Ethical Question of the Day


You request a written estimate from a roofer. He says the job will cost $X, but recommends using a higher quality shingle that will add approximately 6% to the total project cost. You are agreeable, and opt for the higher-quality shingle.

After the project is complete, you receive an invoice in the mail for a total cost of $X. The invoice is not itemized, so you are unsure whether he intentionally did not charge you for the higher-quality shingles or not. You are certain that the higher-quality shingles were used.

What would you do?

1) Send a check for $X.

2) Contact the roofer and ask him if the $X price reflects the higher-quality shingles.

3) Send a check for $X+0.06$X

Additional Info that may or may not be relevant:
You have never met the roofer, only had phone conversations. You are not sure whether he has ever visited the job site – the work was all performed by his crew. You are satisfied with the quality of work performed, but are also not qualified to know the difference between good and bad work. The project took several days longer than expected, but it was because more work was required during the tear-off phase than was originally estimated (3 layers of old shingles rather than 2 layers). You suspect the roofer incurred additional costs that he wasn’t planning as a result (2 dumpster loads rather than 1). The roofer allowed you to throw some of your other construction debris unrelated to the roofing job (old carpets, broken chairs, etc.) into the dumpster at no additional cost.

10 comments to Ethical Question of the Day

  • I always request an itemized bill. If he didn’t install the correct shingles make sure he does at the price previously quoted without any addition fees for fixing it.

    If he didn’t charge you for the shingles ask him about it. He may request you pay the difference. Certainly don’t pay anymore than the original estimate.

  • @Bill – edited original post to clarify that I am certain the higher-quality shingles were used.

  • Still ask for the itemized bill. If they are listed as being installed then he beat his estimate and you’re clear. If he realizes his mistake then pay up.

  • Curtis Slepica

    I have ran into this for contractors I have worked for in the past. Sometimes when a job goes without a head ache and a profit is gained they will pass the saving back to you. Plus sometimes when they bid X amount for materials and even with better shingles he did go over budget they feel like no big deal. The only time you will see a revised is if materials go over budget.

    Keep in mind prices of shingles went down so you and the Contractor win.

  • This is tough. You got what you want and are happy with it. However, I’m guessing if the cost were higher than anticipated you’d want the bill itemized, so it makes sense to do the same with it being lower. If nothing else, your conversation with the roofer is presumably easier if there are problems a few months or a year from now if you get as many details as possible up front instead of waiting. I don’t think it’s a problem to just pay it without questions, but if you’re even questioning whether to get an itemized bill, you should probably go with your gut and do it.

  • Dez

    Id request an itemized bill. Then still pay what they ask unless the higher quality singles ar.en’t on .

  • Jimmy

    Ask him about it straight up. If you’re happy with the work and he did what he agreed to do, but failed to charge you the agreed price, you shouldn’t take advantage to his detriment. On the other hand, if he did as others have suggested and intentionally passed savings to you, then he’s an honest guy, will appreciate your honesty and the only thing that will be different is that you don’t have to lose sleep about whether you did the right thing. Think of it this way, the only possible downside is that you end up paying what you already agreed to pay.

    Moreover, think of it the other way around: what if you had overpayed for something, but didn’t catch it, and the guy brought it to your attention, how thankful would you be that he made it right with you? The way I see it, you could probably just pay the bill and be legally fine, maybe even ethically fine by some views… but does that live up to the gold standard? How would you want to be treated?

    Sorry for the soapbox… I’ll go to bed now.

  • I would send the roofer a link to this blog post.

  • Personally, I would call the guy and ask if that was the correct total. Also, yes, ask for an itemized invoice, to be sure. He may say it was his mistake and you may only have to pay him what the invoice said. Or, even if he realizes he made a mistake and charges you the higher cost, you will be seen as admirable and if you ever have problems with your roof, they shouldn’t hesitate to fix it. It’s always best to do the right thing and be on people’s good side. You can use it to your advantage later.

  • Reuben

    This is a test comment!