Due to a set of unfortunate circumstances, Holly's and my new house has a defective roof that is neither covered by insurance nor a manufacturer's warranty nor even a class action settlement involving the shingles that we most likely have. This month we've been working on getting a few estimates from roofing contractors to replace the roof and add ventilation to the attic to bring it at least up to the current code requirements. We ended up with three estimates from companies that I thought looked reputable from their Better Business Bureau report and that had been in business for many years. After negotiating a somewhat lower price from one company, we had one estimate that was significantly higher than the other two, and two estimates that were within about 10% of each other.
The lower bid was from a company that sounded very good and very professional: Shirts on, no smoking, no loud music. The estimator/salesman had explained that their crews are sub-contracted due to the excessive cost of maintaining them as employees. The sales pitch sounded great, and everything seemed to be just what a homeowner would want. It is probably a peculiarity of my personality that I actually didn't really like that. I guess I would rather feel like someone is being straight with me than feel like someone is trying to sell me something. Holly, on the other hand, had a much better impression, and she generally has better perception of character than I do.
The next bid was from a company whose estimator (not much of a salesman, really) who really seemed to know a lot about the roofing process and who was concerned to do things right. He had previously declined to make any estimate at all for just the ventilation part of the work, before Holly and I had decided that we would do the whole roof, because he didn't think that the work would be able to hold up due to the deteriorated condition of the roof in general. Furthermore, he explained that their crews are company employees and that they have all been with the company for quite some time—upwards of 13 years if I recall correctly.
Well, after getting all the numbers in, Holly and I discussed the various pros and cons and risks of the different companies. I think we both changed our minds at least once. Finally it was resolved when we asked ourselves, "What would be the good-neighbor thing to do?" In other words, what's not just best for us and our bottom line, but what would be best for our community?
Since the price difference was not tremendous, we decided that we would rather support the company that takes on the responsibility and cost to actually hire their crews as employees with all the benefits that that entails. Once we thought of it that way, for both Holly and I, it just felt right to choose the second company. Perhaps my thinking on this issue is naïve and idealistic, but I do hope that, by God's grace, our decision will work out well both for us and for our community.
Possibly related post: The Gleaning Principle