‘Catch A Contractor’ — Is It Worth Watching?

Short answer: No.

A better title for this show is ‘Lost.’ It applies to the homeowners who did not do their due diligence; to the fellows selling themselves as contractors but could not care less; and unfortunately to the hosts of the show, as well.

The show is much like ‘America’s Most Wanted’ or ‘Cops’, with the targets being contractors instead of criminals. There is not much to catching a misguided contractor. In fact, it is like shooting fish in a barrel.

Several years ago, I researched the number of complaints filed with the California Department of Consumer Affairs. It turned out that the building industry receives more complaints than ALL other regulated groups combined. Keep in mind that a complaint does not necessarily mean that anyone did something wrong. Some complaints are unfounded; others are rectified; and so forth. Still, the sheer number of complaints was hard to believe.

In many cases where things go wrong, rogue contractors are not the only ones at fault. Clients have a responsibility to know what their projects require. Awareness of building permits, contracts, insurance policies, and contractor licenses comes to mind. Most municipalities across the US have web sites that explain what is required of contractors and property owners. That said, I feel particularly bad for the elderly. They are easily intimidated; they do not know the right questions to ask; and they do not know where to go for help.

Add Value And Teach

Perhaps the most unfortunate part of the show are missed opportunities to educate contractors and homeowners. Adam Carolla, Skip Bedell and Alison Bedell have a fantastic and rare chance to add value to the shows by:

  • Posting pre-construction checklists on their web site;
  • Adding lists with contact info for each state’s consumer protection agency;
  • Listing questions homeowners should ask their contractors;
  • Partnering with specialty bookstores such as Builders Booksource;
  • Suggesting topics of conversation for contractor associations, local governments, and license-issuing agencies such as the Contractor State License Board in California.

For example, RemodelBlog.net suggests that contractors develop a Code of Conduct. I question why so many professions are subject to annual Continued Education requirements, but for some reason builders are exempt. Why? Each year there are more laws, better techniques, and so forth. I discussed why many projects are likely to need building permits. I encouraged contractors to review their contracts to make sure they are up to date. And I shared my view on a video posted by the Contractor State License Board. Perhaps Viacom’s legal department may not like some of these suggestions due to potential liability, but where there is a will, there is a way.

In one of the shows, Carolla suggests to never pay more than 50% percent of a project’s total upfront. Eh? In California, a contractor can ask for a deposit of 10% or $1,000, whichever is less. In other words, a lack of knowledge on the part of Carolla translates into the miseducation of however many people watch the show. If Wikipedia’s numbers are correct, the show opened to an audience of 1.2 million. Isn’t it sad to convey the wrong information to so many people, especially if it is your goal to help them?

I have been in construction for well over thirty years. And like Skip, I care about the industry’s reputation. Why isn’t Catch A Contractor being used as a gateway to meaningful improvement?

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