I Refused To Pay Someone What I Was Charged

Recently, I flat out refused to pay someone what I was charged.  They performed the service.  They did a great job.  But I wouldn’t pay the amount that was written on the bill.

See why.

When I turned on our sprinkler system for the season, I decided that a few things needed to be done.  I wanted to get my list taken care of before watering season really started.

  • A head had come loose in the front yard
  • Some of the pop-up heads along the street were too low, and as a result would get grown over every spring
  • We added a play set to the backyard last summer.  As the sprinklers were laid out, the set would have gotten drenched or a portion of the yard behind the set wouldn’t have gotten watered at all.  I didn’t like either option.

There’s a guy, I’ll call him Bob (because that’s his name), that does landscaping and sprinkler work on the side.  He was ‘discovered’ in my parents neighborhood.  The landscaping company had done some work for one of my parents neighbors, but when they called for some odds and ends stuff, they weren’t interested as they wanted to concentrate on larger jobs.  Bob decided (with the companies permission) to take on the work.  He did such a good job that he now does various odds and end jobs for nearly a dozen houses in my parent’s subdivision.

When we moved into our house in 2007, our backyard had been heavily wooded.  Many trees had died off or were scrub.  We wanted to re-claim a good portion of the backyard, so after getting the dead and scrub trees taken away, Bob did his magic and we now have a great backyard.

I decided to see if Bob wanted to do the sprinkler work, and he agreed to come out.

The day he decided to come out was cold and wet, even by Michigan standards.  The average high for the time of year was around 70, and he came out when it was about 45 and a steady downpour all day.  I had asked if he wanted to re-schedule, but he insisted.

He did his work.  We hadn’t talked about price, but I knew he always charged a fair price, so I wasn’t concerned.  I also knew he’d come in way below what a sprinkler service company would have.

After Bob completed, he knocked on the door and presented his bill.  He’d been at it for about two hours.  He added one head in the backyard to take care of the sprinkler problem, so there was the sprinkler head, piping, and what not.

He wrote out a bill of sale.

On it, he broke down the parts and labor.

The parts were $20.  That made sense.

The labor:

Also $20.

I looked at the bill.  I looked at it again.  I took it to Mrs. Beagle and asked if I was seeing this correctly.

I was.

This man was at my house for two hours.  In the cold, pouring rain.  Not to mention the time and gas it took to get to and from my house.  Plus whatever time it took for him to make sure he had all the parts.  Plus the cost of the hot coffee and hot shower he surely took when he got home.

$20 in labor, making the total bill $40.

I couldn’t do it.  There was no way I could pay him that amount.

I’d estimated the repairs at probably costing $60-100 total.

I ended up writing him a check for $65, more than doubling the labor portion of it.

And, I still felt guilty about it.  Like I’d cheated him.

Still, I felt better knowing that I paid him more along the lines of what I felt he was worth. If I had written that check for $40, I don’t think I could have lived with myself.

So, yes, I refused to pay someone what I was charged, but instead I paid more.

Readers, have you ever given more than someone was charging because you knew they were undercharging?

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14 thoughts on “I Refused To Pay Someone What I Was Charged

  1. I had a similar experience the last time we had a yard sale. A friend of ours was setting up her first apartment and wanted to buy practically half of what we were selling. She offered to pay over $200 for the items which would have been like 25% off store price, but our old stuff, from a yard sale? We told her no way, please do not give us more than $100 for it all. We also ran after another friend to give her $20 back when she tried to pay $60 for an ikea dresser we got for free. I guess we have generous friends!

  2. @No Debt MBA – I love it, especially that you were making sure to help someone just starting off. I still look back at all the help I got at various milestones and know what a blessing it can be!

  3. Right on. That rarely happens around here though. I gave my upholsterer a little extra when he finally got my couches finished. He underestimated the time it took to do the work.

    I also sold a car for a friend who moved out of town for more than he asked us to sell it for. When we sent him the check, he sent us a giftcard for the difference. He already felt bad that his beater car was in our yard, so he couldn't take even more for it.

  4. Normally, I always will always ask how much it will be, because I hate surprises. A couple months ago, one of our friend's son was going to take us to the airport for a vacation trip. He was out of work and he was taking and picking us up. Our friend said to give him whatever we wanted. I won't say what we paid him, but when we got back he said anytime we needed to go to the airport to let him know. Being fair with people creates a relationship that works out for everyone.

  5. @First Gen – LOL, I guess if you had a beater car sitting in your garage, the gift card was probably warranted.

    @Krantcents – I'm right with you about asking up front what it's going to cost for most things, but I know with this guy that he's going to be fair and honest, and especially on small stuff that I know won't be very expensive, he 's earned the benefit of the doubt.

  6. I just paid my electrician $100 when he asked $60 for the job.

    He was the only one I could get to come out and give me a free estimate. The others wanted to charge $350.00 for estimates or said theyd come and not show up.

    He was very knowledgable too and let us know some items, like we didnt actually want a rewire where they tear the walls out we just wanted the outlets changed out for newer plugs.

    We had lightening hit the house and flames shot out of two outlets. We thought it would be a huge job but he knew enough and turned out just those two outlets were killed, not the wires so he put new ones in.

    He was here maybe an hour. He was great and we'll definatly use him again. We were happy to pay the $100 instead of the $1000 at least from our homeowners ins ded.

  7. Someone did a job for me and i forgot to pay them for about 2 weeks. I just added an extra $20 to the check, because i screwed up on my end when they did a great job.

    I feel like you owe it to the person working for you to keep your end of the bargain as much as they should want to do a good job for you.

    Plus if you ever want them to work for you again, sometimes it help to pay a little extra if you screw up 😉

  8. I totally thought before I finished the article that you were going to complain about having to pay the guy who worked on your yard in horrible conditions for 2 hours a whole $40. Glad to see you paid the guy way more than he was asking for. I wonder why he only asked for $40 total in labor. Maybe he just really enjoys the work? Maybe his regular customers won't pay more than that? Who knows?

  9. I love this… and i'm sure you will always have an honest guy to fix your sprinklers!

  10. @Zoo – That's a great deal for an electrician. I'd keep that number handy for a long time!

    @Ross/GC – It is definitely an investment in the future as I have many a project (he actually does landscaping stuff primarily) for him over the years

    @Ross/GBR – I think he enjoys what he's doing and he also undervalues what he does

    @SouthCountryGirl – It's certainly good to have a solid resource these days!

  11. I was expecting him to charge some crazy miscellaneous fees or something. $20 for labor? What a deal! It's nice to know that some people still charge a fair price. But he would be on the extreme of undercharging whereas others would charge 40 bucks just to take a look.

  12. My lawn dude does that all the time. Some guys just don't know what their time and skills are worth.

    The solution: a very generous Christmas bonus. That way you're not implying that you know better than he does, and believe me: that will buy you another year of low bills and even freebies.

  13. At first I thought you were complaining that the $40 bill was too high, haha. I love your generosity. I am usually the one that does not charge enough for my work, so it blesses my heart when someone gives me what they think I deserve. 🙂

  14. We have our house cleaned every two weeks. The couple that does this hadn't raised their rates in years, never actually. I told my with to bump the number in January, and tell them we've gotten a raise and it's fair they get one as well.
    Great story, yours.

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