It's time to get my year-old driveway sealcoated, so I thought I'd conduct a completely unscientific "study" to see how the sealcoating business in my area operated. I can see already that this is going to be "entertaining." Here's the plan: My wife, who retained her maiden name, would call three contractors, telling each the same information from an outline, then ask for a visit and a bid. At each visit she would express the same concerns (don't get sealer on the house or concrete, for example), and ask for specifics about the sealer material. Eventually we'd compare the bids and the contractors and award the job. Sounds simple. That was seven days ago. She called three contractors, left three messages, and after two days had received one return call to set up an appointment. So she called three more contractors (so she's now contacted three from the Yellow Pages and three from ads in the local newspaper, six in all). I don't want to identify any contractors by name, so I'll simply label them A through F. On the morning of his appointment Contractor A calls and asks for directions, which my wife gives him. He calls 10 minutes after his appointed time, lost but not too far away. My wife redirects him and he shows up. The first words out of his mouth to her are, "You gave me the wrong directions." She hadn't; not a good start. His car had no logo, name, address, phone number -- nothing. And he showed up wearing a t-shirt representing a sports team. He walked the driveway with her and when she asked what kind of material he used he answered, "The kind you put on airports." When she asked the brand name and for some literature about the material he said he didn't have any. To his credit he did use a printed bid form -- unfortunately the company name on the form was completely different from the company she called, and the phone number on the form was different, too. His bid was $275, and while he wrote "guarantee three years" on the bid there's no way Contractor A is getting the job. I'll keep you up to date until the work is done.