Summer work — buyer beware

Caveat emptor — buyer beware.

That may be good advice according to a number of Pagosa Springs area residents who say a group of fraudulent asphalt contractors have arrived in town and are attempting to pave their way across Pagosa Country.

According to two sources who asked not to be named, the scenario usually unfolds with a member of the contractor crew arriving at a potential customer’s house or business with an offer to pave the individual’s driveway with material “left over” from another job they recently completed.

In some cases, the project bid may exceed the going local rate for asphalt paving, although the contractor may counter that their ability to begin immediately, in some cases the same day, makes the price worthwhile.

In other cases, the contractors may pledge to undercut the local competition by more than half coupled with promises of expediency.

In the experience of one Pagosa Springs couple, neither the price, nor the speed of delivery proved worthwhile for the work the contractors completed on their cracked and crumbling asphalt driveway.

“They (the contractors) said they had ‘special stuff’ to fix the driveway. It looked good for about a week — kind of like black shoe polish — but it didn’t fill the cracks,” the couple said.

Then, and not long after the job was complete, the driveway, they reported, returned to its deteriorated state.

Unfortunately, that incident occurred a few years ago, and despite reports that a contracting crew with a similar approach has arrived in town this summer, neither the Archuleta County Sheriffs’s Department nor the Town of Pagosa Springs Police Department has received a formal complaint linked to the alleged paving scam.

Nevertheless, the anecdotes indicate the contractors, in addition to offering competitive pricing and speed, may employ high pressure sales tactics, often target the elderly or other home or business owners who appear vulnerable and may demand more money than their bid price when the job is complete.

According to James Dickhoff, building inspector for the Town of Pagosa Springs, the scams may include a variety of home improvement services.

“As summer rolls into Pagosa Springs, so do door to door sales people and solicitors. The Town of Pagosa Springs does allow solicitors with an approved town business license for operating within the town limits. This includes services like driveway paving, handyman, lawn care, construction, etc. To help protect yourself, ask to see their town business license, they are required to carry it with them. If you suspect that the business is not legitimate, please notify the police department at 264-3141,” Dickhoff said.

In addition to asking to see a town business license, potential customers can protect themselves in a variety of ways.

• Ask for the individual’s company name and a business card — tread carefully if they can’t provide either.

• Ask for a list of local references with names, addresses and phone numbers of the customers they have served.

• Ask for their estimate in writing, and seek additional written estimates.

• Ask to see proof of insurance and bonding.

• Work with a local, well established contractor or vendor.

And lastly, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is — caveat emptor.