Murphy Brothers Blog

Why is the “Cheap Guy” the cheap guy?

A chronic theme that I encounter in the building industry is stories from people who repeat the usual list of complaints about the guy who built or remodeled their home.  They will complain about the shoddy workmanship, the lack of communication, the cheap materials, being blind-sided with Change Orders, the lack of a schedule, the poorly thought out design and I have heard 100’s of examples of each. And amazingly, it would seem, the Cheap Guy can stay around for years and even decades. How is that possible?

While there is the occasional crook who has the intent to defraud people, many of the “Cheap Guys” are not deliberately unscrupulous but they rather tend to be optimistic incompetents. They will often recognize their mistakes when confronted but typically do not have the skills or resources to make it better. They might even be a good craftsman or a good designer and even be a very hard worker but they don’t have the skill set to be a good director.

So you hire the nice guy with the low bid as you think that he is nice enough that you will be able to work out any lack of details and possible issues during construction.  But how does that work when the project was underbid due to over optimism or just to an honest mistake and your “Cheap Guy” is already behind on his truck payment and the last job that still has a few bills to be cleaned up? He might recover enough to keep his business going but did you really expect him to be able to afford the time, to make a schedule, meet with subs for instruction, follow up on purchase orders, do quality control inspections, do warranty work or even tell you about material and design options, when to him it means the beginning of a long list of asking for more money via Change Orders? OK, then.

What keeps the “Cheap Guy” in business? He has just enough wins to keep him a step or two ahead of closing his doors and he will always get a portion of the jobs he bids as his goal is to be the “Cheap Guy”. As is said, “there is a new  ‘buyer’ born every minute.” It also helps if his/her significant other is the real bread winner in the household so that he at least can survive to bid another day.

How can you ensure that you are not the next client er..ahh victim of the “Cheap Guy”? First, if the price is too good to be true, it is! Second, get a long list of references that will vouch for who you want to work with. Anyone can come up with 3-5 (sister, cousin, neighbor and buddy from work) but can they really deliver a good experience consistently and they really should have done at a minimum dozens if not 100’s of jobs if they have been in business for enough time to prove themselves. Oh, and I am not trying to be sexist by using the word “guys” as many of the gals in the trades are often approvingly referred to as “one of the guys”.

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