Not Quite Instant Karma

Several months ago I had a call from an outfit that subcontracts me. The usual: Call a man about getting a safe opened.

I had trouble contacting him at first, but finally one of his minions made contact. It seems lots of people have "personal assistants" who handle mundane "stuff" for them. If I could afford it, I would too.

The assistant said the owner was selling his father's house. The safe needed to be opened and the contents, if any, inventoried before he cleared out. I said I needed to see emailed or texted photos of the safe.

The photos were of a safe I'm quite familiar with. My record of opening this model without drilling is almost perfect. While it's true I never guarantee opening without drilling, I was nevertheless confident that I wouldn't have to drill that one (not that it's the end of the world). Later I did reach the owner, and quoted him $495.00. He said okay, and we made an appointment to do it a day or two later, first thing in the morning.

The appointment time required getting out the door earlier than usual. I had to come up the coast highway in the morning commute, then go from the south end of San Francisco to The City's northwestern side.

It's a scenic ride into San Francisco by that route. The house I was heading for is on a street where nearly every home has some kind of view of the Pacific Ocean and the approach to the Golden Gate Bridge. I'm willing to bet that no house in that neighborhood is valued under 6 or 7 million bucks, and that might be a low guess.

Along the way I got a call about another safe in San Francisco. That call would have been a nice piece of work, but when I explained that I had an appointment and couldn't come right away, the caller said, "I hope you'll understand, but I need to get someone here as soon as possible; if I can't open my safe I can't open my business."

Fair enough; I can't be in two places at once. I wished him luck, said to call back if he couldn't get anyone, and continued to my appointment.

When I arrived, the house was pretty much as I expected; the neighborhood reeked of Large Money, but in a very tasteful old San Francisco way. I walked past a late model Mercedes in the driveway and up the stone steps to an imposing oak door. The door knocker could have been used in Olympic shot-puts, but the door was so thick it only made a muted thump-thump when I used it.

In about half a minute a guy in a bathrobe answered the door. I introduced myself, saying I was there to get his safe opened. When he answered, he said, "I've decided not to use your services. Your price is too high."

To say I was surprised is an understatement.

It was worse than rude. He could have said no when he got the quote, before making an appointment. I wouldn't have had my feelings hurt, nor would I have requoted lower. As for my price being "too high," this guy had not Clue Number One about the value of the job he'd supposedly hired me for. However, that's not the point. If a price you hear is more than you're willing to pay, nobody can argue that, so that's that's fair enough. But say so, dammit.

Aside from refusing when he first heard the price, the man could also have called back to cancel at any point after accepting the bid and scheduling the job. Any such call could (and most certainly should) have been made long before I left my place early and spent the better part of an hour in traffic finding my way to his house for our appointment, not to mention losing another job because of my committment to said appointment.

He hadn't made any such refusal or cancellation, though. Instead he let me invest time and effort getting there, then cancelled.

What does one say to someone like that? Instead of saying anything, I figured the smartest thing I could do was hold my tongue, get back in my truck, and leave. I knew things would deteriorate fast if I said anything. Besides, based on what he'd just done, this guy was rude enough for two people.

Mind you, I was legally entitled to collect a show-up fee at the very least, but people who aren't above the rude behavior he'd just indulged in can't be counted on to comply with that demand. Better to show some class; not make a scene, leave, and be content in the knowledge that people like him are their own rewards.

After I left the neighborhood, I called the company that subbed me for the job, told them what happened, then went on with my life. No worries; I was sure he wasn't the last asshole I'll ever meet.

Some months went by. With each passing day my memory of the Boor By The Bay's behavior receded a little more.

Then a couple of days ago the same company that sent me to that job called and told me to contact a lady about a safe. It was in the same neighborhood. In fact, the address sounded familiar.

I called the lady and told her the usual, please email or text me photos of the safe. She sounded real nice, telling me she was acting on her employer's behalf in getting this safe opened, to be sure no belongings were being left behind when her employer vacated the house after selling it. Sounding even more familiar now . . .

I looked at the address and owner's name in the message accompanying the photos, and heard an off-screen bell go Ding!

Well, lookee, lookee! Him again!

I called back and quoted her an opening price: $800.00. She thanked me, and we talked about when I could get there to do the work. I said maybe that afternoon, but she had to go someplace right then, so we agreed to talk later and coordinate something.

Five minutes later she called back, saying that she'd relayed my price to her employer, and he told her he'd had someone from the company I was subbing for out to his place a few months earlier, and that he'd been quoted $495.00 for the job. Why was it now $795.00?

Jesus, how I wished it was him calling me direct.

I said, "If his memory is so good he remembers the $495.00 quote, I'm sure he also remembers accepting that quote, making an appointment, waiting a couple of days until I came to his door, and only then telling me it was too much money. He wasted my time in a pretty rude way, so $795.00 is the price now."

She said, "Oh . . . I see."

I followed with, "Pardon me for saying, but you don't sound shocked at Mr. xx's behavior, so I'm guessing you have firsthand experience with his manners."

I thought I heard what sounded like the beginning of a chuckle, but she recovered quickly enough to ask, "So is there any way we can fix this?"

Not caring if it ever happened, I said, "Sure, pay the $795.00. In fact he can call me direct and I'll gladly give him the same explanation. He needs to know he's out of line if he thinks he can treat other people like peons. If he felt $495.00 was way too much, I can't argue with his feelings. Yet his safe still isn't open, so now it seems as if he couldn't find anyone cheaper. That makes me low bidder, and I don't want that reputation. The new price will make it easy for him to find someone cheaper."

She said, "I understand. I'll give him the information."

My last to her: "Thanks, and please tell him Hello for me."

That was the last I heard about that job. Funny, but I felt good for the rest of the week.


 As always, readers' comments are welcome.
Ken Dunckel
CA License 001985
CA Contractor 553337


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