"Don't paint the door," I said.

Posted May 3, 2014


Red everywhere

"It's the wrong color of red," I said. The three men, who I was paying but hadn't agreed to hire as a group, were about to spray paint the door. They argued with me.

"It is the same color," they said.

"No, it isn't," I said.

One of them said, strongly, "We don't take orders from you. We take orders from J----. He's the one who pays us."

I thought, silently,
Who do you think pays your boss so he can pay you? And anyway, I'm the Project Manager on this renovation. He takes orders from me. He doesn't overrule me.

They called their boss, the man I did hire originally, and he told them to leave. It was 1:30 on Thursday.

Their boss showed up at 4:30 and said one of the men will return the next day to mud and stomp the kitchen ceiling. I paid for all the man-hours worked up to 1:30 plus an additional 8 hours for the kitchen work on Friday.

When I returned to the house on the weekend I was stunned to discover the storm door was painted a garish red, different from the toned-down red I used on the porch light and mailbox. The empty spray paint cans used were Flaming Red. The one I used was Regal Red.

The door was one of the last things that I wanted to be done on the house. It was not a priority on my project sequence list. Getting the bathroom drywall and plumbing done, and kitchen cabinets, plumbing and countertops were my priority.

But the worst of it was the red spray everywhere: on the floor, on the newly sanded and primed walls, on my box fans, on my clean, beige utility table, on my coffeemaker (coffee for the workers) and on my white, three-drawer, plastic file cabinet. The floor would be covered by new flooring later, but the walls are a different matter. Red is difficult to cover, and I would have to prime the walls again, which requires more time and more paint.

There's more.

Ten feet from the red painted door was a huge piece of vinyl sheeting crumpled up. Why wasn't this used as a drop cloth to confine the spray? Why wasn't the spraying done outside on the ground instead of the living room?

drop cloth


Then I noticed the painter had, with his red fingers, touched the newly mudded and primed kitchen walls in about 20 places, leaving red finger prints. These walls too, would have to be primed again.

I realized then that this was
sabotage... payback for my telling 4 much younger men not to paint the door, not to use the wrong color. This was their immature way of telling me, a woman with a design background, that they didn't have to take orders from a woman.

On Monday morning, I was stunned to see the three men showed up for work! I told them to leave, that I couldn't afford to pay for 4 men, only one. They had been costing me money with their make-work projects like landscaping when, for me, that was budgeted for two to three months down the road. Maybe, if there was any money left.

My Canadian politeness kept me from telling them I was disgusted by their behavior. It's my nature to help others save face. Perhaps that was wrong of me not to say how I felt. Perhaps it was to protect myself from further intimidation by them. Two of the four men were a foot taller than I, they were all stronger than I, they all carried guns, I had witnessed one of the men lose his temper and rage at the other men. And I was outnumbered, four to one.

Then, within an hour they were back to load up all the materials, equipment and tools they had stored in the house. What I realized by this is that their boss, the solo man I originally hired, was also quitting!

That's when I realized I was simply a money source for his unemployed pals. This wasn't a company who cared about their client's priorities; this was a company whose intention was to milk an older woman - a smart, kind woman - out of as much money as possible.

All four are gone now and I've received no apology. While a lot of their work was done well, they did a lot of work that I felt was unnecessary. I also felt they had no concerns for my budget limitations.

I'm wiser now, less trusting, and will find one person at a time to assist me with the work (electric, plumbing, drywall) that I'm unaccustomed and unqualified to do. I will do the painting, which I enjoy. And which, by the way, I was doing professionally before these men were born.


Post script: Today (5-22-14) a different carpenter remarked that this act was intentional vandalism. I think so, too. What do you think?

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Why do I post my experiences? It's not to vent so much as it is to teach professionals what is acceptable and what is not. I want future clients to be aware that not all people they hire have maturity and integrity.... and to stay away from this kind of "professional."

For a list of proper behavior, have a look at my own
Code of Conduct on this site.