The Sealcoating "Gypsies"
At some point in our Association Management careers, we all have to deal with the Board member who suggests that we contact a particular contractor who has done work for his or her brother-in-law's mother's sister (and just so happens to be much cheaper than the contractor you currently use). This is often the case with sealcoating contractors.
Many reputable asphalt contractors must compete with "The Sealcoating Gypsies", the fly-by-night companies who come through a town offering quick work at low prices. These companies often use low-quality material as well as untrained labor. They spray black water on driveways and then quickly get out of town. They know how to take advantage of owners of single-family homes. Don't let them take advantage of you!
Some ways to protect yourself and your Association from these types of contractors:
- Be sure to get printed information on the types of professional-grade sealer to be used on the job. Preferably, this information should come directly from the manufacturer.
- Check the company's references, including names, phone numbers and addresses of past clients and number of years in business. This way you can physically inspect their work.
- Contact your better business bureau for a record of complaints filed against the company.
- Obtain a current certificate of insurance evidencing both liability and workers compensation insurance.
- Inquire about the company's industry education. Ask if they attend any asphalt/sealcoating industry conferences or trade shows.
And last but certainly not least, remind your Board what John Ruskin (1819 - 1900) once said of low bidders: "It's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money, that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot - it can't be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder it is well to add something for the risk you run. And if you do that, you will have enough to pay for something better."
Meg Kitchin, AMS®, CMCA®, PCAM®, Association Times, June 2006