Sharing a story of an honest man
- Cliff Newell
- Lake Oswego Review - News
Doug Fish has a story he likes to tell about an honest man.
In fact, he can't stop telling it.
Last December, Fish and his family were just nestling into their new custom-built home on Oswego Lake when he received a call from the builder, Ed Schwartz. Going over his books, Schwartz found he had charged Fish too much money.
Schwartz said, 'I owe you $12,000. I'll have a check for you next week.'
That certainly got Fish's attention.
'I was blown away,' Fish said. 'It was like pennies from heaven. I wouldn't accuse any builder of not being honest. Maybe they're all that honest, but I suspect they're not. I think some would have pocketed the money and not said anything.
'There are so many things to get charged when you're building a home. Things fly by so fast.'
Ed Schwartz wasn't nearly as impressed with himself.
'I charge on a cost-plus basis and I noticed the discrepancy,' he said. 'I felt embarrassed for overcharging Doug. I know their budget was getting tight.'
Fish found out something else. He is a superb judge of character.
'We hired Ed because I we trusted him,' Fish said. 'He had a good reputation with anyone we talked to, his kids went to school with our kids.'
This home was very important to Fish and his wife, Michelle DeCourcy, because it was their 'dream house;' their 'final stop' so to speak. The process of building the home only confirmed Fish's great confidence in Schwartz.
'Builders are always behind schedule. Builders are always over budget,' Fish said. 'Ed wasn't. He didn't say he would be there on Tuesday and show up on Friday.'
Schwartz was able to do this despite some extraordinary circumstances. During the building of the dream home, DeCourcy, a noted fashion designer in Portland, was battling a rare form of leukemia.
'Michelle was undergoing cancer treatment, and our lives (including three young daughters) were being turned upside down,' Fish said. 'She was so fragile after her treatment. But Ed took care to make sure she was part of the process of decorating the home. He spent a lot of time with her and worked around her schedule.'
That was nice. That was impressive. But what made it remarkable was that Schwartz himself was just coming off open-heart surgery, which for a while had made Fish and DeCourcy wonder if they should switch to another builder.
'We thought, 'Should we stay with Ed?'' Fish said. 'We did. The home turned out beautifully.'
Not to mention on time and on budget.
Then came the giant unexpected refund, making Fish's cup runneth over.
It is embarrassing for everyone involved to ask a man why he is honest. But honestly, people are not always honest. Schwartz, who has built or designed so many of the houses in the First Addition neighborhood of Lake Oswego, simply thought he did the right thing.
'I live here, I work here, I plan on being here awhile,' said Schwartz, who has already lived in the First Addition for 17 years.
His final blessing was giving Fish a good story to tell.
'When I told one person about Ed giving back $12,000, he said, 'My God! Nobody does that! That's amazing!' I told Ed that $12,000 you gave back is going to give you a million dollars worth of business.
'When people call me up, I tell them this story. I'm going to keep telling it for 20 years.'