Excerpts from letter to Brian Evans, a "contractor" who lives and works in Montgomery, Texas

Having broken my wrist several weeks before, I searched the Internet for someone who could install a light fixture I had purchased. I had the fixture and the light bulbs in my home when Brian Evans arrived. After installing the light, I handed him the bulbs. He handed them back to me without trying any, and told me they weren't the right size.

While there, he proposed a barter deal in which he would provide his handyman services for a list of projects I could compile in exchange for Internet consultation services. (I've been a programmer and web designer for many years.) I agreed to buy the necessary supplies and for the first project, a deck staining project. He offered to pick up the supplies for me and I gave him a $400.00 check marked "deck stain supplies".

Nothing seemed bizarre at first. It was only when, after powerwashing the deck in preparation for the deck staining, and I eventually received a letter from him, did I understand that his perspective was so extremely childlike and weird.

[Excerpts from his letter appear in blue text below.]

1. Lightbulbs

To break this down to you, I will start by stating how many trips I made into Conroe on your behalf, starting with trying to find light bulbs for the light fixture I installed in your hall bathroom. I made a total of three trips to Lowes and Home Depot to find your light bulbs, which I purchased four different sizes to fix the problem. It is 32 miles one way from my house to these stores and an additional 3 miles from store to store for a total of 210 miles estimated cost including my time of 5.5 hours at $50.00 per hour, plus an estimated fuel charge of $45.00 for a total of... $ 320.00
In my reply to his letter, I reminded Brian that in the last email message I received from him (after I wrote that the light bulbs I handed to Brian on his first visit and he refused to try, were actually the right light bulbs) began as follows: " Hooray, I am glad your quest for light is finally over, It always seems to work out that way, we had the right bulbs all along, I just could not feel the smaller part inside the larger hole."
2. Brian Evans' Pricing

My going rate to power-wash a deck the size of yours $ 475.00
The cost for the rental of the power-wash machine $ 86.34
The cost for gas, outdoor bleach $ 20.00               
Total cost
$ 581.34
Lets not forget I have over 3 hours of my time invested in driving back and forth from my house and your house to pick up the power-wash machine and supplies for a total cost of $170.00               
(Grand Total)

After I received this accounting, I asked three other professionals to provide a quote for the same powerwashing work. These pros all provide the powerwasher and necessary supplies and those costs are contained in their fees. Their prices were $250., $200., and $220., respectively.
3. Lack of Professional Knowledge and Lack of Common Sense

Like projects such as installing tile, or painting a car, deck staining is a "time-sensitive" job. Almost everyone knows that the preliminary step (i.e. applying the floor adhesive, washing the car, washing the deck) 1. Must cccur BEFORE the tile installation, the car painting or the deck staining and 2. That the tiling, painting or staining must occur within a reasonable period of time, lest the first step is totally useless. Brian Evans, who claimed he had experience in deck staining and even claimed that he had a powerwasher but it was "broken", was unaware that a two month+ interval between powerwashing a deck and the actual deck staining is unreasonably long. He was still telling me that he intended to stain the deck but would have to postpone it longer than 2 months. The professional deck staining contractors who provided the prices already noted above, told me that anyone who thought a delay like the one Brian had in mind, didn't have a clue what they were talking about.

After waiting for almost two months, I called Brian and told him the condition of the deck had been deteriorating and told him that I needed to take some action to complete the job soon. I asked if I could come by and pick up the deck stain supplies. He agreed to bring them to me, but changed his mind, later telling me that he returned the supplies to the store and "spent the money".

Your response to this is, You feel I owe all of the funds back to you, as if the work I did on your home, plus all of the running around I made on your behalf amounts to NOTHING! This is where you are so wrong.

...You wanted me to drop off the materials to you, clearly pointed to the fact that it was ME who was going to be cheated by you, but I saw the writing on the wall, took steps to at least cover some of my losses on this arrangement... so this is where it ends.

4. More Bizarre Thinking

Since the deck staining project was to be one of a list of projects, there was no logical reason to think I was trying to "cheat" him. He could have opted to do any number of the other non-time-sensitive projects.

The fact that he uses the phrase "I saw the writing on the wall" is bizarre. I was very open and plain with him about the fact that the condition of the deck was deteriorating and that I intended to try to find someone else to do the work, if he didn't have the time or desire to complete it. There was nothing secretive, dishonest, "cheating-like" or unreasonable about what I said to him.

5. Weird Book Perspective

Brian enthusiastically pointed at one of my personal web pages containing links to my most-visited websites and said, "I want to learn how to make a page like that". I told him that it was relatively easy to do, but he would have to learn some basic HTML and that I could certainly teach him all the basics and also provide a list of free resources that are available on the web. Brian bought some books and brought them for me to see. I recommended that he return all of them and reminded him that all the info he might need was available free on the Internet. Apparently he kept one of the books. In his letter to me, he blamed me and held me responsible for the $40.00 purchase of the book...
(You told) me I need to learn HTML, which resulted in me buying a $40.00 book on HTML... (The time and work) you did for me amounts to nothing but $40.00 out of my pocket for a book.
In addition to spending hours sitting beside him and tutoring him, I had, among other things, created some marketing tools, including a form and script for his girlfriend's business. (He had said that she was having difficulty finding job prospects and finding reliable employees. The form and script was designed to address the latter.) I discussed the basics of a marketing plan for his girlfriend with him and laid the groundwork for all the projects he'd told me he wanted to accomplish. When I received feedback from the form and informed him that I'd received several responses, he wasn't interested and told me to tell the respondents that his girlfriend was "going out of business".

6. Weird Perspective on the meaning of "Keeping someone up to date"

If you go back to your emails (i.e. email BE sent to me), check dates 9/14/2010 through 9/22/2010 you will find I made every effort to keep you up to date,
He sent me a total of four email messages, including his lengthy and final letter. The first three were between 9/14 and 9/22/2010. The email messages contain info and questions that are all about HIS interests and projects.
He sent me:
  • Questions about "ways to drive traffic" to his websites
  • His girlfriend's password so I could work on her website
  • A report on his progress with the instructions I gave him to assist him in learning about his computer's file system and how to use Windows Explorer, and
  • How excited he is about building his new sites.
    NONE of the email messages contain ANYTHING AT ALL that keeps anyone up to date about any of the work he was supposed to be doing for me - unless the text:
          "unfortunately, with a divorce under my belt, and an Ex who could not manage money well, my credit is far from perfect."
    counts as "keeping me up to date".

  • 7. Yet More...

    Thinking that he might have written his letter to me in haste and without realizing what he was actually saying, my reply addressed each of the issues. Later I discovered that even after considering the points in a calmer, more deliberate frame of mind, he still could not grasp that I was not responsible for his lightbulb misadventures, his $40.00 book buying or any of his other misassumptions. I also discovered that he misinformed his girlfriend, telling her that I had claimed that I had spent hours revising her website. I had never made that claim.

    So, what is it?

    Is it related to this?


    Synopsis Montgomery Remodeling problem