Running an Efficient Customer Service/Dispute


Hello Joel.
Firstly I live in the UK and therefore my question applies to UK law, but as there's no-one from the UK on this site handling questions you're my best hope, so apologies if it's beyond your remit.
We recently hired a painter/decorator to paint our kitchen, pantry and utility room. He gave us a quote of 325 and specified that he would paint the ceilings, walls and woodwork. The job was duly carried out, but after he'd accepted payment in cash of 325 and left we noticed that he hadn't painted the three wooden shelves in the pantry. When contacted about this he claimed that the shelves were not "woodwork" which, by his definition, referred to doors and skirting boards, however he DID paint other "woodwork" fixtures such as a serving hatch and coat hooks, thus deviating from his own assertion of the definition of "woodwork".
He took great offence at my suggestion that the term "woodwork" meant one thing to him and another to us. Anyway we did NOT ask him to return to finish the job and we painted them ourselves. As far as we were concerned the matter was over.   
Now he has told us he's going to bill us for the "extra" work he carried out in painting the other "woodwork" and two radiators, all of which he said he did as a gesture of goodwill. He is asking for another 100. We have emails in which he clearly states that the "extra" work was carried out in good will.
Can he do this after accepting payment amicably for work completed or does he have a case? As I see it that the contract to paint was carried out and payment made. Surely he cannot demand further payment for work carried out of his own choice once the bill has been settled.  It seems that he is simply asking for 100 as "compensation" for his hurt feelings in my suggestion that "woodwork" meant all fixed wooden items.

Hulloo, Mark!

My specialty is really about teaching business owners how to provide better service, how to operate their business, but I'm glad to offer what I hope will be some helpful advice.

I can't offer legal advice, even here in the States, but it seems to me that you've done what you can. The painter has a problem with either communication or ethics, and I can't say from here which it would be.

One thing I've noted is that when someone starts splitting hairs, communication isn't going to happen until something changes.  I applaud your choice to simply fix the problem yourselves and move on.

I cannot imagine he has a legal basis for presenting another bill. You might choose to simply ignore it, or to notify him that you don't intend to pay the additional bill, and provide supporting evidence for your stance. Your choice will depend somewhat on whether you've seen his past actions as belligerent or simply misguided.

I'll be interested to hear what happens in the long run.

Running an Efficient Customer Service

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Joel D Canfield


I'm a problem-solver; I specialize in finding practical win-win solutions to difficult customer service issues. Anything to do with maintaining good relations with your customers and still running a profitable business is fair game.


I've operated more than one successful small business of my own, and provided support for multiple small businesses as a consultant.

I am self-taught. I've been a voracious reader since I was 4 years old. I absorb three to five new books a month on virtually every subject of interest to a small business owner/operator.

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