Before I begin this rant—and be forewarned, that’s what it’s going to be—I have to provide a counterpoint.
We’ve been dealing with lots of tradesmen over the last month and a half, and with one exception that will be the subject of this rant, we’ve been very impressed with their skill, their honesty, their reliability. The three albañiles, the masons who have done virtually all of the basic construction, finishing of walls, laying of tiles, have been here every day, on time, and working until they have to leave to catch a 6:00 bus back to their home a 30-minute bus ride out of town. The carpenter who has built and installed the bathroom cabinet, all the new doors, and done some patch-up work in the old part of the house has shown up when he said he would—or sooner—with everything he promised. Same with the herrero–the ironworker who is making grills for the windows, a railing for the new stairs, a pot-hanger for the kitchen. Then, there are the windows…
When we arrived and were initially stunned at the mounting costs of this project (we have since become numb), we immediately decided to take control of some of the project parts ourselves in order to save the 25 percent we have to pay the architect, who acts as a project manager here. Windows were obviously going to be a big item. Labour here is inexpensive, but materials not so much, and we have several huge, arched windows.
Our friend Antonio recommended a glass shop. He knows the owner. We got a quote. He also recommended the carpenter and ironworker we’ve ended up using. But we felt, with an item as big as the windows, we should check around, and we found a lower price than Antonio’s friend. In our own defense, much lower.
Here, it is common practice to pay the cost of materials up front. So we did. A week or so later, the glass guy came back, apparently ready to install the windows, but he looked around and insisted that the painting had to be done first. Made sense to us since we’ve had plenty of experience painting around windows. But wait, he said. I can wait indefinitely to install them, but I have to pay my workers now for the time they’ve spent building them. So, we paid more. That was before Christmas.
Soon after Christmas, he arrived with the small windows and installed them. The guy seems really nice. It’s hard not to trust him when he’s standing in front of you. We still have some hope that this won’t end badly. But our hope is fading.
The painting has been done for quite a long time now. He said he was coming last Tuesday with a crew and would have all the windows done in a day. He didn’t show up. When we reached him by phone–he was still answering his phone then–he expressed anger that his workers hadn’t showed up for the job. But they would be here on Thursday, for sure. They didn’t show up. Late in the afternoon, he came by, explained that they would have come but the truck wouldn’t start, and had a chat with the albañiles. They agreed it would be better to wait until the dusty work was finished. Saturday, for sure.
That was yesterday. The new rooms are finished, spotlessly clean. No windows. Now, he’s not answering his phone. We have little leverage–he already has most of the money.
We don’t know where to turn. If we have to accept this as a loss, it will be big—but we’ll have to arrange for windows somehow (you bet, with Antonio’s friend). But what if we do that, and then some day in two weeks the originals show up?
Bottom line. We need windows by the 6th of February. That’s when Galen and the family show up and I’m not about to have my grandchildren diving out of holes in the house.
The moral to the story is pretty obvious. Fortunately, the architect isn’t laughing at us—at least not to our faces. But his 25% would have been cheap at the price, and he knows that…as would doing business with Antonio’s friend.