Bill had designed and built an attractive, solid deck for Mr. Jones, but there seemed to be a new reason every week to postpone final payment. First, Mr. Jones wanted the soil excavated and the footings smoothed out. After Bill took care of that, Mr. Jones wanted a few end tags that were stapled to the framing removed before he’d make payment. Later, he pointed out chalk marks along the edge of the decking that hadn’t disappeared as expected. And after that, he complained about “cracks” in the rail posts and refused to believe they were a natural characteristic of pressure-treated wood. The more Bill tried to satisfy this customer, the more indignant and nit-picky the man got. It occurred to Bill that he may never get paid -- in spite of his good-faith efforts.

So, early one Saturday morning, Bill showed up at the customer’s house. Hoisting a chain saw out of his pickup, he stalked to the back of the house and cranked it up. Mr. Jones bolted out of the back door in his robe and demanded to know what Bill was doing. “I’m taking my deck back,” Bill said. “You can’t do that, it’s my property!” screamed the man. “No,” Bill said, “it’s not your property until you’ve paid for it.” The customer threatened to call the police. “Go ahead, call the police. By the time they get here I’ll be done.” Bill’s look of angry determination and the idling chain saw in his hand convinced the customer that he’d be better off making the final payment. The check cleared, and Bill immediately rewrote the payment schedule and punch list policy in his contract.

No doubt many of you have been tempted to pull out the chain saw with some of your customers. There is a small percentage of the general population that simply must lie, cheat, and steal … perhaps due to some kind of mental pathology. Some of those people become your customers.

How many of you have fantasized about creating a “Better Customer Bureau,” to provide some balance to the numerous organizations and websites dedicated to victimized consumers? Well, someone has finally risen to the challenge. An intrepid contractor in Florida and his daughter have created Business Beware. About a year ago, Robert and Ashley Bodi created their website dedicated to helping businesses deal with deadbeat customers. Registered members (just $5 per year) can post customer names and locations, and the nature of their complaint. There are about 800 members -- mostly, but not all contractors -- who have collectively posted more than a thousand complaints. In the interest of fairness, customers are provided with the opportunity to rebut the claims, but so far none have done so. This is probably due to the lack of widespread awareness of the site.

Hopefully, as membership and public recognition of the site increase over time, Business Beware will become an influential force for truth, justice, and the American way!

--Rick Provost has more than 20 years experience helping to build the country’s largest design/build franchise network specializing in exterior home improvement. Formerly the president and CEO of Archadeck, Rick now provides his franchising expertise through The Consultancy, a consulting firm specializing in business systems development for contractors. Rick also is a facilitator, coach, and consultant for Business Networks, a peer-review network for remodelers and insurance restoration contractors. He can be reached at rickp@profitablecontractor.com.