Red Flags

There are many ways to qualify customers. In this thread, shop owners discuss the tell-tale signs of a job you'd be wiser not to take. June 12, 2005

From experience, we learn to look for red flags when we first meet potential customers. One alarm for me is when someone says "give me a good price, and if you do a good job I have lots of work I can give you". If the person has so much work, who is he using now? I've never received a second job from anyone who has told me this at the start.

Another red flag I’ve encountered is when a customer says "it does not have to be that great a job, just give me a good price". Every time I have fallen for that line, the customer turns out to be really picky all the way till I am trying to get that last check. Does anyone else have some "red flags" you would want to share?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor S:
I had an independent molding salesman walk in needing a specific 7 1/4" custom crown molding run. This salesman came to me needing 48 lineal feet to finish a job. This was from 8/4 material, so I gave him a price and I didn't charge him a knife grinding fee since I had a knife. He was irate when I charged him $5.50 per lineal foot for the material, and was really mad when I charged him a $125 for the setup. He went on to tell me how much business he could have given me. It would have cost him $350 just to have the knives ground anywhere else. He literally left my shop cussing me like a sailor. The red flag in this case was definitely the salesman’s attitude.

From contributor B:
I had the experience of giving a customer a price and taking the job, even though I was skeptical about it. The customer ended up with some of the most unusual complaints I had ever had. I was told that I should take all the cabinets off of the walls and fill a small nail hole in the sheet rock that I had created when locating the center of a studs.

This was also one of those customers that stands behind you and watches every move when you’re working too. Then, after I thought I had done everything to appease her, she wanted me to deduct money from her bill because the job ran longer than I had told her.

From contributor C:

I had a customer call me a couple of weeks ago in a real hurry for a large kitchen. He said he was maxed out and couldn't get me the usual deposit, but he could get his draw as soon as the cabinets were sitting on the job site. He said that when he got his draw he'd pay me and I could install them after being paid. Well, he ran behind with everything and didn't get that draw.

The cabinets have now been sitting on the site for 2 weeks and I'm still waiting for my check. Of course, I'm waiting for him to get ready for me to install them. Meanwhile, I've paid for materials and payroll on the job. I'm tired of getting in a hurry for anybody, because they always end up making you wait on them after they tell you what kind of hurry they are in.

From contributor G:
How about the customer that asks for a quote on a small item? After creating a quote for a customer, he started asking construction and technique questions. Then after all questions were answered, he said that he had tried to build this item himself and was not satisfied with the results. He said that I never considered constructing it in the manner that I explained to him. Of course, I have never heard from him again.

From the original questioner:
Here is another one. The person (homeowner or contractor) who says, "I’m in a hurry, can you just squeeze my job in your schedule?” Every one of those jobs I've done, the cabinets sit - built and finished, taking up space in the corner of my shop because the jobsite is not yet ready for installation. I've come to the conclusion that folks who are always in a rush generally aren’t that good at time management and project scheduling.