Ask ‘gypsy pavers’ for contracts, IDs

By Russ Van Arsdale Executive director Northeast Contact, Special to the BDN
Posted May 02, 2010, at 7:35 p.m.

Spring is in the air, and so are the smells of new blossoms, cut grass and leftover hot top.

Hot top? Not the first thing on our minds, but it may be on the minds of people who come knocking on the door. The crew “has just enough asphalt from another job to do your driveway,” and if you agree now, you’ll get a great deal.

Maybe. Just as likely the stuff on the truck is junk the crew couldn’t give away; it might not dry for a week or last for six months.

Our neighbors, targeted by “gypsy pavers,” can ill afford to hand over money for second-rate materials and work. Older residents are often targeted by unscrupulous types, who hope their marks may be too polite to say no.

Scam-avoidance experts warn that these types of come-ons are all too common. They point out that legitimate contractors take the time to measure your driveway and figure out exactly how much paving material they’ll need.

Someone claiming to have “just enough” for your project hasn’t been doing much homework. If they misjudge your driveway, you may find — as did one New Englander in her 90s — that your garage door has been paved shut.

The door-to-door home-project scammers include those who offer “needed” repairs, whether to roofs, foundations, rotting wood or other jobs. The initial discussion may target a real need; as the scammers gain the homeowner’s trust, they’ll discover other jobs and charge big money for them.

If you say yes, police urge that you always get a written contract. Read it carefully. Maine law requires a waiting period of three business days from the time you sign to the time the work begins (be sure the proffered contract isn’t dated three days in the past). If you have second thoughts, you may cancel the agreement during the waiting period, so don’t ever agree to pay the full amount you’re quoted before work begins.

The Maine Attorney General’s Office reminds consumers that, generally speaking, door-to-door and telephone sales are the only cases in which that three-day “buyer’s remorse” rule applies. If a contractor begins work during that time and you properly cancel the contract, you owe nothing.

Also, every door-to-door seller must be licensed as a transient salesman or have a permanent place of business in Maine (a single lawn sign likely doesn’t count). If you’re handed a business card with just a cell phone number, be suspicious.

Northeast CONTACT always advises comparison-shopping with local merchants or service providers. They are generally more receptive to standing behind their products and services, while transients may prove difficult to contact if there is a problem.

Sgt. Paul Edwards of the Bangor Police Department said last year was a busy one for transient pavers, roofers and the like. He expects more of the same this summer. Edwards urges residents to check IDs, make sure the business is real and resist the hard sell. “If there’s pressure, don’t do it,” he said.

Next week: Tips to keep seniors from becoming targets.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s membership-funded, nonprofit consumer organization. Individual and business memberships are available at modest rates. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for more information, write: Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, or go to http://necontact.wordpress.com.

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/05/02/business/ask-lsquogypsy-paversrsquo-for-contracts-ids/ printed on September 21, 2014