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Ask Dave

Flaky Friend?

Jess hired a friend to do some work on his house. He owes $3,500. His friend didn't do a good job, and the friend put the ball in Jess' court. What's the right thing to do regarding his friend?

QUESTION: Jess in College Station hired a friend to do some work on his house. He owes $3,500, and it’s his only debt. His friend didn’t do a good job, and after speaking to him, the friend put the ball in Jess’ court. What’s the right thing to do regarding his friend?

ANSWER: He doesn’t get anything. He didn’t do the job. You owe him $3,500, and it’s going to cost you more than $3,500 to finish what he said he was going to do, but he screwed it up six ways from Sunday.

I think he may be a good guy, but I think he’s incompetent. There are good guys that are incompetent. If you’re going to have him come back, you need to have a very specific laid-out thing that says, “You’re going to do this this way on these dates and to this quality standard. I want these windows, I want this trim done this way, you’re the guy doing it, and you’re going to have it done in two weeks,” or whatever the number is. “And then I will give you the $3,500. If you cannot or do not want to do that that way, if you want to hire these jack legs and let them in my house or you’re going to come in here and botch stuff up again like this, then we need to just call this, and I’m going to use the $3,500 to finish the job.”

You can be a little nicer than that, but you need to deliver that message. Let me tell you what happens in these friend deals. To be unclear is to be unkind. You need to be very clear with him what you require if you’re going to bring him back in—if you’re going to give him another chance. The other thing is your wife needs to be comfortable with that, or you don’t do it.