After 15 years in the electrical service business, there is one question that I hear more often than any other; how much is it? I have probably heard that question a million times. Yet, I can count on my hand the number of times people asked to see a copy of my license or insurance.  Even fewer customers ask for references, call my suppliers, or stop by the shop.  Yet, every customer seems to have a horror story of the time they received bad service. Why, because the customer paid too much attention to the price and not enough attention to the product. This is an easy thing to do with service work because the product is not something you can hold in your hand or easy compare.  Here are some warning signs that may help you avoid a lemon.

My Prospective Contractor:

  1. Does not answer phone calls or returns phone calls late. If you have trouble getting ahold of a contactor before you hire them, imagine what it will be like if you have a problem.
  2. Dressed poorly during initial visit. This is a telltale sign that this contractor does not pay attention to details or cleanliness.
  3. Has a disorganized or dirty truck. If you see papers strewn all over the dash and cups falling out of the door, imagine what your jobsite will look like if you hire this guy.
  4. Is not wearing a company uniform or driving a clearly marked service vehicle.  Side jobbers and handyman work out of unmarked trucks and wear no uniform. Professionals are hard to miss.
  5. Does not cover his shoes when he comes into your home. Shoe covers are a nickel a piece. If your contractor does not care enough about your floors to invest a nickel in shoe covers, keep looking.
  6. Does not provide a written copy of license and insurance. Professional electricians carry their credentials on every call. Ask to see them.
  7. Wants you to get the materials. This means he is stretched very thin financially and supply houses won’t give him credit. This is a very bad sign.
  8. Wants me to give a deposit before starting the work. Payment should be made upon completion.
  9. Workers are 1099 sub-contractors not W-2 employees. Make sure you know who you are actually hiring. If the contractor is not doing the work himself, the workers better be W-2 employees. Otherwise, you will need to interview and verify each subcontractor’s license, insurance, etc.
  10. The quote is significantly lower than the others. Did this contractor understand the scope of the job? What corners will be cut?  Is this too good to be true?
  11. One quote is significantly higher than the others. Did you miss something? Did the other contractors miss something? Don’t throw this quote out until you know why it is higher.
  12. Does not have a good online reputation. These day having no positive reputation online is a very bad thing. A contractor should at bare minimum have 10-20 reviews on the major online ratings sites. If nobody knows this guy exist, there might be a problem.
  13. Has a PO Box or no address on his paper, website, or business cards. This means the contractor hiding from someone or is not stable. Established contractors put their physical address on their website and paperwork.
  14. Does not provide a written copy of the warranty. A verbal warranty often means no warranty.
  15. Steers you towards cheaper brands or options. Good contractors like installing high quality material. If you have a contractor that wants to use a cheap or knock-off product, be on guard.
  16. Is borrowing your tools. This is a very bad sign.
  17. Spend lots of time on the phone and not working. Is he learning on the job or does he have other things on his mind?
  18. Smokes, chews tobacco, or curses while at your home. Impolite contractors only get worse once the job gets going. If a contractor acts unprofessionally towards you, don’t expect his work to be better.
  19. Has a bad attitude. Don’t expect the work to be better than the attitude. Avoid unhappy contractors.
  20. Seems very busy or preoccupied. While a good contractor is generally busy, he must make time for you. Make sure you contractor makes you a priority from the beginning.  If you are low on the priority list, expect long delays and poor communication.