A press release sent out to all Alberta media outlets from the RCMP this past week reminded me of a column subject I usually write about every one to two years.
RCMP were notifying the public about fraudulent travelling contractors. These are the types of people who travel from community to community, province to province selling contracting services like driveway sealing, roof repair, painting and any number of other services related to home repair or maintenance.
Early in my career I had the fortune of running into several of these people, each specializing in their own discipline. After they’d ripped off someone in town, I got a phone call from the person, seeing if there was anything I could do to help them. It was rather flattering actually, because I thought my readers would phone the police first. They phoned the newspaper instead. One lady explained to me that she didn’t phone the police because she was embarrassed that she was ripped off so easily; she called me because she wanted to get the word out and prevent anyone else getting the same treatment.
For one family, there was a lot I could do to help. They were being harassed by a pushy vacuum salesman from Calgary. They told me the salesman was returning that evening, so I waited at their house for the salesman and asked him why he was harassing these nice people, whether he had a business license to be in town etc. He left and never came back.
Another travelling contractor was going door-to-door in the town I worked in, selling “driveway sealant” to senior citizens. One senior called me and suspected she’d been ripped off, and yes, she had. The so-called sealant the traveller sprayed on her driveway was mostly water with a bit of dark, oily substance in it. The next time it rained, all of the “sealant” washed right off and ran down the street. This little old lady had paid hundreds of dollars to the contractor.
There is no reason for you to hire a travelling or out-of-town contractor, but some people fool themselves. The main reason, I’m sure you’re thinking, is that you’ll get a superior service and save money. Not true.
The Wetaskiwin region is full of reputable, dependable and honest contractors. Their kids go to the same schools your kids go to. Local contractors buy their supplies from other local businesses and pay taxes to the city or county. If there is a problem with the work, local contractors probably offer a guarantee and are easily contracted for warranty work. Also, virtually all local contractors will have a business license from the City of Wetaskiwin.
Many travelling contractors don’t buy business licenses. Business licenses require things like contact information and signatures, two things that travelling crooks don’t want to give out. If you hire one of these people and they do substandard, shoddy work, good luck finding them again to repair it.
The number one thing to remember in the city is that door-to-door salesmen and contractors require a business license from the city, no exceptions. If you ask for a business license and they don’t present it, phone the city hall at once and report them.
Stu Salkeld is editor of The Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the newspaper.