A tale of two companies (and social media)

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jh carpentry image
Pennsylvania contractor Matt Breyer discovered his work images were appearing in marketing materials from a Joliette, Illinois contractor.
Pennsylvania contractor Matt Breyer discovered his work images were appearing in marketing materials from this Joliette, Illinois contractor.

Last week, Matt Breyer, who leads Breyer Construction and Landscape based in Reading PA, noticed a strange sight. Images from his work/site were appearing on the site of a contractor in Joliette, Illinois.

Perplexed, he asked the contractor to remove the images. The contractor ignored the requests, blocking his communications on social media.

So Matt vented his frustration on Facebook. Puzzled, I went to Google, typed in the offending contractor’s name, and discovered some surprising things, including a news release posted by the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois. Since the BBB is willing to name names negatively in a news release, I think it is safe in this context to break my normal policy of not identifying specific businesses or organizations in a negative light, by republishing the news release here:

CHICAGO,IL – February 4, 2014 – The Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Chicago and Northern Illinois is warning consumers about J.H. Carpentry, a carpentry and remodeling business, located in Joliet, IL. During the past three years, the BBB has received eight complaints of which seven complaints allege money was paid and work not completed.  Several consumers state that they were unable to contact the company to obtain a refund, and those promised are fund have not received it. This business has an “F” rating at the current time.

Two other BBB Business Reviews, for Decks-N-More in Plainfield, IL, and Speedy Construction in Terre Haute, Ind., show similar complaints and indicate the same owner’s name of Joseph Hisel, as J.H. Carpentry.

Matt Breyer's posting
One of Matt Breyer’s Facebook postings reporting on his unsuccessful efforts to communicate with JH Carpentry’s owner.

“What is most disturbing about the complaints involving J.H. Carpentry is not only the number of them, but also their pattern,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois.  “In seven complaints, consumers have paid money to the contractor and work has not been completed.  In addition, most have not even been able to contact the company for a refund.”

Tom K. of Joliet, IL is one of the consumers who complained about J.H. Carpentry.“My contract with him was for a $15,000 basement build-out which was supposed to be done in six weeks,” he said. “I gave him $6,500 down and he did the rough framing and started the plumbing. Then I got a bunch of texts with excuses from his wife with different delays and excuses.  He is unwilling to complete the work and I want my money back.”

“Were commend that before consumers use any type of business or service they checkout the company with the BBB at www.bbb.org,” explained Bernas. There have been a total of 456 inquiries about this business within the last three years, the BBB standard verify period.

The BBB offers the following tips when working with remodeling contractors:

  • Length of time in business.  While new companies may offer lower costs, the length of time a business has been operating is one of the indicators of the quality of work, satisfaction of customers, and stability in the community.
  • Consumer references.  Always ask for and check out references for previous work that is similar to what you want done.
  • Written contract.  Carefully review a written contract before signing.  Have all work you want done specifically stated in the contract.
  • Payment arrangements.  Consumers should know ahead of time how they will make their payments, and have the payment agreement stated in the contract.
  • Check that all work was accomplished as agreed. Once the contractor says work is completed, you should compare it to the scope of work specified in the contract.  Also, make a specific list of anything that remains to be accomplished before a final payment.
  • Look up the company’s reputation and rating. Before signing any contract look at the free Business Reviews at www.bbb.org.

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 As a private,non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote an ethical marketplace. BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. BBBs also review advertising claims, online business practices and charitable organizations. BBBs develop and issue reports on businesses and nonprofit organizations and encourage people to check out a company or charity before making a purchase or donation.

In practical terms, although Matt Breyer has the right to be pissed off about the Chicago-area business’s unethical practices, the problem of stolen imagery should be nothing more than a minor nuisance to him. After all, he is unlikely to encounter clients in Pennsylvania who might associate his business with J.H. Carpentry in the Chicago area.

However, the bigger picture, and one should cause all of us some concern, is how less-than-honourable businesses have the ability to survive and discover clients to rip off, as many legitimate contractors struggle to successfully promote their enterprises and discover worthy clients.

Of course, I don’t know J.H. Carpentry’s specific marketing strategies, but clearly, it took me just a few seconds to discover the rather negative reports about this company’s business. Surely, anyone making sizeable deposits for construction work would check some references, background, and not hand over hard-earned money on a whim?  Or is it really that easy to scam people in the renovation/construction industry?

Maybe some of the consumers think they are getting a bargain, and I suppose some might believe the Breyer’s stolen images reflect the work performed by J.H. Carpentry.

The biggest cost from scuzzy contractors, however relates to the branding damage done to the entire industry. These stories cause stress and anxiety. They may give some hope for reputable contractors, however. After all, if you’ve been burned or know someone who has had a bad experience, would you more likely in the future listen to proper word-of-mouth referrals, check references, and maybe elect to work with contractors who truly play by the rules?

Then again, I’m troubled by the fact that J.H. Carpentry and similar businesses have managed to get away with their ill-deeds for eons, and even if the negative publicity hurts a bit, they return to steal more, perhaps under other company names. The story continues.

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