It’s that time of year when consumers hire a snow plow contractor for the upcoming winter season and the Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin (BBB) is reminding consumers to do their homework before hiring one.
Earlier this year, BBB Serving Wisconsin investigated and issued a press release regarding a snow plow company, Snow Angels and its owner Matthew Erickson. Erickson collected up-front, in full fees from consumers – many elderly – in nine states. Erickson has since been charged criminally for contracting to deliver snow removal services and never completing those services.
So that you don’t end up a victim, below are some BBB tips to remember when hiring a snow removal service:
Get more than one estimate. BBB recommends you get at least three estimates before making a decision. Ask for all the costs up front to avoid any surprises. Keep in mind the lowest price doesn’t always mean the best service. Check with BBB.org for free Business Reviews which can provide company information, complaint history and detail, and customer reviews.
Review the contract. Never settle for a verbal agreement. Contractors should always provide a written contract. A representative should visit the property and make notes about services requested and potential obstacles. Get all of the details in writing and always read anything before you sign. Understand cancellation fees and any extra charges that may apply.
Ask about scheduling. Some contractors do snowplow services as a part-time job, and this may affect their availability to clear a driveway when needed. Always check to see if there is a schedule for snow removal.
Ask about insurance. Is the company fully insured in case of damage to property? Be sure to get it in writing on your contract and request a statement from their insurer confirming current liability and workers compensation coverage.
Split the payments. Find out how the company expects payment. Most contracts take two forms: pay-per-plowing or pay-per-season. If you’re expected to pay all fees upfront – consider it a red flag. Most contractors will split fees into two or three payments – one at the beginning, middle, and at the end of the season.
Ask for references. Remember even if a business appears to be reliable, it does not mean that it is. When a company is reluctant to answer questions, won’t supply proper information or is unwilling to offer references – there could be cause for concern.
File a complaint or report a scam. If you run into a problem that you cannot resolve on your own, file a complaint. If you spot a scheme or fraud, report it to the BBB’s Scam Tracker. BBB Scam Tracker allows you to submit information on scams and fraud and provides information on trending scams in your area.