can i use this design
January 31, 2012 1:58 PM   Subscribe

can i use this design?

recently met with someone from a landscape company about a small renovation project for my front yard. The man was very nice, very professional, and provided a lovely design with a quote. I told him that I was looking to spend X dollars; however, his quote came in at 4X dollars. So now I want to get a second quote. Ethically, can I use the design he created, and just get bids from other landscapers so that I am comparing apples to apples? I haven’t paid the original guy any money, and he made no mention that if we did not move forward, I would have to return or pay for the design. His website says that he provides free quotes, but I notice that some of his competitors state that design work is not free.
posted by orangemacky to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My friend in landscaping was discussing this with me a few years ago. He would make very nice designs as part of the bidding process, but if the customer decided not to work with him but use his design, he would charge them for it. I think that is fair to offer in this situation, though he may refuse if he truly thinks of designs only as a cost of doing business. Note I am talking about I believe is fair, not what is legal.
posted by michaelh at 2:03 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

you need to pay him for the design.
posted by violetk at 2:12 PM on January 31, 2012 [10 favorites]

How would you get a quote on the exact design you want, without using the exact design you want?

1) Use the design to get another quote.
2) If the new quote is 5x, then you know the original quote was good..
3) If the new quote is 2x, then go back to original guy and see if he will come down.
4) If he won't, then use new guy and pay the original guy for the design.

If you end up seeing that 4x is accurate and too pricey, then you won't be using the design anyhow.
posted by LeanGreen at 2:14 PM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Keep in mind it's much easier to REcreate a design than it is to CREATE a design. I could spend hours or days coming up with ideas and tweaking them until I end up with a design that I like. Another designer could look at my finished design and duplicate it in 15 minutes. I could also recreate another designers work very quickly. So, it's not just the finished work that has value, it's the creative process.

Personally, I would feel slighted if a client took my design to another designer to get quotes. Nothing wrong with getting multiple quotes, but those quotes should be based on the designers original work, not using someone else as a catalyst.
posted by The Deej at 2:23 PM on January 31, 2012 [7 favorites]

Ethically? Ask him, and see what he says. Then do it.

Since you're apparently already aware that probably won't fly, I'd say that ethically, the answer is probably no.

Whether you can get away with doing it - and whether this harms the original guy in any way if you use it as a basis for quotes and then go with a design OTHER than the one he made - or whether it's fair to consider adhering to an existing design comparable to creating one from scratch - or whether the first guy stands a chance of winning a lawsuit if you do use his design without paying - are entirely separate questions.

But as to the matter of whether you can ethically use the design the first guy did, without paying him for it, and instead use some other guy to make it happen for cheaper, without explicit approval from the first guy that he's totally a-okay with this? Yeah, I'd have to say that's a pretty clear "no".

Not accusing, simply clarifying my opinion of a range of possibilities. Pick the one you want. ;)
posted by mie at 2:28 PM on January 31, 2012

I told him that I was looking to spend X dollars; however, his quote came in at 4X dollars.

Did you tell him this before or after he designed and quoted?

Free quotes, often offered with no cost or obligation, are an enticement and instill a sense of some obligation. Ethically, you don't have to go ahead. Ethically, you can't take his exact design and use it, or get others to use it and provide quotes. Work has value, and yes, as was said above, the creative process is what counts there, and he invested that hoping for a return. The quote is complementary. The design isn't.

It's possible he was trying to up-sell you a little. That's not abnormal. Except four times the price would be a waste of his time, and yours. But in any job I've every done, like, say, showing engagement rings, I'd educate a person on how to buy a diamond regardless of price. Then, I'd mention price ranges. But once a range was determined, I wouldn't show a five thousand dollar ring to someone who stated their budget was one thousand. I might show nine hundred, and twelve hundred - but that would just be so that he felt like he had more choice. If he really realized that he wanted the three thousand dollar ring, then it was time to mention the financing plan the store offered. And I'd treat him as well as every other customer, no matter what. However, I also, and forgive me for this, did not provide the ten thousand dollar ring services, like the private room for viewing or the sterling ring box. So, I am trying to figure out why he went so far overboard. At the auction house I worked for I was always told not to do thousand dollar work for hundred dollar items.

I think what you can do is take your education from it and use it, just like anyone can buy a diamond once they learn what to look for. You know what you like of the things he designed. You have an idea of what they might cost. You can use this information comparatively when you get quotes elsewhere, using what you've retained in your brain from it. You may not end up with the exact design, and you may change based on the advice of others.

You could also ask him for a breakdown. You could ask what he'd do within your range. The quote is a starting point - I'm sure it's not the 4X price or the highway.
posted by peagood at 2:55 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Before he did the quote, did he ask you for a lot of input on what you really wanted? Or was the design something that just sprang from his head? If you specified a lot of criteria and materials, or showed him an exact example of what you had in mind, then maybe he brought you the best quote he could within your specs.

If you were totally surprised and delighted by what he showed you, maybe he was reaching for the stars, thinking you would be so impressed, you'd go for it. Is he wanting to make you the Jones in the neighborhood that everyone else needs to keep up with?

Trying to get someone else to replicate the design for less is usually not a good idea. He's probably got costs in there for permitting and licensing and maybe hidden elements like french drains and water conservation. He may have an "in" with the HOA or historical commission that he believes is worth the money if it saves you the hassle. He also probably has a team that will get in and out of there, fast.

Get quotes from others, but not based on his design. Specify the elements of his design that you really like (i.e., bluestone, irrigation, access ramp) and let them bring you comparative quotes. Then make your decision.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 4:30 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @peagood : i told him my budget before he designed and quoted.

@halfbuckaroo : i did give him some specifics of what i wanted. i had an ornamental tree that died from boring insects so i wanted to replace that. i had some ideas for how i wanted the front of the house to look and i think he took my request and did just what you said; he wanted to make my yard a page out of southern living. and of course, i am delighted but also realistic in what i can spend.

thank you all for your responses! i knew it felt a little sketchy to consider asking a competitor to bid off the first guy's creative work. but i was confused because he did provide a detailed quote -down to the exact plants and quantities of sod- with no mention of charging for design work. confusion is lifted with your insightful. i will not be sharing his design but i may ask him to work with me on getting costs more in line with what i can afford after i see what the second guy is able to offer.
posted by orangemacky at 5:38 PM on January 31, 2012

Data point: last year asked for a bid on landscaping job from great guy we used before on a big project. We said for this smaller project we would not want to go higher than one third the bigger project's cost. His estimate was two-thirds. Hmmmm. We said sorry, didn't realize it would be that costly. He said, oh, with a few adjustments he could get it down to the desired one-third. He did the job and it looks great to us. Happy ending.
posted by forthright at 7:41 PM on January 31, 2012

Landscaping contractors usually have all of their costs built into bidding on the installation costs. So, if I know a project is going to cost x dollars on materials alone, I know a contractor will charge 5x for the actual installation costs of the project to cover overhead, labor, insurance, hours spent doing the estimation, etc. (5x is just an example)

That said, if the guy gave you his design for free, I can't imagine it being that big a deal to him. His money is probably not in the design, but the installation. At my firm (sort of different b/c we never do installations--only design), we never give away any work for free.

Another option you have is to work with the original designer to figure out some phases that are cost effective-- front yard first, then back patio, then back fence, then side yards. That's always an idea!
posted by Kronur at 8:22 PM on January 31, 2012

« Older Help me find this amazing Korean TV show!   |   Best way to present suggested improvements on a... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.