Sales person misrepresented the English fluency of their employees
It is important to me that I am able to effectively communicate with individuals whom I hire to work at my house, so that I get good quality work, with a minimum of consternation, and rework. So I ALWAYS inquire of sales people about the English fluency of their crews. I also take notes of all conversations with salespeople.
On 5/17 Jarrod of Protek painting came out to give me a bid for interior house painting. I chose to get a bid from them based on Angies List reviews and their materials and website that state: "100% Satisfaction Guaranteed" and "perfect BBB record". I asked him about the English fluency of his crews he said all his crews speak English, my note on his bid states: "all english speakers".
On 5/29 I called to clarify a few things on the bid, and was again told something that led me to take a note stating: "all, 1 person not 1st language but fluent". Which would lead me to believe that ALL their employees except one is a native English speaker. Later that day I scheduled our job for 6/26.
On 6/26 the crew that showed up was Bernardo (the only person who attempted to speak with me in English), Elias, ***** and Salvador. At one point it took several tries to get Elias and ***** to understand I was asking what their names were. I said "My name is ***** what is your name?", they looked at me confusedly for a second and then gave me their names. I asked them what the other person's name was and they looked at me with expressions of NO COMPREHENSION, until I said "como te llama?" and pointed to the area he was working.
Bernardo and I walked through the job, and I made sure to point out 3 areas that I did NOT want painted because it was trimwork that I had converted to latex through a very labor intensive 8+ step process. The prep work was proceeding fairly well when Jarrod showed up and we walked through the whole job again, and again I pointed out the areas that were not to be painted. This time several of the painters were in the area, and if their English comprehension was as high as was later claimed by Jarrod, they would've overheard our lengthy conversation on this.
Bernardo left the job site sometime around noon without informing me he was leaving and that I should communicate any concerns to anyone else. He did not return until 5:15. At 3:00 I asked ***** where Bernardo was, with his limited English it took a little while to explain "gone to the store."
While Bernardo who knew the details of the job was gone, all 3 of the areas that were NOT to be painted with oil paint were. Bernardo agreed to correct this by sanding and repainting with latex. I examined one of the doors that had supposedly been sanded and was not satisfied that I would get decent results. I pulled my supplies I'd used to do the full process and asked them to do this. They refused and said they would do a 3 step process. I accepted this in the hope that it will hold up, and to get them out of my house.
Jarrod showed up for the final walkthrough and I described my issues and informed him that I did not appreciate his false advertising regarding his employees English fluency, Bernardo's disappearance, my property not being treated well, and that I was not satisfied. He claimed all the individuals speak English. We did the walkthrough, and they made the requested touchups. I paid Jarrod by check, and he again said they aim for 100% Satisfaction, and again I informed him I was NOT satisfied with their false advertising, and deviating from the agreement (painting areas that were not to be painted). Again he claimed they speak English, which was not my experience as described above. No offers of price adjustment, or anything else to achieve "customer satisfaction" were made. Other than any further touchups would be by someone whom I could communicate with.
Had Protek been truthful with me about their employees English fluency and their supervisors extended absences I would have selected a different vendor.
- Protek advertise truthfully and prominently: "They will provide an English speaking supervisor who may leave the job site for extended periods of time." On all their advertising materials and website.
2 other parts of their advertising that Protek did not come close to complying with that were influencers to my decision to use them:
- "100% Satisfaction Guaranteed" from their website and all advertising materials.
- "... perfect BBB record" from their materials and website.
- Protek refunds $500 for their false advertising practices
- Protek refunds $200 for their deviating from the agreed job.
Complaint case #XXXXXXXX
To the complaint resolution department or whom it may concern,
I appreciate you granting me an extension to respond to the above case. As I mentioned on the phone to your representative when we last spoke, aside from the communication issues with your office that we worked out, this has just been a difficult month as my wife, who is pregnant and high-risk, has experienced complications that has had her in and out of the hospital and on bed rest. Naturally, I care a great deal about my business and this issue with my customer, but we reached a point where the doctor said I needed to focus all of my attention on her. So, thank you for giving me a little extra time to get back so I could do so.
To give you a little background on the situation, this complaint is in regards to a $1700, two-day interior paint job that my senior estimator, ******* sold and ran. As the owner, I was not involved in it in any way or even brought into it until later when I learned of the complaint, some 3 weeks after it was posted (I was traveling), which was 3 weeks after the job was completed. Unfortunately, for all parties, as there is no doubt I could have resolved it right there on the spot as I always do when I know about problems, neither my employee nor the customer contacted me about the matter at the time. After meeting with my employee and crew, separately, and taking a statement from each of them I contacted the customer to introduce myself, hear his side of the story and see what we could do to make it right. We spoke for nearly an hour, but, unfortunately, were not able to resolve anything. At no time did I ever get the feeling that he was interested in finding common ground and working towards a resolution. You can usually tell when people are done and just want to move forward. I think it could have gone a lot different had the complaint not already been filed and the damage done. I know for myself, I wasn't for sure what to do. This was new territory for me as it's my company's first BBB complaint in nearly 15 years of doing business. Until now, I have managed to avoid any complaints and have always been able to resolve a conflict, work with a customer and put out a fire to their satisfaction, no matter how big or small, when it was brought to my attention. In this case, it never was.
Before jumping right into the details of the complaint I would like to say this first. I hate that things didn't go right on this job, and not because we now have our first BBB complaint, but because we made some mistakes and disappointed a good customer. It's unacceptable to me any time a customer experiences anything other than what we're known for, which is quality work and good customer service. After listening to the customer and my team, it's obvious to me that we dropped the ball on some things, so I have to take responsibility for that. Unfortunately, no employee handles every situation the way you would as the owner. While we want things to go right on every job, they don't, always. It's how things are handled when they don't that matter the most to me. In hindsight, it would have been nice had my employee stepped up and offered a discount or made a gesture of sorts to make the customer happy. It would have been equally nice had the customer reached out, first, to me or my management team for a fix before tar and feathering us on the internet. Either could have resolved it. When I asked ****** why he didn't offer something, he said the customer stated he was happy with the work, once the touchups were all done, and that he was only dissatisfied that the guys didn't speak fluent English. He said at no time did he sense that the customer was fishing for a discount or feel that a discount was warranted since everything had been corrected. He said he wasn't sure how to fix the communication issue, after the fact, anyway. He just knew he needed to be more careful next time. When I asked the customer why he chose to go straight to the internet for a resolution and not just ask for a discount or call me, he said he didn't feel he had any other option, he was intentionally being quiet about it (which can be confusing) and that it was our opportunity. Ok, that's fine, to each his own. When I get bad service, and the provider doesn't recognize or fix it, I say something and give whoever it is or their boss the opportunity to correct it. Usually, there is a manager or owner close by that cares more and wants to make you happy. Ultimately, it's our fault for not initiating it, either way, it could have been handled differently by both parties and this whole thing avoided, in my opinion.
Turning, now, to the details of the complaint, I have no intention or desire to argue or debate everything that was said of us or make excuses for any of it. We made some mistakes and willfully admit it. We did some things right, and we did some things wrong. I do, however, have every intention of addressing a few things that were said of us that simply are not true. The first, of which, is the accusation that we "falsely advertised" or "misrepresented the English fluency of our employees" in order to get the job. My employee, ******* does not lie in order to get business. We're talking about an honorably discharged war veteran who is a pillar in his church and serves regularly in a number of community outreaches. He is one of the most honest and solid guys I've ever met. When asked if our guys speak English, a question we get a lot, we say "yes", our crews speak English. This is seldom ever an issue for us, as we're usually being praised for having some of the best crews in the business. We do our best to explain, when asked, that our workers are Hispanic, which I don't think is a surprise to anyone, and as such speak Spanish, but that we have guys on every crew that speak English, some of them fluently. That is not to be taken, nor did ****** ever say at any point, that every person on our crew speaks English fluently. I'm not even sure how you would go about determining if they did, exactly. Fluency could be viewed as somewhat of a matter of opinion. I can communicate with every one of our guys in English, just fine. I have an Asian friend that speaks English, fluently, but I can barely understand him, and a white man on one of my gutter crews that couldn't, in my opinion, to save his life. While I'm not saying that there weren't some communication issues on the job, because there clearly where, I am saying that we did not lie about it to get the job. This goes directly towards the overlying complaint and criteria for a resolution. In this particular instance, unfortunately, for reasons I will explain next, the person on that crew that speaks English the best was not there most of the time. It was not done out of negligence, it's just what happened on this job, which resulted in miscommunication and problems. Had he been, I doubt there would have been any issues.
The second thing I must address is the accusation that we "falsely advertised" or lied about the whereabouts of our foreman, ********* when he disappeared from the job. ******** didn't disappear; he left to go match the paint and pick up the materials, which is his job. It just took him a lot longer because the store was backed up on matches. ***** ***** only has one store in all of Collin County, and as such, it's always busy. This is what ****** was told when we called him, what he told the customer and what the store confirmed, later. The customer does not accept this, but it doesn't change that it's the truth. Attached is the paint store invoice with *********** signature showing the time he ordered the paint, around 11 am and the earliest time it would be available for pickup, around 3 pm. That would be the earliest he could be back, barring no delays. I don't doubt, as is often the case, the store was running behind so he chose to wait on the match so it wouldn't get pushed by another painter waiting on one. Either way, ******** speaks English well and he was supposed to be there and wasn't. Had he been, it's not likely that the items that weren't supposed to be painted would have gotten painted. To that end, there is another member of that team that has an even greater fluency than him, named ****** that didn't come to work that morning. The thing is, we don't always know a month later, after we sell and schedule a job, which team we're going to use, much less, which members of that team are going to show up for work that day. The teams self-manage themself based on the size of the job and the number of guys needed. Obviously, we recognize not having ******** at the house most of the day created some problems. We accept that as our fault and will try to keep that from happening. It wasn't negligence, though, or intentional or directly in our control, and it certainly wasn't something ****** lied about.
In conclusion, regarding the criteria that the customer has set that must be met to close the case as resolved, I feel that all but one are out of line and a bit ridiculous. They are completely unrelated to any of the work that we actually did. Given the nature of the criteria, you almost have to question the customer's intention. Is the point of the exercise and this service to correct a mistake or complete a job, such as repainting a missed door or doing more clean up, or is it to punish a company, in general, because an employee didn't handled something wright? When that happens, a negative review is the punishment, not a redo of the company's marketing collateral and website. Saying that my company has to advertise "truthfully and prominently" that we will "provide an English speaking supervisor who may leave the job site for extended periods of time" on all advertising material and on our website is absurd. No, obviously, I will not agree to that, nor do I think that is what you expect. Where would it end? Should McDonald's have to advertise truthfully and prominently on all of their media that workers might forget to wash their hands after using the restroom or that you might find a hair in your burger? Or maybe Wal-Mart should have to advertise that despite providing a positive environment your checker might be in a melancholy mood or have an attitude. Or best yet, should you, the BBB, have to warn potential companies that want to sign up that you will effectively stalk them when it comes time to re-up and collect dues, but not return any phone calls when they have questions about their first complaint after they've been with you for ten years, because that was my experience? No, that would be silly. Not only did I establish the truth about why our painter was gone and where he was at, the only reason he was gone, in the first place, was to match the paint for the customer, a process that had to be done in order to do the job.
As for removing 100% satisfaction and a perfect BBB record from our advertising collateral, I talked about that on the phone the other day with your representative. The problem is, there's not a large painter in town that doesn't say they have a 100% satisfaction guarantee or something to that effect on their collateral. Are you going to make them all remove it to level the playing field? I'm trying to decide if it wouldn't just be easier to take that off of things anyway. I may, or I may just leave that up to the BBB's judgment. Maybe then we wouldn't have to try so hard. In nearly 15 years, this is the first time it's really been called into question. I have always stood behind my guarantee, that if you're not 100% happy and I know about it, so I can do something about it, I'll do whatever I have to do to make you happy. Everything is fixable. Several times I have repainted things, sometimes I had to discount things heavily, where we just really screwed something up. The customers in those instances were satisfied when I was done and we never heard from them again. I even gave one job away, in full, by just never sending the client a bill because I felt it was the right thing to do. Curiously enough, that individual was very polite and easy to work with. She didn't try to strong arm me or blast me on the internet, she just called me up and we talked about it. It wasn't that hard of a decision for me because she was very nice about it and I wanted to do the right thing. I think people like doing the right think when given the opportunity. Ether way, I can support that we do stand behind our claim of 100% satisfaction guaranteed with nearly 6,500 satisfied customers and only 1 BBB complaint. That's gotta say something. That's who we are, it's what got us here and I don't think we should have to change it just because 1 person had a bad experience that didn't even give me a shot at trying to satisfy him. I don't consider his anticipation of my estimator's initiation of a discount as a shot. I'm talking call me and let me know you're not happy and let me fix it. This is important stuff with serious consequences. That's what everyone else has done and I don't think it's asking too much. As for removing "perfect BBB record", I'll change that because it no longer applies now. The whole point of saying perfect record was because we earned it. How else do you tell a potential customer that even 1 complaint isn't acceptable?
Lastly, I don't mind giving the customer a reasonable discount on the work we did for him. I wasn't there, but having talked to him and my team about it, I know things didn't go as planned and that caused some problems and inconvenience for him. That said, do I think a discount to the tune of $700 or 40% is warranted, given the facts presented, no. He is seeking $500 for false advertising practices, and another $200 for deviating from the agreed job. As the $500 seems to be more punitive, in nature, the only one of the two that I feel has any merit, at all, is the later where we deviated from the job. First, we at no time committed any false advertising practices. Calling someone a liar is a pretty serious thing. On his Angie's list review of us, he wrote, "If ********* lips are moving, he's lying". That's not right. As I've already stated, the accusations of misrepresenting or lying about our workers, there fluency or where they were throughout the day simply isn't true. We never lied. As such, I feel no obligation to pay a settlement on something we didn't do. This is a matter of opinion, not fact. Second, the deviation from the agreed job, assuming he is referring to the items we weren't supposed to paint, was not an issue of gross negligence, but of miscommunication when our worker left to go buy paint for the job. I hate that it happened, because, yes, it could have been avoided had he told his workers and we exercised tighter controls on who was going to be there that day. In the end, it was an unfortunate accident and we corrected it. Once corrected, I don't believe anything further was said about it at the punch. I think, in this instance, since the homeowner had spent a good deal of time working on those items to get them the way he wanted them before we re-painted them, it's only right that I give him a discount here. It's unfortunate that we messed that up. His frustration and disappointment are totally understandable. I would have been upset, too. I have no problem giving him the $200 he is seeking for this mistake. In fact, I was thinking more like 15% off the total job, which is $266, to settle this complaint. 10% is usually what I would offer to settle something of this nature, but I'm fine with 15. I think it is fare given the circumstance. In the end, we did do the work, corrected the mistakes that were made and completed his punch list to, what he said was, his satisfaction. I'm not exactly sure how this sort of things works through the BBB, but I'm open to suggestions. My attitude is and always will be to be fair and resolve the issue. I'll do whatever is right so we can put this behind us and move forward. Thanks for your time for reviewing this case.
Protek Painting, Inc.
Case Id: XXXXXXXX
I appreciate the BBB taking the time to help us resolve this issue. And to Mr. Cheatham I hope that his wife's pregnancy is progressing well, I know how hard that situation can be. In the interest of brevity I'm not going to minimize how much I restate what is in my original complaint.
Mr. Cheatham first contacted me by leaving phone message on August 22nd at 8:30pm, less than four hours before a response was due to the BBB. I was out running at the time but called him back at around 9:45. During our hour long phone conversation he vented at me mostly for having filed this complaint, and disparaged his employees, and I barely got a word in edgewise, to explain my side. I could understand his frustration, and just let him vent. Since I'd already proposed a resolution to this matter, I viewed it as his place to provide a counter-proposal. At no time did he make a counter-proposal.
Now I'll provide a little more of the information that I would've liked to give him on the phone, or provided in my initial complaint but couldn't fit in due to length limitations.
The majority of this job involved painting with one paint on interior trim with an oil based paint. To minimize my wife and daughters exposure to the fumes and VOC's from this paint, I scheduled it at a time they were out of town on a vacation.
I have dealt with a local painting company who employs native English speakers for their full crews, and a specialty painter where the owner also does the bids and is on site performing the work with the crew. I've dealt with another painting company that who at the time included the text "... an English speaking supervisor will be present at your job at all times." So my requesting them to add this to their materials is not unheard of in their field. Had they included the requested text on their website and marketing material I would not have been mislead to think that all their employees were fluent in English.
In his response Mr. Cheatham makes a big point of his workers being Hispanic and speak Spanish as their first language, and that they disclose this to their clients when asked. At no point during my 3 conversations with Jarrod prior to the crew showing up did he inform me of this. As a matter of fact on 5/29 when I was clarifying a few things on the bid Jarrod stated that all their workers except one speaks English as his first language. I don't care whether workers are Russian, Polish or Hispanic, when I hire someone I expect them to be able to communicate effectively in English which is why I ask about English fluency, not nationality.
On 6/26 when Bernardo and the crew showed up, I was surprised that several of the crew seemed to have very limited English. I briefly considered telling Bernardo and his crew to go away at that point, but I didn't have another "window" to get this painting done without my wife and child being exposed to the fumes, and I doubted I'd be able to get another paint crew to show up that day. So I was stuck making the best of it with the misleading representations that Jarrod had made. And as the day progressed it became apparent how grossly he had misrepresented that "all their employees speak English except for one person,who it is not his native language but he is fluent."
Mr. Cheatham mentions that he wished I'd reached out to him. Twice I told his selected representative that I was not "100% satisfied". Neither time did he show any desire to address this situation in any manner. The second time, I had my check in my hand. Before handing it to him, I told him, "I'm not 100% satisfied with the job." At this point he had many options:
1. Refuse to take the payment until I was 100% satisfied
2. Ask what it would take to make me satisfied
3. Called his boss and asked for guidance
4. Asked me to call or write to his boss
5. Offer to do some other work at a discount or free
6. Take the money and run
He chose option 6. He took the check and proceeded to leave. At the door, I decided to give him a concrete, simple example of option 5. I had noticed a place where the paint was scraped off on the exterior of the house. I'd mentioned this to Bernardo when we were starting the job and asked if he could touch this up. (They did replace 3 pieces of wood around the garage that used this paint, and which I had plenty of, and it was already mixed.) At this point at the end of the job I could tell that Bernardo just wanted to finish the job as fast as possible and move to his next job. I pointed this problem area out to Jarrod to get his opinion. He could've, and probably should've, taken this as an opportunity to address the dissatisfaction with their service that I mentioned to him less than 5 minutes prior. He stated it looked like it had been chewed on by squirrels and I could get up there and paint it myself (it wasn't quite that abrupt, but that is the gist of what was said). There was no offer to have Bernardo who had basically destroyed his companies reputation going to get the wood to replace this and then paint it, or even of him using his ladder to get up there and touch this up which would've taken less than 10 minutes.
This behavior would lead you to believe that Jarrod was only using the "100% Satisfaction Guarantee" and "Perfect BBB Record" as part of a sales pitch, that he had no intention to honor. Which is why I'm asking the BBB to require Protek to remove both of these false advertising claims from Protek's website and marketing materials. So that they don't sucker anyone else in with these claims.
No explanation of where Bernardo was was ever provided to me prior to my phone conversation with Mr. ******** on 8/22. He was not at the site doing his job of supervising the work. As far as Bernardo's location during those five hours, I don't really care where he was. As far as their claims that he was waiting on a paint match at Kelly-Moore, lets use logic to examine the veracity of this claim. This job involved 1 color of oil based enamel trim paint that had to be matched. This paint was needed to paint:
* a double and single bathroom vanity cabinet
* 2 upper bathroom cabinets
* 11 doors and their casings
* several hundred linear feet of trim
* 107 spindles on the staircase and the surrounding skirting
* crown molding on a 20 foot ceiling and fixing some nail pops
Bernardo left the job site before 10 and returned shortly before noon. He then left again sometime between after his team had lunch, neither time did he inform me, so that I could keep an eye on the work in his absence. Bernardo returned to the job site at 5:15, supposedly with the paint. The crew left before 6:45pm, and all the painting listed above was finished. To make this easy lets say they had 2 hours with this paint. It would be impossible for the crew to do a quality job of painting all the above described in 2 hours. Especially when you consider that Bernardo was spending that time painting the crown molding, and another individual was supporting the ladder for him. Leaving 2 other people to do the remainder of the work. If Mr. Cheatham chooses to believe this fiction, then he should be providing me a full refund for this job, because of the rushed and slap-dash manner of work that would have been performed.
Bernardo returned with the paint prior to his crew taking their lunch break. One of his team was sanding on the stairs when he came in. He made a comment to the gentleman that I didn't completely understand, but involved the year 1995 (which was the year that the paint he was matching was from). He also had the can of paint that he'd matched in his hand, and he left it by the front door. Further, after lunch his crew was doing their job of painting, including all the areas that were NOT to be painted. I know that when I went upstairs to ask where Bernardo was around 3 the painting of the upstairs was well under way, and the areas that were not to be painted had already been painted. All this while Bernardo was supposedly "at the store getting the paint for the job." I tried to explain this to Mr. Cheatham during our conversation on 8/22, but he wouldn't let me explain this to him.
As I said, I don't care where Bernardo was, the only reason this matters is that hopefully had Bernardo been doing his job of supervising the work, the work would've been done correctly, and the English fluency of the remainder of his crew would be a moot point. His disappearance could be considered the proximate cause of this complaint. And Mr. Cheatham's trust and defense of his employees though admirable, in this case is sorely misplaced.
As far as my proposed remedy, I believe it is fair and appropriate.
* Protek painting did falsely advertise in this instance for which a refund of $500 seems an appropriate penalty. I could demand a full refund since I would've used another vendor had they truthfully advertised