It’s Thursday morning, I’m working quietly in my home office when I hear the doorbell ring. I take a peek out the window to see a heavy duty truck in the driveway and a guy wearing a contractors safety vest at my door.
“Hey, I’m Bob, we have a crew doing road work down on Main Street and have a half a truckload of leftover asphalt. I noticed that your driveway hasn’t been paved and I can offer you a really good rate.”
We had actually requested three quotes to pave one of our driveways and to put a top coat on the other driveway. All three quotes came in above $10,000, so we tabled the project for a better time.
I explained to Bob that we had already received quotes and they were well out of our budget. He replied that he would offer the leftover asphalt in his truck at just $2.50 per sq. ft. And, if that wasn’t enough to cover the driveways, that he would maintain that same price to complete them with a new load of asphalt. He also went on to tell me that they use a commercial grade asphalt that never requires sealing.
“Well Bob, if you think this can be done for under $5,000, I’d be very interested.”, I said.
“That’s no problem at all, I’ll take care of you, and we accept cash, check or charge.”, Bob replied.
I asked Bob if he could show me the job his crew were working on down the road. He obliged and offered to drive me down to see the work. On the way, we talked a bit, and I mentioned how I hadn’t seen any road work around here. He replied that he was actually referring to a residential driveway that his crew was working on.
At that point, I thought it a little strange that he had leftover asphalt from a single driveway job, but I didn’t ponder it any further. We stopped at the residential job, and I saw guys going work to remove high spots on a driveway, but didn’t get a glimpse of completed work.
“Bob, have you guys done any other jobs in the area? I’d like to see how it came out.”, I asked.
“Yeah, hop in, we did a couple down the road last week.”
So we drove by a couple more completed driveways. I supposed he could have shown me anything, whether his crew completed it or not, but his clever conversation along the way was paving the way to earn my trust.
“So you guys really accept credit card?”, I asked, recalling his pitch at my front doorstep. Bob deflected and started a different conversation. I didn’t think anything of it at the time.
After the ride, I gave Bob the go ahead to get started. I hadn’t signed a contract, but Bob had earned enough false trust from me that I had completely forgotten about it. That afternoon, Bob came by with a BobCat and spent 1/2 hour grading our driveways. The scam had begun.
After grading, Bob informed me that his crew would be back in the morning to start paving.
Friday morning came and the guys arrived in their trucks and started parking their equipment. It started with a load argument between two of the workers. Almost an hour went by without anything getting done.
Around 10AM, the “boss” arrives and work begins. They fire up the garden hose and start supplying water to their machine that heats up and spreads the asphalt onto the driveway. They got about halfway down the driveway, then stopped. I heard nothing for 2 hours.
Then, a knock at my door. It was Bob and his brother. They asked me to come outside and talk numbers. We go down to the end of the driveway and the whole crew comes over to join us. While I’m standing there, surround by Bob and six of his crew members, Bob’s brother explains that the cost for the first driveway will be $7100.
Normally, I might have been intimidated by their crew forming a perimeter around me, no doubt the strategy they were trying to employ. I felt deceived though, and I looked Bob in the face and ask him, “what happened to the $5,000 we talked about for both driveways?”.
Bob didn’t say anything, instead his Brother started going into the costs of asphalt and that he’d be happy to come back in the fall and finish my other driveway once we settle up. I asked him how it possibly could come that $7100 at the cost of $2.50 per sq. ft.
That’s when Bob’s brother explained that they had to run two courses of asphalt on the driveway, and that each course was $2.50 per sq. ft.
I said, “Bob, you guys are playing games. We talked about $5,000 and I can’t spend $7,100 on a single driveway right now.” Then, a bunch of other ramblings that I can’t recall.
Afterwards, we all sat there silently. It was a tension they were clearly used to. But I wasn’t, and they knew that. After what seemed like a couple minutes of silence, Bob said that they could finish up this one driveway and settle up. Then, to call them back in the fall to talk about driveway #2.
I told Bob that I wanted them both completed. “Bob, I was honest and open with you that I was quoted above $10,000. You were shocked at that number and said $5,000 was no problem.”
Bob said, “Okay sir, I’ll tell you what, I can do them both for $8,200”.
We settled on that number and they finished the first driveway. Afterwards, Bob asked for $6,500 to cover the costs and payroll for the first driveway. I said no problem, we drew up a contract and I signed it. Then I asked them to hold tight while I get my credit card.
Bob’s brother then chimed in, “Sir, we can’t take credit cards.”
“Hold on.”, I said. “What was that? Bob just explained to me yesterday that you accept cash, check or charge”.
“Oh, he must have been talking about those checks you get from your credit card company.”, Bob’s brother added.
“You guys are really something, let’s just get this over with. I’ll head to the bank and get some cash, just hang out for a few minutes”, I said.
While I was driving back from the bank, I had realized I was being scammed and it was really ruining my afternoon! But, whats worse, I had just realized that the $6,500 we agreed on for the first driveway was 75% of the total cost. They were not going to come back to finish the next driveway.
So, I told Bob, “I’m not comfortable paying you guys for most of the job before it’s completed. How about I give you half now.”
Bob replied, “Sir, I’ll need to talk to my brother, it’s in the signed contract and I know he won’t go for it.”
“Okay”, I said, ” listen, you take half now and I’ll give you and extra $300 at the end.” Yes, I was actually going to pay these guys more than the signed and agreed rate, simply because I didn’t trust them to return.
Bob agreed, and did actually return on Monday to finish the driveway. Afterwards, his brother explained the sealing process to me.
“What! Bob told me that this thing never has to be sealed! You guys are killing me”, I said feeling smaller and smaller each time I talk to these guys. I had been completely mislead from the beginning.
Once the paving was complete, I asked them to clean up the asphalt before giving them the final $300 I promised. They cleaned up half of it, then Bob said, “I need to grab my truck to get the rest, it’s right down the road. Could we settle up now?”
I said, no problem. Thinking, surely these guys weren’t going to push me over the edge by not coming back to spend 5 minutes cleaning up.
Well, I gave him the $300, he drove off, and never returned.
The yard was mess, my lawn had ruts from their equipment, the driveway had wavy lines down the edges, and didn’t come flush to the cement in front of my garage.
They told me stories about their kids to gain my trust, then lied to my face immediately after. It was a really strange few days. In the end, we do have paved driveways, but the quality and workmanship is terrible.
So, I’m really hoping this is a lesson to those out there who might fall victim to this scam. I read about it, it’s actually a common asphalt paving scam. The old “I have extra asphalt” line is apparently one of the oldest in the book!
Learn from my mistake:
- Get a contract signed before work begins
- Get referrals from their other customers
- Check them out on the BBB website
Don’t fall for the smooth talking guy in the safety vest!