As a reader of this blog, you know that I hate getting ripped off. This post deals with a problem that affects many people – a contractor horror story. As a former remodeling contractor myself, getting ripped off by a fellow tradesman REALLY rubs me the wrong way.
This post was inspired by John Anderson of Mechanicville New York. Mr. Andersen was advertising his company, Pro-Tech Masonry on craigslist, the best website on the whole interweb. The heading: AFFORDABLE STAMPED CONCRETE (Saratoga/Capital District), was exactly what I was looking for, so I gave him a ring. He listed two numbers for his business business: (518) 899-4780 and (518) 466-5439. He came to my house, presented himself very professionally, quoted a fair price & I signed a contract with his company, Pro Tech. (Note that I failed to mention the part where I checked his references or checked out his reputation online. Unfortunately I failed to mention it because I made the classic rookie mistake of not doing it. My bad – aauugh!)
Pro-tech was hired to re-antique & reseal a patterned concrete patio. The sealer bubbled up immediately and the patio was a mess. The contractor from Mechanicville agreed to power wash & redo the job. Less than one week later, the job was redone, with the same result: a bubbled up mess. John Andersen then agreed to do the job a third time – using a different sealer. His failure to completely strip the sealer from the previous two jobs left the surface with a crazed, pitted and uneven gloss finish. The bubbles also appeared again. Mr Andersen was slow to respond to the third botched job & would not return my calls. He finally did come to my house (when he knew I would not be not home) & left me a note refusing to acknowledge the problem nor honor his guarantee.
Furthermore, John Anderson of Pro-Tech Masonry informed me that if I were to take action against him in small claims court that he would retaliate with a counter suit which would seek to recover court costs and attorneys fees. I’m not sure if Mr Anderson is naive to the rules of small claims or merely bluffing and hoping that I didn’t know any better. Either way, this did not set particularly well with me.
Should you find yourself in this position, I suggest that you follow the same steps that I have taken:
1) Ignore the threats of a counter claim. Courts take a dim view of contractors that ripoff homeowners and I have yet to see a homeowner lose a suit like this. I am not aware of any provision for the party being sued to reclaim his defense expenses in a small claims action.
2) If you are in New York state, file a complaint with the attorney general. If enough homeowners file a complaint, these guys get shut down and / or sent to jail. I hope this homeowner filed a complaint after getting ripped off by John Anderson.
3) File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Although they have little influence over a lousy contractor, the point is to get the word out & to spare others from suffering the same abuse.
4) Alert others online. Websites like the Ripoff Report , Complaints Board, Yelp and Angies List do a great job of alerting unsuspecting homeowners of the practices of predatory and shoddy contractors like pro tech.
5) Take the contractor to court! If your claim is $5,000 or less you can sue him on your own, without the expense of an attorney. If you are in New York, check out this Guide to Small Claims Court.
6) Tell all of your friends & co-workers about your experience. The contracting business relies heavily on word of mouth.The more people that learn about a bad contractors reputation, the better off the community will be.
7) Blog about it:)
I will keep you posted as events unfold. I sure hope that John Anderson treats his customers at Pro Tech Marine, 382 Route 67 Mechanicville, NY 12118-3110, (518) 899-4780 better than the homeowners that hire Pro-Tech Masonry.