Saying thank you and meaning it goes a long way

I work in an admin environment and I deal with helping clients to start their home building process, I work with them throughout from the beginning all the way to the end and afterwards with their warranty items. I have a very hands on position in directly dealing with clients to schedule them in to meet with suppliers, contractors and our general builder.

In the beginning I normally get a lot of “thank you’s” and appreciation for quick replies and my professionalism in different situations. As time goes on though there seems to be a flip in attitudes towards me and it can really bring me down since I haven’t changed my work ethic and I can only do so much.

Because I work as a third party initiator in doing things like setting up meetings for two or more other parties, I’m the only one to really talk to if issues arise.

I have mostly positive experiences with a couple negative ones that hardly overshadow the good except for one scenario with one of my past clients.

I’ll start at the beginning:

The clients that we built for (lets call them the McDonald’s) were actually clients that we had built for already before I worked here, and they were ready to build something new and modern. At first they weren’t too bad because they knew what style of home they wanted to build, their finances were in order and they were ready to build when we were. After a few meetings with them, their attitudes shifted between excited to anxious and angry which was very hard to deal with, even for my boss. They couldn’t stay out of anything and would go to our contractors behind our backs and make decisions with them that we wouldn’t find out about until later. We work on a strict schedule so that there are never issues with our closing dates, so any changes like ordering siding without telling us and not letting us know that it had to also be back ordered because it wasn’t in stock doesn’t help anything. We still managed to close the house early. I always do the final walk through with the clients to go over any big warranty items and to explain how the warranty system works which is normally something I look forward to doing.

Most walk throughs that I do are a lot of fun because the clients are excited to start moving in, they’re excited to push every button and flush every toilet and they’re just happy to own their new home. When it came time to do the walk through with the McDonald’s I was not prepared at all for their attitude. As I stepped out of my car and walked towards them, I noticed their sour faces and sullen expressions as I got closer. I knew something was wrong and I wanted to address it right away. On the verge of tears, they told me the house was not cleaned to their standards, that two of the bathroom pipes were leaking and causing damages to their vanities, that there were issues with the paint, doors, fireplace, ceiling, floors, etc. I was overwhelmed by their negativity about everything and had them point everything out to me. Most of the items they were concerned about were regular occurrences like needing paint touch ups, drywall cracks, and things like that (which is nothing out of the ordinary). I was upset that my boss had not given me a heads up about the leaks, I was mad that these issues were not taken care of right away; I even ran back to the office and grabbed two of my own containers to keep the water from doing further damage.

After the walk through, I called my boss and told him about all of the issues and that I was surprised nothing had been done about the leaks and that I hadn’t seen that before. That’s when a lot of new information surfaced. 50% of the issues that the homeowners were peeving mad about, they had done themselves. The only reason their pipes were leaking was because they had loosened some bolts to allow the under cabinets to close properly… The drywall was cracking already because they had the fireplace blasting at full heat with no fan on. And just so on like that –

So their house closed last October; through Tarion, they get a 30-day list that we have about 6 months to a year to comply with and fix the items listed; and then they have a one year list where anything unresolved from the first list gets resolved within that following year. I have been working on the McDonald’s list since about November 2015 and it’s been horrible to deal with them (mainly the husband though to be fair).

As the admin person my only real tools to get things accomplished on these lists are my charm and persuasion to try and get the contractors to come out. The main issues in getting contractors to come out to fix warranty items are the facts that they have to pay for materials, labour, and travel expenses. It’s like pulling teeth to get them to come out and do warranty work. The only time they seem to be willing to do so is when they are in the area working on a new build for us. I’ve had to explain this to a few homeowners because sometimes they get frustrated over an item that should be an easy fix but has taken 6 or more months to have resolved. After I explain what’s going on with the contractors they stop sending me angry e-mails, and start just politely asking for updates or how to get in touch with said contractors.

The McDonalds on the other hand have needed me to explain this situation at least 5 times in the last 6 months. And it’s not them just asking me what the hold up is, it’s them berating me and blaming me for not getting the guys out there like if I’m holding things up on purpose. Every time I have to re-explain the situation I get more tense and frustrated and I know it shows in my responses. I just want them to stop accusing me and being passive aggressive to the point that I feel bad about myself even though I have no control over the contractors and their schedules.

I did manage to get some items sorted and fixed and I do update them every time a contractor lets me know they might be able to stop in to fix other issues. The thing to remember though is that a lot of the times the contractors will give me a heads up but it’s literally just a maybe and nothing set in stone so I’d say 70% of the time they don’t show. So I understand the frustration that the clients feel considering they get their hopes up (and mine) and then are disappointed when nothing actually happens. With saying that though, I know I feel vindicated when they finally do make it out and resolve a problem no matter how new or outstanding the issue is. Most homeowners also feel that relief and are happy to not be dealing with that issue anymore.

I managed to resolve some major issues for the McDonalds including working with our Mason who passed me along to his supplier who dealt with the stone manufacturer to resolve a stone stain issue (a certain kind of warrantable efflorescence). And after working with everyone and not being in the loop, having people ignore my phone calls and e-mails, having people lie to me, etc.; the issue finally got resolved. I worked really hard to have everyone take the issue seriously and to keep things moving along as best I could. (Because if you think about it, the manufacturer was already paid, the supplier was already paid and the mason already put the stone up and was paid).

Do you think I deserved a thank you for my troubles? At the very least a pat on the back for pursuing everyone involved and being persistent with my calls for action for months and months? NOPE! The husband calls me complaining that they had missed a spot on the wall and that he had to reschedule with them again and then started on about other items that are still outstanding.

They have a screened door issue where the door doesn’t glide properly and the track just needs to be adjusted a little bit. Is it an annoying issue? Sure. Is it obstructing the house from functioning as it should? Absolutely not. The contractors who will fix it were only going to look into it when they were working on a new build in the neighbourhood and they are finally here this week! I excitedly let the McDonalds know that I would be in touch with them sometime soon to figure out a schedule to fix all their outstanding items and be done with it. Do you think I could get a “thanks for letting us know”? NOPE I get a reply right away about how unprofessional this whole situation has been and that they have been so patient and that they want their issues resolved this week. So again, I DO NOT CONTROL THE CONTRACTORS!!!!!!!! If they want to fix it next week or the week after or the week after that, it is COMPLETELY out of my control!!! FOR FUCKS SAKE!!!!

So since starting on this torturous journey with the McDonalds I have felt personally attacked; made out to feel like a bad guy in their eyes, selfish, lazy, not good at my job, and basically just telling willing contractors to not bother fixing anything (because that makes sense right? I’ve actually had contractors tell me they we going to take as long as possible because they couldn’t stand to be around the McDonalds).

Up until now I have felt beaten down by all of this because there was nothing more I could do about fixing their items and yet I was the one they were taking their frustrations out on. I felt really mad at them for putting me in this position where I can never do right by them and that even when I do something right it isn’t good enough. Today, after I got that e-mail reply about the screen door, a light bulb went off. I shouldn’t feel bad about myself, if anything I should feel sorry for them. What a miserable existence they are living. They can never be happy about anything, they can’t rejoice in the small victories, they can’t enjoy their $600,000 dollar home, they can’t just live in the moment; it’s always about what’s wrong and grinding that negativity into everyone involved in the issue of the day. How sad is that?

The scary thing about all of this is that we are just finishing up their 30-day list items, I can’t stand the thought of having to deal with them on their one year list for another year… But at least now I know for sure that I’m not the problem, they are their own enemies in all of this and nothing I can do will make them happy. By the looks of it, with all of the good things that they seemingly take for granted in their lives, nothing will.

I’m happy that I turned out the way I did, because I know in my heart if I stay at a middle class level or if I move up or if I move down, that I will always be kind to others and that I will give out the respect that is due to individuals especially if they are just trying to help me out in one way or another.  Graciousness, thankfulness, understanding and respect are probably the most important qualities in a human being.



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