The Tale of Three Contractors

June 27, 2011
Kyle Gargaro

In this economy, most of the general public is out there looking for a deal. You have to look no further than the popularity of Groupon, the McDonald’s dollar menu, and tickets to a Huey Lewis’ concert to figure that out.

And I am no different - save for listening to “The Power of Love.” Raising a couple of boys on a journalist’s salary will make sure that you watch your budget. So it is with that backdrop that I tell you about my hunt for a contractor. You see, unlike many of our loyal readers, I am a lot less like Bob Vila and a lot more like SpongeBob Squarepants. So when my wife and I decided to get our basement finished, it was not a question of if we would contract out the work but to whom. I think I might be able to paint it, but that is about it.

We reviewed some local contractors on the Internet and sent emails to the six companies who had received rave reviews at the numerous websites we had checked out. Four companies got back to us. I guess so much for the tough economy in Michigan because two of the contractors did not bother to return the email.

We ended up getting a total of three bids. In another puzzler, one contractor came out and talked to us for about an hour, took all the measurements, then never got back to us with a bid. Perhaps they won the lottery after stopping by our house.


The three we did receive were definitely all over the map. Neither of them was within $10,000 of each other, which we were not expecting. But contrary to popular belief, we did not go with the lowest bid, or what some might consider the best “deal.”

No, instead we went with the contractor that impressed us the most. We went with the contractor who called us within 24 hours of our initial contact and who always returned a phone call within that same time period. We chose the contractor who put booties on before coming into our home, did not talk down to us during the entire process, and who patiently answered every idiotic question I had. In hindsight, he did not do anything out of the realm of expectations, but you would probably not be surprised to learn that sometimes simply living up to expectations puts you head and shoulders above the rest.

Sure, we also thought he had the best overall design and great references, but it was the relationship he built with us that allowed the wife and I to write him what will be the biggest check of 2011 written in the Gargaro household.


So HVAC contractors can have some hope that there are still people out there who, when they say they are looking for the best deal, do not mean just the best price. If you are bringing more to the table, you have a right - some may say an obligation - to charge more. Sure, being that type of contractor takes more effort, training, and motivation, but at the end of the day, it will also make you a more profitable one.

There is still a big spot in our society to serve the customers who like to pay for quality workmanship and customer service. We highlight many of those contractors who subscribe to that theory in the very pages of this magazine.

I know it is sometimes tough to stay the course, but leave those low-end shoppers for the fly-by-night contractors who don’t track their profit margin. Let them lose money on those jobs.

Construction begins in early July. I will let you know how it turns out.

Publication date: 06/27/2011
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