The contrast of TIME
My wife and I have been coming to the VI for over a decade, but made the big full-time move here three years ago. I’ve come to realize “time” is different here. Not to say it slows down, time passes just as quickly here as anywhere else.
With Hurricane Maria, and the devastation afterwards, we waited over a year before diving into a new construction project, on land purchased years before. The job (shell only) was projected to be done in nine months. To date, it’s been two years and roof rafters still haven’t been delivered.
There has been several unavoidable, but not unexpected delays. So it’s not the extra time it’s taking as much as it is “the process” in how the work is done. I’m not suggesting anyone is lazy, workmen here work just as hard as guys in the states (weather here is awesome for lounging on a beach, but not swinging a hammer on bright sunny days without a breeze).
The thing I’ve come to realize, is doing things two or three times is considered acceptable here. Coming from NY, where time is money, doing things right the first time is critical to saving time and therefore, clearing a profit. Nearly every tradesman I’ve dealt with here takes no issue with tearing out last weeks work, to redo it this week.
For example, I had a man do a beautiful job tiling a new shower enclosure. Except when the water was turned on, it all collected in one corner of the floor instead of toward the drain in the center of the floor. He came back the following week, tossed out a “no problem Mon” tore it up and did it again. After which it drained into the opposite corner. He took no issue with coming back a third time to get it right. My bill remained the same, but it took a month to square away. Everyone remained civil and respectful.
Ive had similar issues with auto mechanics, electricians, plumbers, etc...
Ive come to realize it’s just how things are done here. It doesn’t surprise me anymore. It’s just one of those things you learn to deal with, or you give yourself a heart attack.
So, I guess the moral of my story is, to above all, bring patience with you when coming to the VI. A boatload of cash would be nice too, but patience is the key to long-term survival.
Singlefin, thanks for sharing your experiences. My wife and I are new (seasonal) residents but had pre-calibrated ourselves for island time but actually have been pleasantly surprised. All of the service providers (pool, yard maintenance, bug guy, property management, etc.) we use have been (so far) dependable with good quality work, everyone has also been pleasant to deal with. We're also just finishing up having a solar system installed and have been impressed that given the COVID-19 situation the installation started only about 2 weeks late and is just finishing up now. I'm sure at some point we'll find ourselves in a frustrating situation, but as I said we've calibrated ourselves so hopefully we'll just "roll with the punches", as they say.
I'm currently working on a post-Maria renovation. Although the insurance company paid out handsomely, I try as much as possible to order my supplies off island. I also have a friend who is a licensed General Contractor in Florida come and do all my major work. Fortunately, he's older and will work for a very reasonable wage ($25/hour) along with free accommodations in the apartment he's renovating. He is as honest as the day is long and is extremely skilled in construction, plumbing and electrical. I am extremely thankful to have him as the locals will bleed you dry and do a crappy job. I plan to pocket as much of the six figure insurance settlement as possible.
It’s not about job security. Options are limited. There’s very little competition. As I mentioned with the tile guy, my estimated price never went up.
And for the most part, everyone is pleasant to deal with, which makes it hard to get angry when mistakes are made.
Locals bleed you dry? Kind of sounds like you’ve gotten more out of your insurance company than you were entitled.
Argh! Thanks for sharing. I do most of my own work myself to avoid such situations. The few jobs I have sub'd out have come out OK. I had all of my AC replaced last year and 99.9% of it was done fine on the first try. And I wasn't even there until after the job was completed.
My hurricane shutters guy always does good work, when I can get him there. Since he's the one and only in his company he has the incentive to get it right the first time and on time.
And to be fair I've had jobs done in the states that required some follow-up, not so much a do over though. Now that I think of it though, the mason that laid the bricks on my front porch floor in the states 25 years ago had to tear up the bricks twice before he got them laid straight the third time. And I tore them out again myself just last year to properly weatherproof the substrate before laying them again myself. Maybe it's just more prevalent in the VI.
During my ongoing project, I spend most weekends shoring up work done during the week. Nearly every evening I’ll check things with a tape measure and a level. Can’t tell you how many times adjustments are made the following morning. Since cement is the material of choice here (a must due to hurricanes), the last thing you want to do is make adjustments after a major pour.
Yes, I did. I finally came out on top for a change. Honestly, it was my private adjuster who was extremely knowledgeable and negotiated the settlement. I wasn't actually even going to make a claim at first.