I would like feedback about a situation I came across yesterday when I visited a recent installation at  the home of a residential client. The client said something like, "I think your contractor was upselling me, he said he could do all sorts of lighting here, but I told him we weren't ready for any more work right now." Now the client wasn't angry, but the fact that he mentioned this to me means he thought I should know. I like the work this company does, but it's still a fairly new relationship (2 years). Advice on how to approach the contractor?

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Cheryl, it might be time to look for other contracting firms. They were hired to install your designs, not to add to the cost of the project. They've overstepped their bounds. Speak to the firm like a lady, but be firm about their position. Let them know if they continue this practice, you will be using other firms for installation of your designs. Make sure that you have backup firms.

If your landscape contractor is like most that I know, they can't afford to miff anyone who can lead them to work.  Just tell your contractor how you feel and if he doesn't feel the same way find another one.  If I'm contracted to do construction management then I sure better be managing the subs.  If I'm not then the project owner is responsible for any additions and changes to the project and the final result.  No harmed feelings.

BTW I noticed in your web site you identify yourself as a minority owned firm.  What a bunch of ....oh forget it.

Hi Rick,

Thanks for your input. I will talk with my contractor (rather than email or phone, I think). As for the MBE/DBE program, the true minority I am is Jewish, but since that doesn't qualify, I'll take "woman" since women still make pennies on the dollar to men/male owned firms. The paperwork and business evaluation was rigorous, and Maryland's is the oldest and best run program in the country. Even then, the average minority participation is far less than 25%. To expand into public park projects, it seemed like the best way to go. Thanks again.  Cheryl

This happened to me with a contractor on our company owned crew when I was working for a design/build contractor. I talked to the individual and made it clear that it was not his place to do this, talked to his boss, and talked to the head of the design department. He started doing this to all the other designer/sales people and was eventually fired for this and other problems he caused on jobsites.

So take it seriously, it is the designers responsibility to be a liason between the crews and owner. More professional and real information can only come from the designer and not he crew member. It is highly unethical for him to be selling his extras on the side to your client that you have gone through all the work with already, not to mention if lighting is going to be installed it should be through the company that is paying that crew member on site in the first place. Otherwise it is theft.  

Oh and if this is a subcontract crew this sort of thing needs to be written into your working agreements. Otherwise you will not maintain all the clients that you have worked so hard for...


Good idea to specify it in writing on the front end. Thanks Jordan. I'll post a follow up when I discuss it with my contractor.

I am a little confused. You are designing and then have a contractor you work with that builds your designs? Is it that unusual for contractors to make changes on a design? You are the project manager on this project it sounds like...so it is up to you to approach the contractor with your concerns. I guess I come at it from a different viewpoint as we do the design and installation. Things do change...perhaps an amenable way to approach the contractor would be that you ask him to let you know if he has ideas that he feels may work better at a particular property. If you agree then you can approach the client and mention that this other idea could work as well. I know my husband, despite being the designer, will often find when he is working at the site for hours that another solution would be more appropriate or even be an improvement from his initial design. I wouldn't throw the relationship away for this as long as the contractor agrees to come to you and allow you to manage the project.

Some last questions...that just came to me. Are you on site to oversee the construction? Or is it more that you supply the design and the contractor takes it from there. I think it sounds like this is a subcontractor...which means if you haven't stipulated that he isn't to do this...it is out of your hands. As a business owner he is going to "up sell" if given the chance.

Have you thought about hiring someone to do the contracting? And offering oversight yourself? I think this would be more profitable for you and would give you the final word.

Heather, I disagree. It sounds to me like the contractor pretty clearly overstepped his bounds. He was brought in to a job (by the designer) to do a scope of work...and then talked to the client (behind the designers back) about doing additional work. If the contractor felt that they could do lighting as well..then he shouldhave mentioned that to Cheryl, not to the client.
I'm still learning! I am still interested to hear how the relationship b/w the designer and contractor is communicated. Is it with a contract? Verbally?
Heather, always best to have it in writing.

Do we have all the facts here?  I don't know that I would convict the contractor just yet.


What if the concrator was having a casual conversation with the owner, mentioned how much more spectacular the home would look with more lighting, then went to Ms. Corson with his ideas?  Doesn't everyone benefit?


Now if the contractor said "hey after all of this over, here's my card, call me and we'll do this right" then yes I would call shenanigans!  But I don't know for sure that is the case.


Communication goes a long way, talk to the contractor and get his feedback, you'll know right away what your dealing with.


However, your drawings should have something like:




This way if he does deviate from the plans and doesn't tell you, you got him with his hands in the cookie jar.  Good Luck!

Thank you for that language David. I think it will never be totally clear what was said and how. But I'll have a face to face conversation with the contractor, whom I like, just to be clear for future projects.


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