I’ve been blogging for a little while and I already love it. It gives me the opportunity to write about things that I’d otherwise just think about (and forget about), write about things I actually do care about, post pictures of adorable things, and (as of right now) to vent about the petty inanities of being an adult that goes to work.
Spambot tells me that my blog will attract more readers if it focuses on a specific set of topics. I respectfully disagree, Spambot, though I can certainly understand your well-reasoned argument. I’m not sure you and I have the same priorities with this blog. Good day, Spambot. I said ‘good day!’
And on that note, a protracted work rant – with annotations/catty remarks:
Without going into the nitty gritty of what the company I work for does – because that would be hideous – I will say that we provide a premium service on a project basis to very wealthy people, and we do that in the role of subcontractor. The prefix ‘sub’ says all you need to know.
Being a service provider means dealing with unhappy people fairly often. Being a service provider to Silicon Valley millionaires means wading through vast dark tracts of condescension, and a near-Gatsby-ian morass of existential disconnect. It is my unqualified opinion that many of these clients, while fabulously wealthy, have not necessarily found that wealth has removed all obstacles from their lives. It’s disappointing, I’m sure, to have acquired this wealth and yet to still struggle to get their cable services turned on, just like the undesirables in the loathsome moocher class.
The following example pertains to a project in Hillsborough, CA (or as I call it, that inordinately expensive hill between El Camino Real and Interstate 280), a lavish 15,000 square foot custom estate home. Now in its last stages, I feel I can safely say that it compares favorably to the house seen in the final sequence of the classic 1985 movie, Commando (with Arnold Schwarzenegger). Compares in the sense that it is in the same villa ridiculoso style and would look much better if a one man wrecking crew blasted through the place with as many machine guns as possible – all to find his missing daughter, Alyssa Milano + Pink Converse high tops.
Sorry, couldn’t find an image with the high tops.
But the owner of this estate is not a deposed South American Dictator that has blackmailed retired Colonel John Matrix to assassinate the President of his country, he’s just a Bay Area Millionaire. (Same thing??? YOU DECIDE!)
The following email is from one of the clients, let’s call her “K” (all names changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike):
Just to be clear. We are not unhappy with the quality of work. We are unhappy with the quantity of work. We were expected to move into our home August 1 rst.
[Here’s where we first go off the rails. Nobody at our company has ever heard this 8/1 date. It’s almost as if the builder on the project had withheld that detail from us….more on that.]
The time leading up to that date did not seem to be critical to YOUR COMPANY as there were not many employees on site.
[K is an expert in construction best practices, so this definitely got my attention. Wait, she’s not? She has no idea how to gauge what would be required at what time? Oh, in that case I don’t care.]
We had to negotiate a deal with the new owners of our home to get an extension.
[I know how awful that can be and I’m pretty sympathetic. Oh wait, what? I’ve always assumed that I’ll never be able to afford property in the Bay Area? Oh yeah, no, I don’t care that she had to extend that.]
We were then moving in mid August. Again, this did not appear to be a rush for YOUR COMPANY. We begged the new owners for one last extension.
[They literally begged? Please!!! Hmm. I know it was a little over the top for us to send some people out to their home to whip them, but what can I say, we’re sadists.]
We let everyone know we were moving in this Saturday no matter what. I have since come to learn that you were still not going to send the full compliment of electricians this week. We are not even confident we will have functional lighting when we arrive on Saturday.
[This is probably the time to point out that K and her designer are providing the lion’s share of the lighting, and that most of that lighting is un-installable and not on site.]
When asked, your team is not able to guarantee that either. This is very frustrating and makes very little sense to us.
[It’s hard for things to make sense when you aren’t able to understand anything no matter how many times someone has explained why this reality exists. I suppose it helps if you live your life as though you have an unlimited ability to control reality, or at least to make other people feel bad that they aren’t able to do that for you.]
As far as I know, there have been no delays on our side.
[This is the part where my head almost rolled off my shoulders. ALL project delays have been their fault. Quick example – the lighting she mentioned? There are lights that are still TBD. Pretty hard to purchase and install TBD lighting. We’re good – but not that good! And you know who the “D” in TBD rests on? Her name begins with a ‘K’ and ends in ‘I hate you.’]
There are fixtures stacked up in the garage that have yet to be hung.
[These are the fixtures that she is providing that I mentioned. Those fixtures have arrived this week and there’s more to come. It’s Thursday. Monday was a holiday. Reports from the site tell me that ONE of the fixtures she’s provided are UL Listed and have the necessary mounting hardware. That means all but one of the lights she (literally) purchased from estate sales and other reclaimed sources are un-installable.]
However, I understand that your team did not order/purchase many of the necessary items which has caused some delays.
[The stuff we have not ordered has not been approved. The decisions that she needs to make on these parts and pieces are the reason those parts and pieces are not already at her home. This is because we believe that she will be unhappy with parts and pieces that aren’t what she expressly wants. Again, we’re good – but not yet mind-readers.]
With regard to the TiVo boxes – last week was the first we had heard of the need to order/purchase them.
[This is an item that we’ve reviewed a dozen times with her and that has been in her project scope since she originally signed us up – in early 2011. As a note, the reason she’s providing these is that she wanted to save a little money and not pay us roughly $200 for our fee to provide/warranty them.]
You explicitly told us NOT to purchase them from Best Buy.
[No, we explicitly told her to “buy these at either BestBuy or directly through TiVo.”]
I have been on the phone with TiVo for the past hour in an attempt to either get the boxes or cancel the order. I am now on my way to Best Buy to wait for them to open at 10 so that I can get them to the house in time for your people to program them. Comcast is scheduled to arrive between 12 and 2. Arranging this appointment has been extremely difficult and not something I want to try to reschedule.
[To my knowledge, scheduling a Comcast appointment can be accomplished in about 10-30 minutes in one phone call. That does sound extremely difficult. I just hope she’s ok!]
Please let your people know that I will get the boxes to them this morning. As you can imagine, trying to organize this move in addition to everything else is somewhat overwhelming. I had not anticipated a three hour commitment to correcting this situation.
[You know what the value of that three hours is for our company? About $200. You know who knew that it could take three hours? Us, when we told her what she could pay us to do this for her.]
THE BUILDER has offered to do as much as possible to assist but in order to make it work
[This is probably the right time to point out that the builder she’s referring to is making anywhere from 8-15% on all the work we’re performing. You know who had the 8/1 date? The builder. You know who we’ve been communicating with about all the delays and the impact on the schedule? The builder. You know whose responsibility it is to ensure that the client make decisions that will impact their project? The builder. It’s almost as if they’ve scapegoated us for their shortcomings while collecting their percentage on our work…Huh. Weird that the client doesn’t know that…Again, ‘sub.’]
I will need to make the purchases and call TiVo again to initiate the service. In the end I expect this all to take several hours – time I really don’t have.
[I know you don’t, you’ve got to devote most of your time to writing angry emails about the vagaries of this all-too-cruel existence, not making decisions, and to purchasing non-functional lighting that you expect our crack team of wizards and scientists to install and make work. What? We’re just a bunch of tradesmen? Oh, never mind.]
If we had been given advance notice of the need for these items this could have been avoided.
But of course none of that can be said to the client. The customer is always right! And so here is the response, with some helpful translations, for those who don’t speak Bizspeakish.
I’m really happy to hear that you’re satisfied with the quality of the work. [Not really, but I want to take the opportunity to highlight the one positive thing you said.] I’m confident that you’ll be really happy with the work we’ve performed when all is said and done. [I know you’ll never be happy no matter what we do for you. We could save your life – twice! – and you’d still be dissatisfied somehow.]
I want you to know that this is literally the first time we’ve heard that there was an August 1st move in date, or that you’ve been in the position of delaying with the new owners of your home. The first firm move-in date we’ve received was the September 10th date that we’ve all been working toward. Similarly, we did not receive any feedback that we were the source of significant delays.
There was never an intention of sending less than the full compliment of electricians necessary for the work involved. I don’t know how else to address that. [Your facts? They are not good facts.]
It’s true that there are delays associated with our purchasing and procurement, but there are a series of facts that have seemingly not been communicated with you or J. [J is the other client/hubby. Want to implicate builder SO BAD…but can’t do it directly…] I sent some of that information to J last night [in response to his even shittier email.], but to recap here – we have been stymied by design decisions throughout the project. [‘design decisions’ is the polite way of saying ‘your decisions’] We have also been proactive in alerting the project team as to which pending decisions would impact the project schedule. [this is another subtle – or not so subtle – dig at the builder.] Most of those efforts failed to yield timely design decisions. When decisions have been made, we’ve jumped to take action – be it in ordering, or in getting resources on site. And I want to point out that this has not been driven by the finances on the project. We’ve performed a significant number of items prior to getting that work into contract in an effort to help keep the project schedule on track. In some cases, the time between performance of this additional work and getting that work into contract has been in periods of months. We’ve worked in good faith. [we’ve done this because it doesn’t matter whether you’re honoring your contractual obligations or not, not getting things done that have been verbally approved will still yield messages just like the one above from you. No good deed goes unpunished, it seems.]
Many of the products we are providing have long lead times. A significant portion of the lighting control materials – namely keypads for lighting functionality – have been approved as recently as August 6th. Typical lead times on those products are 4+ weeks. We’ve been trying to pin down decisions on many of these items since April.
This is a big part of why we are where we are. [I did my best to construct those last two statements in a way that would have an impact, but this type of client has an unbelievable ability to deflect responsibility. It’s almost as if they’re complete narcissists!]
Another challenge has been incomplete access to areas of the house. Many rooms only received final paint last week. Some areas still have paint or cabinetry in process. This make it all but impossible to proceed in those areas. [this is another swipe at the builder. Take that!]
We have provided the project team with details on what equipment we will and won’t have operational and what the impact will be on the lighting system. I’m sorry to hear that that information has not been shared with you. [you been lied to, K! Lied to!]
I’m very sorry about the lack of coordination on the TiVo boxes. [I’m not sorry at all.]
I’d like to help however I can, [I don’t want to help at all.]
though it sounds like we’re past the point of being able to offer something significant. We will make a concerted effort to ensure that there are no more issues like this on the remaining A/V system equipment. [I promise to approach the rest of the work the same exact way we’ve done the work preceding it.]
I’d like to make sure that you have all the information necessary to understand what will and will not get completed [I’d like to air the builder’s failures in front of you and the builder.] – and to help clarify what remaining decisions need to get made to make more progress. [I’d like to do the job of the builder and try and make you make these decisions.] Let me know how you’d like to do that. We remain committed to delivering an outstanding finished product for you and J. [I stopped caring about your project.]
And after sending that, I promptly went and washed my hands.