All's well... Checks clear, covers arrive

Last fall I wrote about a landscaper at Lake Monticello, Steve Adkins, who does business as Lakeview Landscaping ["Mulch ado: Don't pay in advance," October 24, 2002]. Adkins had charged a customer I called "Ms. Harrison" for two loads of mulch in early August but delivered only one.

Although Harrison tried repeatedly for the next two months to get her money back for the second load, which had cost $320– and although Adkins told me at least twice that he intended to repay her– nothing happened.

Reluctantly, Harrison sued Adkins in Fluvanna County District Court, where she was awarded $320 plus court costs. "Thought I should let you know that a few weeks after I got [the] judgment against Steve Adkins," she recently emailed me, "I received a check from his wife for $320 that did not bounce. I didn't get my court costs, of course; but since I suspect there is no more blood in that particular turnip, I went ahead and released the judgment."

Harrison lost out on more than the court costs. She lost the time spent trying to get Adkins to either deliver the mulch she'd paid for or return her money, and she lost the time spent filing the suit and going to court. Worst of all, however, she lost a lot of time she could have spent with her partner, who has pancreatic cancer. All things considered, that phantom load of mulch was mighty expensive.

Harrison wasn't the only unhappy customer to contact me about Adkins. Donald Collins' experience with the landscaper ["Slow dig: when the Leyland Cypress didn't show," November 14, 2002] began when Collins paid Adkins a deposit of $522 for an evergreen privacy screen in November 2001. He never saw Adkins again.

In February 2002, after what Collins described as numerous attempts to get Adkins to either deliver the shrubs or refund his deposit, Adkins sent Collins a check– which bounced. In the end, Collins took the check to a branch of Adkins' bank, where it cleared.

Now Collins makes what he calls "public service announcements" at the newcomers' club his wife Judy has started at the Lake, in which he holds up a flyer for Lakeview Landscaping and "lets them benefit" from his experience.


Slipcovers materialize

 Here's another semi-happy ending to a missing-merchandise saga. In this one ["Hostage fabric: Owner given the slip," March 6, 2003], Ann Clark hired Janice Coppa to create slipcovers for her leather couch in late July.

Meanwhile, the uncovered couch was being attacked by cat claws and exposed to sunlight in a living room full of windows. To add insult to injury, Coppa– who had Clark's $300 worth of fabric in her possession– had declined to respond to Clark's repeated requests to produce the slipcovers.

I spoke with Coppa, who said she greatly regretted not handling the transaction in a more "professional manner" and said that Clark was "absolutely right" to be frustrated. Coppa had been through some rough times since accepting Clark's commission and cutting and fitting the slipcovers; she had weathered the deaths of her mother and husband and a move from Charlottesville to Gordonsville.

She ended by promising to contact Clark and arrange to finish and deliver the slipcovers. As we went to press with the story, however, she hadn't.

I'm happy to report that Clark received a letter from Coppa right as the paper came out, in which the seamstress promised to finish the job by March 15.

She did, and Clark was delighted with the results. The slipcovers, she said, are "beautiful," and Coppa did an "excellent" job. Even so, beneath the crisp new fabric there's an expensive couch that was needlessly subjected to seven months' worth of wear and tear.

Do you have a consumer problem or question? Email the Fearless Consumer, write her at 100 Second Street NW, 22902, or call 295-8700 ext. 406.