Honesty in a post-modern world

Last year, at about this time of year, we moved to a new house. Since that time, we have been saving money in hopes of replacing the bathroom tile since the existing tile was lose, cracked, and dirty. This time has finally come, and we have begun a wild ride....

You may be asking, "Rick, why don't you just install the tile yourself?" And if you asked that question, I would tell you, "Been there, done that, NO THANKS!" This response is probably due to the fact that the last time I installed tile, we had one bathroom, and I cracked the toilet. I'll leave it at that.

So, today was the first day the contractor was onsite, but the work began several days ago. About a week ago, we signed a "contract" agreeing to have tile removed and installed for a certain amount of money. The contract left room for unexpected expenses, which verbally would not exceed $200-$300. Three days ago, I found that the floor would cost and extra $200 to remove (and of course that was a $150 discount). Being the frugal and understanding guy that I claim to be, I did the extra work myself (no questions asked).

Today, I am told the shower will be an extra $200, which went up to $400 because the guy didn't realize we wanted the tile to go to the ceiling (an obvious lie for too many reasons to include here). So, at this point, I look to the "contract" only to find a handwritten statement allowing for extra costs on the shower with no cap on that cost. Yes, the obvious mistake hit me right between the eyes! Make sure all agreements go in writing, even (or especially) if the contractor claims to have "no hidden costs like the other guys" or if they claim to be honest because they "don't do business that way."

Ok, so here we are with a bathroom torn to shreds, and a contractor trying to get another $400 out of me (which again is a discount off the true cost). So, what do I do? Give him the money or he'll do shoddy work? Refuse to pay a penny more and threaten to sue? As a Christian, scripture calls us to deal honestly in all things, and trust God for all things. Today's world seems to push us away from living this way because often we cannot get anything done with ranting and raving, threatening, and downright being mean.

Well, I call the guy to offer an extra $200 which in turn is actually $260 because he also overcharged us on the posted price of the tile (imagine that!). Why did I do this? For various reasons:

  1. At this point, I really do not want to take my business elsewhere because I am tired of dealing with this (His advantage).
  2. I feel this exceeds my verbal and written "contractual" agreements (We verbally agreed to keep the extra expense below $200).
  3. I have no desire to receive work for which I do not pay. I feel this is an honest win/win agreement.
  4. I do not want to give the contractor any reason to do shoddy work.

So, what is honesty in a post-modern world?

Apparently, telling the truth consists of vague statements with promises of being honest. In today's world I can apparently continue to consider myself honest if I simply do not agree to anything. Our "contracts" leave open ends at every corner, and this is purposeful so we can remain honest and still do business in a tough environment. In this tile scenario, it feels like the guy gave us an "honest" estimate based on as limited information as he could possibly gather (by ignoring certain things we clearly articulated and not writing them down so there is no evidence they were spoken). The low estimate brought our business to him, and then he remains honest and increases profit by using the open ends of the written contract well beyond the closed pieces of the verbal contract. And I really feel like he has stepped outside the bounds of the written contract as well, but that's beside the point at this time (confused yet?).

How is a Christian man to respond in this situation?

With truth, love, peace, gentleness, faithfulness, et al. I stepped outside those bounds a little, but God was gracious and calmed me down. We have come to hopefully our final verbal agreement of an extra $260.

During times like these, I am overjoyed by the Gospel. We are not of this world. We will be raised with Christ. The Kingdom of God is at hand. And all these pesky little troubles will be meaningless as we enter the final Glory. Thank God for the promise of a new body full of perfection. He is indeed Gracious.

As a final note...As I was writing this, I was reminded by Peggy that we cannot take a shower tonight! How is this information helping me? :) HA! Come Lord Jesus, Come!

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