This is something I’ve wanted to touch on for sometime now as there seems to be a lot of talk in the building sector about ‘Cowboy Builders’ but never much about ‘Cowboy Customers’. Like with anything, there will always be a handful of people who want to capitalize on something at somebody else’s expense or misfortune, and believe it or not, this also happens with a few customers or so in the building sector.
If you mention the word ‘Cowboy’ to somebody in connection to the building sector, the first thing that will enter their mind is Cowboy Builder, or ‘shoddy tradesman’. Well while I will not try to fob you off into believing that there are no Cowboy Builders in our sector, I will also attempt to put forward another argument to you, and that is the realm of the Cowboy Customer, and yes, they do exist!
Let me firstly tell you that here at 5KC, the vast majority or our customers, are a pleasure to deal with and we seldom have any difficulties when it comes to settlement of accounts etc. We always deliver first class work every time and our customers are very appreciative of this. But every now and then, we will always come across what we can only define as a ‘Cowboy Customer’.
What Is A Cowboy Customer?
Quite simply, a Cowboy Customer is somebody who wants to have work or a service done for a fraction of the total cost, or worse still, for nothing at all! Sound a little far fetched? Well don’t be too alarmed because it’s happening to businesses each and every day all over the UK.
In the building sector, a typical scenario for the Cowboy Customer may be that the builder has agreed a fair price with the customer, completed the work as agreed, finished on time and done a fantastic job, but then when it comes to payment, the customers explains that he or she hasn’t got the funds right now and will pay for it as soon as at all possible. A week passes, two weeks passes, they don’t pick up the telephone and won’t answer the door when you call, hoping that you will finally get fed up chasing the payment and will just write it off as a loss.
Another scenario will be as before, the builder has done all as agreed and a fantastic job, always checking along the way that the customer is happy with the work so far, and the customer acknowledges that all is good and they are very happy with how things are looking. The job finishes and you present the customer with their invoice for works. Miraculously, the customer now starts to find a list of things that they are unhappy about, all things that you had already sought clarification about and had been checked off. It doesn’t matter what you say or do, the customer is still requesting that you knock off a percentage of the agreed price for works.
These ‘Cowboy Customers’ from the above examples will stop at no length to evade payment and sadly it is an everyday occurrence in the building sector causing builders to take financial losses that they had never anticipated.
So What’s The Solution To All This?
Great question, I guess you have a few ways to go about this. The best way is to try and resolve the matter mutually between customer and builder in order to put the things to an early close but should this not be possible the builder can try to have another party intervene on his behalf. The builder can speak to a solicitor or other legal representative who will contact the customer to try and ‘mediate’ in an effort to bringing the dispute to an early close. If this doesn’t solve the problem then the builder is well within his rights to esculate the issue and take the customer to a small claims court whereby a judge or adjudicator will decide the outcome.
The small claims court route however, is timely and additional expenses will have to be met so it is far better to try and resolve any issues without going down this route.
For many smaller builders or even ‘one man bands’, taking a customer to a small claims court is not even an option as they simply cannot afford the expense or commit the time to do so; subsequently for many builders, this means taking a loss which can be catastrophic. The other alternative is refer the debt to a debt collection agency in the hope that some of the monies may be recouped that way.
The above are just a couple of things a builder can do to try and be paid for his works tendered but I can tell you that I’ve heard of builders going back to the premises where work was carried out and taking their materials back. I’ve known plaster to be taken back off walls and even roofs being taken back off!! While I don’t condone this behaviour for even one minute, I can certainly understand a builders frustration when he has completed a job satisfactorily only to discover that the customer refuses to pay in order to get the job done for nothing.
However, if you’re a builder and this has happened to you, you should contact your legal representative at your earliest opportunity to discuss the best course of action to take.
So there you have it! There are not only Cowboy Builders in the building sector, but also a handful of Cowboy Customers! Not many granted, but they do exist.
Are you a builder and had ‘Cowboy Customers’ try to get work done for nothing?
Are you a customer who’s had to deal with a ‘Cowboy Builder’?
What say you?
Let’s hear those experiences!