About $500, apparently.
It all started with the patter-patter of little steps. In the attic.
Judy and Claude Ichkhanian called 4 Seasons Termite and Pest Control of Dumont to evaluate the noises they heard in the attic of the West Caldwell home where they live with their 6-year-old child. It was squirrels, said a company rep named Danny, and he signed the family up for service to the tune of $514.18.
That was Oct. 20, 2010.
“He left a squirrel trap and told us that the company would provide a one-year service contract for squirrel treatment. Our understanding was that it would take several trips to eradicate the problem and then seal up whatever entrance the squirrels had made,” Judy said.
The invoice stated that the company “sealed area around ceiling fan.” That was premature, Judy said. The rep said they couldn’t seal the fan until the squirrels were caught.
But the invoice said it was a yearlong treatment, so the company could return to inspect and treat as needed. The couple signed on.
Claude continued re-baiting the trap with peanut butter as suggested, but while the peanut butter kept disappearing, the trap never sprung. Judy said her husband spent several hours trying to take care of the trap, re-baiting and adjusting the settings, but the squirrel seemed to be too light to spring the trap.
A week later, the sounds were still coming from the attic, but nothing was in the trap. They said they left a voice mail for 4 Seasons, asking that someone come to the house to evaluate the trap. No one returned the call.
The couple said they left more messages, but no one answered.
They tried a letter instead. No response.
Frustrated, they filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, but the company didn’t respond to the complaint.
A new solution
Despite the money they had paid, the Ichkhanians still had a pest problem. They felt they couldn’t wait any longer for the unresponsive 4 Seasons to call.
They went to another company, which sent a rep to check out the attic.
“The pest service person said that it was crystal clear from the droppings that squirrels were not the issue. It took him about 2 minutes to make the determination,” Judy said.
It was mice.
The rep from the new company said it would probably be an easy fix. Set a few sticky traps, catch a few critters and the pest problem would be gone.
And sure enough, she said, after putting out mouse traps, the mice were caught and the problem was eradicated.
The cost? $30.
The couple was very happy that the mice were gone, but they said they felt taken by 4 Seasons.
“Not only was the assessment of the problem incorrect—and we relied entirely upon their assessment as professionals—the company refused to come out and provide the service for which we paid,” Judy said in an e-mail. “In short, we have been Bamboozled.”
Bamboozled took a look at 4 Seasons.
First, it’s not run out of a storefront. It has a P.O. Box. Now, plenty of reliable businesses use a P.O. Box for a variety of very valid reasons, but that put up the first red flag.
We then checked with the New Jersey Department of Consumer Affairs and the Better Business Bureau. While no complaints have been filed with Consumer Affairs, 4 Seasons has garnered an “F” rating with the BBB.
Of nine complaints against the company, BBB said 4 Seasons failed to reply to seven of the complaints.
Next, we called. Eight times in one week. Left messages. No responses.
We did a little more looking.
There was no owner name listed on public documents related to 4 Seasons Termite and Pest Control.
We looked further.
The contract provided by the Ichkhanians showed a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) license number. We looked it up (www.state.nj.us/dep/). The license number didn’t come up for a business called 4 Seasons, but there was a hit for Go Green Environmental Pest Solutions in Hoboken.
Luis Pimental applied for the Go Green company license. We figured either Pimental owned both companies, or 4 Seasons was “borrowing” his license number for contacts and other company documents.
Go Green has no complaints with BBB or with Consumer Affairs.
We called. Left a message. Luis Pimental called back within hours.
Pimental confirmed he owns both companies, so we explained the Ichkhanians’ dilemma.
“It’s not fair to them,’’ Pimental said after hearing the story.
He said the salesman who visited the Ichkhanians’ home was no longer with the company, but no matter.
“I will take care of this matter myself,” he said, and he promised his office would send a refund check that very day. “The customer is always right. If they say they were not happy, they’re not happy. I will take care of this.”
“Please tell them I extremely apologize and a check will be issued to them,” he said.
And the family received a cashier’s check in less than a week.
Finally, a response
Judy Ichkhanian said she was thrilled for the matter to be resolved without court intervention, especially because a judgment is no guarantee of actually recouping money. When there’s something wrong with the integrity of the home, be it pests or broken beams or dirty vents, there’s a certain panic that sets in because fixing the problem becomes an immediate priority, she said.
“When we heard scampering in the attic, we panicked,” she said. “All we could think of were rodents of some type rushing down the walls and gnawing their way into the main level and attacking our child like some scene out of a bad horror novel.”
Judy said they picked the company from the phone book and didn’t take the time to do homework with the Better Business Bureau or anyplace else, and that was a big mistake.
“I cannot fathom how an owner of the company would be unaware of numerous telephone calls, a pointed letter and a complaint filed by the BBB,” she said. “I hope that this experience will have opened his eyes and that he will reform the business so that other consumers who place their trust in 4 Seasons don’t experience a similar sense of having been made a patsy.”