While the Cat's Away, The Mice Will...Uh...Work

Earlier, over at minus-five, I read Sarah's story of the handy-man hand-out and so decided to tell part two of Sam the Wife. It's an embarrassing tale, especially considering my effusive praise before and considering, as well, how regularly I find myself thusly screwed. It's never exactly the same way; I mean, I vary the ways I allow myself to take it up the--

Anyway, a bit of background/clarification:

About five or six weeks before our Fripp trip (free work retreat), I arranged for Sam to take care of the house. I told her, too, that I was going to try to save a little money out of my allowance (Yes, another blog for another day) and get her to clean some for me. I hoped to save a couple of hundred dollars. As it turned out, I managed to squirrel away only half that amount (thanks to Father's Day!), and I let her know. Before we left, then, I reiterated, "Just do $100 worth of work--ten hours, because that's all the money I have." To which she responded, "What needs to be done most?"

Together we decided that she could clean the three bathrooms. All I do is disinfect the sink and the areas our tender parts touch. I tend not to mop floors, clean baseboards, or wipe down blinds, and I hardly ever scrub the shower walls or doors. We both knew that between the five years of grime I'd allowed to build up and her tendency to clean with toothpicks, it would probably require three hours per bath.

Sam charges $10 an hour for whatever she does, whether she's digging a cellar or polishing a doorknob (in addition to her base rate for house/pet-sitting, which is $30 per day). Always thinking of others, I reminded her, "Please don't do ANYTHING outside. Greg's not paying for this; I am."

As indicated in my last post, when our family arrived home, it looked like Hazel, Alice, and Edward Scissorhands had joined forces under the supervision of Nurse Ratched. Inside and out was spic-n-span. High from the 409 fumes, I discovered a note on the counter from Sam, telling me she'd done a lot of extra work and how I could pay her for it later. No rush.

I walked up the street to her house with a check for the $320 we'd agreed on (dogs/cleaning). It was about 10 p.m by then, and my emotions were all ajumble: exhaustion from the long drive, with its several rounds of The Quiet Game, which always ends with Lo kicking and sobbing and JackMan taunting the "cheating freakwad"; elation from coming home to the new house Summer Santa had brought us; and confusion about money owed.

What was she thinking? Did she not GET the part where I had only been able to save twenty dollars a week and what that says about my financial situation? When she came to the door, I asked her straight out: "How much extra, exactly?" No answer. She kept mumbling stuff like..."a LOT of work...let your conscience be your guide..."

But she didn't have much confidence in my conscience. The next day, after I got home from work, I went to the mailbox and found a four-page itemized list of all the chores she'd taken it upon herself to do, which included cleaning the toilet brushes and their holders, bleaching the bird shit off the bench by the walkway outside, and sanitizing the two large Waste Management trash cans. She even cleaned the pimento cheese and peanut butter out of the buttons on the remote (OK, that I'd pay for). At the bottom of the list was a bill for the balance: $400. For a grand total of $720. ( I know you can add; I'll keep repeating the total, though, until I believe it.)

I thought I was going to throw up. I still might.

I'm thinking about going over there tonight while she's asleep--pruning her shrubs, washing her car, and planting some squash and tomatoes in her backyard.

How much do you think I could charge?


minus five said...

as i read this entry, i thought to myself, "this is the same exact story you told me the other day on the phone." the only other extra thought i had was this: why do you think it is that we get embarrassed about things like this when it's the people doing it to us that should be embarrassed? maybe it's because we feel we should have somehow been able to prevent ourselves from looking like complete idiots. even though it's not our fault. even though, once again, we didn't mean to play the victim.

mcaldwellc said...

Well, the way I see it, you have a few options.
1. Thank her profusely for the work she did and remind her that you DID NOT ask her to do the additional work and, to be charged double the original AGREED UPON amount, is something that you cannot financially arrange at this point and time.
2. Suck it up and pay it.
3. Explain thoroughly that you would love to continue using her for future jobs but you will not feel comfortable asking her if she cannot stay within the parameters of the agreed-upon arrangment...maybe even draft up something that you both sign just so that YOU are clear...

I find that situations like these tend to be resolved easily and quickly if you stay away from blaming the other person and stick to your feelings about it. If you make her feel empowered...like she gets to make a decision about it...more than likely, you can come to some sort of resolution and maintain a neighborly relationship.

Maybe slip some Prozac in her coffee next time you see her, too...that may do the trick.

Collin said...

What are the chances this might wind up on Judge Judy? I need to set TiVo.

Anonymous said...

Who's the stud in the yellow visor?HOT!!

Jennifer said...

T, you need to tell that OCD wash & wax whore to kiss your ass. Tell her you'd love to give her the additional $400 but that would mean sliding your aforementioned sweet ass up and down the pole a few more times each night and, unfortunately, Biggy isn't too keen on the friction marks that kind of hard work leaves on your body. Yeah, tell her that.

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