Remember "Extreme Snowplowing," the bogus snow removal business that bilked customers in Buffalo and Rochester out of tens of thousands of dollars?
Scott Romero served six months in prison for his role in stealing up to $50,000 from residents who each paid at least $199 for snow removal services they never received. Romero was released on parole in 2016.
The Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York recorded numerous complaints about Extreme Snowplowing in 2010 and 2011, said Melanie McGovern, communications director for the BBB.
With this season's snow ready to fall, McGovern cautioned Western New Yorkers to be smart consumers when hiring a snow removal service. During the past year – from November 2016 through November 2017 – there were 3,100 searches for snowplow contractors on the BBB website that serves Buffalo, Rochester and Albany.
"Be on the lookout for prices too good to be true, fly by night operations and other red flags," cautioned McGovern.
One of the important bigger things to remember is that you need the contractor come to your house so the contractor knows what he is dealing with, McGovern said. Never settle for a verbal agreement, and make sure your driveway is staked.
Here are more tips from McGovern and the BBB on hiring the right plow service:
• Determine whether the contractors have insurance coverage and check your coverage as well. "A homeowner should be aware of what their policies cover," said McGovern.
• Ask about scheduling. "Some contractors do snow removal as a part-time job, and this may affect their ability to clear a driveway when needed," McGovern said. "A lot of the contractors will tell you how many inches of snow must fall before they come out to plow."
• Split the payments. "Most snow plow contracts take two forms: pay per plowing or pay per season. If you choose a pay per season contract in a light snow season, the contractor is not obligated to refund any money. If you’re expected to pay all fees upfront – consider it a red flag. Most contractors will split fees into two or three payments – one at the beginning, middle and at the end of the season," McGovern said.
In the past year, there were 50 complaints reported during that period. The year before, McGovern said there were 128 complaints.
She attributed the decrease in complaints to mild winters and "people getting smart and finding a plowing service in October." Advanced planning allows you to obtain the recommended three price quotes and to review the actual contracts, McGovern said. "Keep in mind that lowest price doesn't always mean the best service."