My landlady is 75 years old and her house is a miner’s shack that’s well over 100 years old. When she opened the window in her office this summer to allow the fresh air in, the wood frame around the window warped to the point that it would not close when the cool weather came.
The door on my unit is also a problem. It became so warped that it would no longer completely shut, let alone lock, and each time I slammed it to shut it as tight as possible pieces of the door would just fall off. We discussed the problem portals and she instructed me to find a few contractors who could come and give her bids to replace them. Sounded like an easy assignment.
A few days later I was at Zane’s for Sunday-funday football, and some friends introduced me to a guy I’ll call contractor No. 1. He told me he had a custom woodworking shop and he could handle the job, gave me a business card and told me to call him that week. That was in August.
I called a few days later, and contractor No. 1 told me he was busy working on the new Whole Foods in Basalt, but that he’d be done within the week and he’d call me then.
Three weeks went by with no word when I again ran into him at Zane’s on a Sunday. When he saw me he pretended to hide behind a tiny tree in front, feigned shame for not calling me back, and told me he would call me the next week. I began interrogating my friends about their “reliable” contractor. Are you sure he’s good and reliable? Are you sure he’s not a total flake? I was assured he was responsible and would do as he promised.
Another week went by with no phone call when I ran into him again — guess where — at Zane’s on Sunday. He again feigned embarrassment and promised to call me… in two weeks, just as soon as he returned from the vacation he was leaving for the next day. He then jumped into his brand new Porsche and sped away.
By then it was well into September and I wasn’t about to wait on that tool anymore, so I called ProBuild at the ABC hoping they could recommend someone for the job. A nice guy there gave me two names of contractors who he thought were reliable and could handle the job.
Contractors No. 2 and No. 3 both came within a week to see the job, which was a lot more than contractor No. 1 ever did, and both promised a bid by the end of the week. Two weeks went by with no word, so I called them for a status update. Contractor No. 2 said he was just too busy to take on the job, even though he never called me to say that, but he would find someone else and send them my way. I never heard from him again.
Contractor No. 3 said he was sorry, but he was still waiting on a quote for the custom window from the manufacturer, nevermind that I had asked for a quote on a standard size window in order to speed up the process. I never heard from him again either.
By late October I’d given up on both of them as well, and was desperate to at least get my landlady’s window fixed before the winter freeze came. I figured that, since my door did at least shut somewhat, it was less important than replacing the window in her house that wouldn’t close at all.
In desperation, I called a good friend whose husband is a licensed and well-respected electrician in the valley. I knew he couldn’t do the job, but thought perhaps he would know somebody who would actually submit a bid and perform the work. I hit paydirt — she called me back the next day with a name and a number. Finally, I thought, we’re going to get this project taken care of.
Contractor No. 4 showed up as scheduled, evaluated the problems and said it would be no problem to fix it, he just had to price out the materials (uh-oh) and he would get me a bid within a week. That was over a month ago, and I never heard from him again either.
So why can’t I get a contractor to do this job? I was certainly polite and respectful to all of them. I didn’t bicker about the cost, because I never got a single bid from any of the four contractors in question. Three out of the four actually came to look at the job, so the only explanation I can come up with is that it was just too small for them to want to bother with.
Can someone please tell me, for future reference, what is the minimum amount of money a contractor will do a job for in Aspen? Is it $50,000? $100,000? When did contractors go from being one of us — the local worker bees — to being one of them, driving Porsches and refusing to help a little old lady with significant health problems and a broken window? I suppose when you’re making payments on a car like that it’s important to have big jobs like Whole Foods, but at what point do you set profitability aside to do a one-day job for a senior citizen with a window that won’t shut and sub-zero temperatures quickly approaching?
Affordable goods and services are nearly non-existent in Aspen. If you die here your body has to be taken to Glenwood Springs, the closest mortuary facilities, to be cremated or prepared for burial. If you want to buy brand name clothes that a normal person can afford, you’re either doing it online or driving to Denver or Grand Junction. And if you need a home improvement, you might just be up a creek without a paddle.
Doug Allen is still looking for a contractor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .