if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it (and if it is broke, find someone competent to fix it)

I’m of the mindset of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”; “Leave well enough alone”; “Don’t upset the apple cart”; and all those other fine words of caution. Nothing upsets me more (other than illness or injury to a loved one) than having something break in the home or car. I detest having to make the call to the contractor, plumber, electrician, auto mechanic, or whomever. It fills me with anxiety beyond belief. Maybe it’s the expense, but the larger part is the feeling of something in my world has gone wrong and I do not know how to make it better. (Yeah, I’m a bit of a control freak.) I also don’t like the feeling of being taken advantage of, and I absolutely despise the feeling of having to pay someone to do a job that turns out to be something I could probably have done about as well. At least if I’d done the work and it turned out to be mediocre, I’d have no one to blame but myself.

Last week I contacted a contractor who is the next-door neighbor of a good friend of mine. His company has done a lot of work on her house, and it’s good work, too, from what I can tell. Believe you me, I’ve watched enough home-repair shows to know what’s good and what’s not. So, I had little apprehension hiring this guy for a simple R&R–removal and replacement–of a bathroom vanity top and faucet, plus any patching and painting of the exposed wall where the previous top had been. I went with him over the big-box home-improvement warehouse subcontractor who would do the job literally for twice as much.

We worked out a cash arrangement, and my friend’s neighbor’s worker showed up at my door (an hour late, I may add) on Tuesday. He got right to work but had to leave and return several times to allow the patch job on the wall to dry. He seemed a bit overwhelmed at times and I got the impression that he wasn’t the right man for the job early into the project.

In fact, I learned soon after he arrived that this was just his second job for this contractor, and that it was a type of trial run, a probation period. In other words, I didn’t get one of the workers who’d transformed my friend’s kitchen into the showplace that it became. I got a newby whose work had barely been tested. I thought that should have been told to me upfront. I would have gone with a noncash, regular-employee setup–or, more likely, the home-improvement store’s subcontractor even at twice the price.

After I had paid this guy (which he split with the boss, he told me), I noticed some problems with the plumbing job. There was moisture coming out of the trap and the left handle of the rather expensive faucet I’d bought could be turned 360 degrees. Not good. I called him last night and he was planning to call the faucet company and find out what he should do. (Huh? Not exactly professional. I thought he should know how to repair that.) Did I mention that he brought his daughter to my house yesterday? A baby of 11 months. She’s an adorable girl, but he decided to bring her with him when his babysitter fell through. Had he not brought her with him, he would not have been able to finish the job, he said (this was before the faucet problem was noticed).

I read online that he spinning faucet problem can occur if the handle stop–typically a piece of plastc–is broken off during installation. Or it could just be a matter of the installer not tightening the valve properly. Either way, this worker didn’t know off the bat how to rectify the situation. He is now, if I can believe him, getting in touch with the faucet manufacturer, who is supposed to help him troubleshoot the situation.

But it is past the time I was supposed to hear back. I feel I should call the boss and make him aware of the situation. The boss, who’d come by three times on Tuesday to check this guy’s work, never followed up with me to see if I was satisfied, and he never came when the job was “done.”  The worker he hired might have broken a brand-new, expensive faucet, which will mean a delay to replace or fix it. That’s our main bathroom, so a delay will be a hassle for us. This was supposed to be a two-hour job. It’s turned into a three-day job, and it’s not over yet.

I may eventually need to go to the home improvement store where I bought the faucet to have it replaced. Had I just hired the subcontractor from the store, I would have been able to deal with this more efficiently. That person would have been responsible for replacing the faucet, not me. And the store would probably want to do right by me and give me some kind of incentive to use their installation services again. I guess this is not a case of “if it’s broke, don’t fix it,” but rather “you get what you pay for.”

I’ve learned my lesson well.

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