We had a gardener, and now we do not.
She was my mom’s gardener, a lovely older lady who both SY and I had worked alongside in my mom’s garden- both of us kind of hired help for the day- with whom we got along very well. Her son is teaching English in Japan right now, which I did for 11 years, so we bonded over that.
A month back we invited her to our new garden, to pick her brain about our sick eucalyptus and to potentially design our garden for us. A ballpark figure of 500 pounds ($750) was agreed upon, for design, work, plants, everything. Work commenced at once, with the holly lolly getting the trim I mentioned in an earlier post.
Work continued on a later Monday, with SY working for 5 hours right alongside her. SY got sick because she worked herself too hard- one sign that we were feeling in the backseat compared to the gardener. Then it came time to purchase plants. SY pressed (I wasn’t there, I can’t take time off work) for receipts, lists of plants, and to keep the cost down.
Yesterday we learned the gardener had spent 400 pounds on plants, with no receipts, and a 100 pound charge for her shopping time. Since there are no receipts, its impossible to argue if this is good value. The main point was- we were left with a budget for plants and shopping alone which themselves added up to our total budget.
We both felt sick. How much longer would this go on, and how much would it cost when it was done? Were we being taken advantage of? We didn’t know.
We penned an email asking to see receipts, stating the costs had gotten out of our control, and suggesting it may be best if she just leave the plants at our house so we’d do the planting ourselves (thereby cutting off around 250 pounds of her work and ‘vision’ costs).
We called her the next day (today) to discuss this. She was most unhappy, stating she was disappointed in us. I had expected something like this. She said she only worked on trust, and that most garden centers to tradespeople do not offer receipts. Also she said she cannot cut the number of plants in half to make it cheaper, as that does not conform with her vision.
I asked for a hard estimate on the new total cost. It would be, yes, 1000 pounds. A significant outlay, double the 500 we’d expected to pay, which in itself was already quite significant.
I said I was sorry she was disappointed, and we’d get back to her with our decision.
We have decided to no longer hire her. I emailed her the news, stating her vision for our garden was just too ambitious for us, and we were uncomfortable with no receipts. Happily she had said in the phone call that she could find another use for the plants- so we shouldn’t be on the hook for them.
Did we do the right thing?
It probably reads like a simple choice, but it feels to us, and may very well feel to her, like something of a betrayal. We trusted her completely, within reason, to or around a budget of 500. She thought she had our complete trust, and us asking for receipts was too suspicious.
Who knows. I don’t think though that asking for receipts is rude or inappropriate. Neither do I think being unhappy that a project is running to double the budget is so unreasonable either.
Hopefully we can part on good terms.