The Better Business Bureau is warning customers to be careful when dealing with a Collinsville business, Veterans Tree and Fence.
The owner, however, said Thursday he plans to make things right with his customers.
According to the Better Business Bureau, it has received several complaints from consumers that the business took deposits for work it either performed poorly or not at all.
One couple complained it gave the company’s owner, Michael C. Reed Sr., a deposit of $1,100 in August toward a $2,200 estimate to replace a section of fence in a back yard. So far, the company refuses to do the work or issue a refund.
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Reed told a News-Democrat reporter Thursday that he’s had some problems finding good people for his crews recently and it’s caused him to get behind on jobs. But he said he plans to get all the jobs he’s agreed to do completed.
“Sometimes it’s hard to find good people and we’ve had a problem with a few lately,” Reed said. “We’ve had some crew troubles, but we’re getting that taken care of. We’ve been in business for 16 years and this is the first year we’ve had any complaints.”
Reed said a couple of his clients are in limbo because he’s battling them in court.
One couple contracted with Reed in October to install a fence in their yard, according to the BBB. When he hadn’t done the work by November, they demanded their money back. Reed told them they were the next job on his list and sent a crew, unannounced, to their home Jan. 14. When the couple sent the crew away and said they’d rather have their money back, Reed accused them of breach of contract.
Because of the complaints, the BBB lowered Veterans Tree and Fence’s grade to an F.
St. Louis BBB president and CEO Michelle Corey said if Reed can’t make this right quickly for his customers, he should give them a refund.
“Mr. Reed needs to make customer service his first priority,” Corey said. “If he can't get to a project in a timely manner, he should release customers from their contracts and refund their money.”
BBB offers the following tips to consumers looking to hire contractors:
- Research the business and owners carefully before signing a contract or paying any money. Check the company’s BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.
- Ask for references and contact them.
- Before paying, make sure you have a signed contract outlining what work is to be done, a timetable for completion and an explanation of what happens if the business or consumer reneges on the agreement.
- Ask the contractor for proof that he or she is bonded and insured.
- Pay by credit card whenever possible in case you need to challenge the payment.
- Do not pay everything in advance. It is a good rule to pay a portion when you sign the contract and the final payment only after you are satisfied with the completed work.
- When work is completed and the contractor has been paid, make sure you have received lien waivers showing subcontractors and material suppliers have been paid for the job.