Like we stepped out of a dark Ray Donovan episode, one of my customers asked “Ok, What’s the vig?” after our project was conditionally approved at a recent municipal board meeting.  His innuendo carried a sharp cynical tone, and he was right.  The “vig” is an old Yiddish term “viggorish” for  what we’ll politely call a “surcharge”.

The town where the work will be done (Yonkers) is known for being reluctant to approve projects quickly and yes, they collect fees on every resubmission, every minor drawing application and their board who reviews the submissions are volunteer….sweet right? Not that the municipality should not be entitled to cover their expenses and raise revenue, but it does not pass the “sniff test”…somethings going on.

So we as we get more cynical and jaded we start asking, “What’s the vig?” and “What’s his angle?” trying to determine the motivation and the degree of motivation for certain actions, seldom taking anything at face value.

Many planning, zoning, environmental and architectural review boards have volunteer members who have no “agenda”, and again some do… and they vote accordingly. So if you know of a conflict of interests before a public presentation, it does nobody any good to present this potential issue at the actual meeting-so diplomatically try to speak to the proper person to have them recused prior to the meeting to avoid future hard feelings and offer a graceful, face-saving resolution or exit.


Often for contractors, during construction a product substitution will be for a product that costs less and yields a higher margin of profit. Some of the substitutions are great and frankly make us look foolish for specifying a more costly product with a well-recognized name but then again, I’ve been burned before and am less receptive to non-specified items on the job.

My vig, it’s the satisfaction of seeing the project be well built and look good-which will usually lead to a happy customer and the next referral-it’s a pretty simple formula. And hell yeah, I do give and receive referrals from those who provide my customers the most value.

For building and agency inspectors- most are very knowledgeable and straight up (that do not take pay-offs, gifts, “donations” etc) but let me be clear- graft, bribes and payola are out there, and it’s still ugly. When you don’t play- they can wreak havoc with your schedule by delaying inspections, failing inspections, or even ordering “stop-work orders” for Trojan Horse deficiencies.  We’re not a third world country where this behavior is more expected, but it can feel that way.

This is not saying you should or should not play, but you should go into the construction arena fully prepared and “eyes wide open”.


Article by Steven Secon