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This Lesson Really Breaks The Bank

, , , , , , | Working | May 10, 2022

I have submitted a few stories about my father-in-law, including this one. My father-in-law is a pretty smart man, especially when it comes to anything construction, and the company he has worked with for several decades really trusts him, although they have questioned his actions on a few occasions. This is a story of one of those times. 

[Father-In-Law]’s boss had him go across state lines to bid on a job. [Father-In-Law] really didn’t want to because it was a two-and-a-half-hour ride that he knew would be rough on the men in his crew. He got down there as the State representative for the Department of Transit was going over the job. Apparently, the job was partially completed. It was a rather long stretch of a new highway connecting two other highways. The problem was that the previous contractor had started the project at both ends with the plan to meet in the middle. Yeah, you already see where this is heading. They didn’t plan well, and the ends were at least a mile apart. So, instead of doing the right thing and fixing the problem, the company decided that since the state foolishly paid fully upfront, they would go out of business, thus providing no way for the state to get the money back.

The State representative made it clear that this job had to be done quickly. Some big politician had made this highway a big part of his campaign, and now his reputation was on the line. The representative said that whoever got this job had to complete it in thirty days.

Father-In-Law: “Excuse me, sir. This job won’t take thirty days. It will—”

At this point, the representative went on a cussing tirade that he knew what he was talking about and it WOULD take thirty days and that was all there is to it because they had to redo over twenty miles of the road.

My father-in-law decided then and there that he didn’t even want to fool with this guy. Plus, it was a long drive for his crew. He overbid the job. In construction, especially big jobs, if a company doesn’t want the job, they will still bid on it because it makes them look good. If they don’t want it, they will place a high enough bid that they know they will not get it. Well, turns out [Father-In-Law] didn’t bid high enough. His company was the lowest bid.

His boss and the owner of the company called my [Father-In-Law] in for a meeting.

Boss: “What were you thinking? We looked at this and we stand to lose over $200,000.”

Father-In-Law: “Lose? No, we will make a whole lot more then that.” *Turning to the owner* “Look. You’ve known me for a long, long time. Have I ever let you down? Do you trust me or not?”

Owner: “No, you haven’t. But this… I don’t see how you can do this.” *Pauses* “But I do trust you.”

Father-In-Law: “Okay, look at this contract.” *Points to a clause* “This is how we are going to make money.”

Boss: “With the early completion bonus?”

Most large construction contracts have what is called an Early Completion Bonus Clause. This is where they pay a certain amount of money for each day the job is completed ahead of schedule. These can vary from a few thousand to millions.

Father-In-Law: “With the clause that the State representative put in there himself of $20,000 a day for early completion. Now, I want to make a bet with you. If I make this company money, which I will, I get a week off and each member of my crew gets a week’s bonus pay.”

Owner: “You seem mighty sure of yourself. You got yourself a deal.”

[Father-In-Law] went back to his crew and filled them in on his plan to fix the problem. They were at first not very happy until he told them about the bonus. They went wholeheartedly into it. The crew worked themselves from sunup to sundown and some, like my [Father-In-Law], slept in their vehicles so they wouldn’t have to make the five-hour daily commute.

The job was completed… in eight days! [Father-In-Law] said the solution was easier than anyone had proposed if they had just bothered to look at the layout of the land. All that was required was a change in about a two-mile stretch. 

The State representative was thrilled until he got the bill for not only the $200,000 but the request for over $400,000 of Early Completion Bonus. The representative balked at it at first, but when presented with the contract HE HIMSELF had written, he had no choice but to authorize payment.

The owner was so thrilled that he gave the crew a full two weeks bonus and a week off paid. [Father-In-Law] spent his week off working on his old truck and taking the grandkids fishing.

This Lesson Really HURTS
This Lesson Really Speeds
This Lesson Really Blows
This Lesson Really Bites
This Lesson Really Stings, Part 3

The Cones Are The Least Of Their Worries

, , , , , , , , | Working | April 18, 2022

I work as a maintenance person at an office building and a while ago we had an incident involving a lot of flooding. The main road outside our building, our external parking lots, and our basement flooded.

Situated outside our building was a city project which required the redirection of traffic through the use of cones and upright mobile parking bollards similar to what we used in our own parking areas.

Prior to the flood, our building only had ten of these upright parking barriers and maybe twenty cones, but after it, we had more than thirty barriers and forty-five or so cones which had obviously washed in from the main road when our basement had consumed all of the water coming in. Of course, once we made this determination, I called the contractor responsible for the project outside.

Reception: “Hello? [Contract Company], how may I direct your call?”

Me: “Hi. I am looking for the person supervising the project over on [Roadway] and [Cross Street] about some company equipment that was pushed onto our property by the storms a few days ago.”

Reception: “Oh, no! We are so sorry about the inconvenience. Of course, we would like to retrieve anything that may have been sent your way. Let me connect you to [Foreman] so you can arrange that.”

There was a very clear line switch.

Foreman: “Hello?”

Me: “Hi. I am the facilities manager at [Business Center]. I just wanted to let you know that we have your cones and things that are missing.”

Foreman: “We aren’t missing any cones.”

Me: “Sorry, is this the project at [Roadway] and [Cross Street]?”

Foreman: “Yes.”

Me: “Then yes, we have your cones; they have your company name on them.”

Foreman: “We aren’t missing any cones.”

Me: “I… Maybe you haven’t noticed yet—”

Foreman: “Are you trying to tell me how to do my job?”

Me: “Uhh… no?”

Foreman: “We aren’t missing any cones, and we aren’t going to take responsibility for your trash.”

Me: “No, these are… these are obviously yours.”

Foreman: “We aren’t missing any cones.”

Me: “But you are, though.”

Foreman: “No, we aren’t.”

Me: “But you are. You’re probably missing a lot of them; we have almos—”

Foreman: “We. Aren’t. Missing. Any. Cones.”

Me: “Yes. You. Are.”

Foreman: “If you want to file a complaint, then file a complaint, but we aren’t going to take the blame for garbage near our sites.”

Me: “What is even happening right now?”

Foreman: “Sounds like you have a problem you are too lazy to solve yourself, so you’re blaming us for your lack of organization.”

Me: “And what assembly of words that I have said during this conversation brought you to that conclusion?”

Foreman: “We aren’t miss—”

I hung up the phone at this point and called the main office back.

Reception: “Hello?”

I filled the receptionist in on the conversation I had had with her foreman, and she was just as confused as I was. She decides to contact their safety guy and send him to the site, and she informed me that he would be at our building within the hour.

A short time later, I was watching the roads from our building and having a cup of coffee when I suddenly saw five or six police cars pulling up to the worksite. They appeared to talk to a number of people on the site and then led a man away from the worksite in handcuffs. Once the police were gone, a man separated himself from the construction site and started walking down our driveway.

I put my coffee down and took the building stairs two at a time on my way down to the lobby where security had already let the individual in.

Safety Man: “Are you [My Name]?”

Me: “Yes.”

Safety Man: “We gotta thank you for your call, man. Some serious s*** could have gone down if they hadn’t sent me over today.”

Me: “I saw the police cars. What happened?”

Safety Man: “He was drunk! Blew three times the legal limit to drive. The guys tell me he drove in sloshed and drank even more on site. We found open containers in the company truck and everything.”

Me: “Oh.”

Safety Man: “He threatened the crew; he told them he would file false reports against them if they called anyone.”

Me: “Oh, there are all kinds of problems here, huh?”

Safety Man: “You’re telling me. Now, what was your original call about?”

Me: “Oh, right, we have all of your missing cones.”

Safety Man: “We aren’t missing any cones.”

I found out that the cones had been replaced under the radar by another employee who thought he would be held responsible for not securing them. He didn’t tell his foreman about it because he was new and didn’t want to get into trouble. He got into considerably more trouble than he would have initially.

Some People Shouldn’t Be In Charge

, , , , , , | Working | April 3, 2022

Just prior to my starting at this company, the founder decided to take a step back from running it due to failing health. He sold it off to the head designer and master electrician, both of whom had long tenures there. The following narrative takes place across my entire time there.

The new owners were great at first but soon started cutting corners and trying to save money in the strangest ways while doing other financially irresponsible things. One example was that they decided to save wire nuts that came with one brand of fixtures we used because they were twenty-five cents each, but then they printed out twenty copies of a twenty-page single-sided employee handbook that could have easily been sent in an email. They also told us not to take the paid highway they’d registered the trucks on, even if it got us back significantly faster. Also of note, the head designer used it the most out of anybody by at least threefold. We spent one afternoon before our winter shutdown throwing out unused, multi-hundred dollar fixtures still in the packaging, but if we wanted to use any of them at home, we were expected to pay, even though it was literally going to waste.

We chalked a lot of this stuff up to being new to their duties as owners and figured they’d find their footing. Then, our year-end reviews came.

My foreman brought it up first.

Foreman: “Did you get any weird, nitpicky feedback on your review?”

Me: “I did. The only complaint they could make about me was that I don’t say, ‘Good morning,”’ to them every day and I’m not friendly with them in the mornings.”

Foreman: *Laughing* “I’ve never known you to be unfriendly!”

He told a similar story about his review.

By now, we were all feeling that things were off the rails a little. I now had a more senior role, so I’d taken on more responsibilities. Thus, I’d been exposed to a new aspect of the owners: dishonesty.

We had a few clients managed by a single agency who stipulated that we use long-life halogen bulbs in all outdoor fixtures instead of the standard life halogens — this was on the cusp of LED really taking off. I was assigned a maintenance call with one of these clients, so I inquired about the long-life bulbs. The owner shrugged it off saying I didn’t need to use them.

On the way there, I got a “reminder” text from the owner.

Owner: “If they ask about the long-life bulbs, just say that they are.”

The other big scam they pulled was stopping the use of underground conduits. While this was to code as long as the wires were rated for direct burial, the conduit had multiple long-term benefits from damage protection to easier repairs.

They decided that it was too expensive and took too much time to lay the pipe and pull our lines through it, so we were to just dig trenches and lay the wires in. However, they still told the clients conduit was being used and charged for it.

We ended up mutually parting ways the following year and I went into another industry. I reconnected with one of the foremen about a year later and he informed me that most people, him included, had quit. I don’t know how the company is doing now.

Someone’s A Little Stab-Happy

, , , , , , | Legal | March 12, 2022

CONTENT WARNING: Violent injury


I work for a general contractor as an on-the-ground man for several small city projects. I am conducting a lock-out tag-out check when one of my people comes up to me rather slowly. 

Staff: “Sir?”

Me: “Yeah?”

Staff: “I might need to go to the hospital.”

I turn to face him. He looks totally fine, isn’t showing any sign of injury, and is standing straight up. 

Me: “Are you not feeling well?”

Staff: “No, sir. I think I have been stabbed.”

Me: “What?”

Staff: “There was a man over by the generator; I think he was stealing fuel. I stopped him and spoke to him, and I think he stabbed me when I turned around.”

At this point, I have pulled out my mobile to call 911, but I am still confused. 

Me: “You think he stabbed you?”

Staff: “Yeah. Actually, can you check?”

This man turns around and my heart falls out of my chest. Lodged in his lower back is what appears to be a jagged piece of metal with an electrical-taped handle. Blood has run into and stained both his high-vis work shirt and the vest he has on. 

Staff: “Did he get me?”

911 was called immediately. It was a few days later that I got to have a talk with the staffer. He told me he felt the blade go in, but after that, nothing at all. To this day, we don’t know if that was purely due to adrenaline or some other bodily reaction to the stabbing. 

The individual that had stabbed him was captured on the cameras another vendor used to monitor their onsite battery boxes. He was quickly identified by police and arrested. 

I do know that he was let out again and returned to our worksite. He ended up messing with another vendor and tried to stab their employee, as well. Fortunately, the employee was no pushover and ended up breaking the man’s arm and slamming his face into the side of a Toyota Tacoma so hard he indented the bedside. 

The police responding had a laugh and told the employee that his actions would be considered self-defense, and the man was arrested again. This time, he never returned.

Ugh, Tourists

, , , , , , | Right | CREDIT: Bae_Mes | February 27, 2022

This is my father’s story, and it took place about ten years ago. My father works in an industry that is involved in building, but he isn’t a contractor.

He was out at a new site in a small town on the Maine coast. The town was a typical small fishing and lobstering village. It was also a well-known destination for tourists. The town survived on fishing and lobstering all year round and tourism during the summer.

While he was working, a woman wandered over from her very large, very expensive house next door to say hello. They got to chatting, and the woman, who only lived in Maine three months out of the year, started complaining to my dad about the fishing and lobstering boats starting up at 4:00 am every morning and going by her house and waking her up. Most of these boats had old diesel engines, and they were loud.

Woman: “I’ve complained to the town clerk about the noise. I want them to ban fishermen and lobstermen from starting their motors before 8:00 am.”

This didn’t sit well with my father, but he’s a polite and considerate man.

Father: “These men and women often go far out to sea to pull their traps, so they have to get up very early. Some also have secondary afternoon jobs, so going out early is their best option. This is their livelihood and going out later would negatively impact the local economy.”

She was miffed.

Woman: “Well, not only am I going to propose the ban at the next town meeting, but I have the money to ensure that the ban will be enacted.”

My father chuckled and shook his head.

Father: “You’re wasting your time.”

Woman: “We will just see about that.”

Obviously, the ban was never enacted, and she sold her summer home a couple of years later. I’m told she was fairly well hated in the area because of her complete disregard for the town’s main livelihood, and apparently, after this incident, certain fishermen and lobstermen would gun their engines hard past her house early in the morning.

She really thought her sleep was more important than an entire town’s livelihood.