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Get Refund from Contractor
March 27, 2014 6:18 AM   Subscribe

I've asked pest guys to remove some animals from my house. I want to cancel the sealing of the house and ask for a refund of the 'sealing fee', which they have not started on doing. How should I go about doing this?

I'm not huge fans of them and the price I paid for sealing, after talking to contractors, is way too high. I did ALREADY pay for removal AND 'sealing' up the house. They quoted me removal fee and a sealing fee. I stupidly prepaid (with square/credit card) both together (so a chargeback is possible?). The removal fee was $250 and the sealing fee was $860.

They're in the midst of 'removal', but haven't started up on sealing. (We still can hear the animals in our attic, so not entirely gone, but we can deal with that-- I'd be ok with just eating the $250).

This is sort of confrontation that am not used to dealing with (note, we haven't been miffed by their side yet, I'm assuming pressure and guilting tactics). This is definitely a mom and pop shop (it's two guys who have a website). The only contract is an unsigned invoice, my payment and handshake. My fiancee is a lawyer so we can certainly deal with anything legal, but of course rather not get into that.
posted by sandmanwv to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
 
I have a feeling that if you cancel, you'll just eat the $250.

Call them, and as politely as possible, say that you're not happy with the service and price and their services are no longer required. (If you've hired another contractor to do the work, say so.) They will probably try to get you to come back to them, and that's fine; that's good customer service.

If they are belligerent and/or don't refund the money, you can file a dispute with the bank that issues the credit card you used. I'm not terribly familiar with Square, but I don't think you'd be able to dispute the transaction with them as that's the contractor's account.

If all else fails, enlist the help of your fiancée and take them to Small Claims Court. I don't think it will get that far; you'll probably get it resolved without the threat of a lawsuit.
posted by tckma at 6:39 AM on March 27


Keep in mind that they may have declined other potential jobs and/or taken on some costs in anticipation of your job (supplies, setup work, etc.) so a full refund might be asking a bit much. Perhaps if you suggest that they keep, say, 10% as a cancellation fee they would be more responsive to your request.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:04 AM on March 27 [5 favorites]


Did you sign a contract? If you did, there may be cancellation charges. If you didn't, call up the company, and tell them that you are displeased with the work so far, and that you want them to finish the removal of critters, and you will contract for sealing with another provider.

Either they refund your money, or they don't. If they don't, you can dispute with your credit card, but if you signed a contract, you may be on the hook.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:05 AM on March 27


I very much disagree with the advice given by tckma above [though I am certain it was well intentioned and I agree in spirit]. I have sent many thousands of dollars in chargebacks and have "won" many thousands as well.

Any business that uses credit corporations - which basically all do - is extremely beholden to that relationship and will pay a premium if they have repeated chargebacks. Usually they [the credit card company] will judge the customer complaint to be valid and make the vendor prove that the charge is invalid. Address this via your credit card company.

It should be quite easy and painless.
posted by vapidave at 7:06 AM on March 27


Contact square to see what the process is to issue a refund or cancel a charge. Your credit card bank may also have some requirement to avoid a month long delay before the refund clears. When you do speak to them have a printout of what they need to do. You may need to give them a new payment if a partial refund is not possible. Offering a 10% kill fee on the sealing would be a nice thing to do since you do want to break your agreement.
posted by Sophont at 7:33 AM on March 27


vapiddave, reading your comment, I think the part of my (yes, well-intentioned) advice is the advice to try to deal with the contractor first.

So, let me clarify.

If I were a business owner, I'd certainly like to know what aspects of my operation my customer was displeased with, and I'd take the cancellation as a learning experience / opportunity for future improvement. I also realize that not all contractors take that view.

I'd certainly also like to know about problems a customer is having before I hear about it from their credit card company, so I at least have an opportunity to fix those issues and avoid losing the customer's business if possible.

However, I'm not a business owner, so there are likely issues here I'm not privvy to.

Yes, filing a complaint with the credit card company will indeed get results, in my experience. However, generally the first thing any credit card company has asked me when I've filed a complaint is, "have you tried contacting the merchant for a refund?" If not, they generally want you to try and resolve it with that company first.
posted by tckma at 8:16 AM on March 27 [1 favorite]


tckma: Yes, filing a complaint with the credit card company will indeed get results, in my experience. However, generally the first thing any credit card company has asked me when I've filed a complaint is, "have you tried contacting the merchant for a refund?" If not, they generally want you to try and resolve it with that company first.

Not to mention, it's kind of shitty, especially from a small business owner's point of view, to have the first inkling of a problem with one of your clients be money suddenly missing from your bank account.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:29 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


Yes. They are a small company, you are probably talking directly to the owner. Just ask. I have only had one chargeback in 20 years of business. They customer did not contact me, just went ahead and did it. I contacted the customer, he got that he had misunderstood the info and we proceeded with the transaction. But it winded up being a huge hassle on both my and the customers end to get the chargeback dealt with.

If this kind of process is hard for you emotionally, maybe try to break it down into steps that are comfortable for you, such as a phone call with the statement that you are unable to go forward with the sealing, without thinking further ahead so you don't create the whole drama of a worst case scenario.

(It's kinda odd, really, to go straight to 'legal' if you haven't even talked to them yet. I am guessing you were not comfortable with hiring them in the first place? Did they try to push you into this?)
posted by Vaike at 10:00 AM on March 27


They gave you a quote, you prepaid, and then you talked to other contractors and found out you overpaid. This is essentially a case of buyer's remorse, and not a valid reason for a chargeback.

Just tell them you changed your mind about the sealing and would like a refund of that fee. Bear in mind that the removal fee may have been low because it was bundled with a high sealing fee, so it may not be reasonable to ask for a full refund of the sealing fee.
posted by payoto at 10:20 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


payoto: They gave you a quote, you prepaid, and then you talked to other contractors and found out you overpaid. This is essentially a case of buyer's remorse, and not a valid reason for a chargeback.

When doing work with a contractor, I always try to get at least three estimates (written estimates if at all possible) before I hire someone. UNLESS it's a contractor I've used before and whose work I liked, then and only then will I go straight to that company. This will help avoid such issues as overpricing and sketchy contractors in the future. If it's a big enough job, ask to check their insurance too. And check reviews.

Personal anecdote: When I re-did my roof on my first house, I got four estimates, only because the first estimate I got seemed way out of line. It was, by thousands and thousands of dollars, compared with the three other estimates. About a year later, even though I didn't hire them for the job, I got a letter from the company that made the saying that they found out the guy they sent to do my estimate was significantly adding to the company's estimates, then pocketing the difference if hired, and they wanted to let me know they immediately fired him and were very sorry and hoped I reconsidered them in the future, yada yada yada.
posted by tckma at 11:36 AM on March 27


Yes, first just ask. But do be prepared. Contractors tend to be good negotiators. If they say there is a small cancellation fee, I might just accept it. But if the fee is high or if they won't give back any money, your responses are: (1) We certainly never discussed a cancellation fee, (2) I never would have agreed to such terms, (3) "I hired and worked with you because you are a mom and pop group of honorable people with a good reputation, and I was willing to get started on a handshake deal and trust you by paying in full up front. Now i am telling you that this is not working out. I am quite surprised that you would still expect to be paid for work you did not do." If things get worse, (4) I am choosing not to move forward because I don't appreciate [that thing you guys do], (5) I am requesting a refund from you as a courtesy but I will request a chargeback from the credit card company if necessary.

You then need to be vigilant that they do not actually do any sealing before you deliver to them in writing (e.g., email) a note confirming that you do not intend to pay for sealing, you do not authorize them to proceed with the sealing, you would like them to complete the removal for the agreed upon removal fee of X, then halt work and refund you the sealing fee of Y. If they do proceed with sealing, you will have a different situation (e.g., contractors liens become a possibility).
posted by slidell at 9:12 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


Here's a final update if anyone is wondering: I asked for 2 months for a refund. I ended up doing a chargeback on my credit card. The contractor protested the chargeback. I sent my CC company the e-mails stating that they would provide me a refund. I got a refund.
posted by sandmanwv at 7:38 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]


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