Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Caveat Emptor - Buyer Beware!

I'd like to think that people who knew me would say that I am relatively smart.  But they might also say I am trusting and try to avoid confrontation.  Despite the former, a combination of the last two seems to have gotten me into a world of trouble and I am not sure what to do.

You may remember that we are having the garden done. Yes, that is present tense, it still isn't complete despite it being over twelve weeks since I first handed over some of our hard earned cash.

I found our landscaper in the local paper.  His advert said that they are the locals who are on time and get the job done.  He seemed very nice, was flexible with our ever evolving plans, and his work was pretty good. 

My instinct is to get everything in writing - you should see my 'house book'.  Every conversation with every tradie who ever walked through these doors, or picked up the phone has been written down, with names, dates and details.  My second instinct is also to protect myself by withholding some of the payment where possible until I am satisfied.

My instincts have failed me this time.  No contract, nothing in writing, thousands of dollars paid out.

Up to a point all was going well.  Then, about 6 weeks ago after the bulk of the work had been complete, the garden guy disappeared onto a new job.  True, only a small part of the job remained - completing the reticulation in the back yard, and fixing up a couple of bricks - but the job remains unfinished (and all but $200 has been paid).

A fortnight ago, I saw the garden guy briefly when he came to investigate a large hole that had formed by the new soakwell.  I asked when he would be finishing the retic and he explained he was in the middle of another big job, and the owner was threatening to fire him if he left site once again.  He told me he would be back in a week.

I did wonder at the time why he was so scared by this other fellow but didn't seemed to care that I too, (despite being young, female and relatively friendly) was also a client with an unfinished job, but I guess I just answered that.

Last week came and went with no sight of the garden guy.  I sent a few text messages asking when I could expect him, and received nothing in reply.

I began getting quite shitty.

Today I picked up the phone.  If you know me, you will know this is a major thing. I hate using the phone and I hate confrontations, yet when he picked up I asked him what was going on, and when I could expect to see him to finish the job.  He denied having told me he would be back last week to finish the job, he actually told me he hadn't told any of his clients anything in the previous ten days. (So there are more us!).  He told me not to push him or else I should find someone else to finish the job.  I needed to be more patient, he said.  I told him that I had been very patient and it had already been 12 weeks.

'That's it,' he said.  Then he hung up on me.

So I picked up the phone again. This time I called the Department of Consumer Protection.

It turns out that landscaping comes under the Home Building Contracts Act 1991, and for all work between $7,500 and $500,000 (which this does) the builder (or garden guy) needs to provide a whole swag of goodies including a written contract, a notice to the homeowner and cannot ask for a deposit greater than 6.5% of the total cost.  We paid a 30% deposit.  Cash.

Turns out this fellow has broken a whole raft of laws and should I proceed with a formal complaint, he could be the one in a whole world of trouble, with fines in excess of $50,000.

I don't want to the be the person who takes away someone's livelihood.  But I do want my job finished and I don't want any hassles. I also want to make sure that someone else doesn't fall victim to the same thing.  The thing is, he's certainly not at the same level as those dodgy guys you see on Today Tonight who have taken pensioners for thousands of dollars, or who do bad work that falls apart. If he had come last week to finish the job I would probably be singing a very different tune.

But his last words to me were that I 'blew it'.  So it sounds like he doesn't intend to return.  And would I really want him back here after being treated like that?

So what do I do?  Cut my losses and find someone else?  Call again and threaten him with a formal complaint?  Play nice and wait patiently for him to find a few hours to finish the job?  I'd greatly appreciate your advice.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Things I Took for Granted

In the quiet moment between the kids going to bed and me going to bed (not as long as you might think!) I was fluffing around on the internet and came across this post 13 Things I Took for Granted Before Having Kids.   I think it's a great idea, so here is my list:

These are the things I took for granted before having my kids:

1. Going to bed at a socially acceptable 'bed' time as opposed to the time when many people are still eating their dinner

2. Going to bed and staying in bed (and not having to get up to pee, take someone else to pee, find a lost dummy, find a lost toy etc)

3. Not having to accompany someone else to the toilet, wipe their bottom, or provide moral support during a particularly bad case of fluffies (what we call farts in our house)

4a. Being able to close the toilet door without WWIII breaking out
4b. Being able to finish going to the toilet in my own leisurely time without having to run out into the hall with my knickers around my ankles to stop WWIII

5. Having more wine glasses than plastic cups in the dish washer

6. Only having to cook one meal at dinner time, as opposed to three or four

7. Getting up when I want to and not when someone else wants me to

8a. Not knowing what Bio Oil, Nu-Lax and lanolin are
8b. Not needing to use Bio Oil, Nu-Lax and lanolin

9. My stomach muscles

10. My breasts

11. Being able to leave the house without needing to check my shoulders for boogers

12. Watching an entire movie in one sitting

13. Doing anything spontaneously

14. Not having to constantly watch what I say for fear a little parrot will embarrass me in public

15. Not talking about poo within complete strangers. Or friends and family.  At dinner time

16. Doing only one or two loads of washing a week

17. Not having to lug around a massive bag filled with nappies and wipes and food and spare dummies and spare clothes and books and toys and teethers 'just in case'

18. Taking less than 15 minutes to go from making the decision to leave the house to starting the ignition of the car

19. Being able to eat a meal without someone sitting in your lap (eating your food)

20. Not knowing who Hamony and Rhapsody, or Dora and Diego were (and all their little animated devil friends)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

What Would da Vinci's Mother Have Done?

Practically every day of the week, the Bombshell comes home from Kindy, playgroup, daycare or a friends house clutching handfuls of precious art.

Crayon drawings of flowers and hearts scribbled on the back of old architect plans from daycare.

Bright pieces of card liberally covered in macaroni and small fluffy balls and sequins from Kindy.

Pages torn from a colouring book, depicting Tinkerbell and all her chums in heavy-handed texta.


Squares of fabric.


And glitter.  Oh the glitter.

This artful proficiency really only kicked into drive this year.  Previously, she would produce maybe only one masterpiece a week.  Now she is single handedly responsible for cutting down entire forests simply to support her craft habit.

What do I do with it all?  Can I throw it out?  Do I have a moral obligation to save every piece and stick it to the fridge so that it eventually falls over under the weight of all the craft-bling?  Can I disassemble some of it to use again later? 

Some of her really special pieces are framed and put in the playroom, or donated to grandparents, or greet me every time I sit down at my computer. My sister had the brilliant suggestion of photographing the best stuff and putting it into one of those cheap digital photo albums you can do online.

But what about the other 95%. How do I stop it being a fire hazard and home for silverfish.  How do I recycle it without a) the Bombshell finding out (she takes great pride in all her work and has a memory like an elephant) and b) without my suffering guilt for the next 18 years?

Mummy, rainbows and love hearts. Eat your heart out da Vinci

Friday, July 1, 2011

Financial New Year Resolutions

Well it's the end of another financial year and last night I stayed up with a calculator and a glass of bubbly to farewell the 2010-2011 year.

What a year it has been, full of such amazing memories.  There was the $20 donation to the Surf Lifesaving fellows, dressed so becomingly in their red and yellow speedos.  There was the ongoing donations to whatever charity my local Woolies were supporting, because Lexi would empty my purse for the money spinner every time we went to the shop (no tax receipts though).

Then there was the two separate donations to Red Cross when they did their appeal the other month, because one group of doorknockers nabbed me when I was leaving my friend's house, and then another team got me when I arrived home.

My tax return will be rather full on this year.  I will have to set aside some considerable time to trawl through all my earnings ($0), dividends ($0), tax breaks ($0) and offsets ($0). 

But you're all asking about the $1.25 I earned from my first article. Should I declare that? 

Well, I can tell you that I have now a balance of $3.96 owing from Weekends Notes because I have written another two articles.  Perhaps I should get some advice from my accountant how I can ship these funds offshore so the taxman doesn't try to get his hands on it.

My goals and resolutions for the 2011-2012 Financial Year are simple, and between you and me, if you follow them, one day you will be very very rich.  Guaranteed. They are:

1. Earn more than last year
2. Spend less than last year
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