Summertime is on its way, and so are the travelling salesmen and shady contractors.
This is a problem that, in my opinion, isn’t talked about as much as it should be. I’ve been dealing with these kinds of people throughout my 24 years in journalism and I take pride in shining a light on them every chance I get.
One of the first encounters I had was in 1996 in Fort Macleod, where a senior citizen in town was ripped off by a telemarketer. I know, that’s not a traveling salesman, but same situation as far as I’m concerned. The salesman from Quebec talked this 80 year old lady into buying over $20,000 worth of office supplies.
Another encounter I had was with a vacuum salesman in Fort Macleod. He was a door-to-door type from Calgary, wandering around town harassing everyday working class people. One of these local folks phoned me when I worked at the Macleod Gazette and told me the salesman was bothering his family every night, dumping dust and dirt on their living room floor and then vacuuming it up. He obviously regretted letting the salesman in, and wanted some help getting rid of him. I agreed. Actually, all it took was myself being in the living room the night this salesman showed up. He left and wasn’t heard from again.
Another breed of crook that bothers me is the traveler or shady contractor. These people engage in a variety of work ranging from painting, house repairs and roofing to “asphalt sealant,” which in some cases proves to be nothing more than hot water with black dye in it.
Travelers and shady contractors often claim their prices are much lower than local contractors, and they claim the work is as good as, or better, than the locals. Don’t you believe either one of those claims.
Firstly, if the contractor performs subpar work, how are you going to find this guy to claim warranty? Does he even honour a warranty? It’s not unknown for some of these travelers to flee to the U.S. or Australia so their victims can’t find them and that’s not an exaggeration.
As described above with the “asphalt sealant,” some of these travelers and shady contractors charge good money for poor or downright illegal work. Some of these people may even damage your property and leave you worse off than before they entered the picture.
Then there is the true crook: the one who takes your deposit and immediately disappears. You bet it happens, and it happens every year. The government, police and organizations like the Better Business Bureau get complaints about contractors who take money and never finish the work. Some of them never even start the work.
But there is another reason readers should be wary of travelers and shady contractors, and it doesn’t necessarily involved lies or incompetent work. It has to do with community.
The local contractors in the County of Wetaskiwin and Leduc County are every bit as skilled as any travelling contractor you will meet. More importantly, these local contractors buy business licenses and pay taxes and thus support the community. They support the community in other ways, too. The owners of these local companies belong to service clubs, play at local golf courses, coach sports teams, volunteer on committees and have kids who attend the same schools your kids attend.
Please don’t reward travelers and shady contractors by giving them business. There are plenty of good local contractors who support the community, take pride in their work and who will do quality work for you.
Stu Salkeld is the new editor of The Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.