Wednesday, July 16, 2008

all's well that ends well

last sunday, there was a strange vehicle parked in front of our house for a half an hour or so. it was strange because it had UK plates and i noticed it because i thought i saw a baby left alone in the vehicle and saw that the steering wheel was on the "wrong" side. (i know some of you consider "our" side to be the wrong side, but that's the stuff of another posting.) i realized quickly that there was a mom in the little silver SUV with the baby, so it wasn't a baby left alone, and i didn't really think any more about it.

i also heard our neighbor speaking english to someone. she's been having some landscaping work done in her garden and has had a number of different consultations with landscape architects and the like, so i didn't really think anything of it. 

she came by a little bit later and asked us if we'd seen the man she was talking to and whether we thought he looked trustworthy. we hadn't really seen him or paid that much attention, so we couldn't really say. she said he had offered to do some paving in her front yard for a very good price, but she didn't know what to think. she didn't really have the money for it and although it was just a smidge over half the price of what the other part of her garden had cost, she didn't think she would take him up on it.

we asked her if she'd received a written offer with all of the details outlined. she said she hadn't, but would ask for that before deciding. so, on monday morning at about 11, we were a little surprised to see a big yellow lorry pull up outside her house and 3 men jump down and get right to work tearing up her old paving slabs.

our neighbor ran out (luckily she happened to be home) and asked them what they were doing and demanded they stop, because she hadn't agreed to anything! the SUV guy pulled up and ended up giving an even better offer and sort of guilting her into the whole thing, as well as giving her a sort of written work order, so the work proceeded.

on monday, that 3-man team worked until nearly 10 p.m., doing all the hard work of tearing up old paving stones and throwing them into the lorry, digging and moving gravel and sand. all of it by hand, without gloves and without proper footwear and with worn-out looking equipment. all of them had extremely worn out shoes and clothing and two of the men looked quite old to be doing such physically-demanding work. none of them had that many of their original teeth left. in short, they were an extremely hard-working but sorry lot.

our neighbor has an extremely soft heart and this really began to bother her. she started to develop a bad feeling about the whole thing in the pit of her stomach. 

but, it wasn't until around 6 p.m. yesterday that that bad feeling proved true. suddenly, the young man came to the door and started in on some sob story as to how he needed her to pay him half of the money for the project, in cash, so that he could get the supplies to finish it the next day. 

that was never part of the original deal and when she said she couldn't possibly lay her hands on that cash at that time of day when the banks were closed, he got his boss on the phone. the ever-so-nice scottish gentleman from the silver SUV. he stopped being nice and lit into our neighbor, accusing her of all sort of totally absurd and ridiculous things...that she was a liar and wanted to cheat him. all of the accusations perfectly reflected what HE was doing to her! and because she is a kind and soft-hearted person, it was totally bewildering and very disturbing.

she came over and asked to talk to us about the whole thing. we talked it through with her. in the end, i made some dinner and we took it over and ate it together with her and stayed, talking the whole case through until nearly midnight. she clearly needed to talk it through.

we worked through all of the worst case scenarios. it was difficult to see what the trick was that this scottish guy is pulling. the guys, after all, were doing the work. our main thought was that he would get the guys to ask for half the money, then show up the next day and demand the whole amount, claiming to know nothing about his men having been paid.

the man completely refused to give a real name (he literally had so little imagination that he claimed his name was john smith, but we heard the workmen call him benny). after a little online research, i discovered that the phone numbers on the "invoice/offer" paper were prepaid phone card numbers and as such had no personal information. the company name on the paper doesn't exist. except for the fact that work is actually being done (and well, in actual fact), it would seem to be utterly and completely a scam.

we wondered if the three would show up this morning to finish the job. they did. and our neighbor agreed to pay the whole amount, in cash, to the workmen, once the job was finished. they said they'd be finished by noon. we agreed with our neighbor to come and witness the payment (since Mr. SUV also refused to provide a receipt), so that if he should claim he wasn't paid, there would be witnesses. we even enlisted our neighbors from the other side as witnesses--they're older and would look very good on the witness stand, should it ever come to that.

they weren't finished until almost dinner time. and we went over and witnessed the payment. our neighbor was able to convince the youngest of the workmen (who seemed to be in charge), to write, "paid in full" on the offer she had been given by Mr. SUV. she has some very well-done new paving in her front yard, at half the price it would normally cost and she has learned a valuable lesson about listening to that bad feeling in the pit of her stomach.

and, i think we foiled whatever scam Mr. SUV was trying to pull, tho' i'm still not clear what it was. i do pity anyone else who gives this man business, tho'. it's an awfully strange way to do business...leaving your wife and baby in the car while you go door to door in a foreign country and bully people into work they're not really sure they want done.

on the bright side, however, it brought us closer to our neighbor, who is really a very nice, very good-hearted person. we were happy to be there for her the past couple of days. so it's true what they say, all's well that ends well.


Janni said...

Hi Julie.

i just felt like telling you this little story. About 15-20 years ago, a foreign man knocked on my mothers cousins door an offered to asphalt her driveway. She said no thank you, but the next day, when she got home from work, her whole frontyard was covered with asphalt, gras, flowers...all of it. And the funny thing...the bill was in the mailbox. She took it to court, but i don't know what came out of it. :-)


julochka said...

janni--i seem to recall hearing about this last summer, but AMAZING that it's been going on for 15-20 years!!! our other neighbors said they saw something on the news about it a week or so ago, but we haven't really been watching much t.v. and it hasn't been in berlingske, so i haven't heard about it this year. those poor men who actually did the work were really's a strange scam where everyone involved is taken advantage of, except for mr. SUV. very strange stuff.

d smith kaich jones said...

Thank goodness that y'all were there for your neighbor. Stuff like this just makes me so mad. And like you said, some good came out of it in that you've become closer with your neighbor, but still, it's such a shame. Poor woman.

And good for you. A few extra stars on YOUR report card in Heaven!

:) Debi

enchantedartist said...

Oh, I'm so glad it worked out for her in the end...You're right is a strange little scam.

Jaime said...

I am surprised they actually finished the job and did it well!!!

Glad there is a happy ending, and new connections were made. :)