During the summer, many homeowners tackle home improvement projects. Some turn to trade shows to find professionals to do the work. But there are things you should know before you hand over any money.
KOTV's Diane White has some tips to help you avoid disasters. They're in the yard every weekend, trying to repair the mess they say was left by the owner of a landscape company. "He came out here and basically ruined our yard is what he did." He is Terry Grodin - owner of Grodin's Design. Chris and Shannon Saunders learned of his business at a home trade show. He gave them the lowest bid, so last September they hired him and paid a $2,000 deposit. They said he told them it would take about a month. Shannon Saunders, "They'd come out for maybe 2 hours once a week and leave and then we'd never see or hear from them for another 2 weeks." At one point, the Saunders say Grodin asked for more money up front - but they said no - it wasn't in the contract. By December, workers stopped showing up altogether. They couldn't find Grodin - his phone number was disconnected.
KOTV tracked him down. He wouldn't talk on camera but sent us a letter saying he "hit bedrock near the surface" that cost him more time and money, and he cited "inclement weather." Grodin also told KOTV he'd just started this new business and didn't have any working capitol - he owed vendors and ran out of money. The Saunders believed they were hiring an experienced, financially sound company, because they found Grodin at a trade show. Rick Brinkley with the Better Business Bureau says: "A lot of times what we hear people say is I went to a show and I saw them. Well, they paid booth rental to be there and in a lot of shows anyone can rent space that wants to." Some trade shows will sell space to anyone; other groups have strict guidelines, such as the Home Builder's Association - which limits its shows to members. "If you are going shopping at a trade show of some kind you need to start asking questions when you're standing at the booth." Find out how they got into the show and if they're a member of any professional organizations.
The Saunders admit they didn't ask enough questions and learned a tough lesson that cost them money and time. They want others to learn from this ordeal. So remember to thoroughly research any company, no matter how you find them. Make sure they have strong references and a good reputation before you hand over any money.
There's a happy ending of sorts for the Saunders. Casa Verde Landscape in Broken Arrow contacted Diane White offering to help the Saunders finish their project for free.