Thursday, July 31, 2008

How annoying...

I just got "talked to" because evidently, in the process of jumping through hoops trying to help a client with something I really couldn't hep them with, and shouldn't have been asked to help them with, I evidently made their life harder.

A client called me up asking for a stamped/signed/sealed letter stating something that it's not only not our job to state, but something that we don't even have the information for to begin with. In an effort to help them figure out what to do about this, I called the plans examiner and discussed it with him. At the end of the phone conversation the issue seemed to be resolved, and I reported as such to my client - telling them what they needed to do per that phone conversation.

The next day I had a message from that client saying that the plans examiner said the opposite to him as he'd said to me, and that they still need the letter from us that we couldn't provide. So, in further effort to help my client, I called the head honcho over at the building department and left a message and an email explaining the situation. I'd dealt with him before and he's a very reasonable man; I figured he was look at this situation - which is fairly ridiculous - and make it go away. Instead, when he called back, he explained that they require a registrant to write this letter because of liability blah blah blah.

The letter in question is really pretty trivial. It states that 2 pieces of paper, both of which have to be given to the building department anyway, say the same thing. It's (no joke) a matter of reading the 2 pieces of paper and saying "yep, same." My office doesn't have one of those pieces of paper, and though we could go and get it and make this comparison, it's not our job, and the building official who's asking for the letter could do it just as easily as we could. This is not the kind of thing that requires a registered professional to do.

Just now the client called and politely told my boss that they knew I was trying to help, but would I please talk to them before doing something like going over someone's head at the building department to try and resolve an issue.


First off, nothing I did should warrant my clients stuff being pushed to the back of the line - which is what they seem to have said has happened. More likely their stuff was pushed to the back of the line because they didn't have this letter...

Secondly, the client is happy to ask me to do whatever it is they need done to satisfy the building official time and time again, without regard to whether or not it's the Structural Engineer's job. So when I drop everything to address something they specifically ask me to address, and then once it's resolved they come back and tell me it's not resolved - (a) what the hell am I supposed to do but talk to the Building Department head and (b) what the hell did they expect me to do in the first place?

And finally, my boss is so worried about losing clients that he's happy to jump through hoops for them, whether or not it means letting clients treat us like we're not professionals. This kind of attitude among engineers in general has helped to create a state where builders (and building officials) don't respect the importance of the work we do nor the professional nature of our business. The current market makes my boss even more nervous about losing clients, because if we don't do everything we can - in our contract or not, our responsibility or not, and without charge - he's certain there's another engineering firm that will right around the corner.

What this means is that I spend a significant amount of time jumping through hoops, which gets in the way of doing scheduled work for other clients. And then apparently I get scolded for it.

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