We love when businesses do consistently good work.
Back in December, Bamboozled shared the tale of the Abahazy family, who hired Garden State Asphault and Sealcoating of Toms River to seal-coat their driveway after a company rep offered services by knocking on their front door. (Note: Asphault is the spelling found on company contracts.)
The Abahazys paid $250 in cash, but the job yielded tar spattered all over their pavers, sidewalk and the bottom of the garage door. The company didn’t respond to repair requests, so the family eventually paid another company for the fix. Subsequent requests for reimbursement for the $214 bill were ignored by the company and its owner Victor Zambuto.
After that story ran, we received a bunch of consumer complaints about the company, including one in which the homeowner won a $2,000 judgment.
THE JOB GONE WRONG
Toms River homeowner Peter Meluso hired Garden State Asphault and Sealcoating to tear up his old driveway and repave. That was April 29, 2011.
“After speaking to Victor and giving him 50 percent of the total price of job up front in cash, he showed up the following day as promised — but that’s where the promises stopped,” Meluso said.
The job was a comedy of errors.
Zambuto had two helpers with him, but when the men started to break apart the driveway, Meluso said, they didn’t seem to know what they were doing.
When one started to work on a concrete area that wasn’t part of the driveway, Meluso said the worker seemed inebriated and Meluso took the tool from the man’s hands.
Then Zambuto tore up the lawn while driving a skid loader machine, nearly taking out a sprinkler head, Meluso said.
“By this time I was becoming skeptical about the kind of contractor I hired,” he said.
At about 10:30, Meluso said, Zambuto left to dump some of the old asphalt, promising to return in one hour.
Three hours later he returned, but with only one worker.
“The other one was drunk, Victor said,” Meluso said, but Zambuto promised the job would still be completed that day.
“The only thing that was done was that he stored his power washer behind my fence and some of his tools were missing,” Meluso said. “I later came to find he had another bigger job that day and he only came back to my house to pick up tools that he needed there.”
Meluso videotaped the unfinished project.
The next morning before church, Meluso said, he called Zambuto, who promised to come back. He never showed or answered subsequent messages.
The following day, March 2, Meluso called again.
“I asked if he was at my house and he said no, he had to be in court — go figure. He said a crew would be here soon,” Meluso said.
Later, Zambuto left a message saying the job would be done that day and he needed the rest of the payment, Meluso said.
“When my wife got home, she called me and told me that they said the work was done but the place was a mess,” he said. “There was tar all over my grass, walkway and sidewalks, and shovels and rakes were thrown on my wife’s plants and flowers.”
Meluso returned home a short while later.
“The first thing I noticed was the mess and the large ugly seam across the center of my driveway,” Meluso said.
Zambuto arrived and explained that he had run out of asphalt, so parts cooled before the job was complete, Meluso said. He also pointed out a dented gutter and old asphalt that was dumped in the garden.
An argument ensued, and the company offered a free seal-coating.
“He also kept saying there’s a five-year warranty. He went off assuring us if there were any issues or problems, just to call,” Meluso said.
Meluso paid the remaining fee.
The next day, May 3, Meluso saw more troubles. There were four tire impressions, and stones and acorns imprinted into the driveway.
“I called for the next two weeks and did not hear back from him,” Meluso said. “In the meantime grass started to grow through the asphalt and the edges started to crack.”
Meluso had more complaints about the job and lack of response from the company, but you get the idea.
In the months that followed, Meluso said, Zambuto didn’t return messages, and he never came back to inspect the damage as promised.
OFF TO COURT — AGAIN
A reminder here that back when we shared the Abahazy’s experience, Garden State Asphault and Sealcoating had an “F” rating with the Better Business Bureau. That grade remains, and there are 11 complaints on record with BBB, all regarding a problem with a product or service.
Court records show that since 2004, there were 19 cases against Victor Zambuto and one against the company. Of those, 18 resulted in judgments and two were dismissed.
Victor Zambuto didn’t return our calls.
Peter Meluso now has a case pending in Superior Court in Toms River against Zambuto.
Meluso’s attorney, Thomas Demarest, is seeking more than the recovery of the $2,000 paid by Meluso.
He said there are lots of problems with the contract. Problems that break the state’s Consumer Fraud Act.
“Zambuto had Peter sign what purports to be a contract that includes such things as a warranty on workmanship as well as a waiver of all claims,” he said. “Read literally, the waiver, signed before any work is done, would keep a consumer from enforcing the warranty when the work is either defective or not done at all.”
He said the Consumer Fraud Act bars such waivers.
Additionally, according to state records, Garden State Asphault and Sealcoating is not registered with the state, which is also a violation of the act.
There is a license for a company called Garden State Asphalt, owned by Sandy Zambuto of Toms River, and the Division of Consumer Affairs said a company cannot lend its license to a business with different business name. Garden State Asphalt has two open complaints against it with Consumer Affairs.
Demarest said while investigating, he became aware of many other consumer complaints against the company, including the Abahazy case featured in Bamboozled.
Because of all these complaints, Demarest added to the suit a claim to enjoin Zambuto from engaging in any business in the state that requires licensing under state law.
In essence, to put Zambuto out of the paving business for good.
“To convince a court to issue injunctive relief in this fashion requires proof from the many other consumers victimized by Zambuto’s business tactics,” Demarest said.
The Abahazys — whose contract is identical to Meluso’s — are allowing Demarest to present their story to the judge.
The more, the merrier.
“If everyone feels that doing so is an inconvenience or they simply don’t want to be bothered or they’re afraid that Zambuto will come after them, then Zambuto and others like him will just go on and continue to take advantage of other consumers,” he said. “The only way to stop Zambuto and others like him is to stand up to them, to forget the inconvenience, to overcome the fears.”