Miscommunication Sux

It’s been a bit of a crappy week in business with one job turning to custard and leaving both me and my customer in a difficult spot.

I took on a retic and turf / landscaping job for a new house, something I really enjoy doing because it’s good hard work, pays well and the end result is always great to look at. However this week a series of miscommunications meant that my customer didn’t get what he wanted and I didn’t get paid as I expected.

It’s always difficult when things don’t turn out as you imagine and clearly the job that I completed was not what he had hoped for. We had misunderstood each other on the location of a retaining wall, on the acceptable slope of the lawn and on the product that was to be used to cover his garden beds, quite a few issues and considering we spoke on the phone numerous times and also sent plans back and forth it’s a bit bemusing how we finished up in the mess we did.

The garden issue was simple in that he asked me to supply woodchip when he actually meant mulch. His mistake and he accepted that.

The soil levels and retaining walls were more complicated. We were clearly talking about two different walls over the phone and my wall – which made perfect sense to me – was not the same wall he was expecting. On the soil levels I heard some mixed messages and in the end I didn’t remove as much as he wanted, leaving the turf on a slope, not what I would normally do, but what I thought he wanted as a cost saving measure…

So over the last few days we have been negotiating a fair settlement for what seems to have been a simple case of bad communication.

At the end of the day it came down to naming a dollar value for the work that he felt he needed to redo and that is where it got tricky. While we both agreed that we miscommunicated the apportionment of responsibility was much harder to navigate. I offered what I felt was a pretty fair cash amount as a gesture to compensate, but he felt it was half of what was fair.

Given he hadn’t paid the bill the ‘power’ in the equation was clearly in his court. At the end of the day I simply had to accede to his request or take the matter to higher authorities to try and get it resolved.

I don’t have the time or $$$ to do that. It would simply be an exercise in futility and a great waste of both time and $$$. So while I didn’t agree that the amount was fair, I accepted his call and decided to move on having learnt a rather expensive lesson.

The lesson is simply to be very clear on what is being done so that both of us have a shared picture of what the end result will look like.

I must say that while the ‘ balance of power’ lay with the customer in that he hadn’t paid me and owed a substantial amount, his attitude and approach to the situation made me much more amenable to accepting a loss than if he had been a jerk. If he were angry and accusatory rather than conciliatory I imagine I wouldn’t have made a cent and I would be sitting here fuming rather than feeling reflective.

In it all I am probably more annoyed that I appear to have done a crappy job than that I have lost some $$$. There is an element of personal integrity that gets called into question when someone feels you have let them down and I find that sticks in my craw.

So… another day of learning ends!

2 thoughts on “Miscommunication Sux

  1. Bugger about that… I also think that it is incredibly unfair/unjust/unreasonable that it is (pragmatically) unable to be taken to a higher authority (ie, Court or mediation) because of costs (legal advice, time off work etc).

    Just a bit annoying, is all…

  2. Doing a crappy job does hurt more than $$$$ – I agree unless they are a professional nit picker using it to be charged less. A fair days work for a fair days pay …

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