Friday, November 8, 2013

Paper, not plastic

Our house is an old one, at least by US standards. The bulk of the house was built 1830. A sun room was added in 1998, and a wing containing an oversized bedroom with small kitchen space (cupboards, sink, and fridge) with its own bath, shower, and walk-in closet plus a room above this overlarge bedroom was added in 2001. In order to connect the new wing, a small hallway was constructed at that time with a half bath (toilet and sink only) and a large closet where the washer and dryer are stacked. The old part of the house needed a new roof, and after contacting five businesses and receiving three bids (the other two couldn't be bothered for some reason), i selected Company H. I'd been saving my pennies, knowing that we'd need a new roof at some point, and was glad that i had enough in the bank. It would be but a simple matter to transfer the funds and write the check. Done.

I signed the paperwork 01 July and gave then a check for the deposit. I didn't realize until later, the person on behalf of the company, who signed the same time i did, dated his signature as "08/01," which reads As August 1st in the US. Whoever does the scheduling saw the 08/01 and didn't schedule my job for August, which i'd been told would happen, but in September. Well, as long as it was before first snow, it'd be all right.

They did arrive just before mid-September and finished the job in two-and-a-half days. They were quiet, efficient, and careful to clean up as much debris as possible. There was one change order as two soffit boards needed to be replaced. Not surprising, and i signed off on the change order. It was about $250 more. I had called to explain that i'd be sailing for a week immediately after the job was done, so if they sent the bill as soon as the job was done, i might not be home to receive it.

After sailing, SFB was going to help Himself and i take our boat out for the season, but something else happened instead, as i noted here.

I was back into work mode, checked my emails, both business and personal, and deleted oodles of junk emails in my junk folder. I do tend to scan them, just in case one or two are misfiled. By month's end, when things were starting to get back to normal, i double checked the paper mail. No bill from the roofing company. Strange. But, maybe they bill a month out from the job. A month out, still no bill, so i call and talk to the same man i talked to initially, who had done the estimate for me. He explained that they had emailed me a bill. I checked my email, didn't see it, and told him so. He thought it may have gone into my spam or junk folder. Nope, nothing there, but i did have those hundreds when i finally got back on-line...yes, maybe i had deleted it. Well, if they could send another, that would be great.

And i check my email both the inbox and junk folder. Daily. Nothing. About 10 days later, i decide i'm going to call again and ask for a paper invoice. I'd been expecting a paper invoice all along, really, but hadn't gotten one, so yes, a call is best to see what's going on. I couldn't do it right then as i was on a teleconference for work. I have one project that seems to breed these telecons like rabbits. I don't mind when they contain agenda items that are really useful for me, but this one decidedly didn't, and my mind had gotten to wandering. We were to be done with the telecon at noon, so after that, actually after i went to the loo, i'd call the Company H.

Coming out of the loo at 12:04, my home phone rang. I answered. It was Kelly from Company H calling, wondering if i'd be paying my bill? I told her yes, i would be glad to pay it as soon as i received one. I must have inadvertently deleted the email they sent, had asked for another to be sent, and was still waiting. If it were easier to send a paper invoice, would they do that, please? Yes, yes they could. Excellent.

Company H is less than six miles from my house, so it wouldn't take more than a day to send something snail-mail. And i get the mail promptly. I deal with it immediately, recycling junk mail, after i have assiduously removed any trace of my name and address. I have a spot for the bills that need to be paid, and a spot for things to peruse. If the peruse spot gets overfull, then i dump all the contents after removing name and address info. Still, i check to make sure i haven't somehow misplaced the bill. I check each piece of mail Mail Lady Stephanie delivers. Nada from Company H.

I am somewhat bemused by this. Don't they want their money? I would. The work is done, has been done for six weeks. And so, this week, when it gets to be about seven weeks out, and i have errands to run, i decide i'm going to pay a visit to Company H. I had planned on transferring over the money from savings to checking once i had a final total, but not before. Long ago i decided i'd never write a check if the money wasn't in the account, or if i did, i wouldn't mail it until after i made the deposit. Were i to be hit by a bus, i didn't want bad checks to add to whoever was going to be sorting my affairs. It's a habit i've rarely broken.

From my banking days, i knew that businesses paid a fee to accept credit, and later debit cards. They paid by the transaction, and it's typically a percentage of the transaction. Most use 3%, some use 4%, and some can go higher depending upon the set-up. Along with the "i never write checks unless the money is there, or if i do, i don't mail them until the money's there" rule is the practice of nearly always writing a check or paying cash when i'm dealing with a local business, so they don't have to pay the 3% for me to use plastic. Yes, anachronistic, i suppose, although nearly each time i ask if i can pay by check because i don't want to stick them with the 3% plastic fee, i get a grateful smile, a nod, and "Of course you can pay by check."

On my way to Company H, i had my checkbook, but hadn't transferred the money from savings to checking. I had credit cards with me and decided i was going to pay the balance with plastic. Because my bemusement slid to miffed. I walked in, and talked to Stacy who remembered me. She noted that yes, they had sent me an email a few days after the job had been completed. I explain it must've gone into the junk folder, and go on to explain the follow-up calls. Yet i still don't have an invoice. Stacy says she can fix that, and she presses the print button. I look around Company H. It's a small space, small enough that the other two people i spoke to could have very easily called out to Stacy as they were on the phone with me to generate another invoice.

I see that the change order adds $257 to the bill. I pull out my credit card and am in the midst of handing it to Stacy when she says,

"We don't take credit cards."

I stop for a moment. I can understand not taking cards for small transactions, but a new roof is not a small transaction, although seeing so many of their signs at some huge places, i realize my roof job was a small one for them.

"We've been busier this summer than any of us can remember," Stacy is saying. I murmur how that's good for their business no doubt. Then i explain that i didn't transfer the money yet from savings to checking, if i give them the check....

"I won't be getting to the bank for a couple days, so that's fine, " Stacy nods.

As i write out the check, i tell her how happy i am with the roof, that with this last wind and rain storm we had, everything was great. She thanks me for letting her know, always nice to hear things are working as they should. She thanks me for the check as i neatly fold up the invoice and put it in my purse, to be file in the house file upon my return home.

On my way to the bank, where i feel so very reckless for coloring so far outside the lines by giving a check i know to be no good until i get to the bank, i figure what the hell. I stop at the quickie mart for a lottery ticket.

I do not get struck by lightning nor hit by a bus. I get to the bank quite easily make the transfer, and breathe a sigh of relief once i get back in my car.

It had been my plan all along to pay by check, so it's no skin off my nose that Company H doesn't take plastic, but i wonder how often people just assume they do, and when it's time for payment, they find themselves unable to pay?

Company H isn't a one-man operation, which if it were, i wouldn't be surprised that there's no plastic option. It's not a huge company, either, but it's large enough that i just assumed plastic would be a part of their world.

We'll see what changes in two or three years when the later additions to our house will need new roofs. In the meantime we'll be saving our pennies.


  1. I believe you must be of a certain age to know and appreciate the discount a merchant takes on plastic. I was a merchant once; I know. Earlier this week I delivered some tools to the saw sharpener, a young fellow. He told me it would be $20, cash or check, get them Wednesday. I went in Wednesday with my check and he volunteered for the first time that plastic was also acceptable, with a 3% surcharge. It amused this old lady.

    1. Joanne, i learned it in my banking days. Hard to believe that was over 20 years ago.

  2. A number of people who work on my house occasionally (plumber, heating & AC) take checks or cash. No plastic. Is it something about businesses who do this type of work? Interesting that they didn't seem worried about getting paid.


    1. I was wondering the same, Janie. They did ask whether to email or mail the estimate, and i said email, so perhaps they assumed I'd want them to email everything else.

      I also found it interesting that they weren't worried about receiving payment. And refreshing, that they'd assume i'd pay, rather than jump to the conclusion that i was a deadbeat.

  3. The last time I had any 'serious' work done, the builder added €1,700 to my bill that had already been paid. Luckily I noticed their mistake!!

    1. Cro, that's why i wanted to see the invoice. I wanted to be sure that the amount they were charging was the amount i had agreed to plus the change order. It was.

  4. Your experience sounds like a good dream to me. They arrived on time and did their job. We contracted a guy to replace our picture window in early September. He ordered our window, he told us when we called him a month later to see what was taking so long. We are still waiting for the window to come in. Apparently, the wrong size came in and he had to send it back. It is now 32 degrees here and I am not really excited about a full day with a giant picture window being changed out in our home.

    1. Maria, overall, it was a very positive experience. And, as we had a dusting of snow overnight, it makes me very glad that the new roof is on. I was wondering about your window, as i recall that you were loathe to change it, but structurally, it seemed prudent to do so. i do hope whenever the window installation day arrives, that it's warm enough outside not to give you too much trouble.