Several years ago I had a major plumbing issue in one of my properties. I thought I knew exactly what the problem was, and worked to fix the problem only several hours later to be still stuck with the same problem.
Once I put my male pride aside, I called some professional plumbers. Still thinking (and internally convinced I was correct) I knew the problem, I persisted by telling each plumber I called what the issue was and after about 4 or 5 calls found the plumber with the best price and called him out.
Now mind you — I was convinced I knew the problem, it was a serious matter, nothing would go right until it was resolved, I tried to fix it myself and I was convinced that the problem I thought it was, should only cost a very small amount to fix, and convinced the plumber over the phone that is all it was -- and that is what he prepared the job for.
Boy was I wrong.
1. Private Investigators and Plumbers Deal With Some Serious Crap
Now of course there is a pun in point 1, but really, have you considered what private investigators might find themselves investigating?
Like a plumber, sometimes we find ourselves up to our elbows in some serious ____________(insert expletive here).
I remember my first homicide investigation; nope, wasn't prepared for the things I had to see and talk to people about. Neither was my first accidental death investigation pleasant. The child pornography ring I worked on was as vile as it gets and a giant organized crime investigation that put a lot of serious bad guys away was pretty scary too.
I've had my life threatened; had to relocate my family; been attacked while conducting surveillance, fallen through ceilings while installing covert surveillance and a few other serious incidents to speak of.
Private investigators often see bad things, talk to people about heart wrenching topics and try to solve complex problems that can at times get very serious.
Like a plumber, we sometimes don't see it coming, but we roll up our sleeves and tackle the job at hand.
2. Client Expectations
Just like my situation I shared at the outset of this post, sometimes client expectations are a bit skewed and it's our job as the private investigator to educate the client on how things really work.
When I called the first two plumbers (as I recall) they told me that what I thought was the problem, may not be. I didn't want to hear that. The third and fourth ones were too much money and, I believe, the fifth one was the one I convinced to give me a solid price to come fix "the problem".
Some clients that call me are convinced of the route we should take in the investigation they are hiring us for. This goes for attorneys and private clients alike. But as polite professionals, we have to put a halt to what the client asks for if it goes against our knowledge and experience.
In addition, we need to set reasonable and basic understandings before the case even begins. Understandings over proposed budgets and time frames have to be clear and of course included in our written agreement.
Just like me, shopping for the first plumber who would agree with my diagnosis and would meet my financial expectations, our clients may take us down the same path.
3. The Job Can Become Much More Difficult Than Expected
Now when the plumber arrived at my property, he did just as I asked him, but the problem, once again, did not resolve itself...$125 down the drain (another pun, yes).
Although he was a nice guy, he had just started his business and was eager to please. After some real investigating on my plumbers part, he found that the old terracotta pipes leading to the street, that once whisked the sewage from my house, had ruptured open. In fact, they broke in several areas.
The $125 waste of money (at my persistence) was small potatoes compared to the nearly $3,000 bill I was about to have to swallow.
Private investigators and plumbers are in a profession. As private investigators, we sometimes end up with investigations quickly becoming more difficult than we had previously thought. We need to be professional enough to help our clients understand this. We may need to make an adjustment to our strategy, reallocate the budget or bring in additional help. All the while helping the client to understand the changes or challenges we may face, especially before beginning a particularly difficult project, will help set the right expectations.
Too, as a plumber shows up to a project with no immediate answer to the task at hand until he digs a little deeper, it may behoove a private investigator to conduct a preliminary look at the case, spending a few hours or less getting a better grasp on the matter before taking it on in the fullest sense.
As the Story Goes...
Plumbers and private investigators should get together and a have a beer every now and then. We both respond to critical situations, get up to knees in crap and sometimes the first plan is not always the best solution.
As private investigators, it is only fair to help our clients understand that we are only superman when we wrap the bath towel around our shoulders and yell "up-up and away" while running through our house. Otherwise we are just normal people with a really cool job.
We love the challenge of helping our clients make important decisions and fix certain problems. We always strive to set reasonable and fair expectations that best serve our clients interests.
Oh, and yes, the plumbing job went swimmingly well. It actually came in a little less than the original $3,000 I was quoted. The green plumber called in family who were all plumbers and they all got it done in two days.
I'm glad I took the plunge. (grins)