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Re-Couping The Cost of The Coop

This happened a couple of years ago, but it still amazes me. My soon to be ex-sister in law “Sandy” was getting divorced from my husband’s brother after many years of marriage. This was all amicable on their part and we were still friendly with her. Sandy was a bit entitled though, and over the years had asked me for free art and design services. I always tried to help her when I could because she was family, but she could be quite demanding and acted like she had actually “hired” me (plus the art/design thing is a side gig-not my full-time job). I learned very quickly to never order fabric or wallpaper for her though, because she tended to be slow in repaying me.

So fast forward to my husband building a nice chicken coop (on wheels) that we could move around our yard. It matches our house-right down to the siding and roof (he used leftover lumber/materials from when we built our house). She saw it on social media and messages me after months of no contact wanting one for her son. I replied with OK-I will have to ask my husband and get back with her. I ask him, and he begrudgingly says yes …. but tells me that he really doesn’t think she wants it for our nephew, and she will have to buy all the lumber/supplies before he makes it (approximately $300.00-$400.00), but he will not charge her labor. That seems fair to me, so I call her and tell her this. I get dead silence on the phone…. followed with, “Why do I have to buy the lumber and supplies? Can’t we use some of the lumber leftover from when we built our house to make her one too?” My reply-“No, we don’t have enough lumber for that.” Then she asks can we buy the lumber/supplies and she will pay us, and my reply to that was also no. I ended the call with “think about it and get back with me”. She never did get back with me. She got her mother to buy the nephew a pre-made coop that lasted for about 4 months before they no longer had an interest in chickens, and she gave it away. 0107-19

Yeah, there are people in this world who think supplies and materials grows on trees and magically appears when asked for.

In regards to Sandy’s “quite demanding” behavior and “acting like she had actually ‘hired’ ” you, in the rare situations where I have donated my services and labor and in return I’ve been treated like the hired help, my standard reply is, “I”m sorry but the privilege of speaking to me in that manner will cost you $XXXXX.” You want to talk down to me like the hired help? That will cost you.

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Ultrapongo January 21, 2019, 10:01 am

    Who would think that lumber grows on trees? Actually, it does. Lumber is dead trees, but prepared.
    Ok, I get the point, and I agree that you can not demand that do work for you and have to pay themselves for the supplies. It was just the ”grows on trees” that might be a little misplaced in This particular context 🙂

    • rindlrad January 21, 2019, 1:46 pm

      No – leaves, branches, fruit, flowers, etc., grow on trees. Lumber is, in fact, MADE from trees. Sorry, you started it. 🙂

    • Asharah January 21, 2019, 2:33 pm

      I had the same thought when I read the “grows on trees” line.

    • Bea January 21, 2019, 6:00 pm

      As a person who sold lumber for years…argh that’s such a dad joke, stawp!

  • staceyizme January 21, 2019, 11:45 am

    The first time that an instance like this occurred should have also been the last time. People can ask (or demand/ whine/ cajole/ manipulate) all they want. But it’s up to you, as the recipient of the request, to also be the arbiter of its relative degrees of reasonableness, feasibility and suitability. There is also the more fundamental question of “do I want to entertain this possibility?”. For anyone who has shown themselves to be inconsiderate, difficult or merely inconvenient- the answer should be “no” by default. Even (perhaps especially!) with family and close friends, it’s better to be straightforward and practical/ businesslike about anything you agree to do. Also, it’s unreasonable to order something for which they have not paid you. Collect the money in advance or have them order the materials based on your advice. That way, there’s no difficulty or awkwardness about being the bank of Mom, Dad, Brother… People can be clueless and manipulative when they are focused on getting what they want. Going along with this type of misconduct communicates that you’re essentially “okay” with it. Nipping it firmly in the bud communicates that you’re not someone who will pay for things that others purchase, give things away on terms others dictate or accept inconsiderate/ shady treatment from others in the name of family harmony. (If coercion is involved, then it’s not really “harmony”, in any case.)

  • lakey January 21, 2019, 11:45 am

    I always feel better about hiring professionals to do jobs for me. These kinds of deals between friends or relatives often end up causing bad feelings and harming relationships. If there are problems, it’s a lot easier to complain to a person you have no real relationship with.

    • Devin January 21, 2019, 2:03 pm

      I’m with you for the reason your stared, Or it ends up costing as much or more working with friends because if they aren’t full time in the trade, then they are paying full cost for materials. Plus I always want to recoup friends or family for their time, generally in favors (baking, dog sitting, running errands), which end up costing more than getting an estimate from a licensed professional in the first place. Plus then you can have more input in dictating the timeline for completion and can return defective or shoddy work easier.

    • Rinme January 22, 2019, 1:30 am

      Absolutely. It always ends badly. The giving party feels they’ve been taken advantage of, and the receiving party feels the service is supbar. Lose-lose.

  • Lisa Marie January 21, 2019, 1:06 pm

    This type of thing happens with me in a fashion. I love to crochet and donate most of my items to charity. However, when someone asks me to make something for them and I comment on how much it will cost or tell them buy the yarn and I will make it, they seldom come thru with it.

    • Princess Buttercup January 23, 2019, 5:07 pm

      Same, except for sewing. People will go one about how much they love something I made and they want one as well. I tell them ok here’s how much the supplies will cost, or how much I charge, and suddenly it’s crickets. Do you think I just snap my fingers and stuff magically appears?!

  • Catherine St Clair January 21, 2019, 1:34 pm

    I wonder how old her son is. If he is old enough to be able to care for chickens, I would think he should be coming over to help his uncle build the coop he wants. What is given to us freely is seldom valued. If he had to earn his coop through his free time and what labor he is capable of doing, mom’s/Nana’s investment of several hundred dollars might be more of a commitment and less of a whim. I was surprised when the people who bought my house put four of my chickens into the contract for sale. I could understand wanting the lawn tractor, but four chickens? They didn’t keep them either-too much trouble.

  • gramma dishes January 21, 2019, 1:58 pm

    I don’t even talk down to my ‘hired help’!

    • SS January 21, 2019, 5:35 pm

      Thank you! I came here to also comment at my disappointment about the implied permission to talk to someone poorly as long as they ARE the hired help.

      • admin January 21, 2019, 9:14 pm

        In the context of my career, the privilege of taking down to me came at a minimum price of $1000.00 and went up from there. I’ll put up with a lot of garbage talk at that price but won’t if my labor has been offered for free. You cannot change people…you can only control the situation to your advantage and that means setting the tone that taking down to people comes with a big price tag.

        • Catherine St Clair January 22, 2019, 2:33 pm

          This reminds me of a column written by Leonard Pitts many years ago. A pro football coach had told a player to “put some mustard on it” and the player had, in anger, choked the coach. I forget what the player’s salary was, but it was substantial. Mr. Pitts wrote that he had asked his wife and children what they would be willing to tolerate for what the player was making. They all agreed that, for that salary, they would come to the field and the coach could call all of them whatever he wished. We all have a price if we can find someone silly enough to pay it.

          • Anonymous January 27, 2019, 7:14 pm

            Besides being rude, that instruction doesn’t even make sense. “Put some mustard on it?” What does that even mean in the context of football? Does it mean something like, “throw the ball harder?” If so, then why not just say that?

    • Ultrapongo January 22, 2019, 1:48 am

      Why should anyone talk down to their ’hired help’? They are people doing their work, and should be respected. And it could be good for yourself too. If you, for example, are staying in a hotel, and you have some accident of any kind that needs to be cleaned up, who would help you? The cleaning staff that you talked down to, or just pretended didn’t exist? Or those that you at least acknowledged and maybe greeted?
      You don’t have to chat for a long time, as they have work to do, just a ’Good morning’ is enough.

  • JD January 21, 2019, 4:13 pm

    So when Sandy said she wanted a coop like that, she meant “Give me a coop like that for free.” That’s quite a sense of entitlement there. I wouldn’t agree to doing anything at all for her, as I think OP and her husband have decided to do, as well.
    Can you imagine if OP and husband had made her one, then the boy and Sandy lost interest in chickens, and Sandy had sold the coop? Does anyone here think she would have given the money from the sale to OP and OP’s husband? My guess is, no.
    “Why do I have to buy the lumber?” That’s rich.

    • Ajana January 21, 2019, 10:15 pm

      Exactly! She wanted a coop for free, with the added bonus of looking good to others. “Look at the lovely gift I gave to my son. Aren’t I mother of the year?”

  • Redblues January 21, 2019, 10:28 pm

    Question:”Why do I have to buy the lumber?”
    Answer:”Because that’s what the chicken coop is made out of.”
    There are two kinds of friends and family who ask you for stuff, the kind who expect to pay for it, and the kind who expect *you* to pay for it. I amnever available to the latter.

  • Outdoor Girl January 22, 2019, 7:16 am

    Am I the only one who just wants the directions to build said coop so I can build one myself? 😀

    I think OP and her husband handled it exactly right. It’s amazing how many people don’t want *thing* when you tell them how much it will cost them to have it made.

  • Shoegal January 22, 2019, 7:39 am

    My sister in law does nails for a living. She made it abundantly clear that she wasn’t doing nails for free or even paid on her free time. She didn’t do nails outside of work for other people – her own family was another story. She did nails for her own sisters but wouldn’t for any of her husband’s sisters . I don’t think we were considered her family. Actually, we weren’t really nail people and didn’t make a big deal about it and never tried to get her to give us a free manicure. She did give me a free manicure and pedicure for my wedding which I offered to pay for but that was the one and only time she did my nails. I don’t begrudge her. I actually respected her resolve – she said no and that was it.

  • Kitty January 22, 2019, 10:44 am

    I would probably not even have agreed to have a chicken coop made for her.

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