I lost $5000 on my first Steel Building purchase.
I had been working with a steel building company for several weeks on the purchase of a 50’ x 75’ building. We had everything going along well when I decided to ‘shop around’. I went on e-bay and found a company called “CHRISTbilt Steel Buildings”. With a company name like that I thought “how can I go wrong?” My contact there, Mr. Charles LaBoone, was extremely accommodating (at least he was before I paid him any money). He quoted me a price $7000 less than my original supplier. Once Charles had my $5000 deposit the circus began.
After receiving my deposit Charles wasted no time informing me that “steel prices had increased” and he would need to raise the overall price by another $5000. I had already contracted with my client and my integrity and professionalism were on the line. I could not, in good faith, go back to my client and request an increase in our contract amount. It took me 11 weeks and numerous phone calls to finally get the building drawings from CHRISTbilt/Charles (my experience now says this should have been 2-3 weeks). With Steel drawings, foundation drawings and site plan in hand I now was able to submit for our building permit. Four weeks later on Sept 23rd our permit was ready, then the real circus started.
I called Charles to let him know we had our permit and requested that the Steel Package be released for production. Over the next 12 weeks I had 30 to 40 calls to Charles most of them including much verbal abuse from him. (I am not easily provoked and very seldom “loose it” especially over the phone) Finally, on Dec 12 I got Charles to admit that he had never released my building for production. I informed him that I would be seeking another vendor for the building to which he replied that was a “breach of contract” and that he would not offer any refund, surprise, surprise. (Charles has since been indicted for fraud)
At a loss for how to satisfy my client I contacted Scott, the engineer who had produced my concrete engineering, and asked him who he would recommend as a steel supplier. He referred me to Larry. Six weeks later Larry’s company delivered the building package and we successfully completed the project. (The overall project should have taken 3 months, but thanks to Charles took over 8 months to complete)
I have now been dealing with Larry for over 7 years and have purchased dozens of steel buildings from him. Attention to detail, professionalism and always on time delivery are why I continue to be a loyal friend and customer.
Lessons I learned.
- GET REFERRALS!!! When Charles delayed in getting referrals to me I should have RUN in the other direction.
- The steel building industry is peppered with companies who will take a deposit and then work to get the customer to cancel the order thus forfeiting their deposit.
- Charles’ ability to “sell” over the phone did not translate to an ability or desire to serve me as a customer.
- A great referral from a trusted source was worth well over $5K.
- Never overpay up front.