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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?