Customer Asking for Paint Invoices

So, long story short I own a painting business.

At first I quoted a customer $6000 to do some interior painting where he would pay for the paint, however he didn't want to so I quoted him $7500 which included paint. So I assume he thinks most of the $1500 is going towards the paint, even though I mentioned that we would roughly spend around $1500 because I didn't really know how much I would spend.

Now that we've completed the job, he's asking for the paint invoices because he thinks we haven't spent $1500 on paint (note, we didn't spend $1500 on paint, we spent approximately $600), are we obliged to provide him with the invoices?

I was thinking of just deducting around $500-900 from the quote, even though the customer agreed on $7500.

If anyone has had any experience in dealing with this situation, I'd appreciate a response. Thanks.


  • +17

    Bit of a dick move to overcharge by $900, and it'll be worse when you show him invoices to that effect.

    I'm sure they'll leave some positive reviews when they find out…

    • +2

      I don't mind showing him the invoices, but I don't know what would be a good solution that would rectify this matter. Like I said, I wouldn't mind deducting the $900 from the quote.

      • -17

        Yeah I'd just refund back the difference, assuming obviously that your $6600 charge gives you enough profit to put food on your table.

        Chalk it up to an 'accounting error' and offer the $900 refund at the same time as mentioning it and I'm sure they'll be fine

        • +13

          $6600 charge gives you enough profit to put food on your table.

          Is this how car salesmen operate nowadays? 🤨

          • +8

            @DisabledUser102420: Last I checked its bad business to sell cars for cost price…

            • +2

              @spackbace: I would go for the max I could get away with, legally and ethically, but you only want just "enough profit to put food on your table." You're a better man than I am.

      • +6

        There are any number of reasons for the customer to have wanted you, as the painter, to supply the paint. Maybe they didn't have time, maybe they wanted to make sure that the right paint for the job was used, maybe they hoped you'd get a better trade rate.

        Either way, I think that the fact they're asking for invoice clearly reflects that they had an expectation that the additional charge for paint was perhaps indicative and they would be paying cost.

        However.. you're not completely in the wrong. There's nothing wrong with charging cost+ given that you've had to take the time to sort it out. Cost+10 to Cost+20 isn't unreasonable.

        The customer is being really passive-agressive though. He should maybe have been clearer from the start and now it would be far more grown-up for him to say "I'd thought that I was paying cost" for the paint, rather than a cheeky "let's see your invoice".

        Just tell him that you get trade rates, that you pass these on at cost+x% for materials and refund the rest. Then write the agreement for materials costs into any future contacts the same way.

        Note: This is why even a basic written contract setting out basic terms is far better than a handshake.

    • +34

      Bit of a dick move to overcharge by $900

      Except that it's not an overcharge.

      An overcharge would require OP to agree on a price with the customer, then end up charging them something over the agreed amount. OP has made a deal with the customer that involves a fixed price and includes paint. The customer agreed to it. And OP is charging exactly what they agreed.

      It's not OP's fault that the underlying materials cost less than what they charged the customer. This is probably how most businesses in the world function. The seller typically carries the risk of material/supply costs, and customers typically pay a fixed fee for the peace of mind that the end product will be delivered. The fact that OP offered the customer to pay for the paint themselves before underlines even more that this was a fair deal, and the customer had a chance to negotiate it differently.

      • +5

        Yep, you gave him two quotes - one with paint, one without. He accepted that and chose to have you get the paint knowing exactly how much that was going to cost him. You have fulfilled your contract and done an honest job and he has got what he paid for.

        Neither of you knew how much the paint cost in advance, and you took the risk. I bet if the paint had turned out to be dearer than expected he would not have volunteered to pay the difference, so you shouldn't volunteer to hand over your windfall profit. In business you need unexpected profits from a job from time to time to offset unexpected losses on other jobs.

    • His took a risk and supplied materials and time for a job he Hope's to be paid.
      I use to be a tradie, if you charge just the cost you will be screwed in the long run and you will eat the cost from your wages.

      Everything he supplies he needs a good margin, it's a risk.

  • +226

    If you agreed on $7500 for paint and labour for the completion of a job, then that's how much the customer should be paying at the end. They have no right to know your cost prices.

    • +43

      This! No need to provide invoice.

      • -44

        No need to provide invoice

        The customer is asking for a tax invoice. OP is required by law to provide one.

        • +72

          The law doesn't require OP to provide his supplier's invoice. He can make one on his own letterhead to the tune of $1500 for paint and miscelleanous expenses.

    • +34

      When I go to McDonalds and buy a big mac I don't need to know how much the beef costs on my tax invoice.

    • +8

      Definitely this, the customer agreed to $7500 for the job including paint, it’s none of his business what it cost you.

    • +12

      That is correct. It was an agreed sum of $7500 for supply and labour. You do not have to provide them with a discount because you have essentially taken the risk for the supply. What this means is that, if the total cost for the supply of the paint exceeded your estimate of $1500, you lose and you won’t be entitled to claim additional $ from your customer. In your instance, you’ve won because your cost was less than $1500. This is just risk allocation and your customer has effectively sold the risk to you for $1500.

      If they insist on an invoice, then ask them if they would pay you for any amount in excess of the $1500 if that were to be the case. I would think not.

      • Exactly, it was a fixed price quote the tradesman took the risk.
        If it was T&M the estimate could've been cheaper but the customer would take the risk.
        This is how quotations work, in my experience.

    • +7

      This. If OP wanted to save money he should have gotten the paint himself.

      You run a business, not a charity not is it a public hospital. YOU, had to go get the paint. YOU had to take liability on the paint being wrong. YOU had to use your capital to buy it.

      If you don't think that is fair, come work for me, lol, charge me cost.

      No you don't need to provide the invoice. Just say you don't have it yet at it gets invoiced at end of the month all in one hit

  • +21

    It depends on how the quote was structured. Did you itemise the $1500 out as “for paint” or did you just give him a quote for “$7500 including paint”. Once you have given him the second quote the first is null and void. However, you might want to consider if your reputation for honesty worth more than the extra $900. (You can probably include some extra time for purchasing and transport of paint).

    I would structured the quote as
    $6000 for labour
    $1500 for provision of paint (to be adjusted at completion) then provide the paint invoices and some on the top for the effort of provision.

    Then there is no ambiguity.

    • I think OP has answer .

    • Well said. With the second quote I sent, I stated $7500 including paint. But I think there was just a slight error in communication between the customer and I as he assumed that the $1500 would be spent solely on paint.

      So to rectify the matter, I'll just deduct the $800 ($900 for paint minus time for purchasing and transportation which I believe $100 is fair for both parties)

      • +44

        The next time you underquote for the cost of paint, you're going to wish you didn't refund the difference.

        You're essentially providing a price guarantee. Free insurance.

        If the cost of the paint goes up for whatever reason, you're burnt. If it falls, you provide a refund.

        You're well within your rights to charge the full amount. There are virtually no other business that remain profitable that does what you've proposed.

        It would be more debatable if you didn't first offered the customer to supply their own paint.

        • +1

          I see where you're coming from, but I didn't properly explain it in the forum post.

          The first quote of $6000 didn't include paint, we didn't offer the customer to supply their own paint, they offered themselves.

          However, they changed their mind, so we offered to supply the paint. For which we gave a second quote of $7500 which included paint.

          • +14

            @DisabledUser327483: Okay. So you didn't offer but you entertained the offer.

            The fact still stands - the customer had the opportunity to supply and declined.

          • +3

            @DisabledUser327483: I'm with tshow here - nobody sensible would even assume that the invoice for you supplying the paint would be the exact cost of the paint + the previous invoice. They are paying for you to do something extra and they have agreed to the cost.

            What if you had simply bought $1500 of paint and had not used it all? Do you still give them a refund?

          • +4

            @DisabledUser327483: This is very clear. We understand. We just think it's terrible business, on your part, to give a refund. Your quote was $7500 for labour and paint. Customer accepted. Tell them to eff off.
            OTOH, if you verbally said "paint will cost $1500", then the customer might have certain expectations about the paint used.
            Not that that matters. The paint might have cost you $600, you're allowed to mark it up.

        • As I indicated in my post. “The paint is subject to adjustment”. The secret Is to try and avoid underquoting and to also make sure the client understands this is an “estimate” and that you will notify them as soon as it looks to go above that amount. Communications, and honesty, are the key. Coming in at the end, with a lot of costs they weren’t expecting, is a bad look; but if you have a good explanation before you commit to purchasing materials you can see if they are on board. I spent a fair bit of my work time quoting, or PMing, IT projects and customers were more likely to be understanding if they felt they were being kept in the loop. Given the customer has both quotes it doesn’t look good to say “trust me that is what the paint costs” when they have asked for invoices. The best advertising a tradie has is word of mouth referral. This is a a tad tricky either way because of the two quotes, I would plump for honesty and just say that, when you issued the second quote you considered It to be a “total price quote“, but you are OK to call the difference as ”supply of paint” and offer the refund given there has been a misunderstanding.

          • +3


            Coming in at the end, with a lot of costs they weren't expecting, is a bad look

            You should be coming in with the exact price they should expect - $7500

          • @try2bhelpful: As you probably know since this is your job, there are two ways do the a quote like that, a quote for completion of a job that you should stick to. Or a budget price which they charge for time and materials, which may go under or over their estimation.

            Generally budget price quotes will be less than a fully quoted job because they don't need to put extra into it in case something goes wrong or things take longer than expected. Alternatively it's much harder to shop around a budget price. The person OP did it for had a quote for $7500 paint supplied and fully complete job. If he thought he was getting ripped off for that price he was well in his rights to go find another quote for that exact same thing. He accepted the quote and so OP is well within his right to hold them to it.

  • +5

    You charged the guy an hourly rate for the painting + materials.

    As a business you purchase the materials and put a markup on it to factor the time and effort it has taken you to buy it. So in saying that you don't need to show him a receipt for the paint from the place you bought it. Rather you would need to create a receipt for the work that you did, something like:

    Labour - 6000
    Paint -750

    Where paint is your cost of the paint + service of purchasing the paint.

    Make a receipt for the customer and say you didn't need as much paint as initially thought. Heres his $650 back or something

  • +1

    Did you already provide them with an invoice of $7500, and now your client is unhappy?

    This is why more than 60 per cent of small businesses in Australia close within their first three years - Source. If you charge over the top, your clients will lose faith & not recommend to others / give negative feedback.

    It's pretty simple. As stated above, put labour ($6k) + materials ($600+markup=$750?) in your invoice to them. Your customer does not need to see your suppliers invoices.

  • +5

    You don't need to provide your invoices. If you buy a plane ticket do you expect to demand their food and catering invoices?

  • +36

    Thanks everyone for the responses, but I've decided to keep my reputation for honesty and deduct the remaining $800 from the quote of $7500. I'll use this situation as a lesson for future jobs and mention all points when giving a quote.

    • +6

      When you select the paint you are in the hook for warranty. Customer selects paint it is their problem with issues with the paint.

      • +3

        Plus you mentioned that the customer would have to supply the paint for the $6000 price.

        So there is an element of your time that is required to go and procure the paint. In addition, you wear the risk if you get a slightly incorrect shade.

        I wouldn't have refunded anything.

        • Yes, there is a valid argument for the extra time and effort involved in supplying the paint.

          But certainly not a $900 markup on a $600 cost.

          OP isn't obliged to refund him anything, but he overcharged beyond anything remotely reasonable for the paint and the customer isn't happy. Comes down to what OP's reputation means to him. And considering he did decide to refund a large chunk, sounds like he made the right choice.

    • +7

      You're a better and more honest person compared the trades I've dealt with.

    • +1

      keep my reputation for honesty

      How long ago was the job or when did they ask for the invoices?
      To put it another way if they didn't say anything more would you have walked away with the extra? (sounds like it, which is perfectly fine and normal).
      But from a reputation point of view that's not honesty; that's more like being caught out trying to get away with something. Maybe if you were the one to offer it first you'd get some worthwhile kudos.

      Customer doesn't sound like the type to recommend you if in their mind they think you've tried to rip them off anyway so no point admitting/refunding anything.

    • +2

      You're a good person.

    • Good on you. Unfortunately, you’re one of few good ones but the majority will despise you for being an exception (hence multitude of fazing comments). Formula is simple - be honest with your customers, and you’ll go far.

      Through experience, my advice to anyone is never, Never, NEVER hire someone to do any job you can do yourself with a bit of self-education from YouTube. Even if results are less than stellar, at least you didn’t get fleeced.

    • reputation for honesty

      yes, well now it looks like you tried to scam your customer for $800 but got caught out…

  • +2

    I don't know what to think but when I don't know about a situation I think about what Woolworths would do. If you go to Woolworths and ask to see how much they paid for that Mars bar you just bought would they show you?

    And who knows what your suppliers are charging you for materials, it could be a trade secret (maybe not with paint but in some industries that information is closely guarded).

  • +1

    I'm a little on the fence on this but the customer agreed to a set price for a set job. All your invoice needs to show (apart from the regular details) is "Interior painting service as per quote XYZ" $7500. You don't have to break it down any further than that. You do have their acceptance of the quote in writing/signed right?

  • +2

    No way you quoted $7.5k supplied and installed they excepted. In future use a contract with details of job and payments, and get it signed with a 10% deposit.

  • +27

    You offered to let the customer pay for the paint. The customer declined.

    You estimated the cost of the paint to be $1,500. The customer accepted a new quote. The new quote is to deliver a complete service. Your amended contract is inclusive of the supply of consumables.

    If you were to have underestimated the cost of the paint, the onus would have been on you to absorb the difference.

    Don't for a moment think the customer would have been happy to reimburse you if you've underquoted. Contracts are bilateral.

    • -3

      In the case that the paint cost were to be higher than quoted, than the OP would have every right to tell the client about the increased costs and pass it on. For example if installation of an aircon needed extra parts that made it cost more than the original quote, they would have every right to increase the price and charge those extra costs onto the customer.

      Although the OP i don't think would need to deduct off the full difference to be at-cost

      • +2

        That's not how this works, if an aircon needed extra parts the original quote would never be to 'return air con to 100% working condition' it would be to 'replace motor'. If replacing the motor wasn't the only issue and it was still not working they wouldn't have to continue replacing other things at their own cost because that's not what they would quote for. If other things need replacing later they can add that onto the quote as a deviation.

  • +2

    Knock a couple hundred off and win win for all.

    You need to charge $$ for time in getting the paint as the client didn't want to get it

    • I think we have to make the amount $900, however, concessions for associated expense was made in other comments above.

      Cost of travel - $100

      Insurance for supply - $50

      Price assurance - $50

      Cost of study to assure price - $100

      Cost of providing amending invoice - $50

      Cost off…

      "Now you owe me $50 extra."

      • +1

        Plus price guarantee fee of $50 which locks in the quote from price rises for 30 days

        • -1

          … but you have to be quick. The offer expires… unless you pay the fee to lock in the offer of the price guarantee!

      • +2

        you guys need to write lyrics for Les Miserables

        "Master of the House".

        Charge 'em for the lice, extra for the mice
        Two percent for looking in the mirror twice (Hand it over!)
        Here a little slice, there a little cut
        Three percent for sleeping with the window shut
        When it comes to fixing prices
        There are a lot of tricks I knows
        How it all increases, all those bits and pieces
        Jesus! It's amazing how it grows!

        • +10

          Okay let me try.

          Charge them for the wall, extra if its tall
          A little more on top if it's a shopping mall
          Got a little call, asked to hold the paint
          Asked again to fetch them like I'm some God damn saint
          When it comes to pricing
          Everyone wants a little say
          How it works both ways, whether up or down
          Once agreed upon, shut up and pay

          Everyone knows that unless you have a better song, you must concede.

          • @DisabledUser88699: I certainly concede; that was a terrific. The last bit doesnt' quite scan with the tune as I remember it, but BRAVO.

          • +3

            @DisabledUser88699: To the window, to the wall
            till the paint drips down those walls

          • @DisabledUser88699: Charge em to the hill
            Until they want to see the bill
            Don't wet your pants
            If you don't have the papers at a glance

            Lol no more time beauty sleep time :)

  • +18

    You would have got paint for trade price..make sure you charge them full retail price

    • VERY much this. The customer is getting a free ride based off the high volume discount you receive. And you had to take time out to go and collect the paint, plus if there are any future issues with the paint you are now completely on the hook for this. Without being privy to the actual conversations you had with the owner, I would say you are well within your rights to not adjust the figure, however, if you do I would be charging RRP plus markup for time and mark up for future possible hassles (warranty hedging). You shouldn't really be showing him the paint shops invoice outright as it can be argued that your trade pricing is confidential in nature, being business proprietary.

  • +3

    Provide the customer with a tax invoice for the work and the price you charge for the materials.

    The customer agreed to the quotation. What you paid for the materials is irrelevant to the customer.

  • +1

    yeh customer agreed to your quote, no need to refund 900. That being said, a $900 profit margin is a bit steep. customer doesn't need to know your costs, just your bill.

    as a customer, I don't like it. as a business, that's what you do.

    worst case, if they make a fuss, offer a goodwill gesture discount of a few hundred dollars (given your paint profit was excessive and gross)

    • +4

      $900 profit margin is a bit steep

      This is only 150% profit before taxes and other expenses. It is not really that much.

    • +1

      Yeah it's a bit much but remember you need to charge for more than just the paint. There's also vehicle fuel/wear and tear to and from the store, time spent driving to and from, ordering the paint, waiting for it to be tinted (all time you can't be doing other work so should be charged at the normal hourly rate) etc. Then there's profit on top of your actual cost.

    • How is 900 profit margin a bit steep?

  • +17

    If I asked you for an invoice and then suddenly you said that you were going to refund me some money I'd think you were pretty dodgy and only doing because you got caught out.

    If I were you I wouldn't be supplying your supplier invoices to the customer, if they wanted to pay cost price then they should have gone to the shops and bought it themselves, you did give them that option.

  • No horse in this race but there's some great comments here from both sides.

  • +1

    Tell him you paint multiple houses and don't use exactly say, 2 tins of XYZ per house. You use what is available from whichever van you're using on the way.

    Then there's time to pick it up, consumables that you already probably had etc etc.

    Basically he agreed on 7500 and can suck it.

  • Was this a cashie ?

  • SO many companies do what you have done, If you quoted a capped price then thats that. There was also the risk that you could have spent $2000 on paint and it would have been eaten by you.

  • +2

    You've no requirement to provide invoices to demonstrate the cost of your supplies. If the punter has agreed to a quote of $7,500, then that's that

    That said, it is pretty clear what the implication is here … i.e. that the $1,500 additional cost is directly related to the supply of the paint. I can 100% understand that you are not in any way obligated to supply the paint "at cost". You have every right to (and should) add on costs for your labour and overheads in arranging for the paint to arrive on site and apply an appropriate profit margin.

    My advice to you in similar situations would be to stipulate two components to your quote. The first is effectively a quote for labour, i.e. the $6,000. The second would be that supplies will be charged "at cost, plus a margin of x% to cover purchase of goods, transport to site, etc." (or whatever words work) and that such supplies are estimated at $1,500 (inclusive of margin). Then you don't get yourself in this pickle either way.

    Of course, you would still be free to quote an "all in" cost of $x covering all supplies, but use the above if your customer insists on separate quoting/billing.

    From a customer (and personal) perspective, what irks me is when I feel I'm getting nickel and dimed. Of course I expect to pay for a service that includes an appropriate profit margin … it's when I feel like I'm getting stung that businesses lose my goodwill.

  • +1

    Give him an invoice showing $600 for the paint and a $900 dog handling fee.

    When he asks what its for, tell him "its for time spent handling someone trying to get out of paying a contract (even verbal) after the work is done, which is a dog move".

  • +4

    There's no need to show him the invoices nor any need to defend yourself. If the customer agreed on $7500 including paint, the actual cost of the paint is immaterial.

  • +2

    simply supply a tax invoice showing the following line items:

    1) Paint
    2) Labour

  • +2

    If the client wanted to specifically pay for the value of the paint then the contract should have been $6000 plus cost of supplies (paint, rollers, tapes, fillers, primer, brushes etc).

    This is a fixed price contact. If the paint had cost you $2500 the client would have paid you ONLY $7500 and not $8500

    I guess the problem you need to keep the client happy and make the client feel good for future business / referrals.

    If you're looking for a creative solution Get an invoice from your buddy for $1320 for all supplies delivered (all the paints rollers, tapes, fillers, primer, brushes) and deduct $180 :)

  • Unless you mentioned that you would provide invoices for paint you have no obligation. How much you spend on that is of no relevance to them as long as you get the paint they wanted.

    I know trades do get special discounts from warehouses and bulk price & it requires your travel time + admin costs. If they agreed for 7500 before then don’t bother.

    ($900) is bit too much for the gap i’d say but nevertheless you aren’t required to provide it.

    Just out of curiosity for side question how big were the area you quoted this for roughly? (e.g. 2-3 standard sized bedrooms, living area, whole interior house)

  • +1

    I wouldn't ever give a customer the option to supply materials for a job.

    I've had people suggest it to me before, and the first question I got after saying "OK" was generally "so what do I need to buy?"

    Then you get the people who've already bought materials that are either not fit for purpose or less than what's needed who get narky when you need to charge them extra labour costs to fix their own procurement errors.

    My view is that if you're intelligent enough to buy the correct materials for the job then you're probably intelligent enough to do it for yourself. Everyone else is better off outsourcing the whole task to someone who knows what they're doing.

  • Not your problem. They had the option and didn't take it. If they are so in tune with the price of paint, why didn't they go buy it themselves? You gave them two options and two prices and they made their choice…

  • +3

    They're not entitled to your supplier's invoice. Just give them your own itemized invoice:

    • Labour $6000
    • Provision of paint $1500
      Total: $7500

    What's next, do you need to include petrol, wear and tear on your tools, your mobile bill (calling them), printer paper/ink?
    As someone said above, it'd look dodgy as (profanity) if when they ask for a supplier's in invoice, you reply with a discount.

  • He agreed to the quote. End of story.
    If you underquoted him, would be be happy to pay the extra? Not likely.

    I'd like to get a detailed invoice and proof of supplys payments for every job done by a tradie and mechanic. But it's not going to happen.

  • Yeah but you spent time buying the paint, dealing with the supplier and storage etc. Transport to do all that etc, that's part of the overhead and profit of things. It's normal for supply + install where the supply usually has a mark up of 25-30% to cover overhead and profit

  • +7

    Shocking behaviour by customer….

    Quoted price without paint. Not accepted.

    Quoted price with paint. Accepted.

    Work done.

    Pay the quoted amount.

  • +2

    I can see your predicament OP. The 7500 quote implies that the paint alone was 1500. The customer played you pretty good here. Probably not their first rodeo.

    Dont show them your suppliers invoice, that is irrelevant because it depends on your ongoing relationship between you and your supplier. Your customer doesnt have that relationship with your supplier.

    Generate your own invoice for the paint and make damn sure it is full retail price and added costs. Im sure it will be closer to 1500 than 600. It also needs to cover the warranty costs and risks of change of mind etc.

  • You get trade rates he couldn't get. For him to buy the paint would have cost around 50% on top of the cost.

    • +1

      Not necessarily. There's different rates for different accounts usually based upon how much they buy. For all we know customer may have demanded a particular brand that OP doesn't usually use and therefore has no trade account with and had to buy at retail. Not that it matters as quote was a for a fixed price making everything else irrelevant.

  • +6

    Just say you bought it wholesale and as a condition of wholesale pricing you aren't allowed to disclose the price. Tell them how much paint you used and tell them that price at Bunnings retail price or whatever, admit that wholesale pricing is a bit cheaper but after factoring time and effort to acquire the paint yourself the difference is negligible. If they push back offer 10% off the paint cost or 2*hourly rate (cost of time and effort) as goodwill if you think it'll shut them up.

    They are not entitled to your cost prices. You gave them a quote and they accepted the quote. Just because the price difference is $1500 between self provisioned paint and getting you to buy it doesn't mean that's the cost of the paint. You could charge double actual cost for all anyone cares if you hate buying paint and want to deter customers from making you do it. The problem here is communication between you and your customer and perceived value.

    • They are not entitled to your cost prices. You gave them a quote and they accepted the quote.


  • Just invoice for $7,500 as per quote that customer agreed to. The quote wasn't variable based on quantity of paint purchased.

  • There must be a collection of these sh!t posts somewhere

  • As a customer, he has rights to know the brand, color number(for furture reference) and quantity used, I personally have experience with doggy tradies only did 1 coat instead of 2 coats as agreed, and replaced my supplied dulux paint with their own.

  • +2

    THe incorrect assumption by the customer is that the paint is $1500. There are other factors to calculate in this amount such as travel time, loading time, profit margin etc. No tradie in their right mind would provide the cost of doing business to their customer. Its seem like a fixed price job that has been quoted (unless it was time and materials?) so they are paying for an outcome.

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