A few years ago, I worked for Morton for over five years as a Sales Consultant and Office Manager. I wanted to chime in on this complaint. I had some problems with corporate policy and with how they treated the sales force, and I had major issues with an Office Manager, which left a bad taste for him, and a little for the company. However, I now have no connection with the company, and have nothing to gain/lose. I will do my best to be fair and balanced in my comments here.
This company is shrewd and deceptive. Their contract is short and simple...at least that's what you think when you sign it.
They are shrewd. Any company which stays in business for over 100 years is unquestionably shrewd. The contract is written to benefit them, no question. However, have you ever read all the fine print in your cell phone contract, cable/satellite provider/credit card statement? The contract language is almost always written to benefit the writer of the contract, unless they hired a stupid lawyer. ;)
They are NEVER at fault. They have built into YOUR Contract an Overages Fund...it amounts to approx.
10 % of your building. You PAID for that. When a Problem arises, 1st they twist it and blame you, and try to charge you again to fix it. If you refuse, they attempt to take it out of their salesman's commission. His commission comes in stages...the final huge commission is at completion. That is his incentive to make sure you don't fire their crooked butts. If the overages (your money) account is untouched, the salesman gets that too. They will deny this!
They will deny this because this is not entirely accurate, unless the system has changed dramatically in the past five years or so.
Yes - There is an Overage/Contingency Fund. It amounts to whatever the salesperson can get, generally 5%, sometimes 0%, maybe 10% if you treated me like a jerk before we signed the contract (and therefore I was expecting more problems from you during the construction), or if there are lots of unknowns which could drastically affect the final price. You do pay for that, no question. When a problem arises. they do try to find a way to charge the customer. They are in business to make a profit, after all. However, that is not unique to Morton, or to business in general.
If you want to make a change later, there is a "Change Fee" (which the company gets, not the sales rep). Also not unique to Morton - this is a construction industry standard. Normally, once a construction contract is signed, with any company, if you want to change something, you will pay a change fee. In my case, and with many other Morton reps (and most other construction companies I know of), if you were a nice fellow to deal with, and had treated me like a decent human, I would pay for the fee from the Contingency, rather than tacking on the change fee to your final bill. For example, I had a guy decide at the last minute, just before starting construction, to add a small, basic window. I used the overage to pay for the window, the change fee (which the company gets), and the extra material and labor. Yes, he had "paid for it", via the contingency fee, but I used it to prevent him being "nickel-and-dimed".
The company used to be really hard on the sales force. We were a "necessary evil". We were treated as scum, tolerated by upper management because we brought the money in the door, resented by the "professionals" (architects, designers, etc) because they had the college degrees and technical expertise but we made the "big money", and disliked by the crew because the crew made the building a reality, by working hard in all kinds of weather, while us "sales weasels" had the "gravy job". Morton provided a company car, fuel/maintenance, a small salary (about $1200-1600/month gross at the time, with a whopping $50/month bonus if you had a four year college degree... woo-hoo!), and commissions of about 3%, if I remember. The better your sales, the lower the commission percentage went... kind of a reverse incentive to work harder, eh? When we had regional meetings or training meetings, we generally were put in the cheapest hotel around, and got a little per diem, just enough to eat at the cheap places.
The home office tried to take everything out of the salesman's commission. The basic system was FINAL SALES PRICE minus FINAL COST OF JOB equals PROFIT/LOSS. If the job made a profit, you got paid commission on sales price. If the job made a loss, you got paid when your total profit/loss was in positive territory. If the job was short, for any reason, you didn't get paid until you showed a profit, so the Overage was "insurance" to help ensure your jobs were profitable. However, the salesman did NOT get the Overage as commission (except the 3% of the total sales price, which included the overage). Unless the company has DRASTICALLY changed how they treat the sales force, I doubt that has changed. All overage was pure profit to the company. In Morton's defense, when a job ran short, for whatever reason, they have to cough up the difference.
Look at it this way...
$100, 000 building including a 5% overage, finishes profitable = Salesman gets $3000 (this may take 3-12 months from first contact with customer)
$100, 000 building including a 5% overage, finishes even = Salesman gets $3000
$100, 000 building including a 0% overage, finishes even - Salesman gets $3000
$100, 000 building including a 5% overage, finishes short - Salesman gets $3000, whenever he reaches a net profit for the fiscal year
In short - Overage is not an incentive for the salesman, aside from being simply "insurance" that the job will not finish short (so that he gets paid), and is generally used to prevent customers getting "nickel-and-dimed" for every little change and fee along the way. Our commission came in stages because that was how most of our customers pay, to encourage the reps to get the job done and not leave partially finished projects all over the countryside, and to keep us from ignoring a difficult customer who simply didn't want to pay for his project. There are people who legitimately had a problem and wanted to hold the last payment (understandably so), but there are also those who just try to stiff everyone, because they are thieves and cheats. We didn't get paid until the company got paid and all the vendors/subcontractors were paid. That could be frustrating, but it is also fair.
At the time, laptops and cell phones were our responsibility, although they had finally begun providing an office computer, and were talking about providing a laptop for sales reps about the time I left the company (around 2005!). That was a joke. Morton would provide sales reps with AutoCAD Lite, but we had to provide the system to run it on, and the printer to print out the concept drawings. Most of us just went out and purchased our own laptop, and many of the office managers bought a computer for the office out of their own pocket, or brought in a computer from home for the secretary to use. The secretaries were paid minimum wage or little more, not allowed overtime, except in very rare cases, and had to do all typing on a typewriter. I remember taking a trip up to Morton for a meeting, and taking a photo of a McDonalds restaurant which had a banner proclaiming that their starting pay was higher than what the secretary in my office was paid, and she had been with us for several years at that point. sheesh!
12 Things Morton Buildings Doesn't Want you to Know!
** Followed by my replies =)
1.) The contract is set up for you to lose.
**Again, this is normal for most every contract. The contract writer gets the better end of the deal. If you don't like that, hire your own lawyer to read the contract before you sign it. ;)
2.) The contract states that you will be responsible for ALL COURT COSTS and THEIR LEGAL TEAM.
**See reply #1, or your cell phone bill, or your credit card statement, or...
3.) Your balance due will acquire interest.
In 1 year of minor legal battles with them on a $40, 000 balance because you got sick of them and hired a new contractor, your interest and legal fees will exceed $100, 000 !!!
**I have no experience either way on this. I never had a customer go to court. (speaking from personal experience? ;P )
4.) Remember, Morton has VERY DEEP POCKETS. They will hire the $400.00 per hour attorney. Can You?
** I do believe this. They often talked about how good their lawyers were. Again, see reply #1.
5.) They will not give you a Materials List for YOUR Building. DEMAND ONE! IN WRITING! PUT IT ON THE CONTRACT! BEFORE YOU SIGN! Demand when that list is due! VERY IMPORTANT!
** This is because you did not buy a box of materials. You bought a "Finished Building". If they have extra material left over, they take it back to the warehouse, but if the have to buy more material, they don't change you (unless it was because YOU changed something. They know approximately how many board feet of lumber, sheets of steel, and how many pounds of nails/etc it SHOULD take, but some times things happen which require more materials (for example, your neighbor's bull gets loose, wanders through your building site on the way to your cows, stepping on the stack of steel sheeting en route - you don't want damaged steel on your new barn, your neighbor blames the bull's love-life on your "lousy-quality pasture fencing", and Morton didn't expect that to happen and has to order another 18-wheeler (and driver) to deliver more steel ... who pays for the added cost of the "Finished Building"? If you bought a materials list, you would.
6.) BLUE PRINTS...DEMAND THEM. PUT IT IN WRITING! DEMAND WHEN IT IS TO BE IN YOUR POSSESSION!
** If a customer asked for prints, when I worked there, you could get them... for an additional fee... just like if you had hired an architect or bought a "job set" of house plans from a magazine. When writing the contract, we had a form which had a simple graph on it, where we placed a basic outline, showing dimensions and locations of doors/windows, as well as overhangs/porches, and north arrow. This basic outline is all most customers wanted, but again, we had an entire office of architects and CAD drafters ... if you want to pay for their time. We generally had an extra set or two of construction prints for the crew, and if a customer asked for them at the end of the job, we would sometimes give them, since we were done with the job. We also kept a set in your file at the office, and the architect/designers kept a copy at the main office, or on the computer.
7.) Make sure the Plans are to SCALE! Do not Trust them. DEMAND in WRITING that they are to scale and from an Architect from their company. Then take it to a REAL Architect. DEMAND to see them before money changes hands.
** See reply #6. Realize if you order plans from the Morton architects, you will pay for the architects/designers to draw up the plans, and yes, Morton has REAL architects, with REAL licenses and they are registered to do business in your state, designing it to meet your local building codes. Realize if you take those plans to another REAL architect in your community, you will pay for your REAL architect to review the plans drawn by Morton's REAL architects and certify the plans from Morton's REAL architects are accurate. It's your dime... we didn't mind.
8.) Make sure you have a COMPLETION DATE on the Contract. Also a penalty of a certain amount of money for each day that it goes beyond the specified completion date. Make it high enough...in the hundreds. Trust me, if it ends up in court they have no problem spending $400.00 an hour for an attorney. They were supposed to be done with mine by July 1st. They didn't even start until end of Sept. DO NOT TRUST THEM! THEY LIE THROUGH THEIR TEETH!
** Completion dates are ok... there is only a small fee for that. =) Seriously... Putting a completion date is fine. They will charge you for it (though they might not specify it, but add it to the Overage/Contingency... because it is a "Contingency". Think of it as "insurance". They will simply move other customer jobs around as needed to make the date. Not every customer needs to be in the building by a specific time.
Realize that we were forecasting weeks and sometimes, months ahead when we THOUGHT we would be starting and finishing your building. However, sometimes permits take longer than expected, or weather delayed us, or crew shortages meant we had no one available, or another customer's problems put us behind getting to you. Again, the sooner we finished your building, the sooner we got paid, and the sooner the crew was available to build for the next person, so we could get paid for them too... We wanted you done ASAP!
9.) Their contract states that the payments are due by phases. Their various phases are very vague. You need to have IN WRITING what is to be completed in each phase. IMPORTANT! MAKE SURE...the contract states that the particular phase is done to your Liking and Satisfaction! Not theirs. They can have the building roughed in, have different color siding on it and patched together and say that that particular phase is done (but obviously not right) and demand the next hefty payment. They will promise you that certain "Missing" elements are coming and will be done later. 6 weeks later my building which is white had deep tan panels on it.
Do not make the mistake I did. They are Shrewd.
** Usually we did 10% down, 50% materials delivery, balance on completion. For six figure projects, maybe 10% down, 50% materials delivery, 30% shell complete, balance on completion. Your experience is extreme, unfortunately, but not the norm (at least not when I was there).
10.) TAKE PICTURES! EVERY DAY! Of each wall, of the supplies, etc. From the beginning to the end.
Make sure you get photos of the workers. Get their Full Names and titles right from the start. Do not wait. Find out about their experience before you hire them as a team.
** The crews were generally SUPERB! Morton had awesome construction crews and many of them were with Morton for 20+ years, which is unheard of in the construction field. I had my own local crews, as well as out of state crews for some of my larger jobs. There were a few boneheads, but that is in any group of people, and they usually get run off or quit pretty quickly.
11.) On your contract...have it state how many hours they plan to have the building take. They Know!
11.) KEEP TRACK OF THEIR HOURS that they work.
You will need it in court. This is very important.
** They do know how many hours it SHOULD take. The crews got paid by the hour, but they also got bonuses on effeciency. However, they also were graded on quality. If they were super fast, but at the expense of quality, and having to go back and fix stuff they screwed up, they lost money. Therefore, it was in their best interest to do the work right the first time.
12.) Remember, they will do anything to save their butts.
You need to do this also.
** It appears you had a REALLY bad experience with your team, and that is unfortunate. Morton has been in business for over 100 years now, so obviously they are doing things right, and taking care of customers. I'm sorry your experience was so different.
As I say, I used to work for Morton for over five years. I had some with the company policies, and a bad experience with an Office Manager, which left me with a bad taste for him personally, and a little bit a for the company. However, with that said, if I had the money and some property, I would buy a Morton as a house - incredibly energy efficient, top notch quality, superb crews, fantastic warranty, and they look really nice.