Maybe I’m crazy, but when I agree to pay for a service I ask how much it costs first and that’s what I expect to pay. For the nth time this week, my landscape architect presented me with a bill that is twice the price that I agreed to pay him this season.
Every year my gardener and I discuss my outdoor city garden and what my budget is.
Me: “As little as possible.”
Him: “More, more, more.”
Me: “I have no money.”
Him: “We need to paint, power wash, buy new flowers. More money please.” (My daughter is leaving for college and I need to pay her tuition is what I think he is saying implicitly. Mine are right behind his, though, but that’s my problem, not his.)
Me: “I have no money. But I want it to be beautiful.”
Him: “Then you must pay more money. More money. More money.”
Every year we agree (finally) to a price that is slightly higher than I wanted and much lower than what he wanted. Then the gardeners go to work, with my deposit check already cashed (which is usually 75% of the total agreed upon number).
Then the work suddenly stops.
“I have a dying tree,” I tell him on a voice message, because he never answers his phone — at least not when I’m calling. “And the garden isn’t lush enough.”
“I need to have the garden fixed up because it’s being photographed for a national publication,” I write to him on email, because he doesn’t reply to my phone messages. “It will be great P.R. for you if the garden looks beautiful.”
A few days later I get the “revised” bill for twice the amount that we agreed to, along with a promise that his head gardener will be over the next day.
I write back immediately, though I should probably not respond at all. Then the head gardener would come and do the work and we could argue later about the bill. But that is hindsight now, as I did reply immediately as follows:
“How can you charge me twice the agreed upon price again?” I type furiously. “I told you what I could afford and you are now holding me hostage. My rhododendron is dying here and my pavers are dirty. My hose is broken and my flowers are dying of thirst.”
“Will you be sending the gardener back to deal with the rhododendron?” I ask again. It has a bunch of brown leaves all over it, which he is attributing to windburn. I don’t really know much about gardening, though I’m beginning to think that I will need to learn quickly.
“I don’t tell my customers that I will sell their apartments for them for a 6% commission and then charge them 12% once the transaction is complete,” I write (this is not the first time I have used this example with him). “So how can you continually charge twice what I have agreed upon?”
Maybe his other clients have a lot more money than I do or just don’t know how to say no, but I don’t understand how he can run a business this way.
I have ordered a new hose from a local hardware store that I love — Garber Hardware. I am waiting anxiously for it to be delivered so I can save my plants from dying of thirst.
Next I will google “windburn” and “rhododendron” and go outside with my gardening shears and gloves, or whatever is required and try to save my browning bush.
Who needs a gardener anyway, right?
Well, actually, I do.