Wanted: Honest, reliable stonemason

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The good news: We’re moving! To a place 5 minutes away, right next door to Christian’s parents’, and the rent will be half as much as it is now.

The bad news: It needs a new coat of paint, but first the cracked walls need to be fixed. We have to pay for this ourselves because from the landlord’s point of view, there were other people lined up to rent the place the way it was with ugly, cracked, moldy walls, so the renovation is strictly optional and therefore on our dime.

And we’ve had a devil of a time simply finding a reliable person to do this work.

Guy #1 – Set a time to come by, take a look, and give us a quote. Never showed, never called, and we never heard from him again (oh, and he doesn’t have a phone, so we can’t call him). Needless to say, we didn’t hire him.

Guy #2 – Set a time to come by, but called right beforehand asking to move it to the next day. The following day, he was an hour late, which really inconvenienced Christian. Gave an outrageously-priced estimate and then asked Christian for R$5 to get the bus back, because he’d left home “in such a hurry” that he hadn’t grabbed enough money for transport. Um, not hired.

Guy #3 – Came by, gave a reasonable quote, was hired! He and his assistant have been there for four full days so far and the work is, uh, not exactly progressing quickly. (What the heck are they doing? Building sand castles with the material?)

Here’s an example of how things are going:

There’s a column in the kitchen, and part of the agreed-upon work was to extend it up to the ceiling. The second day on the job, they called Christian to say, “Are you sure you want to extend this column? What if later you want to do some redecorating, then you’ll have to break it down again.” Christian said, “I want it done.”

The third day on the job, they asked Christian again, “Dude, don’t extend it, you could, like, decorate the top of it or something like that.” Christian said, “I want it done.”

Yesterday, they asked Christian’s father to call me and ask me to call Christian at work in order to ask the SAME FREAKING QUESTION. Christian said, “Just do it, and I don’t want to hear any more about it!”

So the guy did it, but he did it badly. He was supposed to perforate the wall behind the column so that the cement would stick, but he didn’t, he just slapped the bricks up there. Then he lied to Christian about it, saying he did the perforation. Christian said, “I don’t think you did. And if it falls down, it’ll prove you didn’t.”

Guess what happened?

Half the bricks fell down and landed on the guy’s back. (Christian: “Deus me perdoe, but it should’ve landed on his head.”) Christian tore down the other half of the bricks and sure enough – the wall had not been perforated.

It seems like everyone I’ve talked to has horror stories about manual laborers – work being done slowly, work being done badly, workers just not showing up, “confusions” about what exactly is supposed to be done, etc.

I genuinely do not understand the slowness, because they are not being paid per day (and even if they were, it’d be unethical to unduly drag it out). It’s a fixed rate for the job, no matter how long it takes. So wouldn’t it be in their best interests to finish it efficiently so that they could move on to other projects and make  more money, rather than extending a 5-day job out to a week or two?

Seriously, this experience is making me want to go into the construction business just so I can outperform all the competition simply by being honest, efficient, doing good work, and showing up when I say I will. I bet I’d have a ton of clients!