Banter Nightmare customers

5 ‘potential customer’ red flags

We’ve all been there. You’re standing talking to a potential customer when that warning light in your head starts going off. I call it my bullsh%& omen detector, but other people call them red flags. 

A red flag is when somebody does something that immediately gives you the impression that they’re going to be a royal pain in the arse in the long run. Whether you carry on after that is up to you, but you have been warned. 

Red Flag 1 – The overly pedantic    

Obviously, everybody wants a job done right, but some are just eternally dissatisfied. You can call it pedantic, picky, fussy – or just plain bloody annoying – and it can be a difficult situation to work under.  

But it probably depends on just how pedantic somebody is being before you consider running for the hills. 

Red Flag 2 – The Micromanager

I’m sure everybody has had one of those jobs where the client tries to hover over your shoulder every second while “checking how things are going”. This can be infuriating for two main reasons; the first is that it’s not pleasant having your work scrutinised while still in progress (we’re not in school anymore) and secondly, the person hovering over you probably has absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. If you ever want to freak out a micromanager, finish the job you’re doing, straighten up, then ask, “so what’s next?”

Red Flag 3 – The Scrimper 

Alarm bells should be ringing if somebody repeatedly brings up that they don’t have a lot of money or that there are some unseen financial possibilities. I don’t want to overgeneralise and say that all people who do it are trying to lay the groundwork for inevitable ‘money problem’ talk later in the job, but it certainly happens. 

Red Flag 4 – The ‘Anxious Arnold’

This doesn’t always need to be a huge issue, but certainly, something to bear in mind. Even before Covid-19, there were plenty of people who were – how can I say this delicately, a little on edge. That’s fine if it doesn’t affect those around them, but we’ve all come across those clients who are a constant bag of nerves and anxieties. 

This doesn’t mean that they don’t have legitimate reasons to be anxious, but when it affects those around them, it can create a difficult atmosphere to work in for a long period.

Red Flag 5 – The straight-up shady individual

Lastly, there are always going to be people who are looking to gain an advantage – sometimes even over other people. If somebody starts off by telling you that they don’t need permits or planning permission or immediately starts pressing you to do the job under the table, you can normally quickly determine that they’ve got all of the ethics of an East German weightlifter from the 1980s.

We certainly don’t all need to be saints, but this is probably one of the more serious red flags. It doesn’t take a scientist to see that working with this kind of person can lead to numerous problems. 

Nightmare customers Top tips for tradesmen

Dealing with customer complaints

Is there anything as frustrating as customer complaints? You’ve worked all day and done a good job, but there are always those who will find something to complain about.

First of all, let’s be clear about the difference between a reasonable complaint and a whining for the sake of it complaint. If you bodge a job, you don’t really have a leg to stand on if somebody throws some complaints in your direction – in fact, you probably deserve it. 

Whining for the sake of it complaints are different and we all know we people who do it. Some just seem to enjoy complaining. I know that sounds ridiculous, but give me a better theory? As much as we’d often love nothing more than to tell these people to sod off and get a life, that’s not always advisable – especially if you want to keep your job.  

What kind of complaint is it?  

The first question to ask is, is it reasonable? If it’s a reasonable complaint and you’ve missed or forgotten something, then just get on with. It might be frustrating to have to go back over something, but that’s part of your job.

Things get a bit more complicated if you know that the reason for their complaining is absurd. This is, of course, subjective, one person’s reasonable complaint might sound ridiculous to somebody else, but generally, if you’ve worked in the trades for a while you can tell the difference.  

Is there anything you can do?

If somebody starts ranting that you’ve left ⅛ of a footprint on their clean tiles you can offer to go and clean it all up. Almost always they tend to see sense in what they’re saying and decide that making you scrub off something that measures 1.5 inches across sounds ludicrous. 

Would an apology help?

Look, nobody likes apologising for something that they don’t feel they need to. And even worse, apologising for something that you know is somebody else’s fault. Let’s be honest, it’s damaging to your pride and integrity and you might loathe the idea of saying those two little words that often make all of the difference – I’m sorry.

That’s not to say you should just blindly apologize for everything, but just think that sometimes we need to bite the bullet for the sake of trying to maintain a healthy atmosphere. 

Have you explained the process?

People often don’t really understand what the process is going to look like, instead, they just imagine the finished article. They don’t know that their kitchen is going to like Robert Downey Jr’s stag do before it looks like the shining example in the IKEA catalogue. A lot of complaints come from a lack of clarity, so it’s always worth outlining everything to them before you start. Then when they complain about the dust, at least you’ve got something to fall back on.

People are People 

The reality is that some people will always find something to complain about – it’s in their nature. We can discuss why they feel like that, but I think that’s enough for a whole blog in itself. Difficult people are part and parcel of the job and something you need to learn how to do with.

Banter Nightmare customers

5 classic customer remarks

We’ve picked some blinders that we’re sure all trades have heard and be warned, some are quite annoying!

We all love to pretend that we are totally unique, but anybody who works in the trades knows that clients and their needs and phrases often follow a set pattern. Here are five commonly heard phrases that those in the trades hear frequently  (and why you probably shouldn’t say some of them).  

‘I’m pretty sure I can do it myself but the wife wanted me to get a professional in’

Let’s be honest here, pride and ego often have a habit of getting in the way. The stereotypical view that men should be able to build, fix, renovate and install is often way wide of the mark. The truth is many men (and women) can’t do these kinds of things – which is why we hire professionals to do them. Even if we know it’s not true we often throw out some variation of this sentence in order for us to feel slightly better. You can do that – or you can just accept that you can’t do everything under the sun and move on to something else.  

‘Is there any way of getting things finished a bit sooner than planned?’

Yes of course. Let me just go and get the small army of workers I’ve got waiting in the van for this exact purpose. People often seem to think that those in the trades are working at a greatly reduced speed anyway and that a polite kick up the backside might be enough to speed up the whole process. It’s definitely not, grrrr, really grinds my gears!

‘I had a little play around but couldn’t see anything wrong with it’ 

This is essentially code for, ‘I stuck a screwdriver into that hole there and wiggled it around but it didn’t fix the problem’. You’ve got to give it to them for trying at least and it’s certainly preferable to the amateur plumbers who smash and bash around in the vain hope of magically fixing a loose bolt with a hammer.   

‘That’s a little out of my budget I’m afraid. Any chance you could do it for a bit cheaper?’

Absolutely! And congratulations on using the secret password that automatically knocks 20% of the quote that I’ve just given you. I know that times are difficult for a lot of people, but potential clients who attempt to barter down the price can be infuriating. You wouldn’t walk into Argos and ask them if you can have that new TV for less than the stated price, so why do people think they can do it with the trades? 

Is it cheaper if I don’t get a receipt?’ *usually said in a hushed whisper 

Well, that’s one way to make the situation awkward. Let’s just be very clear about what you’re actually asking, shall we. You want to know if the price is lower if the tradesman in front of you is willing to break the law and work for cash in hand. 

Some are more than happy to do this, while others are not. But by asking the question you might have put this person in a dilemma. I mean, I’m sure all of us would love to not pay our taxes but that’s not really the point is it, calling it out like that…

If you enjoyed this article, learned something or just like our vibes at TradesmanElite, please find us on Instagram, Facebook & share this post with a friend. @TrademanElite.

Ps. Let us know in the comments if we’ve missed any phrases and what your favourites are!

Banter Nightmare customers War stories

What to do when your customer refuses to pay

When Builders Destroy

What do you do when a customer refuses to pay for work done?

Take them to court? A lengthy and costly process. Ask nicely and hope they pay? A reasonable yet most likely fruitless approach.

How about knocking down all your work? Sounds a bit drastic, but might at least give you that delightful release. 

Ever since people started paying others to build or fix things, people have also been refusing to pay. It’s an age-old problem and one that comes with a few pleasant options. Legal proceedings can take months and often end up costly for everybody involved. There is a degree of trust involved on both sides and when one of those sides doesn’t deliver, things can get ugly. 

After failing to pay a £7,300 bill, a woman in Cheshire watched in horror as this group smashed apart their own work in her garden.

The video which was uploaded to Facebook includes this somewhat Godfather Esque statement from the ring leader before the destruction unfolded. Watch our video here on You Tube

‘This is what happens when you try and have me off for £7,300. Smash the whole place to bits.’

According to reports, the police were called to the property but no arrests were made. 

A firm favourite from 2008 is this clip that appeared on Sky News, in which builders destroy a conservatory and a front porch after the owner refused to pay the agreed £15,000. The highlight of the news piece is undoubtedly the interview with the builder with his sledgehammer casually slung over his shoulder. His take on things is wonderfully honest while also being slightly unsettling.  

‘Very satisfying to knock it all down and see the lady get what was coming to her – but gut-wrenching at the same time’

The internet is awash with these tales of woe and blind rage. But the problem is that legally it’s still a very grey area. While builders are technically within their rights to reclaim materials used, wanton destruction can easily lead to a court case, as was seen in this story in which a builder’s crazed demolition of a conservatory was captured on CCTV and played in court. 

Look, we get it. When you feel like you’ve been cheated it must feel truly amazing to destroy something with a sledgehammer as payback. In fact, I can’t think of too many better ways of relieving tension than swinging a giant hammer through a wall. But the police tend to take a fairly dim view on crazed assaults on houses these days and while it might be the greatest two and half minutes of your life (insert sexual innuendo if needed) that release will soon be over and you’ll probably be left at the start of a lengthy legal journey. 

So what can be done instead? 

We’d love to be able to offer a new and satisfying alternative, but dealing with customers who don’t pay is a difficult situation to address.

Your best bet is documenting and record the work carefully then seek mediation or other legal alternatives. It’s not nearly as satisfying as swinging a sledgehammer, but let’s be honest, what is? At least this way you’ll have a fighting chance of getting paid without falling into legal problems yourself. We wrote a good post on how to protect yourself from getting knocked here. 

And if you really feel the need to smash up a room, try Wreck Room. The legal way to get out that wild destructive side that lies in us all.    

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Banter Nightmare customers War stories

Ever walked off a job mid-way through?

The time a customer went nuts & we walked.

I remember a few times I was close, real close to losing it. The question is; should we lose our rags and just walk out of a job? Or even going a step further and telling a customer where to go!

When I look back to those days, I was young and had limited people experience.

I’d often find myself quite defensive if I felt anyone using any sort of ‘tone’ with me or if they were over demanding…..

Of course, most customers are alright and I used to bend over backwards to do a good job the majority of the time, as I’m sure all of you reading this do too.

But…. There are those customers who push you to the edge… 

One particular time in Barnet North London stands out

I remember me and my mate installing a heating system for a guy, his wife was heavily pregnant, it was freezing cold out and he had no heating.

The dispute: He wanted us to run the pipes a really awkward route, which caused tension on the job when we told him it would be extra.

Fuel to the fire: We nipped out for a sandwich and some water from an old dormant pipe had leaked through the downstairs.

When we walked back in the house he started shouting at the top of his voice.

At that point, we just said; “listen, we’re done here, mate.”

That riled him up even more, he forced us out of the house, with our tools locked inside. 

Being around 21 years old (13 years ago now) and we’d just gone self-employed, we wanted our tools back and looking back we could have handled it better by being more understanding to his situation.

My mate in an instant jumped over the fence, ran back into the ‘war zone’ through the back door and got our tools.

We ended up having to call the police to calm it down. What a day!

The key is to avoid being in situations which could lead to you a.) wanting to walk off a job. b.) losing it completely and telling someone where to go.

Communication and planning is the secret sauce.

Yep, that sounds like the sort of thing someone very mature and annoying might say, however when tensions fray, threats are made, money is on the line, you’ll wish you got this right.


Let’s break it down below. 

Quoting – job run down

You and your customer would have agreed on what you’re doing and for how much.

In trades, we love having a quick friendly chat agreeing on a price and leaving, then the customer calling up or texting us a few days later, saying yep, let’s go for it!

We then go there and crack on with nothing on paper and expect to be paid at the end.

Let me just tell you, that’s a really good way to come unstuck.

You need to quote properly and run the customer through the quote, then get the customer to agree by signing or replying to an email or text at the very least.

This also applies if you work for a company.

Be sure to get your customer to ask any questions they’re unsure of before you start and keep them in the loop the whole way through the job.

Always be clear on price, timelines and be as specific as possible in every area.

I literally can’t emphasise this enough, laying out a really clear quote and running through it, is the best thing you can do to avoid trouble. I used to use some software called Quotient. I’ll discuss that in another post.

Once a customer has signed a quote and you have done what it says to the letter, there is a dispute and you can take them to court if they don’t pay it.

Problems on jobs

Let us be honest, this happens, a hole drilled in the wrong place, something not straight, etc, etc.

Don’t ignore it and don’t let the customer spot it before you tell them. Just say; “hey, this has been a bit more complicated than normal, I can see this isn’t quite where we want it, leave it with me, I got it!”

If you leave it, the customer will think there are more problems lurking and they’ll lose trust in you.

Collecting payment/Finishing the job

Always tell the customer at the start of the job or whilst quoting, when and how you want to be paid and ask; is that OK? There’s a lot of psychology in getting people to say: ‘YES‘ and getting that YES is an important one for everyone, as often customers are anxious to know how and when you want to be paid and calling it out at the start reduces tensions for everyone.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and even if you’ve been in a similar situation!