Should You Go Against Fire Code When a Client Asks?

Last week I had a job installing doors onto this business that is located in a strip mall. My bosses (yeah, there’s more than one) told me to not talk with the business owner because he’s an as*hole (their words, not mine!).

Strip Mall Doors Swing Outward

Strip mall doors always swing outward

So I begin the installation process and the owner comes up to me and says that he wants the doors to swing inward. I very politely told him that the doors must be installed swinging outward because that is the fire code in strip malls. And then I nicely told him that if he had questions about the work order or concerns about the fire code, he should call my bosses.

Man, he started yelling at me and swearing. He said that it’s his money and his work order, and that he’s the owner and boss, and so I “have to do any f*cking thing” he wants. I kept my cool, I really did! I told him to please stop yelling and that fire code requires I install the doors swinging outward.

He started yelling more, saying the most douche, little man syndrome things you can think of. I stood up and I raised my voice and got right in his face (yeah, I lost my cool), and I said, “Look man, you will not yell at me anymore! I’ve got a wife and kids, I work hard all week, and the last thing I need is a pipsqueak like you trying to push me around!”

He was a short little guy, which is why I called him pipsqueak. He didn’t like that of course. He stomped off and called my bosses.

Strip Mall Doors Swing Outward_2

Look close …. they always swing outward!

In the end, he insisted I install those doors swinging inward, and so I did. My bosses told him though that when the inspectors tell him he must reverse them because of the fire code, there can be no negative consequences because we were clear with him.

A day later I was called back to reverse the doors and make them swing outward because the inspectors came by and told him his doors were installed against code.

My bosses said they wouldn’t send me back to do work for that guy again. They’ll have to “spread out his work orders among everyone.” No one can handle working for him more than once.


Comments

Should You Go Against Fire Code When a Client Asks? — 34 Comments

  1. Thanks for teaching me a new word, pipsqueak! I would have used a much stronger one… If your bosses charged for the extra work, then why not do it twice, but that little man attitude is just unbearable. What a pipsqueak!

    • Haha, well, I might’ve used a stronger one too, but sometimes I have a temper and so I try to keep my cool. I did get paid to go back out and replace those doors swinging outward, so that’s good I guess.

  2. What a dumb a-hole. Did you at least give him a smirk when you re-installed the doors the right way? I guess either way you get paid, so it’s all good, right?

    • Nope, no smirk or anything. I try to be as professional as I can because I don’t want to lose my company future business. But I really did want to mock him or throw it in his face! And hey, another day, another dollar — I got paid to go back and reverse those doors.

  3. Some people think they are above the law. Depending on the business, I hope you or your family don’t spend your hard earned money there. I just don’t get people who act like that though. There is just no reason to treat people that way.

    • I have to agree, man, I don’t know why some people are just douches right out of the gate. No, we don’t spend money there, it’s not a kind of business that my family needs, which is good. What’s funny though about people who think they’re above the law, is that they do get caught sometimes and get reminded that they’re not above the law.

  4. Wow just wow! It takes all kinds of people to make this world go around, doesn’t it? I don’t know that I would have been as cool as you were about it. Sure, we may not like something a certain way, but come on…it’s the fire code! As my Dad says, he can not like it all he wants but in the end he still had to do what he was told.

  5. What a loser ! Did he think you were lying for no reason? Or did he think that the fire code inspectors wouldn’t notice? He probably has a problem with anyone telling him he can’t have what he wants, like a little, 4 year old child. Glad you won’t have to go back again!

  6. Some people just want what they want and the consequences don’t matter. I really hope that your boss charged him extra for the second visit, after all you did explain to him why they would need to be changed.
    I’m also glad that your boss respects his employees enough not to force them to be continually subjected to situations like that.

    • I’m glad my bosses respect us that way too, it’s a way for the company to still make money, but none of us have to deal with this guy too much!

  7. I love that you called him a pipsqueak. That’s one of my dad’s favorite words. I love people who have to tell your that you’re wrong in a hateful way and then have to eat crow. Sometimes you have to just do what the person says and let him learn the hard way.

  8. My Uncle has owned his own alarm business for years and I can’t tell you the number of times people have tried to get him to take shortcuts or do things that are not up to code. What an ass

    • So it’s the same in other businesses too. Man, it sucks. People don’t realize that the codes are there for their safety! Not just as an annoyance!

  9. This job sounds like it was properly permitted, so the company owners probably knew it wouldn’t pass inspection and wouldn’t be incorrectly installed for long. As a future business owner or side-jobber always remember the potential liability of safety codes! If you want to see the extent that liability can be spread in a fire tragedy, check out the civil settlements section of the wikipedia entry on “The Station nightclub fire”. This was the Great White concert in 2003 in Rhode Island where a fire killed 100 people. A wide array of seemingly uninvolved people and businesses were hauled into court on that one.

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  11. classic tale, having worked commurcial construction for 40 plus years i have stories much like that….keep up the good writing and good luck with the hammer….

  12. Agree with Pauline: my repertoire consists of much stronger terms, none of them printable. What a moron!

    My son had one like that as a boss. Just imagine…

    In the install doors backwards department, though, while this rule makes sense in a commercial building where a lot of people could be inside and might stampede if a fire broke out, jamming the ones in front against the exit and making it impossible to pull the doors inward, I really wonder what is the point in a residence.

    Here in lovely uptown Phoenix, it’s against code to have the kitchen door open inward. But what that means is…YOU CAN’T PUT A SCREEN DOOR on the back exit!!!

    Well, when the Recession-That-Was-Not-a-Depression had every third house in foreclosure, which meant every third swimming pool turned into a mosquito breeding ground, I really needed a screen door. So I talked one of the door dudes who’d installed security doors for me into installing the back door so it would open inward. Phrases like “not to code” didn’t seem to bother him.

    And the only circumstance in which a person would be at much risk would be if a fire started on the stove and the person was between the stove and the door. I don’t think pulling it inward would be difficult, even in the dark. In the unlikely event that you couldn’t get it open, there are three other exits to the outdoors in that room.

    After the late, great garage invasion, I replaced the screen door with a security door. It may be illegal, but p-h-h-h-h-t-t-t-t to Big Brother! I’m glad I did it!

  13. When clients would go against my clear advice, I’d just have them sign a piece of paper that said they understood I told them how it had to be and they decided against my advice. Then I felt better when they called and wanted it reversed. Beautiful paper!

    • Haha, oh man, I actually wasn’t told how much he was charged for them to be turned around. But I definitely got paid to go back and rehang them, which means, he definitely got charged more.

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