It’s no secret that when it comes to hiring contractors, I have the world’s worst judgment. My friends even have told me that if they ever can’t decide whether or not to hire a guy, they’ll send him over to me. If I like him, then they’ll definitely hire someone else.
I can’t blame them for thinking that way. Take, for example, when I hired a contractor to build my house. The first guy managed to get the land cleared, then fell off his tractor and injured himself and couldn’t continue. The guy I hired to replace him started off fine, then began to show up only an hour a week, if that. And the third one quit after I told him I wanted a broom closet in the laundry room and he argued with me that I didn’t need one.
Then there was the guy I hired to paint my front porch and back deck. He asked for a $200 deposit so he could buy the paint. I never heard from him again.
So, understandably, when not one, but two huge tree limbs flattened my chain-link fence a few weeks ago, I nearly suffered a panic attack…because I knew I would have to hire a contractor to repair it.
The first fence company I called was a well-known one. The employee quickly arrived to assess the damage. He determined I’d need a little over 30 feet of fencing. The cost for materials would be $315 and the labor would be over $100 per hour. He also wanted $300 in advance.
An attorney once told me that with my past experience, I’d probably be wise never to give a down payment to any contractor again.
“If the business is a reputable one,” he said, “then they shouldn’t need any money up front to buy materials. They already should have established solid credit somewhere, like a hardware or home-improvement store.”
So I dug out an old phone book and looked for another fencing company. The first one that caught my eye, mainly because it started with the letter “A,” was A&C Fencing in Epsom, only a few miles from my house. I decided to call.
Tim, the person I spoke with on the phone, came right over, probably because I told him I needed the fence to keep the wild animals out and my two dogs in. The first thing he said to me was, “Whether you hire me or not, I think I should do some temporary repairs on your fence, just to make sure your dogs will be safe.”
Immediately, I was impressed.
Another thing he did was check the entire fence, not just the areas the tree limbs had crushed. He noticed where my dogs had chewed through the links. He noticed that two of the gates were lopsided. He noticed that most of the wires that were supposed to be anchoring the fencing to the bottom rails were missing.
With every new problem he pointed out, all I could hear was “cha-ching,” as visions of my money sprouting wings and flying away filled my head.
“I think I’ll just deal with the tree damage for now,” I said, trying to keep my cost at a minimum.
“Well, the fencing comes in 50-ft. rolls,” he said. “So why not use all of it and repair the other trouble spots at the same time? It’s still going to cost the same for materials, either way.”
He made a good point. And his estimate turned out to be less than half of the first guy’s. Even better, he charged a flat fee, not an hourly one, for labor, which included all of the additional repairs he’d pointed out. And he didn’t ask for a penny up front. I hired him on the spot.
“By the way, how did you get my number?” Tim asked me.
“In the phone book’s yellow pages,” I said.
His eyebrows rose and his mouth fell open. “People actually still use those?”
I’m pretty sure he thought that when I first moved to town, I was riding on the back of a stegosaurus.
A few days later, I looked out of my kitchen window and saw a man working on my fence. He had long black hair, high cheekbones and bronze-colored skin. There were no trucks or vehicles anywhere around, and I hadn’t even heard him arrive. I went outside and stared at him. He smiled and said he worked with Tim, who would be back shortly with more supplies.
Curious person that I am, I blurted out, “Are you a Native American?” Then was embarrassed I’d been so blunt.
“Full-blooded Apache,” he said, smiling.
“Gee, that’s pretty rare in these parts,” I said.
He nodded and said he’d met only a couple others in the area.
Intrigued, I ended up asking him questions about his heritage for over a half-hour. I wanted to know everything…from where he was born to how he’d wound up in NH. He politely answered every question, giving me his full attention. I finally figured I’d better let him get back to work before he had to finish the job while holding a flashlight in his mouth.
Tim returned and the two of them spent all afternoon working on my fence. They even buried rocks under my dogs’ favorite places to dig, put all new wires along the bottom rail, and removed and re-hung all four gates. I continued to be impressed – so impressed, I was getting a bruise where I kept pinching myself…to make certain I wasn’t dreaming.
Just as they finished the job, I was returning from taking Willow, my 114-lb. rottweiler, for a walk (because the yard was off limits to my dogs during the fence repair), when Tim came around the corner of the house. He spotted Willow and froze in place. I didn’t know at the time that he was terrified of large dogs.
Willow, who was on one of those long, retractable leashes, wagged and ran right up to him, then licked his hand.
Tim stood there as stiff as a statue, his eyes wide and his arms straight at his sides. Only his lips moved as he whispered, “Ohmigod, ohmigod! I’m going to die!”
Quickly, I pulled Willow back and Tim exhaled.
“Willow obviously likes you,” I said. Then before I could stop myself, added, chuckling, “But you kind of look as if you might need a change of underwear right about now!”
So I now have a sturdy new fence for a fraction of the cost I’d expected. Tim told me that if the dogs chew through it again or if anything at all happens to it, to call him and he’ll come right over to take care of it.
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