TOP 10 FENCE SCAMS KNOXVILLE, TN 2013
Education of Fence Scams – Recognizing the Fence Scams
Let’s take a few minutes to educate you in fence scams. The purpose in these series of articles is to inform and educate you so that you can make good informed decisions saving you time money and heartache. By being an educated consumer you will be able to make clear well informed decision about pricing, quality, and service.
The local TV station reported this week of another homeowner fence scam! The “fence contractor” was not licensed, had no insurance, no business office! When I go shopping for a large ticket item I always want to get the best deal out there. So how do you know if you are getting a great deal, or if it’s just a fence scams Don’t get greedy, choose a reputable, established. licensed and insured local fence contractor with references for your fence project. And by all means discuss your project with friends, neighbors, and co workers for their successful contractor experiences. One of the most important lessons I have learned over the last 30 years in the fence industry, is that if you do not fully understand, comprehend, and agree with everything on a project … do not sign up for it!
If for any reason something does not feel right, if you question the contractor, payment method, time to complete, financing, materials to be used, installation techniques, or anything you do not fully understand, slow down and give yourself a few days to review and THINK ABOUT IT!
If you do not specifically like your sales person. slow down, and remember if something goes wrong on your job this sales person represents the company for you!
Do your research before rushing in to a decision. I know that sometimes it is difficult, moving to a new town and need fencing immediately, new puppy needs a fence, children near a swimming pool, storms blew fence down, privacy from neighbors are just a few of the objectives we see every week. A fence is normally a large ticket purchase that you might only make a couple of times in your life.
These are the most popular fence scams for 2013 that I have encountered in over 30 years in the residential fence business and they seem be the same ones for 2013.
TOP 10 FENCE SCAMS KNOXVILLE, TN 2013
1. FENCE SCAMS – PADDING THE FOOTAGE! – LOWEST PER FOOT PRICE! over the phone estimate on my fence, “When the sales rep writes up my actual contract it is more than the other quotes even though I was quoted a lower per foot price!” Watch for salesmen quoting a low per foot price over the phone, and then to make up for a low price, increasing (pads the footage to increase the total price) the quoted footage when on the job site. Double check the footage to insure an accurate quote and contract, if something smells fishy, don’t do business with the contractor. The contractor should be ok to charge for ACTUAL FOOTAGE INSTALLED not quoted (exception would be for special order items ). If your fencing project goes over the quoted footage you should be notified before installation work is done!
2. FENCE SCAMS – BAIT AND SWITCH MATERIALS… CEDAR FOR THE PRICE OF PINE This is a complaint we commonly hear, homeowners have the impression after signing a contract for a beautiful cedar fence they will receive a top #1 grade all cedar fence and expect it to last 15 to 20 years like a REAL OLD GROWTH WESTERN RED CEDAR.
As Gomer Pyle would say, SURPRISE, SURPRISE, SURPRISE! The contract merely states “cedar fencing” leaving the door wide open for contractor interpretation and manipulation! Most homeowners do not know that there are:
MULTIPLE TYPES OF CEDAR: WHITE / YELLOW / RED / and CHINESE CEDAR that have no connection to REAL WESTERN RED CEDAR;
MULTIPLE GRADES OF CEDAR ( #1, #2 and BETTER, #2, and the cheapest lowest grade #3 lots of knots like a speckled pup )
MULTIPLE THICKNESSES of CEDAR and SPRUCE and FIR (these three lumbers are easily confused with different price points) to choose from and commonly substituted to achieve a lower price point! Cost for the materials range from EXPENSIVE (WESTERN RED CEDAR) to extremely low end (Northern White Cedar #3 pickets, spruce rails, and swamp cypress posts).
The bait and switch is accomplished by not specifying which cedar, spruce, cypress, not specifying which cedar grade or thickness of cedar.
Fence Contractor cutting costs by:
switching backing rails (2×4’s for 1×4’s) to reduce costs
switching cedar backing rails for cheaper spruce backing rails to cut costs,
substituting #1 clear cedar pickets with #3 cedar pickets with lots lots of knots and bark which cuts costs,
substituting cedar wood 3/4″ pickets with cypress wood 3/8″ pickets,
increasing spacing between pickets to save costs, using 1/4″ thick cedar pickets instead of 9/16″ or 3/4″ cedar picket to cut costs,
mixing concrete from “scratch” instead of using the consistent quality of premixed concrete.
Another is wild exaggerated product claims,
CEDAR LASTS FOR GENERATIONS false-about 6 yrs;
CEDAR WILL NOT WARP false – all wood warps outside;
CLAIMING WARRANTY: for anything the homeowner asks for! Be sure this is documented on your contract and not just verbal.
3. FENCE SCAMS – I NEED CASH UP FRONT! Never pay the entire amount up front! Contractors do incur expenses and a reasonable deposit of 1/3 is acceptable with the balance paid AFTER the work is completed. If the work is finished at the end of the day, check it over the next day in the daylight so you are satisfied before making final payment. Be careful of contractors that contact you, they just happen to be working in the area, or that have a name that sounds a lot like a well known established contractor. They may be using name recognition to scam you! Do your homework and check for an established legitimate local fence contractor.
4. FENCE SCAMS – TODAY ONLY! SPECIAL PRICING!
A legitimate sale doesn’t only last while the salesman is in your home.
If its a good deal today, then it will be a good deal tomorrow!
The high pressure high priced salesman knows if he doesn’t close while he is there you will find a cheaper, better quality contractor! He must close right then and there! LOL, I use to have sales people pitch me at home like this, only to give them a call the next day and be offered the same exact deal!!!!
Wow that is really exclusive, and I am super special! Unprofessional sales people (SCAMMERS) will keep calling you every day or so and reduce the price (see #2 above BAIT and SWITCH)!
YOU SHOULD BE OFFENDED! At best, that simply means they were trying to take you for a ride in the beginning, and at worst once you pay them you will never see the work done or your money. Unscrupulous sales tactics like this reflects directly on the quality of the company.
5. FENCE SCAMS – YOU CAN ONLY GET THIS SPECIAL FENCE FROM US! LOL.
It was developed by NASA,
has a tax credit,
only available through this contractor!
WOW, what a SCAM! With today’s technology most companies can get most products delivered in 2 weeks or less. A salesman that has the ONLY fence like this around is LYING TO YOU or pitching you a product that other companies either do not understand or have rejected for good reasons.
Quality products are available to all legitimate contractors across the board.
GET IT SPECIFIED IN WRITING, take a few days to think about it, do your research on why it is only available through that company and today only!
6. FENCE SCAMS – QUOTE SHEETS THAT BECOME CONTRACTS! Don’t sign a contract under pressure!
UNDER FEDERAL LAW a home improvement contract ( fencing, siding, windows, roofing) can be cancelled withing 3 business days (unfortunately this only applies to legitimate contractors).
Some unscrupulous contractors will give you a written quote which WHEN SIGNED (SUDDENLY) BECOMES A CONTRACT! When ready to leave and before giving you a copy of the quote, they ask you to sign the quote so they have proof that they made the sales call. When you sign the QUOTE SHEET, BOOM!!! it BECOMES a LEGAL AND BINDING CONTRACT!
Beware of any sales person asking you to sign a quote sheet before you are ready to commit to a contract! The contract should be a separate form and spell out the details of the project even referencing the quote sheet. If you do not understand anything about your contract at all, step back and do not sign a contract until you are comfortable understanding all of the contract!!!
7. FENCE SCAMS – CLAIMING INSURANCE COVERAGE THEY DON’T HAVE! Now this sounds a little goofy! Why would someone tell you that they have insurance when they don’t have coverage? $$$ is the reason!
What if the contractor shows you a COPY of his Workers Comp Policy? Another SCAM! THE INSURANCE COMPANY WILL MAIL OR FAX YOU A CURRENT COPY OF POLICY!
What happens if someone gets hurt on the job working at your home? What if they got hurt on the weekend and come to work at your house on Monday and hurt their back!
When the contractor quits on the job the worker will go after the money…YOU and your HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE POLICY.
HOW THIS SCAM WORKS – The contractor actually goes in and buys a workers compensation policy for the minimum amount down and sets up a monthly payment plan. He simply stops making payments on his policy and the policy is cancelled! Of course he shows you a copy of his insurance, and a copy of his business license, but how do you know it’s CURRENT AND VALID?
During the COLD WAR, President Ronald Regan discussed our relationship with the Russians…TRUST AND VERIFY! A simple call to the Municipal Office can VERIFY a contractor has a CURRENT BUSINESS LICENSE. Likewise, the contractor can have his insurance company mail you a letter of current and valid up to date policy coverage before work is done! Any contractor not willing to do this…WATCH OUT!!! YOU MAY GET SCAMMED! If they are cutting corners on the insurance where else are they cutting corners? Materials? Laborers? Will they even complete the job?
8. FENCE SCAMS – WE ARE WORKING IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD AND HAVE ENOUGH LEFTOVER MATERIALS TO MAKE YOU A GREAT DEAL! This scam usually targets senior citizens, but will catch trusting homeowners of all groups. Salesman walking through the neighborhood knocking on doors looking for work. He offers you a great deal, because … but you need to sign up today, right now!
About 15 years ago we actually helped out a homeowner who was scammed by a shyster using a variation of our company name with the intention of scamming some easy money from a homeowner. A very upset homeowner came down the street where we were finishing up a fence. She had seen our work all over town and specifically in her subdivision. When the salesman came by her house 3 weeks ago she signed right up for a fence. She claimed that we started her job 2 weeks prior and then left, not to be seen since. She had paid a CASH DEPOSIT, and also had to PAY MORE CASH FOR MATERIALS. Furthermore, she was upset because she thought we should have finished her job since we were on this job for only 2 days and wrapping up! Why would we not return her phone calls and finish her fence?!
SHE SIGNED WITH A DIFFERENT COMPANY! …
WHO WAS NOT A COMPANY, BUT A CON MAN
After calming her down, we went back up the street to her house to inspect the project and inspect her signed paperwork and contract. She signed a QUOTE SHEET TURNED INTO A CONTRACT by a CON MAN using a “knock off name” so similar to our name, that she thought she was getting us! We don’t usually clean up other contractors messes, but under the circumstances she thought she was getting us, so we broke scheduling and helped the homeowner get her fencing project completed. She learned an expensive lesson.
Do Not Deal With a Contractor Who CONTACTS YOU!
Make sure you are the one initiating contact…and then check out the contractor you are planning to use. Use a third party references like GOOGLE or BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU to see how they rate. Check out their work, check out their references. Do your homework.
9. FENCE SCAMS … SPECIAL IN-HOUSE FINANCING!
This was a HUGE SCAM used by home improvement siding salesmen back in the day, and we see the older scams making a comeback. In this scam, the customer, usually older retired couple, are contacted about a home improvement product…fencing, windows, roofing, siding, guttering. After several hours of high pressure sales tactics and the offer of in house financing with low monthly payments, these slime balls coerce the homeowner to what seems like a good deal. When in reality the product is usually 3 to 4 times the normal price and the financing package puts a hefty lien on the home. If the customer complains about the shoddy work or materials, and refuses to pay, they simply force the sale of the house to satisfy the lien covering the exorbitant price of the project.
10. FENCE SCAMS – INFAMOUS PONZI SCHEME!
BERNIE MADOFF DID IT BIG TIME, OUR LOCAL “BUSINESSMAN” WAS PEANUTS BUT STILL MANAGED TO SCAM VENDORS AND HOMEOWNERS FOR OVER $100K!
I saw this one myself about 10 years ago as several homeowners contacted me for assistance after they had been scammed by a local fence installer turned businessman! It started out innocent enough, he had great intentions to do wonderful work. His just knew his boss was getting rich, he saw all the jobs under construction, all the money rolling in, but he was only getting paid labor rates and doing all the work. Off on his own to start his own fencing company. In the beginning, business was great! He knew how to install fencing, and he undercut everyone else’s prices, after all they were too high! He bought a large ad in the phonebook to boost sales. He needed a new truck to work out of, so he bought one of those on credit. He added a couple of employees but never took out for their taxes.
With the cost of truck payments, phone ads, insurance costs, and labor costs AND MATERIALS to do the jobs, he wasn’t making the money he thought he would. He had plenty of work, but there wasn’t enough profit to pay the bills and leave some for him.
HERE’S A SOLUTION: stop paying those pesky advertising bills every month, and those insurance payments…no one ever gets hurt on the job. Order a lot of material from vendors and be slow to pay them down. Skip a couple of truck payments. Bounce a couple of laborers checks. More money was coming in, but he was still way behind in the bills.
THE NEXT SOLUTION: dropping the prices on jobs created lots of new work. As he began taking hefty deposits from customers he would use that money to pay the previous months materials invoices. As long as the jobs keep rolling in he would just use the deposits to pay suppliers enough to keep them satisfied, after all he was a business man now, they owed it to him. Sound familiar? Bernie Madoff did the same thing, using money from Peter to pay back a little interest to Paul and keeping the rest for himself. The house of cards eventually falls when you run out of fresh customers. This local “fence business man” skipped out on 17 homeowners that I know of, and hit up several material vendors for over $100,000.00. As far as I know, money has never been recovered… as a side note he opened up again six months later under another name and pulling the same tricks as before.
YOUR BEST PROTECTION AGAINST FENCE SCAMS AND FRAUD
IS TO BECOME A WELL INFORMED AND EDUCATED CONSUMER , do your homework, don’t get greedy, and use a properly licensed, insured, established contractor. If you hire an unknown contractor, you could end up losing money to a ghost with a cell phone for a business phone! You could have liens filed against your home. Check the contractor for a physical location, check his phone # (on internet search like google for actual business line and info), job references from the contractor, references from jobs in your subdivision, check over fences installed for at least 5-10 years to see if they are still standing!
In the final analysis,educate yourself, do your homework, discuss similar projects with friends, family, co-workers, check company background, check references current and old to see how the product will hold up over time. This will help you to make sound educated decisions for your new fencing project and protect you from fence scams. DON’T GET TO GREEDY FOR A GOOD DEAL!…
If it sounds to good to be true…it usually is.