We've always told you to avoid any business that requires full payment upfront before they do any work. It's a good rule to follow because once a company has your money, they hold all the cards. Here's a slight twist on that story, and an important cautionary tale.

A Job Done Wrong

The front entrance to Eric Tepper's home is marked by a beautiful—and expensive—iron door. Over time, the door had faded, and Eric wanted to get it restored. He turned to Scardino Doors. On their website, they claim that they can restore or create the finest doors in the world. That's a pretty impressive claim. Thinking he was getting the best in the business, Eric hired Scardino Doors to refurbish his front door.

Scardino Doors sent a painter out to refresh Eric's front door, but the job was less than satisfactory. In fact, the painter made a mess, both of the door and Eric's home. The door has alternating spots of matt and shiny paint, and the paint was even bubbled in some spots. His home was also affected. Overspray had dirtied his walls, the molding around the doorway, and even his dining room table. So Eric called Scardino Doors to come back and fix it.

An Admission Without a Resolution

Scardino Doors sent someone out to take a look at the door, and they agreed that the job was done incorrectly. With that admission, Eric expected the next step would be sending out a painter to clean up the mess and fix the door. But he didn't get the resolution he expected.

Instead of sending out a new painter to correct what the company admitted was a poor job, Scardino Doors made a demand. They wanted 100% of the money they were charging for the job upfront before they would come clean up their mess. Eric and his wife were furious. They expected that any business that admitted to doing a poor job would do what's right and fix it. But what they found out was that they had backed themselves into a corner without knowing it.

Trapped in a Bad Contract

Remember that tip to never pay for a service upfront? The Teppers got that advice half right, but the part they missed would prove to be a massive problem.

Scardino Doors charged $1,150 to restore the Teppers' door. That's a pretty significant sum. What Eric and his wife got rights is that they only paid 50% upfront. They thought that they were safe because the rest of the bill would only be paid once the job was completed. But what they didn't realize was that they had signed away any financial leverage they had.

Although Eric had only paid half the money upfront, he had signed a contract with Scardino Doors that required him to pay in full before the job was started. In other words, the fact that Eric only paid half upfront was just a nicety by Scardino Doors. In reality, Eric had promised to pay the full $1,150 even before the job was started.

Now, with the door ruined, Scardino Doors admitted they were at fault, but refused to fix it until they received the full payment. And because Eric and his wife had signed that contract, Scardino Doors held all the cards. Scardino Doors was not legally obligated to do anything—including fixing a ruined door—until they received full payment.

Legal Versus Ethical

The Teppers were at their wits' end. They had called Scardino Doors to try to get them to fix the door, but Scardino Doors was no longer answering their calls. That's when they called TrustDALE.

When we looked at the Teppers' contract, we saw what Scardino Doors saw. The legally binding agreement between the Teppers and Scardino Doors required full payment before any work was done. The fact that they had started the job before they received full payment had no legal relevance. They had absolutely no obligation to the Teppers until the Teppers paid the full $1,150 Scardino Doors was charging.

But there is a difference between what is legal and what is right. And at TrustDALE, we don't just try to get businesses to meet their minimum legal obligations. We fight for consumers so that businesses will make it right, regardless of their actual legal obligation. So after Scardino Doors stopped answering our calls, we paid them a visit, cameras and all.

TrustDALE and the Power of Social Media

When TrustDALE showed up at Scardino Doors, the owner, Mr. Scardino, was there to greet us. But it wasn't a cheerful welcome. Mr. Scardino was so unhappy with our cameras that he pulled out his phone and started filming us. But we pressed Mr. Scardino to explain why he refused to fix the Teppers' door, even after admitting the job was botched.

Mr. Scardino hid behind his contract. He insisted that requesting full payment upfront was how he had always done business and was clearly spelled out in the contract. Legally, he was in the right. But we think that's a pretty lousy way to do business. In fact, if a company really messes up, as Scardino Doors did on the Teppers' front door, sometimes the right thing is to fix it without requesting further payment.

Unfortunately, because the Teppers signed a contract requiring full payment upfront, we can't force Scardino Doors to make it right. But we can use the power of social media to call them out and put some pressure on them as a business.

We hope that Scardino Doors will do what's right. But until they do, we want the world to know how they run their business, and hopefully avoid working with them in the future.

A Lesson Hard Learned

For Eric and his wife, this was a lesson hard learned. At TrustDALE, we always discourage consumers from form paying for any work upfront. If a company won't do business with you until after they have your money, you probably shouldn't be doing business with them.

Luckily, when you work with TrustDALE certified businesses, you are safe from these kinds of shenanigans. TrustDALE certified companies will never ask you for full payment upfront. And should there be a disagreement that you can't resolve, every TrustDALE certified business has signed a legally binding contract that obligates them to follow Dale's suggestion for how to make it right. And as a very last resort, every TrustDALE business is backed by Dale's $10,000 Make-It-Right™ Guarantee.

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