How I Fought A Scammer and Won

I really dislike writing articles like this. However, I would hate to see someone else get scammed by Elite Pressure Washing.

The Backstory

My deck and screen porch desperately needed to be stained. I flirted with doing it myself, but I learned my lesson from my DIY dishwasher install experience—you should always get quotes for doing the work before you decided to do it yourself. Time is money and many people fail to calculate time spent on an activity when looking at the price of services.

As it turns out, it was pretty damn cheap to stain my screen porch and deck. This is no small task in itself. My deck and screen porch are big!

So, I was happy as a pig in mud when I received an invoice to complete the entire job for $1,750.80. I even took the time to call them and ask, “The invoice you sent is for my entire deck and screen porch? In the solid redwood stain?” I was reassured by the person on the phone. So, I thought nothing of it. Afterall, they did send a team of people to my house to assess the work, then they provided an invoice to me which reflected the level of effort needed to complete the job.

Here is email they sent with my pricing:

Dominique Brown,

 

Hello, this is your confirmation email to let you know that you are on the schedule to get the washing portion of your job done on Friday, September 21, 2012. Please keep this date and do not forget to make sure that your windows are closed, gate is unlocked, and water outside is accessible. I have attached the invoice to this email. Please be aware that after your washing portion has been complete someone will be contacting you to make sure that the wash is to your liking and that there were no problems, at that time the sand and stain will be placed on the schedule. If you have not chosen a stain please refer yourself to our website www.washmydeck.com scroll to the bottom of the page and select ‘deck stain and seal’. We also require you pay your deposit before we can schedule your stain portion, your deposit amount is $1,211.20, the amount of the wash, sand and half the stain, leaving you with a remaining balance of $540.60, the rest of the stain. Payment is due before we can schedule the stain, and you could either call us and pay with a credit card, Visa or MasterCard, over the phone, or mail us a check to:

The guy shows up and power washes my deck, and he was crazy as hell because he did it in flip flops. I paid my deposit and felt happy to get the deck work off my hands.

They Show Up to Finish the Job

Virginia was hit with downpour after downpour and if you ever stained a deck, you know you can’t stain a wet deck. So, roughly a month passed before my deck was stained.

The guys finally show up on a random day—a Tuesday or a Wednesday. Thank goodness I was home! Apparently the people who perform the work aren’t the people who perform the assessments. The gentleman walk on to my deck and does a quick inspection. I go to the deck to introduce myself, we shake hands then he says…

“We are going to have to put semi-transparent on the screen porch instead of solid, because we will ruin the screen”

Huh? What? I instantly start thinking, “This is some bullshit”

I mull it over in my head a few times and tell him to hold up a second as I call the back office. I explain the situation to the back office, and clearly ask. What’s going on with these guys trying to add semi-transparent to my screen porch instead of a solid color? I paid for solid and want solid, I was assured that solid stain would not be a problem for my entire deck.

Long story short, the techs wanted to used the gas powered stain gun to get through the job real quick and my screen porch served as a huge problem to that. See, you can’t spray solid stain through a screen, it will ruin it. This little detail alone, required the job to be hand painted, which is something the original assessor should of picked up on!

So, this is what happened. We agreed for them to cut down my screen, if they come back to do the work to replace it. However, I wanted my entire deck and screen porch to be a solid stain as specified in my original invoice.

I went back into the house to work in the office and those guys spent the next 8 hours staining my deck. They said this process normally takes 4 hours, but the size of my deck and a few stain runs messed them up.

I’m thinking—your bad!

Final Payment

I’m thoroughly happy with the deck, I’m looking at my beautiful redwood deck and can’t be happier. So, when I get an email about my final invoice payment, I’m thinking nothing of it. Afterall, they did everything they said they would. Something told me to open the invoice and analyze it.

I open the final invoice and see an additional $550 worth of charges.

Woah… WTF!

Random Charge 1 – $150 for custom stain
Random Charge 2 – $400 for hand painting

Umm… neither of these charges are on my original invoice, but they magically show up on my final invoice? Are we serious?

I’m fuming and send off an email and phone call.

Two days later I call back and get someone. We go back and forth and she specifies that they don’t know why the charges are there. I’m thinking “Cool, this will be remedied.”

Meanwhile, I check my credit card and see they charged me for the additional $550 of random charges already.

This is why I love credit cards! Zero fraud liability and this is smelling like fraud. So, I dispute the transaction with my credit card company for the extra $550.

About a day or so goes by and I get this email:

Mr. Brown,

Thank you for your business. I spoke with the technician this morning, your original assessment was for a solid redwood on most of your deck but standard redwood semi transparent on your screened in porch. We always apply a semi transparent to screened in porches (unless otherwise indicated and charged) because of the extra time and labor of painting the railings and damage a solid can do to screens.

The technician began our standard process and after speaking with you, you both decided you want solid redwood on all the surfaces of your deck including screened in porch. While much of the deck was sprayed after the screens were removed, there was a lot of hand cutting in, removal of the screens and disconnecting, returning later and reconnecting the gutter.

I was under the impression that all this was communicated with you including the price increase. Will in our office said he told you it would be more but did not say how much it was going to be. $400 was added to you bill for this extra work and time, upon talking to the technician he said $250 should be the charge for the extra work. So I am crediting back to your card $150. the difference between the charge and what it should have been. I apologize for the miscommunication on our end and taking several days to get back with you.

I hope you are pleased with the final results. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you again.

Steve Chapman

President


My reply:

“Steve,

My original invoice never was for a solid redwood stain and standard redwood semi transparent on my screened porch. My original invoice was for a solid stain on my entire deck and screened porch. The invoice even says solid stain for the screened porch. Before agreeing to move forward I even asked… “Is this for solid stain on my entire deck and screen porch” and was reassured by your staff that solid stain will be applied on all surfaces.

However, when your technicians arrived they specified it would be easier for them to apply a semi-transparent to the screened porch unless they take down my screens. Their reasons being, the solid stain would ruin the screen. We then agreed to remove the screens so they can apply a solid stain to my entire deck and screen porch as I originally expected.

The technician and I then agreed on some additional work of replacing the screens at a later date. Not once was additional cost for staining my deck/screen porch all solid (as I originally expected) discussed. The only additional pricing that was discussed was restoring the screen on my screen porch at a later date, by the techs.

“While much of the deck was sprayed after the screens were removed, there was a lot of hand cutting in, removal of the screens and disconnecting, returning later and reconnecting the gutter.”

I’m still not sure how your aforementioned comment turns into me paying more. This should have be worked into the original invoice. After all.. your technician did what he needed to do to complete the job. This job wasn’t a surprise, your team came out analyzed my property and provided me an invoice for the job. The level of effort should not have been a surprise.

“I was under the impression that all this was communicated with you including the price increase. Will in our office said he told you it would be more but did not say how much it was going to be. $400 was added to you bill for this extra work and time, upon talking to the technician he said $250 should be the charge for the extra work. So I am crediting back to your card $150. the difference between the charge and what it should have been. I apologize for the miscommunication on our end and taking several days to get back with you.”

Will did not say such thing, I contacted Will and asked him why the technicians were saying they couldn’t complete the job as originally expected. I asked Will why are the technicians advocating to use a semi-transparent on parts of my screen porch when my entire invoice specifies a solid stain for my entire deck and screen porch. Will spoke with the technicians and they both talked about how to complete the job as originally specified they had to remove my screen b/c the solid stain will ruin it. I then made the decision to have the my screen removed so the job can be completed as originally intended and negotiated with your tech on the additional work for replacing the screens at a later date. Not one time was I notified that I will be charged more money for staining my deck and screened porch all solid, I expected my entire deck/screen porch to be all solid as my invoice specifies. Your tech actually said it would be easier to stain the screened porch by removing my screens.”


Meanwhile, my backup plan comes through and Capital One credits me back the $550. However, Steve doesn’t respond to my email. He simply sends me another invoice with the $150 credit as if that will make me feel better.

Little does he know, I already got my money back.

I know that was a long story, but I hate getting scammed or in this case, charged for their errors!

Update: They did a rebuttal to my charge back. Capital One proceed to charge me disputed funds, then I sent in my reply and Capital One agreed with me. If they respond again with more evidence we have to go to arbitration with Visa. Regardless of what happens, I will never do business with these people again.

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0 comments

  • Hi Dominique,
    I was so interested in your latest article about “How I fought a scammer and won”. I only recieved part of your story so I’m curious as to what happened. I’m so glad you were able to avoid the scam though. Thanks for the article. Goes to show you what some folks are like eh? Good luck with your finances!
    Sincerely,
    Louise in Canada

  • I end up getting my money back from my credit card company 🙂

  • Love it when a scammer gets what they deserve #littlewinsinlife

  • Thanks, but really my credit card company saved me on this one.

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