Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Clients from Hell

I went to a house today to do some "punch list items". A "punch list" are things that need to be fixed or completed at the end of a project, usually flagged by the owner before or immediately after they move in. This was probably my dozenth trip to the house to do the "final punch list" as a favor to the architect/builder who is an old friend of mine because he cannot get the original subcontractors to return to do the lists any more. The owners put little pieces of blue tape on everything wrong with the house. The first time I went it looked like blue chicken pox. After hours of "fixing things", we get called back a few days later and there is MORE blue tape the next time, not less. This switch plate got "blue taped" today...

I could not figure out what the tape was for. I pondered the switches. I looked at the edges to see if there was a gap in the drywall around it that needed caulking or painting. I checked it for cracks or black smudges and fingerprints. Then it dawned on me.

I thought, "No...not that.....that's not possible."

I looked at the outlet below it. "No....that can't be."

I went out into the hallway and looked at the hall light switch. ""

I walked down the hall to the next bedroom and looked inside the doorway at the light switches. I looked at the outlets. My face went blank as a beggar's plate. "NO!"

I ran down the hallway looking at every switch and outlet, my face twisting in horror at the sight of the truth dawning on me.


But it was the truth... THIS is what I saw everywhere I went

...yes, EVERY screw in the house was aligned at twelve o' clock. The upper right hand screw on the blue taped switch plate was at one o'clock.

I fixed it.

There will be more blue tape tomorrow.


Fr. Gregory Jensen said...

Client from Hell?

No my lad, not even the Infernal Prince his self could come up with such devilment.

Screws not at 12 o'clock! Lord have mercy, some people have too much time and way too much money!

James the Thickheaded said...

You are clearly too good.

The only response I can think of is humor. The sophmoric version suggests blue taping a screw driver to the face plate together with instructions. Second approach is tape a photo of you and your assistant with blue tape over your mouths, around your wrists and feet with a "ransom note" noting that "We would have liked to help, but were kidnapped to another job at an undisclosed location." Third idea that comes to mind is to leave a note that "We would have twisted the screw as instructed, but that the "now standard" Homeland Security Agent's "surprise final inspection" tested and flunked the screws as "clearly installed by psychic terrorists". Instruments indicated the screws were either "lethally hot" or wired as detonators on a couple of 10 Kiloton neutron bombs, and not remembering from the movie whether to cut the blue red wire first, and not wanting to blow up the house either or having the number of the bomb squad handy..." change that... WANTING to blow up the house but deciding not to... "left resolution to management and with any luck, the moon suit guys should arrive to defuse the situation in a few weeks." Alternatively you could discuss the situation of the "Wild Loosescrew Gang" that arrived while you were trying to fix things... and threatened your crew with AK47's if you "tightened anything any further... and even demanded you twist ALL the other screws off-center." You might mention they had Barney hostage with a gun to his head, but you called it even leaving the screws as is - providing they dropped Barney somewhere in the Bay... I mean, this would be a tough stand-off for me posed between threat and opportunity (sorry Barn!)... I mean there ARE some positives to not giving in...

Then again, you can go for the tried and true, and leave a case of beer with blue tape on the flip tops and blue tape on the refrigerator door together with some on a couple of mugs... and a note thanking them for being good clients, fix these things and be done... no further visits.

Remember the old ad: "Share the fantasy!" What you wouldn't love to do.. huh? Then again, you need that next client. What's a fellow to do?

CAL said...

There aren't words...


s-p said...

James the TH, You need to be a consultant to builders. Incredibly, this actually isn't the worst I've seen, but yeah, the fantasy life of a contractor can be quite creative when it comes to dealing with CFH. Fortunately we only do a small percentage of the things we think about..... heh heh heh.

Rick Cortright said...

To be honest, I know to many people this way but in regards to religion. I am orthodox and love orthodoxy and all of its peoples. But sometimes the level of correctness others have for others comes close to this illustration. Especially on message boards!!!
Keep up the good work Steve, and may God have mercy on us on all and patience to deal with our brothers, sisters, and all that God sends to us each day.

Mimi said...

Bwahahahahahaha! I'm sorry.

James the Thickheaded said...

I think Rick has a good point.

Fact is when I was uh-wandering... looking at the not-so-twin apostolic churches, one group seemed to engage in shouting matches with each other broken only by a stray voice from the "good guys". This resulted in the same thing everytime: an immediate thrashing and stomping on the stray voice! 'Cause the only thing these good folks could agree on was that the "good guys" were a bunch of ethnic, quarrelsome, pigheaded schismatic hooligans with a lot of 1,000-year-old hangups. Naturally in my orneryness, I found these "malcontents" curious... and
wandered over. Must have sat in sat Krazy Glue. Make that "stood". I mean... we gotta be correct,huh?

Nico said...


I've been reading your blog for a few months, but haven't gotten around to leaving a comment until now.

We have a lot in common, actually. You are Orthodox; so am I. You are a subdeacon; me too. You work in construction; that's also how I make my living. It's like we live in parallel universes. And now I find that we share a client! No, not really, but I've experienced very similar circumstances. You must have either the patience of Job,or the hunger of Esau, to put up with this "screwed-up" job.

I think Mr. Thickheaded has given you some excellent advice above, much better than my first thought: smash a number of hammer-holes in the wall--marking them, of course, with blue tape--load up your stuff, and head home.

Anyway, I don't know why I'm so chatty, I guess I'm just extremely happy to know someone else faces these kinds of customers. I thought it was just me. Feels good to know I'm not alone.

Your faithful reader and fellow struggler, Nico

Kirk said...

s-p, are you a licensed electrician? Let me see your union card. What? You don't have one? I'm afraid I'm going to have to report this job to the municipal inspector's office. I think they'll need seal off the house for a few weeks so the local union boys can recheck the wiring for the entire house. Don't worry--the client should be out of the motel and back home in two or three weeks. Four tops.

Kirk said...

BTW, the blue tape is for your salvation. ;)

-C said...

When I read this early this morning, my first thought was about how unhappy with life in general these people must be.

But I mentioned it to my husband (who also thought it was a good laugh). He works for my sister, who is a licensed master electrician and owns her own company - he's her pencil pusher/admin.
Sis recently had one of her guys install some new lights in our house, and when we checked the switchplates???

All of the screws were at 12:00.

That's just sort of creepy if you ask me.

But call me glad that I don't have your job!

s-p said...

Actually, these technically aren't "my" clients, I'm helping a friend try to finish the project (although I'm tempted to post some construction horror stories from my 26 years of contracting...this isn't the worst I've seen, trust me). But yes, dealing with anal obsessive compulsive mentally ill or just plain evil people in any setting is a test of one's depth and grounding, in fact it reveals one's true character much like eating at a restaurant. :)

-C: it did occur to me that the installation was purposeful on the part of the electrician (this IS a multi million dollar house after all). Every trade has its "over the top attention to detail" manifestation that separates the "master" from the "hack" tradesman. But this blue tape is a metaphor for and indicative of EVERY aspect of the entire project. I met them once, and no, they don't strike me as happy people. sigh....

Anonymous said...

Something tells me the wiring in our house was NOT done by master electricians....:-)


s-p said...

Nor was I...I have several screws loose. :)
your husbandie

Anonymous said...

*rolls her eyes*...Is this person a engineer? *giggles*...all I gotta say is...Lord have Mercy! I hope you did a lotta praying for them while adjusting them screws..and I hope you charged them by the SECOND and not hour for aligning them! Sheeeshh Louiseee Stevie Ray....

One of your Goddaughters

-C said...

I forwarded this to my sister who said that she tells her crews to leave the screws at 12:00 only because if she has to go back in there, she will know if the client has been messing around with it themselves.

Still ... life's just too short, isn't it?

Fr. James Early said...


This is the funniest thing I have read in a LOOOOOOOOONG time! And Thickhead and Nico's suggestions made me laugh out loud.

I think this guy used to live in Ft. Worth while I was in seminary. Only back then he used yellow post-it notes. Back in that day, I briefly worked as a residential painter.

Once I was part of a crew that was working on a small house that was being totally remodled. Unfortunately, we had painters, carpenters, plumbers, and even an electrician working at the same time in the same 1500 or so square foot house. We would paint a baseboard only to have it ripped out by the carpenters the next day (or to have a bunch of dirt and debris kicked onto it while the paint was still wet). Once a buddy of mine was running an airless when the power was cut. It was like the Keystone Cops remodling company! So I can relate a little to your story, although fortunately this only happened once for me (I got out of the painting business pretty quickly)!

For what it's worth, I would love to hear more of your construction horror stories, particularly if you can connect them to the concepts of the hypostatic union and the Borg.

Thanks again for this hilarious post

s-p said...

Father James,
You are too easily entertained! :)
Actually your one time remodeling experience describes my life for the past 26 years. And yes, there is a spiritual dimension to how one approaches the asceticism and relationships of work. After working with monks at monasteries I've told the abbotts their monks do the same things working together building churches and sheds etc. that people do in the world. There's no difference in attitudes, conflicts, egos and criticism etc., except the monk's language is just slightly better.
So, yeah, I do need to post some stuff about work. Thanks for connecting some dots for me.

Anonymous said...

Never...NEVER...EVER..recommend thay switch any appliance or unit to Propane...

Anonymous said...

that was me, Steven Paul - Loren (

Shawn and Tori said...

I have to say, when I showed this blog to my wife, as soon as she got to the first picture she commented that the blue tape was for the screw not being straight.

Hehe, I had to go back and look at the picture after I finished the story. No, that can't really be.

Maybe I should rethink this electrician biz? :)

Shawn in Idaho

Fr. Christian Mathis said...

we are currently doing some construction at the parish and I shared your post with the workers.....they could completely relate!