My Tree Trimming Service Nightmare

Y’all, have I got a story to tell you! Now before I start, let me just say that if I were to share every single one of my bad customer service experiences with you, that’s all this blog would be. I’m sure you’ve noticed, as I have, that customer service is a thing of the past, and I’ve experienced terrible customer service at one time or another at just about every place I patronize on a regular basis.

But this particular experience was so egregious, so beyond the pale, that my goal here is not only to regale you with a story of my terrible experience, but also to get this info online in a searchable way so that if anyone else in the Waco area thinks to hire these people, and thinks to google the name(s) first, they’ll hopefully land on this page and see my experience. These people shouldn’t be in business. Period.

So let me tell you my experience with A-1 Affordable Services in Waco, Texas, owned/operated by Michael Brooks and his assistant Josh McClendon III.

The nightmare starts…

This nightmare started on Thursday, December 26th, when I was returning home from the grocery store and pulled into my driveway to see that two men, one woman, and a child were working in my neighbor’s yard cutting down trees and hauling the limbs to the curb. As I pulled up by the studio side door where I always park, the woman approached my driver’s side door. I rolled my window down and immediately asked, “Do you need me to move my car?” assuming that they were concerned with dropping branches near my car.

She said, “No, I just wanted to ask you about your tree.”

She was talking about the HUGE oak tree that’s right next to the carport. The tree that should have come down before the carport was ever built. The tree whose life I was hoping to spare. The tree that then proceeded to drop a huge limb that punched a pretty big hole in the roof of the carport. The tree that now sits on death row awaiting execution at a time as yet undermined.

Here’s a picture of the tree during the carport build.

She told me that they were looking at my tree and noticed that several huge limbs really needed to come down immediately. I explained that I knew that, and actually wanted the entire tree to come down, but just couldn’t justify spending the money right now since we were having a lot of work done inside. She called one of the men named Mike over to look at the tree and give me a price.

After looking at it, he told me that he would charge me $1800 to cut the tree down completely, haul off the limbs from my property (I didn’t want them left along the curb), and to haul away my big pile of trash in the back. Since I’m always doing remodeling and building projects, I always have a pile in my back yard, and when it gets large enough, I have a guy I call who comes and hauls it away for me. But Mike said that he’d throw that in as well.

He assured me that they have 20 years of experience with cutting and trimming trees, and had done plenty of trees this size and plenty of trees that were this close to the house. He explained that they have the climbers, the ropes, and even a lift bucket. He said that they could do the whole job without a limb even touching my roof.

Well, that sounded good, and the price sounded incredible. Matt and I had been expecting to pay at least $3500 to have that tree cut down completely. So when I shared the info and price with Matt, he said that we should go ahead and do it.

The “Contract”

When we agreed to the price and services, Mike told the other man, Josh, to write up the contract. The contract turned out to be something that he hand wrote on a piece of notebook paper, but I was okay with that. A signed agreement is a signed agreement, whether it’s hand written on notebook paper or pre-printed by Office Depot.

So Josh scribbled away, writing a pretty lengthy contract, and handed it to me to sign. It all sounded good except for one small part that said:

…unless an emergency situation arise would company ask for more cash.

Ummm…what? What kind of emergency situation could arise that would require more cash?

I asked him about that, and he said something like, “Well, that’s just to protect us in case of….” I don’t remember exactly what he said.

But I do remember that I asked him very specifically, “Have you EVER come back and asked a customer for more cash than was agreed upon?” He assured me that that has never happened. I said, “So you’re telling me that in 20 years of business, you’ve never done that.” He assured me again that that’s never happened.

I had already asked him if they have business insurance and worker’s compensation, the first which would cover any damage if they drop the tree on my house, and the second which would cover them if one of them falls out of my tree and can no longer work.

He assured me that they had both, so I told him that he needed to add that to the contract — that they have insurance and worker’s compensation — BEFORE I sign the contract. He did so, and we all signed.

My contract with A-1 Affordable Services in Waco, Texas, owned by Michael Brooks. NIGHTMARE SERVICE.

So we all signed the contract, and I wrote a check for $900, as we agreed. And of course, they cashed the check almost immediately.

The Work Begins…Barely

They spent the rest of the day working in my neighbor’s yard, so they didn’t get started in my yard until Friday. Friday afternoon, to be specific. And I think it was about 2:00 or 3:00 before they even got started. Seeing that this is still winter, the sun goes down around 5:40pm, so that didn’t leave much time to work at all.

The woman and another person brought the truck and started loading up my pile of junk to haul off. They got about half of the pile taken away. Then the climber (yes, singular…climber) came with his ropes and gear and climbed up in that huge tree. Josh was helping to hold the rope. They worked very slowly for about 60-90 minutes, and took down two limbs in that time. Then Josh disappeared and I didn’t see him again that day. The climber picked up all of his gear and told me that he’d have to come back when they could get another climber there to help. Then he left.

When they left that day, this is what it looked like…

tree limb left on my roof by A-1 Affordable Services in Waco, Texas, owned by Michael Brooks -- TERRIBLE SERVICE -- AVOID AT ALL COSTS

In case you can’t tell what that is, let me explain. The large limb leaning against the tree in the front is the one that dropped a while back and punched a hole in the carport roof. It’s huge and heavy, and I was able to drag it off of the roof, but then it got lodged right there and I couldn’t move it any further. So that’s where it stayed. Behind that is another large limb that they cut down and left there. And then there’s one large limb sitting on the roof of the house that they cut and left. (And remember, Mike told me they could do this job without a single limb touching my roof.)

So that’s how they left things on Friday, and they didn’t tell me when they’d be back. They just left.

The Awkward and Infuriating Ask

On Saturday, we woke up to drizzly, rainy weather, so I didn’t expect them to climb and cut trees. I didn’t expect to see them at all that day, so imagine my surprise when Josh showed up on my front porch around noon. Cooper and I met him at the door, and I just cracked the door (because Cooper is crazy with visitors) and talked to him through the crack. He said that he needed to talk to me and that it might take a few minutes, obviously wanting to come into the house. I put Cooper away and let him in.

Josh is very difficult for me to understand. It’s like talking to a person who should be wearing dentures, but refuses to wear dentures. I don’t know if that’s the case with Josh, because I didn’t look closely enough, but I just have such a hard time understanding him.

But I understood his initial statement very well. He said, “You know how I put in the contract that in case of emergency, we would require more money? Well, an emergency has come up.”

I could feel my blood pressure rising and the anger building up inside. And emergency has arisen? HOW? They’ve cut down to freaking limbs from my tree, one of which is still sitting on my roof, and that’s it! What kind of emergency could have come up?

He kept saying something about insurance, and insurance lapsing if he didn’t make a payment by January 1st, and he couldn’t rent the bucket without insurance, and he needed money for insurance, and blah, blah, blah.

I was infuriated. Can you even imagine someone you’ve hired to do a job coming to you and asking for more money because their insurance is about to lapse?

I couldn’t imagine a more unprofessional thing. Why is his insurance my responsibility? And why does his soon-to-be-lapsed insured constitute an emergency for me? And why is he talking about renting a bucket when Mike told me that they already have all of that?

I told him in no uncertain terms that this was the most unprofessional thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. That there was absolutely NO WAY I was going to pay him more money after they only cut down two limbs and left one sitting on my roof. That I would pay what we agreed to and no more, and that I don’t have more to pay them since we’re in the middle of a $20,000 remodel.

And after all of that, he had the nerve to ask, “Well, you’re going to be able to pay the rest that you owe us when we’re finished, right? Because it sounds like you don’t have any money, so I just want to be sure you’ll be able to pay us.”

I’m pretty sure I had actual fumes coming out of my ears at this point. I ushered him out the door, and immediately picked up my phone and called Mike.

That conversation went something like this:

Me: Mike, Josh was just at my house asking for more money, something about insurance lapsing and me needing to pay more so he can get insurance.

Mike: Oh, I’m so sorry, we couldn’t cut the tree today because it’s raining, but we’ll be there next week.

Me: Umm, that’s not the issue here. I’m telling you that Josh was just at my house asking for more money. What’s that about?

Mike: Yes, ma’am. It’s just that we can’t work in the rain, so we’ll have to wait to cut the tree.

Me: MIKE! LISTEN TO WHAT I’M SAYING!! Why was Josh just at my house asking for more money?!

Mike: Ma’am, I don’t know about what Josh was doing, but we just can’t work in the rain because it’s dangerous for the climbers.

Anyway, by the end of our conversation (if you can call it that), Mike assured me that they would, absolutely, get the job done for the price we agreed upon, and that they’d be there on the next day with nice weather.

Too Much Wind

Monday, we woke up to beautiful weather. It was sunny, and the temperature was supposed to warm up to the 60s. So I expected them to be at my house bright and early to take advantage of the gorgeous weather.

Needless to say, I was disappointed. The morning passed, and I didn’t hear from them.

Finally at 1:30, I got a message from Josh saying that they were waiting for the wind to die down before they send climbers to my house. Matt and I listened to that message, looked at each other in bewilderment, and looked out the window to see the trees standing absolutely still because THERE WAS NO WIND. None. Zero. I mean, the branches of the trees outside weren’t moving even a little bit.

More frustration. But maybe tomorrow.

Insurance? What insurance?

On Tuesday, December 31, we woke up to another beautiful day, so I fully expected that they would be here. When will I learn?

We didn’t hear from them at all, and finally at 2:00pm, I called Mike. And of course, he told me that they were just about to leave to come to my house. At 2:00pm. And the sun goes down at 5:40pm.

Before I hung up with Mike, I said, “Mike, I just want to be clear. You DO have insurance and worker’s compensation, right?”

He said, “No ma’am. I don’t have insurance, but I do guarantee that if there’s any damage, we’ll take care of it. But no, we don’t have insurance.”

I said, “What do you mean you don’t have insurance? You told me that you have insurance!”

He said, “No ma’am. I never told you that we have insurance. We’ve never had insurance. But we will take care of any damage.”

I said, “MIKE!! JOSH TOLD ME that you have insurance and worker’s compensation!! I don’t want anyone climbing up in my huge tree on my property without insurance and worker’s compensation!”

He kept on and on with the “I never told you we have insurance” bit, and I got angrier and angrier, telling him that it was in the contract, and he finally HUNG UP ON ME.

Y’all, I was livid. Fuming. He freaking HUNG UP ON ME.

A couple of minutes later, he called back, but I don’t think he realized he called me. All I could hear was Mike yelling at Josh saying, “Why would you tell people we have insurance and worker’s compensation? You know we don’t have that stuff! And you put it in the contract?! Why would you do that?!”

I just sat there and listened for a couple of minutes. Then I guess he realized that he had dialed my number, and he said, “Ma’am? Hello?”

He proceeded to tell me that he didn’t know why Josh would put that in the contract because they don’t have insurance or worker’s compensation, but he assured me that if anything happened to our house, they would cover it. (How? If he didn’t have insurance, and had to come begging for more money at my door on Saturday, how would they cover damages?)

I told him that if they were going to do any work at my house, I wanted a new contract first. I wanted the new contract to say that (1) they had originally told me that they had insurance and worker’s compensation, which was a lie, (2) that they would do the work originally agreed upon, and for the amount originally agreed upon, (3) that I would not be held liable in any way if one of their workers was injured on my property, and (4) that they would be liable for any damages caused to my house or property during the course of the work being done. He said that was fine, and that they were on the way.

As soon as I got off the phone, I knew that there was no way I would actually let them do the work at this point, but I wanted my money back. And I knew that if I told them that on the phone, I’d never see them again. So my plan was to let them come to my house, and then I’d show Mike the state in which things were left on Friday. I’d also take photos of Mike, Josh, and their license plates, for identification purposes. And then I’d ask for my money back. If they refused, then I’d take them to small claims court.

Matt agreed to this plan of action, but wanted me to have someone here as a “witness”, so I asked my mom to come over. She and my niece got here almost immediately, around 2:30, and we waited. And waited. And waited some more.

Needless to say, they never showed up, I didn’t get a phone call, and I didn’t hear from them the rest of the day. My mom and niece finally left around 5:30 or 6:00 after the sun went down and it was definitely too late to work.

New Year’s Day

At about 8:30am on New Year’s Day (Wednesday), I got a message from Josh talking about wind again. I didn’t even care. It was New Year’s Day, and I was heading to my mom’s house for our regular Lunch On The Patio that my mom, my brother, my sister, and I have every Wednesday. (We grill steaks and have lunch on my mom’s new amazing covered patio every Wednesday.) I wasn’t in the mood to deal with Mike or Josh or their nonsense that day.

Interestingly, Josh called back once again that morning, and didn’t leave a message. Later that afternoon, after I had gotten home, he called a third time. That time I answered, and he said, “I’m sorry, ma’am. I have the wrong number.”

Do you really think he had the wrong number? Ummm…no. He just wasn’t expecting me to answer.

The Big Blow Up

By Thursday, I had reached my limit with these two. I decided that I wanted to insist that they bring my money, and I wanted to record the phone call. So after setting things up to record the call (Texas is a one-party state, so they didn’t need to know I was recording), I called Mike. No answer. I waited a few minutes and called back. No answer.

So I reluctantly called Josh.

You can listen to the whole phone call here, but here are the highlights.

  • Josh makes more empty promises — “We’ll be there tomorrow morning.”
  • I insist that they come today or I’ll pursue legal action.
  • He says the reason they didn’t come the last time they promised is because someone was in a car accident. (If that were true, they could have called me to let me know, but they didn’t.)
  • I say that I want a refund. They push back and insist that they did work.
  • They say something like if they cut down just one limb, then I’m required to pay them. (What?)
  • Mike tells me that $900 isn’t much money. (I guess meaning that I shouldn’t be too concerned with getting my money back because it’s not much money anyway.)
  • I told them I would “press charges” if they don’t give me my money back. I had a good laugh at that when I listened to the recording. 😀 Let’s just say that Matt and I have been watching way too many CSI reruns lately. 😀
  • One of them said, “Bitch, you’re crazy,” to me.
  • Mike said that he was pursuing legal action against me for “harassment.”
  • At one point, I screamed my head off like a lunatic 😀 because I had reached my limit, and they kept talking over me. (I promise, this is not the norm. I asked Matt if I had ever screamed at him like that, and he said that in 17 years of marriage, he thinks I may have done it once. Maybe. But these jokers pushed me way beyond my limit.)
  • Mike said that from now on, I’d be dealing with him and not with Josh.
  • Mike finally agreed to a refund of $700, which he told me he’d bring the next morning at 8:00am.

Friday, Refund Day

I didn’t really expect to see Mike at my house at 8:00am as he had promised. And I got exactly what I expected.

But surprisingly, about 8:30, Mike called and said that he was on the way, but he was just running late. He said he’d be there in about 20 minutes.

An hour later, he showed up. I went to the door and was immediately frustrated to look through the glass and see Josh standing in front, with Mike sheepishly standing behind him on the porch steps. I opened the door, looked right past Josh, and said, “Hi, Mike.”

He said hi, asked me how much we had agreed to for the refund, and pulled out a wad of money from his pocket. Immediately, Josh started in with, “We did more work than that. We did more work than that. Ma’am, we did more work than that.”

I said, “Do you want to go look at the work you did? I still have one big limb sitting on my house! Let’s go look!”

Mike said, “No, ma’am. I’ll just give you your money back. I only have $600 right now, but we’re doing a job today and I can bring you the rest later today.” (Remember, this is from the guy who said that $900 isn’t much money, and yet he can’t afford to give me $700 back.)

Josh just kept on, “But ma’am, we did more work than that.”

Finally, I said, “Let’s go look. Right now. I want you to come look.”

So we all went back to the look at the tree. Mike seemed embarrassed, but Josh seemed unaffected. He then began telling me that I didn’t give them the chance to finish the job, and I just need to let them finish.

I said, “Josh, I gave you plenty of chances to finish! But that’s not the only issue. There’s also the issue of insurance. Mike says that y’all don’t have insurance, and you keep telling me that you do. So tell me, do you have business insurance and worker’s compensation?”

He began mumbling something about Medicare and Medicaid, and how he was covered, and the climbers were covered, blah, blah, blah.

I finally ushered them back to their truck, with Josh grumbling the whole way about finishing the job and having insurance. Mike said that he would be back in a couple of hours with the other $100 of my refund.

Do you think I’ve seen or heard from them since? I think you probably know the answer to that.

Anyway, I do take responsibility for hiring people I had not vetted properly to do a HUGE job on my property. I should have done better. But their behavior was so beyond the pale that I had to write about it so that if anyone in this area thinks about hiring these guys, and happens to google their names and business name (I did try, but they’re nowhere to be found online), they’ll hopefully see my experience and know to stay far away.

In the meantime, I still have a huge limb sitting on top of my roof.

FYI: For those of you in the Waco, Texas, area looking for reliable tree trimming services (with actual insurance and worker’s compensation), I highly recommend Goss Tree Services.

We used them twice. The owner is very nice and knowledgeable, and he actually DOES have all of then necessary equipment, including the big wood chipper truck so that nothing is left behind. After we used them a couple of times, I also saw them in an episode of Fixer Upper where trees needed to be trimmed. So obviously Chip and Joanna trust them also. I hate that I was taken in by the idea of getting that tree down for $1800. I’ll never use anyone other than Goss Tree Services again. The price is worth the peace of mind and job well done.

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    1. Kristi…I have read your posting and thought I would look them up online…you mention n the beginning that the owner is a Michael Clark…however, the “contract” is signed by owner/operator Michael Brooks…are these people one in the same or ….?

        1. I just wanted to say that my elderly mother has fallen victim to this guy and she paid full amount up front…I’m trying to find out what can be done

      1. I am so glad I found this post! Mike knocked on our door this afternoon looking for work. He said they usually go to church on Sunday but had a bad week and needed work. I wasn’t impressed by a handwritten contract and thought it unusual they wanted half the money up front. I did try to find their business online but didn’t find anything. After they left I googled Mike’s name and found your post. We signed a contract but we kept it. My husband told them he would give them a call. We did not give them any money although Josh asked for it before they left. We won’t be calling them back. Thank you for your post.

      2. I sure wish I would have seen this earlier. Found out this afternoon that they stopped by my father in laws and got him for $4000!!! They did trim a few limbs, but he lives out in the country and they hauled them to the back of the place! No where near $4000 worth of work, and they were pressuring him for more!

    2. I can believe this happened to u. This guy literally showed up at my house on a rainy cold day last year . May have been around the holidays . I believe he was needing quick cash . After reading your story. Needing work lol. I was slightly blown away. He tells me while outside that he would dump me gravel under carport and trim my branch’s for $400 . 00 dollars . I was not to comfortable with his timing . And said it sounds good . But I will get back with u. He left. I still have his flyer. I should put it on Face book so maybe more people can be aware of these kind of people looking to scam someone. I’m glad I read your post. Was going to call him about digging a ditch to run a pipe outside . Lol

  1. Wow! That IS beyond the pale. I’ve heard plenty of contractor horror stories, but that’s a doozy. Even though it totally stinks, I’m glad you got rid of them for just $300 and no time spent in court. Can you imagine what could have happened if a limb went through your roof or one of them fell out of the tree? That would be a financial nightmare! Thanks for the reminder to proceed with caution when hiring people to work on the house. As they say, live and learn!

  2. I am so sorry! I live in Oregon and we hired a guy out of the Dalles. The BEST service! I wish I could send them to you. The owner and crew were amazing!

  3. Oh my goodness!! And I have people coming Tommorrow to cut down 7 trees on my property!! I got a copy of their insurance coverage. But didn’t think to ask about workmans comp. Now I will Thank you!

    1. Yes, always ask and get copies of their work comp. as well as insurance! You can’t be too careful in this day and age.

    2. Be sure to call the insurance company and check that the policy is still in force. Another contractor nightmare…copy of insurance policy that has been cancelled. Most people never take the time to check it out so unscrupulous contractors take out the insurance but, after they get the policy in hand, the policy is cancelled either by them or by the company for non-payment. It only takes a few minutes to check with the insurance company but the damages are long lasting if there is damage or injury.

  4. This is why I hate hiring out work. But I’m 72 now, so it has become necessary.
    I found a guy who had done work for my daughter and she highly recommended him. Over a 2 year period, I was very happy with him. For some reason, the last two (major) jobs he’s done for me were less than satisfactory and all I got were excuses and reasons why I should be happy with the work. Needless to say, I probably won’t be hiring him in the future.
    I’m not sure what has happened to work ethic in this country, but it’s terrible.

    1. @Cathy, I’m 67 and I couldn’t agree more. For 5 years, I had a married couple who did various odd jobs around the house. They were great and I was happy. Then the husband got hooked on meth. I’m afraid to even have them at my house anymore, never mind actually allowing them inside the house! The work ethic seems to be gone, gone, gone!

  5. Roofers, tree trimmers, contractors, painters etc. have lots of scams. I have vetted companies and still had issues.
    Find a few good companies you trust and pay them what they are worth. The aggravation isn’t worth it. Sounds like you were lucky to not get taken for 900.00.

  6. what is it with tree guys? I had a really bad time with my tree guys and we had a shouting match and I really should have taken him to small claims court, after the fact, I found out others did. He didn’t do what he said. He had his 11 year old son running a chain saw and his 4 year old disabled daughter running around on the downed trees and branches. It was a horrible mess.

  7. I live north of Dallas. I am having issues with Greenville Lowe’s installing a fence for me. It has taken almost a year to get a driveway gate moved and some additional fence along the driveway installed correctly. I have boycotted their store since the issues are still not resolved. I hope you are successful in getting your money back from these ne’er do wells. They should not be in business and should be reported. Background checks might be in order too. Good luck.

    1. Debbi – get in touch with the corporate offices, and keep the names, dates and what they said written down. The contractors Lowes and Home Depot hire are sometimes pathetic, but they do not like people coming away with bad stories to pass around. I know some people personally that have received help this way, and things were resolved. It won’t happen immediately, but it can happen. Some of their “higher-ups” have to ability to fix things when the store level people just can’t!

  8. If you have a Better Business Bureau, you might want to call and report this company. I had a similar experience ($3500) and ended up going to the police. Got my money back through them and the officer looked up the business on BBB (which I didn’t do, unfortunately) and that company had an “F” rating. I always check now. But, I agree with you –it’s impossible to find anyone you can trust to do work around the house. I have so many things that need doing but no help in sight.

  9. Kristi, now is the time to take pictures of EVERYTHING, make a copy of the contract and contact the Consumer Protection agency at I don’t know of any states that allow businesses like a tree service to operate without Workman’s Comp or insurance. I suspect they couldn’t afford WC since premiums are based on risk of injury. Secretaries are cheap, tree climbers not so much. If you don’t file a complaint, they’ll do the same thing to somebody else. These idiots count of the public not knowing how to handle things like this.
    I sent a complaint about K-Mart in 1971. I would pay my credit card bill in the store before it was due. if the store didn’t get it to the main office before that date, they would charge me interest. When I wrote to the Attorney General, I didn’t ask for help for myself because the store had refunded the interest each time. I pointed out that there were 8 million people in FL and if only 1 million had a KM credit card and overcharged each one $1 each month, that was 12 million a year that they were stealing from FL citizens. It took 3 yrs and alot of letters between KM and the AG (which were copied to me) for the state to rule they could no longer issue credit cards in FL.
    If I can take on a large corporation at age 23 (aka young & dumb except when it came to my wallet!), you can report these jerks for lying about having WC and insurance and trying to rip you off. When you do get a tree co. to do this tree, ask for photocopies of their stuff.

    1. You are great Crystal, and thank you for fighting to the end! And, I hope Kristi takes your info and runs with it too – these guys are NO GOOD!

    2. Good information! I also found that like required auto insurance, many will purchase the insurance so they have the certificate of insurance to show clients, and then cancel the insurance. I now require the insurance company email me the certificates directly and I follow up with them to make sure everything is current the day they arrive to do the work. Trust but verify is my motto.

  10. ugh that is so awful Kristi and honestly you handled it very well -way better than I would have
    Thank yourself that you got some cash back

  11. Unbelievable. Is it even a legitimate business? Or, do they take the money and run?
    An inquiry to the Better Business office? Many others have had similar experiences with them? Complaints?

    Beyond incompetent. Nuts, besides. Impaired mental faculties. Emotional wreck.

    Yes, the lesson learned: inspect what you expect. Background information first before proceeding next time.

      1. I don’t hold my neighbor responsible for anything that happened. He didn’t recommend these people to me. And I have no idea what his agreement was with them, or how things turned out for him.

        1. No, I wouldn’t hold them responsible because the woman with them approached you and basically talked you in to using them. Sounds to me like gypsies! I have seen them driving around here before, and heard about what scams they run. They have no office, work from cell phones, do shoddy work and move on quickly before anyone is aware they are gone. They roam the country all the time, and have “family” in other areas doing the same thing. NEVER HIRE ANYONE WHO APPROACHES YOU UNINVITED!!! You are extremely lucky you got your money from them. ( Hope it wasn’t fake!) I would still report the incident to the police, because this day and age, you have no idea if they will come back seeking revenge in some way!!! Just inform the police of what transpired, and ask them to maybe do extra checks in the neighborhood for a few weeks. (And be sure to get the name of whom you spoke to, in case you need to call them.) I worry you may have stirred a hornets nest. Do you have security I hope?

          1. Thank you for that great advice, Marianne from Mo! “Gypsies” is exactly what they are and you perfectly described how they operate. Always on the move and looking for their next mark. So glad Kristi got some of her money back–she was lucky! I’ve never had to deal with tree trimmers, roofers, or other tradesmen yet, but when I do you can bet I’ll refer back to this thread for all the feedback and pointers! Work ethics are a thing of the past now, it seems 🙁

            1. MissElaineous—-that is the same nickname my college pals gave to me. What a blast to see it in use. All the best to you, fellow Elaine!

  12. This is horrible. I have had so many bad experiences with contractors. Unfortunately, good contractors are hard to find. So sorry you had to go through this!

  13. So frustrating! However, don’t bother with small claims court. At least in Nebraska, even if you win your case, the court does NOTHING to make the other person pay. It’s your responsibility to try to collect, which you probably did before filing the claim in the first place.

  14. Don’t beat yourself up too much. We had a similar experience with a landscape contractor who was redoing our pool surround. I won’t go in to all the details, but he was recommended by the landscape architect we hired, he had all the state insurance and his license when we hired him, but in the time between signing an agreement and starting the work, he lost his license (which I found out later), and he was “kiting” money from the new job (ours) to cover the money he stole from his last jobs. Plus hiring people for cash to do the work and not paying them (so they didn’t show up). Long story short, he bought some supplies using our contract as collatoral, and you guessed it, never paid for them. A lien was placed on our house which we owned outright and could not be released until we paid the supplier. Which we did. Fortunately, some of what we paid this idiot was on a credit card so we got it back, but the cash we lost. I will never pay in cash again. If you business isn’t sustainable enough to take credit cards, you shouldn’t be in business.

  15. Wow! Scammers for sure. I wonder how many people they have taken advantage of? That’s awful! So sorry but hey at least you are only out $300 instead of $900 or worse.

  16. Oh, Kristi, i’ve just had a similar experience to the tune of 23k. A 6 week job took almost 10 months. A neglected roofing job allowed water to flood in causing my family room ceiling to collapse. I got so many lies about insurance, car accidents, sick relatives, car breakdowns, stolen truck……. I expect that other parts of contract will never be finished. As frustrating as it was, you got off easy. My HOA threatened to sue. I was super stupid.

  17. I would report them to the better business bureau for sure and if there is any agency in your state or county to deal with fraud, you may want to reach out to them.

    1. These same guys took advantage of my mother and then started to harass her about more money! Also, all of the cactus and limbs they were supposed to remove were found in a pile at the very back of her property.
      At one point the woman asked to come inside and sit down for a minute, which we allowed her to, but within 20 min all 3 men and the woman were inside my moms house watching a football game and eating her cookies. I can’t make this up!

  18. Usually good a business is so busy trying to keep up with all of their work orders that they don’t have time to go around drumming up business from the neighbors of their clients. You were so lucky to get any of your money back. These guys probably don’t even have a business license so they wouldn’t be able to get worker’s comp.

    1. When I read this, I thought “she is absolutely right.” The best people we have had doing work on our house, we have had to wait weeks to have them come by to give an estimate and then weeks again to get on their schedule. Anyone that I hired who was looking for work, was always a disappointment.

  19. As you know, there are certain trades where safety is paramount, and where bad workmanship can create a dangerous situation. I don’t know of anyone who died as a result of faulty sheet rocking or painting, but electrical is one of those trades, and arguably, so is plumbing.

    Since we are in California, not Texas, and I know our consumer laws are more stringent, I can only tell you that when I am interviewing contractors or subs for a project, I always check out their license and bonding with our California State Contractors License Board website. Because I have done this, I found out that one marble and tile contractor was giving me a license number for another person, and one who was not licensed as a tiling contractor. I also discovered that one general contractor’s liability and worker’s comp insurance had expired. I didn’t hire either of these guys.

    Not every licensed contractor is reputable or even skilled, but at least you can find out the basics: Are there complaints lodged against him? Does he have a valid license? Does he have liability insurance and workers comp insurance, in force and in good standing?

    Finally, as we know, there are many reputable and skilled unlicensed contractors. But I never hire one of these (or any contractor) until I have seen several of his finished jobs and talked to his customers, or I have received the recommendation from an unimpeachable source (such as the licensed, experienced interior designer whose remodeling course I took).

    As a suggestion, for places to look for good contractors, consider using Angie’s List. I have also found good trades from recommendations on Next-door, if you have it there. But I still check each one out!

    You are lucky that you got out of this with it “only” costing $300. And if you can find the motivation to report this guy to your state contractors board, you may spare some other trusting people from this guy, who clearly should not be in this business at all.

  20. Luckily I have had paint contractor and a drywall contractor do work for me and ask for no money up front, none! That is the sign of a very trustworthy company. Something like tree trimming should have no supplies to buy etc, so they really shouldn’t need payment before work begins. Unfortunately they can just change thier name and continue business as usual. Sorry you had this awful experience. Lesson learned for all of us, never hire someone that comes to you to say , hey, we can do x for you😕

  21. My husband has a problem with always wanting the cheapest guy. Years ago, he went with a guy to do our siding because he was cheap. He was pretty much up to par with the losers you hired: Showed up late- if at all. Slow to do anything and worked maybe 2 hours. Always excuses. My favorite was his claims of having a tooth pulled (like 2-3x) and also said he got sick and 🤮 in our yard. I was so mad I went and looked!!! No barf. He started asking my husband for advancements on what we owed him (I FLIPPED my lid when I found out my husband was doing that). Then he tried to file a workman’s comp claim against us!! He never said a word about it either-we just got a call from our home owners insurance. Somehow the guy found out where we had insurance by calling around. Creepy!!! He said he was bitten by a dog in our yard but the dumb jerk forgot one important thing-our yard is fenced in so that lie fell apart and he also said he fell off a ladder and hurt his leg. That lie also exploded because I was home recovering from surgery. I would’ve heard a man fall off a ladder and don’t you think he’d have come and told me right then? He never did. He just found out where we had our home owners and tried to collect on it. Anyhow, we took him to court (and easily won) because he never finished the job or gave us the siding materials that were included in his price. He thought he get away with never paying us too until hm and his wife tried to buy a house. They had a lien against them and could NOT buy it (or maybe borrow the money??) until they paid us. He has a history of doing this exact thing to people in our area. AND ARE YOU READY FOR THIS…..this piece of garage collects DISABILITY!

      1. I just listened to that phone conversation and I have to say it was one of the craziest things I’ve ever heard. I hope you’ll be able to laugh at that conversation someday. Being from Connecticut the accent is hard to understand, but I think Josh (who is not Josh?) just sounds drunk. You were perfect, by the way.

        1. WOW I just listened to that conversation too. Maybe not drunk…just ignorant, and in way over his head! Kristi was lucky to get ANY money back I guess.

    1. If he is collecting disability from Soc. Security you can report him. If you’re on disability you lose your benefits if you work!

  22. Kristi, pat yourself on the back for getting some $ back, you did a lot of things right. You made a joint decision with Matt first (something I’ve been guilty of not doing), you got a written contract, you asked about a contract term (emergency cash? LOL), you inquired about insurance and had that included in the contract. But the best thing you did was getting $ back. I probably would not have allowed them back on my property after the no shows and took my losses. I got bullied by some pine straw guys who approached me from the curb. My yard always took about 50 bales and I knew that. When they were done they told me they had put down 700 bales. I should have called the police. I will never hire someone who approaches me again.

  23. I’ve always heard that a down payment more than 1/3 is a clue that the company needs the money to buy the equipment to do your job and has no credit. My elderly neighbor gave a guy 1/2 for a driveway (clue) so he tore up her driveway and then disappeared. He had underestimated his expenses so walked away. She paid full price again to get a driveway.

  24. I hired a mason to rebuild my front porch stoop (8 or 9 steps, with a 5’x5′ landing). The previous owners let the brick/concrete crumble and just built wood over them. I had previously used this guy, who did a great job on a basic retaining wall (albeit very slow). He started the steps in June and didn’t finish until December. I couldn’t access my house from the front (and main door) that entire time. I had told him I wanted the cheapest option, which I thought was demo/pour new concrete steps. He told me doing brick wouldn’t be much more. But….he started from the top down, to make the steps level with my doorway. So when he got down to the sidewalk, there was a 2″ step, where all the others were 7″. So, then we had to repour a 20′ section of my front sidewalk. THEN, he argued that he never agreed to do railings (even though I had clarified that they were included). I had to keep caution tape up because the stairs were on top of my retaining wall, so on the top step, you were two stories in the air. He started to install vinyl, but was installing them with clips that are used for 4x4s that would be attached at the top, such as in a screened porch. After numerous fights, I ended up getting cast iron railings for free. In the meantime, he hired drug addicts off the street that wouldn’t show up or would show up high asking for money…He drank beers in my driveway while he was working…. Just the worst.

  25. I’m soooo sorry! I’ve gone through this too and I’ve also been accused of being a crazy B after being pushed to my limit. You handled this really well! You’ve gotten some great suggestions, but I’d also suggest getting on the NextDoor app and warning your surrounding neighbors. If you’ve never used it, it’s a great resource for talking to your neighbors about things happening right around you – lost dogs, escape convicts, yard sales, power outages, and also to make/get contractor recommendations and warnings. 😊You post a warning with their business name and their full names, anytime anyone searches for any of those they would see your post. Things will go smoother from here on out in 2020!

  26. My hackles raised up at the first mention that they came to YOU looking for work. I immediately thought of the “bonded and insured” phrase that was pounded in my head when we had to have trees cut down at the family cemetery. I doubt the guys who dealt with even have a “company”.. Sounds more like a bunch of Bubbas were sitting around the fire pit drinking beer and one said, “Hey ya’ll! I got me a new chainsaw!”…and another said, “I got me one, too!” And they lit on the idea, “We should cut down trees and make us some money!” I’m glad you got some of your money back. And I’m sad you had to go through all that.

  27. It’s always tempting when someone offers a service at a bargain. (We’ve all taken the bait.) These people gave themselves away by asking for half the money up front and misspelling the name of their own company on the contract. The contract was amateurishly handwritten and contained an unorthodox clause.

    A former neighbor, who worked for an insurance company, always demanded to see a worker’s certificate of insurance. She never took their word for it. I, on the other hand, have been guilty of not asking.

    You’re lucky to get most of your money back. Never underestimate the power of protest or the printed word. When wronged, complain as loudly as possible and if that doesn’t work, go up the chain to any regulatory or legal authority. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I have gotten satisfaction.

  28. I would never hire anyone that I see at a neighbors, no siree! We get window people sometime, roofers are having a special and so on and so on. No thanks! I don’t tell my neighbors about who I hire and I don’t ask them, thanks but no thanks! I’m sorry that happened to you but we all live and learn.

  29. Always get a certificate of insurance from their insurance carrier – that way if they cease to have insurance, the carrier sends you a notice to that effect.

  30. Having a contract and copies of WC / insurance is fine but, I find the best way is “pay as you go”. How much can you accomplish today and what will it cost? I pay at end of day. Luckily I’ve never had an issue.

  31. We certainly do benefit from YOUR experiences and learning from EACH OTHER. The wisdom we can carry into our own projects is priceless. So many quality and incredible professionals but the few bummers make us wary of all. I hear you about getting sucked in by saving $, Years ago as a new divorcee I let Kirby do a carpet cleaning demo which included one room for free. No big deal, right? Before consenting I asked if the process was safe for wool sisal carpet, made a second call to management for confirmation. Well it wasn’t safe and damaged my carpet…. too abrasive and too harsh. Well I could literally see the fiber breakage that was removed from the tank, even kept it. Well the crock of hooey I got from the local company was infuriating. Didn’t pay a dime of damages. Additionally, last year when I did a bathroom remodel (talking basic 6X9 BR) based on a referral. I asked for evidence of insurance. Yeah yeah we’ve got it, will bring certificate when we start the job. Of course they “forgot it.” They delivered the wrong tub not once but 3X. Then clearly sent out an incompetent plumber necessitating asking for MORE $ because the hours taken to do a basic new shower/tub fixture was downright painful. There was more and more incompetency. In the end, after major bearing insults, delays, demands and our catching mistakes or even doing work ourselves, the woman said I had basically done her job, acted as the contractor, kept everything between the rails. I thank god for the skills I learned from fetching tools for my dad and brothers. I later learned she screwed my friend’s on another job for them. I really feel for folks that don’t take the time to learn basics of these jobs, perhaps get some advise, then get taken. Sorry you’ve had a horrible experience. I know I will be doing my due diligence for all future jobs.

  32. Ironically I am getting large oak trees trimmed in our yard as we speak. I interviewed three companies, two did not have Workmen’s Comp. although they said they had “ insurance”. I NEVER take any workman’s word. I call the insurance-company and find out the day of the work if their insurance is still valid. I also write on the contract that “ this contract is valid, as long as liability and WC is valid and binding.
    You are lucky this could have ended so much worse. (Especially if
    Someone had been injured)

    Just consider this a huge learning lesson for you.

    ( I also will only pay when work is completed. )

  33. What a nightmare! You are fortunate that you can do so much yourself as to home work. We have had our own nightmares with idiots who provide “services” to homeowners. It seems that there is no pride in honest work anymore. People are just out to make a fast buck no matter how crooked the flimflam scam. Sad to say, we all get taken in from time to time, but you are much smarter than many. It is a real public service that you share your experiences with the rest of us. I do hope these birdbrains get put out of “business”, and that you get your work done properly.

  34. Kristi. Thank you for this story, and let us all learn to be VERY diligent looking into these companies before we hire, or pay! That was some horrible experience for you. Unfortunately this happens all over the country, every day. It is rampant here in Florida – especially after a storm. Up North people used to come around and offer black top – with the story that they were doing a job nearby and had enough left for whatever, and could give a great price. Then they painted the whatever with glossy black – looked great at first.
    UGH. I guess the old “buyer beware”, and “you get what you pay for” is accurate still today.
    Hopefully that is the LAST time you ever have to deal with that. Throw them OFF YOUR PROPERTY! Best wishes – I can hardly believe you managed to get SOME money back. Good going girl!

  35. Oh man that is awful. I’m glad you got some of your money back but I’m more glad you stopped them from “falling” on your property.

  36. Oh Kristi, I think they saw you coming. In Oklahoma (after a tornado) these types of people come out of the wood-work. The news channels come on after an event and warns that will be con artists a knocking and will feed a line too good to be true.
    Who takes a child to a project where that is some sort of danger involved.
    My sister and I took down my two trees that were damaged by age and were gassed by a gas line leak. I liked my trees, but I knew they needed to come down. I thought I would have to hire a company to do it.
    I go through my insurance agent when I need something major done (my major is anything over $500) and that I have no knowledge on how to proceed or what to do. He usually has seen it all if he can’t help me, I will ask a couple of attorneys what to do (believe me when I tell you one or two of them have been taken for a ride before). My single lady neighbor paid like $750 and they only removed like two limbs and dropped one of them on my fence. It is amazing I can built a fence, but I am scared to do try some of the projects you do. Good luck.

  37. This is a cautionary tale. Never, never, never hire someone who approaches you while they are working on another job next door or down the street. My poor mother hired the tree guys working on my neighbor’s trees. $1000 later – they vanished and job was only 10% completed. They also never finished the job next door. We have no way to truly get the money refunded. Be wary of anyone soliciting services. Tree companies have more business than they can handle. They don’t need to go door to door for more business. The same goes for roofing companies and general contractors.

  38. I guess if something sounds like it’s really too good to be true—I.e. the price you and Matt figured you’d have to spend vs the price these yahoos offered, it should be ‘red flag’ territory. So, was the woman part of the scam, too?

  39. This is an excellent Buyer Beware story. My husband is a contractor (and a good one!) so I, thankfully, have never had to deal with any of these nightmare stories. But I can state with certainty that any homeowner would be foolish to hire a worker without insurance. Roofers, tree trimmers, and electricians, in particular, pay high rates due to the level of risk. If anyone gets injured on your property and is not covered by a valid Workers’ Comp policy, make no mistake, the injured party will go after you via your homeowner’s insurance. After the dust has settled, your insurance rates will either spike considerably or your policy will be canceled outright. Obtain a Certificate of Insurance (proof of insurance) directly from the worker’s insurance agent. Lastly, beware of what are called Ghost Policies. On the face, a ghost policy appears to be a valid workers’s comp insurance policy, but it actually offers no coverage at all. I don’t believe ghost policies are available in all 50 states, so you would need to educate yourself based on your location. Here is a great description of ghost policies and workers’ comp insurance I found on a tree trimmer’s website. (I have no interest in this company nor do I even live in their state. This is just for informational purposes only.)

    Speaking from the contractor’s perspective, I can tell you that the good contractors are tired of spending considerable time meeting with homeowners, taking measurements in the home, spending hours and hours drafting a workable design and reliable estimate, typing up the estimate in very detailed form, presenting it to the homeowner and answering questions only to be denied the courtesy of response. Or when the highly skilled, honest, reliable contractor is denied the work because the homeowner is only concerned about the bottom line. And so many homeowners never take the time to thoroughly compare the estimates to realize the work product varies considerably from one estimate to the next. Do they know if the contractor is running a legitimate business by paying their workers a living wage, providing the proper insurance, obtaining business licenses, paying taxes? I encourage you to look far beyond the bottom line, do the research and determine exactly what it is you’re paying for. The extra dollars you spend may save you a boatload of headaches down the road.

  40. Wow, that is a most frustrating story, Kristi! I get second-hand anger with stories like this, and I was FUMING reading about it!

    This probably is not a politically correct term anymore, but these people sound like Irish Travelers a/k/a White Gypsies. Could they possibly also be homeless? One of them approached me as I was in the drive through at McDonald’s here in West Los Angeles of all places, saying he could get a dent out of the side of my car door for $100. A dent that I’d had three estimates on and the average quote was $3,500 to repair! I work in the legal field and have of course heard about all these random scammers and have a lot of intuition when someone’s full of [email protected], and I just looked at him and said “get away from my car, you won’t be doing jack to my door for $100!” I could just imagine this dude wrecking my door further and demanding more money, plus the bit about the insurance, etc. was something I thought about, too. Also, a very drug-addled homeless guy approached me about fixing the same dent when I was dropping donations off at the thrift store tied to a rehab charity, and wanted to fix my door. There was no use discussing anything with this particular guy, so I told him I’d “be right back to see him after my move!” He probably didn’t even remember the conversation 5 minutes later, but I did drop off about $10,000 worth of antiques and housewares to hopefully help him with his addition problem!

  41. Kristi, I had to come back to this post. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with an informal contract, other than the fact that a real, legitimate business or going concern will have standard contracts preprinted on OCR paper and available in duplicate or triplicate which can be signed on the spot and the customer/client provided with a copy. Nothing should every be done verbally because people have different understandings of what terms are or what is included in the work hired for, plus obviously you get scammers like these guys who will change the terms of the verbal agreement on a whim.

    One thing you always should do whenever negotiating a contract is ask about “Definitions.” That’s usually standard language in a contract (at least here in California), where keyworks of a contact are actually set out by definition. Something along the lines of “Client is NAME OF CLIENT, at LOCATION.” “WORK TO BE PERFORMED will list out exactly the WORK COVERED UNDER THE CONTRACT.” It would’ve been helpful to have “EMERGENCY” defined here, and NOT just verbally. What exactly constitutes an emergency? I do not hesitate to say that an emergency is NOT defined as “we’re not a legitimate business and are only trimming trees as part of a giant scam we’re pulling on residents of Waco, and do not have the funds or the equipment to do the job properly let alone any type of insurance, so the very day after we start work we’ll claim an “emergency” and demand additional money for some baloney made-up B.S. just to extract cash from you for a job we have no plans to finish or do properly.”!

  42. Hello Kristi, I was also hit by these same men. They are moving through the Waco area and have been concentrating in the northern rural areas now. As soon as I discovered who/what they were I called the Sheriffs Department. What I got out of the conversation with the Sheriff is they are aware of the men, their names, the vehicles they drive. There is not a lot they can do until someone presses charges or they are caught in the act of trespassing.
    I have also passed as much information along to family, friends, coworkers to post on any & every possible social media. The more people know, hopefully, the faster this group can be shut down.
    I am learning that there many people being hit for thousands of dollars. Their so called company is NOT registered with the BBB. They are trying to take as many people for as much money as quickly as possible. Along with taking the money, they are also casing houses to see if there is anything they can come back to steal.
    After telling them to never come back and never calling my number, they still showed up while I was gone trespassing on my property and were recorded illegally dumping on my property.
    My background is in helping advocate for those who do not have a voice. The more people I hear about getting hit by this group the madder I get. I would love to put a stop to this scam and help keep others from being taken advantage of in the future. I would like to work with you to get this done and possibly gather others that this bogus company has hit.
    There are some things that can be done to help shut them down!

  43. Oh ,how I wish I had seen this before I fell for this scam. This Mike Brooks and his crew are clearly crooks and should be prosecuted for their actions ! My story is very similar to yours except they actually let a tree fall on my home and do several thousand dollars of damage , which he keeps saying he will take care of but as of yet they haven’t even cleaned up all the tree and branches from my yard ! This has been going on for a few weeks now and after reading all the comments , I now know he is a liar and I am out of compensation. I will be calling police tomorrow and a lawyer. I feel so stupid and duped.

  44. Michael Brooks
    scammer, fraud, liar
    Now called-ABC Tree Service
    Waco, Texas

    Michael did the same thing as he did to you.
    Just want everyone to know he used these excuses coming in later in the afternoon, not showing up one day.
    His arm in a sling, mother in the hospital with Covid, then later he calls me on a three way call taking her to Providence Hospital also having second surgery on his shoulder.

    He did all of this, I believe to make me feel sorry for him.

    The guy cut down my dead tree 4 feet above the trunk.
    It fell on the street good thing there was not a car coming.
    He is supposed to cut 3 more big trees total of $4,500.00 I told him I don’t want him to come back.
    I already paid him $2,250.00 half.
    I told him I want a refund on half $1,125.00 I believe that’s fair.

    He hasn’t so I am taking him to Small Court.

    I was wondering if you have an address on him.