Is it a red flag when someone says "I can help you?"

16 Replies

I do not know if I am just getting older (Im gen x) and more jaded or if it is a red flag, but I hate it when I am looking to hire someone or have hired and they in a convo about said work tell me that they are "helping me out." This is said when I am NOT asking for ANY charity or extra non paid work. Just looking to hire someone to do a job, have them do it and then pay them a fair market rate. I have worked in the foodservice biz for over 2 decades and usually tip even when it is not a thing. I have worked HARD to get EVERY dime I have and would never ask someone to work with out getting paid. ESPECIALLY in these COVID times!

So far, if someone says this to me then I do not hire. Am I passing up potentially good ppl bcuz they are using a vernacular Im not familiar with? Or is it a red flag that the person feels that they are entitled and that even when they benefit and profit from a business relationship they still feel like they are doing a form of charity by gracing some lucky person with themselves and their capabilities? Maybe I should mention I do business in places like the NorCal Bay Area and near NYC in NJ? 

I have had it come up a few times in the last few years.

-Real Estate agent told me that he could "help me out" by showing me some properties in an area I was looking to buy in. I am a legit investor and have proof of funds, prequal, good credit, etc. I know how a traditional home purchase works in that when he represents me as a buyer's agent he gets (usually) half of a 5-6% commission on the price of the home I buy. It felt like he was just trying to one-up me so that I would go with what ever he wanted to sell/tell me. I ended up going with another agent and bought a house for just over a mil. 

-General contractor that got a $7400 deposit out of me and was doing very sub par work (trust me it is BAD) tells me that he can "help me out" by calling up his workers to find out what is going on with my job. He has also told me that he is going to "help me out" by finishing the work. I finally told him directly that he has been paid a hefty deposit (big mistake on my part) and is not doing any charity work. He has a job to do, for which he has been prepaid, and now he needs to perform. After his subs/foremen/workers did a horrible job on a washer dryer hookup (sheetrock a hot mess, spackle in plugs, vent that got clogged less than 2 weeks after installation), I fired him and requested the unused portion of my deposit back. Trust me, I gave this guy EVERY chance to perform and he had a material breach when the job exceeded 3x over the 23 days he had to complete it. After 4 months he only completed $2550 (paying him full price for shoddy work) out of a 19k contract. 

-I am looking for a video production company or person to shoot, edit, etc a YouTube channel I want to put together. I have had a couple of responses say that they can "help me out" with my project. I am NOT asking for charity in ANY way. I am paying the higher end of industry standard. I definitely have a learning curve in this vein of biz but am willing to put in the $ and my time. 

-While looking for another general contractor (to start/finish the projects) on nextdoor, I have read responses where other ppl ask for recommendations for a good GC. Lots of responses. A few from ppl that own construction companies. 2 out of about 2 dozen said they "would be happy to help out by taking on the project." Again, the person asking for referrals did not say now word about needing even a cheap person or citing a low budget. They were just asking for a good contractor to do good work. 

Again, am I just a silly stickler, or is this a red flag? 

It comes across to me like the person wants to either

1. Avoid "ownership" of their time and work (lacks responsibility and does not want to be accountable) and ignore the fact that they $$$$ benefit and want the focus to be on their "charitable," benevolent, and good achievements. 

2. They want to feel "above it all" and hold the power dynamic putting me in my "place" by inferring that they are helping me by working for me. Like a narcissism where they are so superior and I am lucky to get the chance to pay them. It seems like the money/payment gets their attention but then it is "charity" after to "keep" them and get them to finish the job. 

If you have some extra time, Id love to hear other ppl's take on this. 

Hi @Tanya Solomon , this was an interesting read. Let me help you out by answering this! Just kidding..

In all seriousness, I normally wouldn't be phased by a comment like that, seems like semantics, but the way you explain it makes me think I need to watch out for the "helpers." Thanks!

Forrest Faulconer

I'm with you...I hate that line.  If they want to "help me out," they can stop everything they're doing and do my job for free right there on the spot.  Now that's what I call "helping me out."  I have actually gone as far as to ask if that's what they were offering.  That gets their attention.  The reality is you're the one "helping them out" by giving them an opportunity to earn money, prove their value, get referrals and other business opportunities.  To imply anything else is really just lowbrow.

I spent a lot of time and resources in finding a core group of vetted professionals for my business and clients.  It was a slow and painful process but it removed all the manufactured chaos and drama - and just accelerated resolution.

Best... 

Several thoughts:

1. I grew up just over the river in NJ in a tough area and you sound typically cynical/suspicious like me;

2. If your expectations, contracts and terms are clear it makes no difference what they are saying;

3. Don't read too much or too little into what people say. A lot of people just like to hear their lips move.

Personally, I probably wouldn't think a lot of it, but if it was happening quite a bit I might wonder what kind of vibe I was putting out that made me look/feel soft. And there's the chauvanistic part of it as well; as a woman (I assume, since your name is Tanya) you are going to get a lot more of that than a man is, especially in this business. It's not right but it's reality. So you may just have to put off a tougher front than someone like me just because you have this additional hurdle to overcome. 

Originally posted by @Tanya Solomon :

I do not know if I am just getting older (Im gen x) and more jaded or if it is a red flag, but I hate it when I am looking to hire someone or have hired and they in a convo about said work tell me that they are "helping me out." This is said when I am NOT asking for ANY charity or extra non paid work. Just looking to hire someone to do a job, have them do it and then pay them a fair market rate. I have worked in the foodservice biz for over 2 decades and usually tip even when it is not a thing. I have worked HARD to get EVERY dime I have and would never ask someone to work with out getting paid. ESPECIALLY in these COVID times!

So far, if someone says this to me then I do not hire. Am I passing up potentially good ppl bcuz they are using a vernacular Im not familiar with? Or is it a red flag that the person feels that they are entitled and that even when they benefit and profit from a business relationship they still feel like they are doing a form of charity by gracing some lucky person with themselves and their capabilities? Maybe I should mention I do business in places like the NorCal Bay Area and near NYC in NJ? 

I have had it come up a few times in the last few years.

-Real Estate agent told me that he could "help me out" by showing me some properties in an area I was looking to buy in. I am a legit investor and have proof of funds, prequal, good credit, etc. I know how a traditional home purchase works in that when he represents me as a buyer's agent he gets (usually) half of a 5-6% commission on the price of the home I buy. It felt like he was just trying to one-up me so that I would go with what ever he wanted to sell/tell me. I ended up going with another agent and bought a house for just over a mil. 

-General contractor that got a $7400 deposit out of me and was doing very sub par work (trust me it is BAD) tells me that he can "help me out" by calling up his workers to find out what is going on with my job. He has also told me that he is going to "help me out" by finishing the work. I finally told him directly that he has been paid a hefty deposit (big mistake on my part) and is not doing any charity work. He has a job to do, for which he has been prepaid, and now he needs to perform. After his subs/foremen/workers did a horrible job on a washer dryer hookup (sheetrock a hot mess, spackle in plugs, vent that got clogged less than 2 weeks after installation), I fired him and requested the unused portion of my deposit back. Trust me, I gave this guy EVERY chance to perform and he had a material breach when the job exceeded 3x over the 23 days he had to complete it. After 4 months he only completed $2550 (paying him full price for shoddy work) out of a 19k contract. 

-I am looking for a video production company or person to shoot, edit, etc a YouTube channel I want to put together. I have had a couple of responses say that they can "help me out" with my project. I am NOT asking for charity in ANY way. I am paying the higher end of industry standard. I definitely have a learning curve in this vein of biz but am willing to put in the $ and my time. 

-While looking for another general contractor (to start/finish the projects) on nextdoor, I have read responses where other ppl ask for recommendations for a good GC. Lots of responses. A few from ppl that own construction companies. 2 out of about 2 dozen said they "would be happy to help out by taking on the project." Again, the person asking for referrals did not say now word about needing even a cheap person or citing a low budget. They were just asking for a good contractor to do good work. 

Again, am I just a silly stickler, or is this a red flag? 

It comes across to me like the person wants to either

1. Avoid "ownership" of their time and work (lacks responsibility and does not want to be accountable) and ignore the fact that they $$$$ benefit and want the focus to be on their "charitable," benevolent, and good achievements. 

2. They want to feel "above it all" and hold the power dynamic putting me in my "place" by inferring that they are helping me by working for me. Like a narcissism where they are so superior and I am lucky to get the chance to pay them. It seems like the money/payment gets their attention but then it is "charity" after to "keep" them and get them to finish the job. 

If you have some extra time, Id love to hear other ppl's take on this. 

Hi Tanya,

I don't know if I'd bypass an applicant due a specific word choice, but your post reminded me a lot of this old John Wayne clip: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZrssEgr3iU

Interesting insight. I would never have thought about it, but feel it's more of a gap filler in a sentence. I wouldn't use that line as a disqualifier for anyone, but view them and their work on its merits.


I worked with a colleague the other day for 30 minutes and after every sentence he said, "Do you know what I'm saying?" I said no a couple of times but he didn't hear what I was saying and kept moving on. I feel as though the words in your situation are just words that you have taken a disliking to - and there's nothing wrong with that. 


Great subject, thank you! 


Hey @Tanya Solomon, I've got my button too...granted "let me help you out" isn't one of them, but I get where you are coming from. What I've learned is the more home work I do upfront the better it is in the long run. Some tells me they "got a guy", I look them up on google, yelp and BBB IF all three sites they have all their reference check out then they get a call, that's it. I talk with them and if something doesn't check out move on to the next. Contactors that make it into my "regular" rotation if at any point they don't perform, they're out. 

Here's the thing I generally treat contactors, tenants, agents, pretty much everyone how I want to be treated. I'll laugh and joke all the time because I truly believe people are more likely to give you their best when you give them your best. I want a deal, just like everyone else, and I generally get a good price especially for the quality I get, but I've been burned too its all just part of it. I also give bonus, I make it REALLY easy to work with me. As long the job is done on time and within budget I bend over backwards to make sure they know how much I appreciated it.  

Now I'm also very direct, some view this as me being an @55-Hole. I have no issues with someone telling me the truth, but have VERY little patience's for when someone tries to upsell me or gives me a line of BS or lies. Don't get me wrong it sucks firing a contactor or evicting a tenant. Making someone homeless, not a fun process. It sucks knowing I'm not just firing that guy but their whole family, but what that also means is I get to give someone else the opportunity at a new job or I get to give someone new a place to live. In the end trust your gut if something or someone doesn't seem right, its most likely not. If you think about it this way, worst case you make a mistake. Mistakes are nothing but learning opportunities. Hope that "helps you out" :-) 

Seriously?  Would it be better to hear that "I could offer you my services"? or "I can offer you my assistance for a fee"?  "I am willing to be retained?" This is America.  We like to speak less formally than that.  

Please help me out and pass along some good contractor references in NorCal that you have turned down!   

Thanks to everyone that responded. I REALLY appreciate it! I did a yelp search today to look into getting a window fixed at my home. The system asked if I wanted to get more quotes from vendors and I clicked "yes." Then I looked at "my project" where it showed the different vendors that my request was sent to. Urgh.....Yelp has an automatic beginning that starts EVERY inquiry with "Hi there! Can you help me with my project?" Apparently this can not be undone or changed. Everytime one sends out a request for quotes, than this is what the vendors get. Not the way I would prefer to start doing business.

BTW if anyone is curious. I had 3 inquiries. This is North NJ. If it was North CA I probably would get no response.  One said "hi" and that is it. Another no response. A third called me because I left better contact info bcuz yelp's sucks. The caller works for the vendor as a customer service agent. English is not their first language and I had to repeat almost everything I told him. He seems like not an good audio learner (My kids are "different" learners and Ive gotten good at detecting this) Told me a price of $250 to replace a 4 in by 4in pane of glass in a side door. We said "ok' bcuz we just want to get it done. Then we played "phone can/can phone" where he would ask 1 thing and then call me back after he asked vendor. Seemed like a waste of time. I could've gotten it done in half the time if I could talk directly to the vendor but Im in it to win it. Guy said "he came come ...sometime...today." Me "what time" Then he came back with "He is on his way now. Is this ok? Me "yes this is ok." He is supposed to call back to tell me how long it will take for vendor to get to me but instead says "he has had something come up and cant come today. He wants to come tomorrow." Uhh in less than 3 min he has gone from on his way to not being able to come at all? Whatever. Calls ensue and now he is coming between 8-9am tomorrow. 

Again, thanks for the well thought out responses! I will definitely be more active on this site. It can be isolating and it is nice to know that there are others out there that feel the pain in their backsides too. Happy Holidays!!

@Scott Mac - EXACTLY!! This John Wayne clip is PERFECT for what I am talking about. Business is an exchange. In this case my money for their services. 

@Patricia Steiner - Thanks for the validation! I will ask next time to find out what is the "charity" in the deal. 

@JD Martin - Thanks for your kind words. I have worked as a pro chef for more than 20 years and have felt the sexism you spoke of from time to time in my career. I think another wrinkle is my husband is a HUGE guy at 6'7", 300 lbs, size 18 shoe. He is a tech guy and grew up in an apt in NYC. His parents never owned property. He wants NOTHING to do with negotiating or working with blue collar guys. He does not think he is better. The opposite. He is a rare and magnificent bird when it comes to solving complex algorithms or talking/thinking about complex physics. He is a typical genius scientist that cant "chew gum and walk." He is an amiable guy and HATES conflict or negotiation. 

I think that when I am dealing with ppl in business, they do not understand why my husband is TOTALLY out of the convo. Now, that he is working from home, it is even harder bcuz he is there. I think it might come off as "weak" and I come off as a B-ll busting B bcuz I am the one that is strong. Calls the shots. Knows what I am talking about. LOTS of simularities between being a chef and working in food service and the world of construction./real estate. I remember one time a plumber came over and determined it was a simple job. Hubby was there and plumber kept talking to him saying "it is so easy. Just do this and that." Looking at my hubby. I told him that I would do it and even asked some ? using construction jargon. He still answered MY ?s to my hubby. 

@Darius Ogloza - I wish I had a GC to refer to you. I do not know anyone that would go to Marin. It is TOUGH and SUPER expensive to find even a decent GC in the Bay Area. Part of the reason I left. If I were you I would look to the North. Guys ( and I say guy bcuz they make up 99% of the GCs I have encountered) like living in Sonoma Co bcuz it is cheaper, "the country," and a good place to raise a family. Some of the best guys I have ever hired have come from a FAR distance and I have paid them to come to me. It is worth it in the long run. Even paying them $100 per hour just to drive to you, you will have better work and at a more reasonable price. BTW Your response sounds a bit angry. I wrote a great deal of detail because I wanted ppl to understand that this phrase and how it is employed seems to have a different implication than what you are talking about. It seems that you have me pegged as some kind of picky B and that just is not the case. I am trying to do business with someone and have MUTUAL respect. It shifts the dynamic when someone chooses to bring a word like "help" into this dynamic. Watch the John Wayne clip. It sums it up nicely.

@Michael King I "know what your/I am saying." I have said that to my mother that was a 3rd grade teacher and it drives her nuts. 

@Forrest Faulconer - It might not phase you but maybe there are not as many flakes as on the coasts in OK? You should hear some of these ppl talk about "fly over states." My family and I drove across the country when we moved from CA to NJ. The middle of our country is just as beautiful as CA or the East Coast. I found it to feel safe, simple (in a good way) and the ppl much nicer. In fact, we knew we were in the Chicago area when the billboard went from ads with tractors and programs for Vets to ads for vice. We now know what a "fantasy suite" is and what the greater area thinks are the best CBD products.