Once and Done Informative - Beware of Once and Done
PAOLI, PENNSYLVANIA -- In September 2007 I agreed to hire [name removed] and his firm, Once and Done, a home contractor located at Wyncote, Pennsylvania to undertake a project at my home in Paoli, PA. The project involved renovating a carport, razing the posts and roof on a stone patio, and installing folding stairs and a plywood wall inside the garage. The estimated cost of the project was $17,794.
What followed over the next five months, between September 19 and February 10, was a difficult, frustrating, and stressful sequence of events, in the form of unsatisfactory progress on the project and repeated broken promises by [name removed] By January 8, 2008 -- about four months after the work began -- less than one-third of the project had been completed. With no completion of the project in sight, I decided to end my business relationship with [name removed] and Once and Done.
Basically, Once and Done and [name removed] failed to perform in four ways:
• [name removed] and his firm failed to make substantial progress on the project and manage the project satisfactorily.
The project got off to an unpromising start in late September. On the night before work was to begin, [name removed] called to say that one of his crew members was injured and thus he wanted to postpone starting the project until the following week. In 20-20 hindsight, this was the first of many excuses that [name removed] would offer for failing to work on the project.
Work began on razing the patio roof (which was connected to the house) and posts on October 8. Also, a folding staircase was installed in the garage ceiling, but it was too big for the ceiling opening; it can’t be folded up properly and is useless. This work on the patio and garage was accomplished by a one-man crew in about five working days. It was the only work that would be done on the project.
On December 3 [name removed] indicated the work would resume on December 17 or 18. It didn’t. I called him twice to find out why, and he never returned my calls. When I finally reached him, he said that the work would begin the week of December 23. It didn’t. I again called him to find out why work hadn’t been resumed, and he didn’t return my calls. He subsequently said he had given his crew a vacation break for Christmas week, and work on the project would resume after January 1, 2008.
At that time I asked him if the work could be completed by mid-January. I was concerned that by now, in light of the increasingly cold winter weather, the painting and stucco work would be unable to be performed in January. He assured me that as long as the temperature reached 40 degrees during the day, the work could proceed and that the project would be completed by mid-January.
I called [name removed] on December 28 to find out exactly when the work would resume. He set a date of January 3. Once again, nothing happened: no crews and none of the remaining project materials showed up on January 3.
To my dismay, on the morning of January 8, a lone workman arrived unannounced to raze the roof of the carport. [name removed] had indicated that a crew of carpenters, masons, and workers would be necessary to finish the entire project. At that point, it was clear to me that the project wouldn’t be finished by mid-January, as [name removed] had indicated. For one thing, not enough crew members had been assigned to the project to complete it. For another, not all the project materials -- the corrugated roofing and synthetic wood trim for the carport, the plywood for the interior garage wall, the cement for securing the stones that had been removed from the patio, the paint and stucco for restoring the exterior wall to which the patio roof had been attached -- had been delivered.
One final note: [name removed] was never at the project site to supervise any work.
• [name removed] failed to deliver all the project materials as promised.
On October 17, after the deck had been razed, [name removed] said in an e-mail that work would resume on the project once the project materials had been delivered to my home. He said these materials had been ordered from Lowes and would “be onsite shortly.” Eight weeks passed. By December 20, only the corrugated roofing had been delivered to my house. As noted, none of the other materials ever arrived.
In explaining why no work was being done on the project for eight weeks between October and December, [name removed] attributed the delay to this: the corrugated roofing wasn’t in stock at Lowes and had to be ordered. Both my wife and I were skeptical that the corrugated roofing, a common product, wasn’t available at Lowes and, even if that was the case, that Lowes would need eight weeks to obtain it. (Indeed, [name removed] credibility became such that my wife and I ultimately believed practically nothing [name removed] told us.)
• [name removed] failed regularly to return phone calls and communicate a timetable for the project, as noted previously.
All told, he never returned at least five of my phone calls. On at least three occasions, I asked Mr. Caspar for a project timetable, and [name removed] indicated that he would communicate his plans for completing the project. He never did.
• [name removed] failed to pay money owed.
On September 19 I gave [name removed] a down payment of $5,000 to begin work on the project. And on October 17 I made [name removed] a second payment of $4,750 to purchase materials for the project (a payment that he hadn’t revealed would be necessary when he was hired).
On January 8, when I decided to end the project and our business relationship, I proposed to [name removed] that he keep the $5,000 to pay for the labor and materials that had been used to date. I said I thought the $5,000 payment was more than fair, in light of the relatively small amount of work that had actually been done on the project. And I asked him to return the $4,750 to me by January 16. He agreed to do this.
On January 15 he e-mailed that he was working on coming up with the money to pay me and asked if I’d be willing to wait until January 25 to receive the money. On January 26 he in fact gave me a personal check for $4,750, asking me not to cash it until January 31, when the money deposited in his checking account would clear. As he requested, I waited until January 31 before cashing the check. On February 7 I was informed by my bank that [name removed] check had bounced -- that it was being returned unpaid to his bank.
When I called him on February 7 about the bounced check, he said he didn’t know how that had happened. I told him that I now wanted a cashier’s check for the amount (as a verification that the check was good) and that I wanted him to let me know by February 8 at 5 p.m. how he would arrange it. On February 8 he e-mailed me that he was unable to come up with the money owed me. He said he was unable to pay because he was on the verge of losing his business after “a major downturn in workflow.”
In replying to his e-mail, I said that I found it difficult to believe that his firm had experienced a major downturn recently when in November and December he had my project, for one, to work on -- and yet he never scheduled a crew to work on the project in earnest during that entire time.
He never offered an explanation for this, and I never heard from him after February 8. On February 10 I e-mailed him that I wanted him to deliver a cashier’s check for $4,750 to me by February 13 at 1 p.m. I told him that if he didn’t deliver the cashier’s check by that date, I would file complaints on the Better Business Bureau Web site and other consumer Web sites documenting my continuing problems in dealing with him.
I’m detailing this whole messy, complicated experience for two reasons: 1) I want the $4,750 that [name removed] agreed to pay me, and 2) I wouldn’t want another person to endure the same difficulties that I did with Once and Done and [name removed] in the course of five months.
As I see it, [name removed] word isn’t to be trusted, and his performance on all aspects of my project was completely unreliable and unacceptable. In doing business, you don’t like to feel you were cheated and lied to and shortchanged. Unfortunately that’s exactly how I feel after doing business with [name removed] and Once and Done. In short, it was my experience that [name removed] showed almost no interest in satisfying customers or even treating them fairly and honestly.
For more on the performance of Once and Done as a home contactor, see the Web site http://www.beware-once-and-done.com.