(WSPA) – A growing number of Upstate homeowners have fallen victim to a bait and switch scheme that has left them out hundreds, even thousands.
Landscaping crews with a truck full of pine straw have reportedly shown up at homes in the area offering a discount.
But as Jennifer Smith in Greenville came to find out, after doing the work they claim the crew used three times the number of bails homeowners expect.
Smith knew how much her front yard flower beds take. In past years she had done the labor herself, laying out the 50 bails she said it takes to cover her beds with pine straw.
“I know what my yard takes and how it works. So, when they told me 175 bails at $4 a bail, that’s not right. He said, ‘Here’s all of our strings from the bails that we used.’ It’s a pile of string and I’m looking at it going well, and I kind of felt stuck because I didn’t witness it,” said Smith.
Down the road, one homeowner after another told similar stories of deception.
“They were in a nice looking, red pickup truck with a trailer filled with pine straw,” Catherine Myus said.
“They quoted us a great price so we thought, ‘Well lets just go ahead and do it,'” Rebecca Foss said.
“Knowing what we did before, I kind of knew how many bails they would do,” Brent Graeber said.
“We had estimated anywhere from 50-100 bails,” Myus said.
And the stories all had virtually the same ending.
“But then when it came time to find out the price, we were a little shocked. It was definitely twice as much, three times as much, as we thought it was going to be,” Foss said.
“I was expecting somewhere in the $600 range. And it about 3 times that,” Graeber said.
“And we continued to go back and forth with them — $1,600 for what should have been $3-400 at the most,” Myus said.
“I honestly didn’t want my wife to know,” Graeber said with a laugh.
Smith admits she was ashamed to tell anyone when she paid triple the cost two years ago. And then last week they showed up again.
“I’m looking at him and he turned around and looked again and I was like, not this time buddy,” Smith said.
These victims and countless others are sharing their stories on neighborhood apps like Nextdoor. One woman said she lost $5,000 dollars.
7 News tried to research a company name, but in each case the workers would ask homeowners to make the check out to their name, leaving the Better Business Bureau to question whether there was any legitimate company in the first place.”
“I would describe it as a scam. I mean you have individuals coming into a subdivision most likely they’ve already passed the do not solicit sign that’s in the subdivision, so that’s a red flag, and then they come in and try to give you a much higher price than you agreed to. So it’s, it’s a scam,” Vee Daniel, with the BBB, said.
I know what you’re thinking. Why did they pay?
Well, there’s one more red flag, and just like before, it appears in every story.
“I said just stop payment on the check. He said, oh no. I felt like these guys know where I live here, they know the other house I have. I don’t know what they would do. The way they reacted when I said anything to them really made me concerned what they would do,” Myus said.
“I didn’t fully trust who they were in the process,” Graeber said.
“It’s just a shame. You hate to see that people would take advantage of people,” Foss said.
“I guess I felt uncomfortable not paying that amount. There was no name on the side of the truck, there were no phone numbers, there was no business cards and they know where I live,” Smith said.
7 News spoke with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office to see if they’ve had any reports.
They said they don’t because these kinds of cases are civil, not criminal, matters. But they do advise Upstate homeowners to verify the legitimacy of any company you hire and get references before allowing anyone to work on your property.