THE FEARLESS CONSUMER- Getting snippy: Yard work dispute raises tempers

"She got all bent out of shape," says Doug Taylor; he's talking about the reaction he got when he explained to Young Hahn on October 29 why he hadn't finished the work she and her husband had paid him to do in late September. And because of her attitude, he says, he had declined to complete the job in the weeks that followed.

When I called Taylor on January 17 to chat about Hahn's situation and why she might be a bit– ah, testy– he mainly seemed indignant that she had pressed him to either do the work or give them a refund. The Hahns had signed a contract with Taylor (who does business as Eddie's Tree and Landscaping) on September 20 to have three pine trees removed, a maple tree trimmed, and a garden bed mulched. 

The contract, which came to $1,400, includes this statement: "Date of work to be done 9/21/06." According to Hahn, Taylor instead showed up on the 22nd, cut down two of the pines, trimmed and sprayed the maple, and– saying he would return to take out the third pine tree and mulch the bed– asked for and received a $1,000 check for the balance due. Both sides agree that he never returned to finish the job.

Hahn claims she called Taylor "several" times after that, but mainly had to leave messages on his cell phone. Then came the fateful October 29 conversation, during which, she says, he told her that it was "too hot" to do the work. Presumably that was when she adopted the attitude he found so offensive. Taylor says she demanded that he come the next day. Hahn denies this, and claims he promised to come the following week. In any case, he never showed up. 

Hahn filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau on November 3, but Taylor declined to respond to the organization's letters. "Since we have exhausted our resources," the BBB wrote Hahn on December 28, "we must now close your complaint as ‘no company cooperation.'" 

When I asked for an explanation of his nonperformance, Taylor offered several excuses; the main one was a "big storm" that had put him behind in his schedule. I said I couldn't recall such a major storm anytime lately, and he said it had been a one-day thunderstorm. Throughout our conversation, he returned to Hahn's having gotten "bent out of shape" as his reason for abandoning the job. 

In the end, he promised to finish the work the weekend of January 20– then failed to show up. Hahn may be headed next for Albemarle General District Court; stay tuned for an update. 

Third time's a charm

Last fall I reported on the struggle Sara Anderson was having with For The Floor over her bill for wall-to-wall carpeting: The installers had splashed a mystery liquid on some curtains and part of the carpet, and from late May until late September, Anderson and For The Floor owner Jack Ostowski wrangled over her bill ["On the carpet," October 19]. In the end, Ostrowski told me he would honor an earlier offer to reduce Anderson's bill by $250, and I ended the column with his promise. 

As I reported in my end-of-2006 wrap-up, however ["How not to," December 21], nothing happened: Anderson continued to get bills for the $250 balance– plus interest. I called Ostrowski on January 4, and he promised to make sure the account was zeroed out. This time, I told him, I wouldn't put it in print till I heard from Anderson. 

She emailed last week to say that, at long last, Ostrowski had made the adjustment. 

Do you have a consumer problem or question? Email the Fearless Consumer or write her at 100 Second Street NW, Charlottesville 22902.