Sunday, October 11, 2015
Homeowner floored by refinisher's manner
Just how responsible are you for letting others know about your experiences with businesses they recommended or may use themselves?
N.L., a reader from the New England area, recently decided to have the wooden floors in her house refinished. Because she wanted to have some sense that the floor refinisher might do a good job, she asked the owner of the company that painted her house several years earlier for a reference.
After receiving the reference from the painter, N.L. met with the floor refinisher. He measured the rooms and gave her a price for the job. She alerted him to the fact that the floors in one of the rooms had been particularly troublesome since they had wooden pegs covering screws. Over the years, many of the pegs had come loose and she had had to replace them.
"No problem," the refinisher said.
The refinisher told N.L. that he had had a cancellation and could fit the job in the following week. He calculated that it would take no more than a week to get the floors done. N.L. gave the refinisher a check for half the quoted price.
A week passed and the job was not completed. The floor refinisher told N.L. that his regular crew was sick and he had to make do with one assistant. After another week, the refinisher called N.L. to tell her he was done. She was at work when he finished, so she thanked him and said she'd check out the floors when she got home. When she got home and checked, she saw that six pegs were missing from the troublesome floor.
She called the refinisher to tell him about the missing pegs.
"If I'd known these pegs were going to be such a problem, I never would have taken the job," he responded. But he said he'd come back and install the pegs and do the sanding and finishing that needed doing the following week.
After three weeks, the floors were finally done and N.L. reports that they are beautiful. But she wants to know if she should let the painter who recommended the floor refinisher and the neighbor who asked for the refinisher's contact information so he could have his own floors redone about the one week turning into three and the refinisher's complaint about how difficult the job turned out to be.
The right thing for N.L. to do is to let her neighbor come over and examine the floors for himself. If he likes the quality of work, he can decide whether to use the refinisher. N.L. would be right to let her neighbor know about the challenges of working with the refinisher, but still the choice should be his.
It would also be good to let the painter know both that she liked the end product, but that she found the refinisher more challenging to work with than anticipated. It's up to the painter to decide if he wants to continue to recommend the refinisher for other jobs.
N.L. doesn't have to say anything to her neighbor or to the painter. But if she wants to do right by each of them, the right thing is to give each enough information to decide for himself how to proceed.
Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business and The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apart, is a lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School.
Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin
Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.