An Effective Line-Item Complaint Letter

An Effective Line-Item Complaint Letter

An Effective Line-Item Complaint Letter

In the course of your professional and personal activities you will encounter vendors who let you down.

You probably know that an effective way to get them to do the job that they were contracted to do is to send them a line-item letter indicating exactly what needs to be finished.

Suggest to the contractor that you would like to make positive comments on social media as opposed to what is contained in this letter. I have found that that works as well as anything on earth.

Read it and Reap

Here is a letter, verbatim, that I sent when a contractor was dragging out the assignment, leaving things half completed, and making my new apartment tenant feel less than satisfied. The names have been changed to protect the guilty:    

This is an interim review of services provided thus far, by Joe Smith of XYZ Remodeling.

1) The HVAC has been an ordeal and continuing nightmare, for nearly 24 hours now . Originally deemed by Joe’s AC specialist to be in great working order, perhaps a power surge knocked out the circuit board. The subcontractor was then 90 minutes late for the crucial follow-up appointment which was for 8 am. He kept my new tenant in suspense as to when he would first show up and then again when he would return with needed materials. He doesn't seem to have a grasp on how HVACs work, and at this moment, still cannot get the system to cool properly with freon newly added (curiously needed at the same time as a new circuit board).

2)  A $300 charge (not line-item delineated) for the HVAC inspection, the hot water heater inspection, and repair of two light switches, is puzzling. Joe repaired the two light switches and connections many months ago, and charged me. Within days of that, one switch didn't work. So, cooked into the $300 charge is a second charge for a light switch that he didn't fix properly the first time. As for the HVAC charge, we were told that all was well, it was working properly, the pan was drained, and so forth. This issue is still open (see #1 above) and remains to be reviewed further. I can only assume that the hot water heater inspection went well, and it will function well.

3) The paint job in the apartment appears to be adequate on the walls, however, after paying $$$, it is dismaying to see hundreds of paint drippings on the newly cleaned  rug, around the bathroom sink, and elsewhere in the apartment. This is perhaps as sloppy and unprofessional a job as you can imagine.

4) An exorbitant charge appears for the baseboards in a small room that were allegedly replaced. However they were not replaced – they were painted over after Joe treated the wood with a deodorizing and cleansing spray, which he discussed with met. That deodorizing spray was not on the invoice, surprisingly. Instead, charges for new baseboards and a new paint job appear. Perhaps this item is a holdover from the initial invoice estimate, and needs to be corrected.

5) The front door sticks badly, and while Joe apparently rehung the door, he never tested it – opened and closed it to determine if, indeed, it now opens easily. It does not. My tenant has to do a body slam into the door to get it open. Joe now says that the door handle is improper and he will replace it. Who fixes a door, and then never even tests it to see if the fix is correct?

6) The sliding screen door is off the rails, and simply sitting on the rug. My tenant asked to have it replaced, and Joe’s remark was that it's easily replaced, it just snaps in. Okay, well spend the 90 seconds and snap it in.

7) I’ve asked three times for an estimate to shore up the back porch that has some soft wood underneath the rug. My tenant asked as well. Rather than give me an estimate, or respond appropriately to the tenant, Joe jumped up and down on the porch and said that it's fine.

8) I asked to have the spin cycle on the washing machine examined, because apparently, it doesn't automatically go on after the wash cycle. You have to turn the spin cycle. Joe installed this a year ago, but has not tested it since.

In summary, I’ve worked successfully with Joe for 3 years previously, and was reasonably satisfied with most jobs, although many times he had to return to ensure that the correct job was done. This time, it is a complete boondoggle. I can only surmise that one of five issues is at play:

A) When it comes to larger jobs with multiple tasks, Joe simply does not have the capabilities.

B) When he works on such jobs and there is poor workmanship or shoddiness, for him that is sufficient to say the job is finished.

C) Because I'm a long distance owner, perhaps he thought he could claim that these things were completed...  the rug being most disconcerting, with the hundreds of paint drips.

D) Perhaps Joe is in financial straits and was hustling to do the job quickly so he could go off and do some other job, at some other place. It's hard to say.

E) Perhaps he simply does not care.

I have already made three zelle payments that represent the vast majority of his original bid. I am asking Joe to reconfigure his bid to reflect the work actually done.

It is now Sunday, at 6:20 am, after days and hours of unending misery. I am requesting that Joe complete all tasks as contracted and leave the tenant in an excellent position by Monday 5:00 p.m. so that I can post some favorable comments as opposed to the ones above.

A Fine Conclusion

After many harrowing hours and days, I can report that all issues were addressed and clearly, the letter above submitted to the contractor made the difference: He corrected his bogus invoice which contained items that simply had not been contracted or handled at all. He finished by Monday at 5:00, which represented the first time that he adhered to any type of deadline.

Most importantly, the tenant is now happy.

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Jeff Davidson

Work-Life Balance Expert

Jeff Davidson is "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" and the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit or call 919-932-1996 for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars.

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