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He doesn’t want lawn service renewed, but gets billed anyway

THE FIXER HAS SAVED YOU

$1,232,817

Updated: July 3, 2012 11:14AM



Dear Fixer: My complaint is with Scotts Lawn Service. I was a first-time Scotts customer in 2011 and paid about $760 in advance for the entire year’s application.

During that year, I expressed to both the technician and the local manager that I was dissatisfied with some of the results. A reapplication was made, but the affected area was only made worse: the grass was totally burned.

We decided we would complain no more and when the current year’s treatment was completed, we would seek another provider.

Early this spring, a Scotts technician apparently stealthily entered our premises without my knowledge or permission. The only evidence was a flag placed in the front lawn. Missing were the usual flag in the back yard and the telltale odor, so the actual application of any product is suspect. I was home and neither saw nor heard the technician or his truck; I only noticed the flag when I went to get the mail about 11 a.m.

I immediately called the Scotts office in Elgin and advised them that we had not renewed for 2012.

They insisted that it was their custom to continue such “contracts” forever unless canceled by the homeowner. I have repeatedly requested a copy of any contract that I may have signed. Now they are sending me “past due” notices, with late fees added ($81.90 plus $7.50 late fee), and calling me saying I owe them for the unauthorized application.

Scotts called again recently, and I repeated my request for a copy of any document indicating that I had committed to ongoing lawn service, but they admitted that no such contract exists. It’s just their standard practice.

How can I get Scotts off my back?

Shell Tomlin, Aurora

Dear Shell: The question isn’t just how to get them off your back, but also off your lawn.

You never signed any contract, having ordered service last year over the phone. We saw some fine print on your invoice from Scotts that read: “For your convenience, service continues from season to season.” Apparently, that means they’ll come back (and bill you) every year for the foreseeable future.

That seems weird to us, but then again The Fixer has almost no lawn and no need for a lawn service. We do know that there’s a boatload of complaints online about Scotts’ automatic renewals.

Regina Carter, Scotts’ local customer service and administration manager, said the auto-renewal “affords a measure of predictability for our customers.” (And a measure of predictable money for Scotts, we assume.)

Carter did agree to cancel your service and she waived the $89.40 in charges, so now we’ll consider this fixed.

COSTLY LESSONS: Consumer’s tale of woe

K. was test-driving a used car when she and the salesman heard something strange.

“I noticed a rattling sound coming from the front passenger side,” K. wrote The Fixer.

It had been raining for several days prior, so the sales guy said not to worry; the rattling was just the brakes squeaking because they were wet.

“I assumed the salesperson knew what he was talking about and purchased the vehicle. Well, three days later (and no rain) the car was still noisy,” K. wrote.

The dealership serviced it at no charge to K., and for a week or two, the car was fine.

But then the noise returned with a vengeance.

Sadly, the manufacturer wouldn’t do anything to help K., since the car was not new. She was at the mercy of the dealer, who after numerous attempts couldn’t seem to make the noise stop. It’s too late for K., but not too late for anyone else who’s planning to purchase a used car. Have your own independent mechanic check out any used car you’re considering. If the mechanic finds a small thing wrong, you can use it to negotiate a better price. And if he finds a big thing wrong, you still have time to walk away.

What is a Costly Lesson? It’s an UNFIXABLE problem that cost someone a lot of money but holds a valuable lesson for the rest of us. If you’ve got something to warn the rest of us about, email it to szimmermann@suntimes.com with Costly Lessons in the subject line. And don’t worry — with Costly Lessons, we leave out last names to prevent further embarrassment.



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