TORONTO – With winter officially arriving on Dec. 23 Canadians are preparing to clear snow from driveways and sidewalks.
More and more people hire professionals to do the job. That was Shirley Arjoonsingh’s plan recently because her husband was away.
“Since I knew he wasn’t going to be here we didn’t want to have any problem with snow shovelling,” Arjoonsingh said.
She saw an advertisement for a company offering the service, paid $450 in two installments, and sat back waiting for the snow to fall. When it did, the person she hired didn’t show up.
“I never thought anyone would do something like this,” said Shirley.
She says when the contractor didn’t arrive, she called the number on the snow clearing contract repeatedly. The person didn’t answer; the voice mail box was full.
“They’re seniors and they’ve been taken advantage of,” said Janelle Arjoonsingh, her daughter, who also lives with her parents.
The family hired a man named Jerry DiCesare, who says he’s been clearing snow for 28 years. When Global News caught up with him and asked why he didn’t show up, as contracted, he explained his truck had a technical malfunction.
“We had a problem with the snow plow,” said DiCesare, who said he has many satisfied customers.
DiCesare acknowledged it took three days for the repair and he did not get to the homes to clear their snow. He said, however, that he cleared snow from homes three days later. By then, the Arjoonsingh family had cleared their sidewalk and driveway themselves, assisted by neighbours.
“We trusted you,” said a frustrated Shirley to DiCesare, who returned to the family ‘s home after being confronted by Global News in a Mississauga parking lot. When asked to refund the family’s money, he immediately agreed.
“If they’re not happy, I’m not happy,” said DiCesare.
The Arjoonsingh family was grateful to Global News for helping get their money back. They feared their driveway would never get cleared this season.
DiCesare said it has “never happened” that a customer has sought a refund and that mechanical breakdowns are rare.
The Ontario consumer ministry received 17 complaints about snow removal issues in 2014. The ministry advises consumers to ask contractors if they have a licence (required by some municipalities); get terms and conditions in writing; pay a minimum deposit up front and not in cash; it also advises consumers to get references from contractors and to rely on personal referrals to find a snow clearing contractor with a good record of service.