DEAR HARRIETTE: A good friend of mine owns a painting company. I hired him and his workers to paint my home a new color. I signed a contract like any other customer, but when I asked for the invoice, he said to pay what I am comfortable with. He wouldn’t tell me what he usually charges, and I have never had something like this done before. I don’t want to underpay him, but I don’t want to overpay him either. What is the best way to approach paying him and his workers? -- A Grateful Friend
DEAR A GRATEFUL FRIEND: What an uncomfortable position to be in! Your friend thinks he is doing you a favor by telling you to pay what you can. Unfortunately, this is not as kind as he thinks because it requires you to do work that may not yield accurate results. You need to get your friend to understand how tough this situation is for you.
Thank your friend for being kind in not charging you his normal price. Tell him that since you have never hired a painter before and do not know what it should cost, you have no idea what to pay. Tell him that you will pay him when he is able to give you a price. Point out that his workers did a good job and deserve to be paid right away, but you have no idea what to pay them. Perhaps he can tell you his normal price and then offer you a percentage discount. Sometimes the “friends and family discount” can run from 20% to 50%. You can tell him you have found that out from your research. Perhaps he will be willing to share the regular price while recommending that you pay a discounted fee.