In the Middle

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Long complicated story much shorter: I used a contractor last year for
a major remodel. Call him Nathan. This past winter my friend Beth and
her husband Mark needed a new deck and walkway done. Nathan gave
them an estimate but was very clear he couldn’t pin down total cost
until he tore off the old one and saw if there was any dry-rot to the
supports, etc. They went ahead and used him. He told me he really
liked Beth but that Mark was a pain in the patootie and kept asking
him do to “just one more thing” several times. He failed to say, That’s
an add-on” or “That’ll cost more.” And just did the work. He told me
that he did about $1500 in extra labor, but when he told them that at
the end of the project, Mark would not pay him. He sounded very dark
about Mark’s recent vacation and Mark’s new car. I was horrified, and
said, I’ll talk to Beth. He said he had no hard feelings with her and it
was “water under the bridge” and that he has “moved on.” I think he
does not want me to bring it up. But Beth and I used to be close, and
even though we don’t see each other very often now, I feel somewhat
responsible for Nathan not getting paid. Should I shut up or speak to
her? PS a mutual friend says this is a pattern of Mark’s, schnorring
even people he knows far better.

In the Middle

Dear In the Middle:

You’re bearing guilt that you are not going to be able to easily get rid
of. Ultimately it was Nathan’s responsibility to say something at the
time like, That’s an add-on. or That’s work that’s outside the scope of
what we discussed. It’ll cost approximately $xyz more, at an hourly of
$xy. Ideally to protect both homeowner and contractor, there should
have been a written bid, or at least an estimate, with terms about
payment for materials and the hourly rate documented. As well as the
initial scope of the work. In the absence of either an original and/or an
amended description, Mark may feel as right as you do on Nathan’s



If the friendship matters to you, you have two choices. One: move
past it without saying anything to Beth, because Nathan seems to
have done so. Or, two, say something because it is bothering you,
without having any expectation that the situation will change. The
latter is more troublesome, because you are transferring your angst
onto their relationship. If you do say something, limit it to what you
know directly, not what you have been told about other situations. But
don’t expect to be satisfied by the convo.