AUSTIN (KXAN) - 'Tis the season to have some landscaping done, but citizens should make sure they hire with care, get references and get it in writing.
The Better Business Bureau had 140 complaints about landscapers last year and more are coming in this spring.
For Austin's Yoni Pitkanen it began when a kindly stranger came to his door and offered to trim his trees. The pitch came a few days later.
"He said we could probably add some plants over here and he'd be happy to help us. We gave him $450 for the plants so he could purchase them," Pitkanen said.
A few days later, still no plants but a new pitch. The man offered to fix Yoni's broken sprinkler.
"He works on it a couple hours and says he's going to need materials," Yoni said. "About $150 to get it fixed. At this point we were a little worried but we gave him the benefit of the doubt and gave him $150."
They never saw the man again. No repaired sprinkler, no plants and Pitkanen was out $600. Pitkanen is not alone.
At the Better Business Bureau, Lydia Hekman warns to get everything in writing and don't pay the entire cost up front.
"There might be two, three or even four phases of the project. Customers should pay per phase and agree to that up front," she said. "And get it in writing."
Tony Patek, general manager of ABC Lawn Services, said that he would "look at how long a company's been inbusiness. Do they have the insurance requirements, do they use their own people or sub-contractors?"
Patek recommends getting a fixed bid rather than an estimate, and he says get itemized bids for each proposal. That way you can scale back the project if you wish.
"You live and learn," Pitkanen said. "I learned I'm not going to hire anybody at my door again. What you going to do?"
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