Wanna buy a crate of roller covers?

I used to regularly get a phone call that would go something like this:

“Hey Brian, how’s the weather there in Houston.”

“Fine,” I would say, even if we are in the middle of a hurricane. (I sometimes like to be sarcastic.)

“Recognize the voice?”

“Yes. I didn’t think that you were getting out for another six months.”


“Never mind. I’m not interested in your crate of roller covers, your pallet of drop clothes, or whatever other garbage you are hawking today.”


At first these boiler room salesmen amused me. They all have the same spiel. Start with some comment about the weather, followed with “recognize the voice?” Initially my reaction was probably typical. I would say that I didn’t, and they would they feign being insulted by my amnesia.

But I can be pretty sharp sometimes, and after about 50 of these calls I caught on. These guys get in a boat load of some painting product and then they start calling every painting contractor in the country trying to unload them. At first I was tempted. Who wouldn’t like to buy 1,000 roller covers for 50 cents each? And I wouldn’t even have to pay for them for 90 days. What a deal!

I have to assume that they find enough contractors who need a lifetime supply of roller covers to make it worth their while. And when I find out who these contractors are I’m going to make them a real sweet offer on some swamp land.

She wasn’t a price shopper

Last week we received a call from  potential client. He had hired another contractor and was very unhappy with the experience. We were highly recommended and he looked forward to meeting me to discuss what could be done to correct the situation. A few hours later he called back to cancel the appointment–his wife had already hired someone.

My suspicion is that his wife is anxious to have the work done before Thanksgiving. Indeed, he had asked if that would be possible. So, even with the bitter taste of a bad contractor experience fresh in her mouth, she rushed forward to hire someone.

Whether they get a good job or not isn’t the point of this post, because I have no way of knowing (unless they call me again to fix the problems of contractor #2). My point here is the lack of caution that customers often exercise when hiring a contractor.

This is most obvious with those who hire on the basis of price alone. Such consumers view contractors as a commodity, and the only distinguishing feature is price. But consumers can make the same mistake and focus on other factors, such as when the contractor can start the project. In either case, the client ignores the myriad other factors that will determine their satisfaction.

Sometimes these clients get a reasonably good job. But often they get burned, and then they begin to look at all contractors are thieves and charlatans. While I certainly do not condone or excuse dishonesty contractors, the client plays a big role in this process. They could put these contractors out of business if they simply didn’t hire them.