What Happens to “Doing it Right The First Time”?

Throughout my 15-month married life in Singapore, I have worked with two different contractors, one interior designer, one professional tiler, one painter, one handyman, one plumbing service contractor, one electrician and one aircon maintenance company.

The one underlining similarity between all these companies and people: they don’t really care about doing things right the first time.

I just had a carpentry company who is supposed to complete their installation job in just half a day – but turned out to be four half-days, because:

  • The bookshelves they installed on the wall were not straight
  • The sink they installed over the sink cabinet was not sealed with silicone
  • They had to take out, re-cut and re-install two out of four counter tops in our house because they did not cut them symmetrically
  • They had to re-do the finish ofone counter top because it wasn’t the color we ordered
  • We did not like the color of the solid surface they chose for us. They’re silly enough not to show us a sample of it and ask our approval prior to production

So … they have to bear the following cost of neglicence and poor workmanship…

  • Buying another set of solid surface from a subcontractor … that’s probably a $300 waste
  • Labor cost for extra two half days
  • Transport cost from Kallang (their office) to West Coast for three extra trips

Plus loss of opportunity because we won’t be recommending them to anyone.

My husband is the one with the technical knowledge on renovation and upgrading work  … for me, as long as they look alright, I let the contractor go … albeit with a disclaimer than until my husband sees it and agrees to it, it’s not a done deal. And there hasn’t been a single instance where my husband goes home and not find  a reason to call the contractor back.

Reading this, you might think, “Then use an interior designer! A designer should be able to control the workmanship.”

Oh … boy … don’t get me started. We had an even worse experience with an interior designer, because we paid thousands of dollars for coordination and design fee to someone who absolutely did nothing. She gave the orders to subcontractors by phone, and not supervise any of the work. Once the subcontractor reported to her by phone that the job was done, she took it that they were done properly without inspecting them.  What was supposed to be a three-week renovation extended to more than three months. We just made her to get her workers return time and time and time again because they (or her!) always misinterpreted what we wanted for our home. We only stopped calling her after she moved to another country, about four months after she worked for us and still left a few jobs undone.

Her cost of negligence:

  • She had to buy extra solid teak planks for our parquette, plus pay the parquette man for another day of labor, because the first work was appalling and the pattern didn’t follow the existing pattern in the remaining of the room
  • She lost the opportunity to make money on feature wall in the living room and kitchen, because we were not impressed with her early results we decided to cut some of her scope of work
  • She had to re-paint different parts of our house 5-6 more times because she bought the wrong paints, the wall wasn’t plastered properly before she got it painted we could see bumps everywhere. As well she let the painters used paint brush in places where they were supposed to only use rollers
  • She lost the opportunity to do our curtains and blinds because we found out that she threatened our chosen company to mark up their quote by 25-30% or she will badmouth this company to us and chose another company to do our curtains
  • We declined paying for her professional cleaners despite two visits by the cleaning company, because their work was not even near the level she promised. As well the cleaners just left without saying goodbye to us and without our approval of the things that they have cleaned. The quality was just appalling, and the attitude they wore on their collar was beyond belief

The only time where I had called someone for interior work and the job came up nicely at first opportunity is a feature wall specialist from mainland China.

And some times I can’t help myself thinking how much more money and business these companies could have made if they have done things properly the first time. They can cut transport, material and labor cost, keep employee morale high, plus ensure repeated business and word-of-mouth advertising.

Throughout my eight years of working with clients, I have consistently seen that it’s easier to make money from existing clients and new clients that were referred to us by an existing client; than to look for absolutely new customers. For this reason, I don’t understand why these companies and workers seem to always rush their work, not caring about quality, and scold you when you want them back to fix their unfinished tasks and scold you even more for not wanting to pay that last payment until everything is done.

“Maybe you guys are just too picky.” We’ve heard this comment once too often. But being the daughter of a contractor myself, with a husband whose daily job is inspecting building and interior fittings, we cannot help but notice these things. And note that the place they work at is our home, the place we live in and see every single day. Improper work will affect the function and aesthetics of the things we see and use every day.

Not to mention that it is our money too. Not a small amount at that, because every upgrading and renovation work cost money in the thousands if not tens of thousands.

And I fully realize that issues with contractors and interior designers are not exclusive to Singapore. I saw my father dealt with negligent workers, interior designers and engineers all the time …. but at least, my father – as the chairman of the company, did not let these issues pass on to clients. Most of the time he noticed them first, and get them fixed before the customer inspects.

Shouldn’t this be the normal attitude in the renovation and interior industry?


~ by elinski on September 8, 2008.

One Response to “What Happens to “Doing it Right The First Time”?”

  1. Hmm…
    I’m quite desperate already with my contractor for my new house.
    And they even haven’t finished half of it. There’s always something new to complain.. and I’m getting tired to complain anymore

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