus, I just felt really dumb for having made the mistake of hiring these people and not stopping them sooner in the day.  I felt that my home, my personal space, had been really violated and damaged.  So, I waited nervously all that evening and didn't get a response.  I sent an e-mail with the same photos and info as the text.  Nothing.

The next morning, nobody showed up at 7 like they said they would.  Around 8:30, one of the crew guys showed up and said he was just there to collect his stuff and that somebody else would be finishing the job.  I still had heard nothing from the boss.  I texted the boss saying that the guy had come and gone and asked what was going on.  Nothing.  Hours later, he wrote back and said "I'm not sure let me check".  Never heard from him again.

That evening, I e-mailed him to officially let him know he was fired, to give him my list of complaints (above), and to tell him that I was not going to pay him anything.  This is where it was to my advantage to not have an official contract because he would have no grounds to take me to court over this if he wanted to.

My guess is he figured that it was cheaper and easier for him to cut his losses for a day's labor and just disappear rather than come back and fix the mess the guys made. That's okay.  Good riddance.  I don't want any of his guys in my house again. now I need to hire another painter to not only do the job but to also undo the damage the other guys did.  Violated and's been a great week.

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