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Basement waterproofing, or any home improvement job, shouldn’t be a crap shoot. With AquaGuard Waterproofing Corporation it was. Unbeknownst to me, more than half of their work crews were subcontractors. This means the people doing the work on my basement weren’t even AquaGuard employees (whoever those are and whatever they really do) and, worse yet, weren’t licensed or in the least bit competent. They took my money and, for all intents and purposes, walked away. Is this what AquaGuard means by: “Aquaguard provides you peace of mind in knowing your basement is waterproofed with uncompromising pride, integrity, and value for life!”? Talk is cheap and, in my experience with AquaGuard, not to be believed.
In this post, let’s look at what AquaGuard did to execute the contract and examine why the chances of actually getting a quality product were quite small. To start with, of all the money I paid them, only a small fraction actually went to the people who were subcontracted to do the work. Here are the numbers, revealed to me during the arbitration process:
Contract Cost Paid by Me: $18,123.00
Commission Paid to Salesman: $2,787.00 (Approximately 15%)
Money to be paid to Subcontractor: $4502.80 (Approximately 25%)
AquaGuard’s Cut: $10,833.20 (Approximately 60%)
Now this might be standard practice across the industry and I begrudge no one making a decent profit. However the fact that the only person doing much real work, i.e., the subcontractor, gets little more than the salesman and only a fourth of what I paid, strikes me as a cause for alarm. The reason I say this is because if I had hired the subcontractor directly he would have make a lot more than that to do the same job. That is, his profit (again, which I begrudge no one) would be fair and reasonable. With AquaGuard’s business model, that poor guy has to draw his profit off of a tiny fraction of the money paid by the consumer. He’s squeezed from the get go. Is it any surprise he would cut corners and rip off the customers if at all possible? Compound that with the fact that AquaGuard practiced no supervision or inspection of any kind at any time at my house. What incentive does the subcontractor have to do a quality job?
As bad as that was in my case, consider that the basement waterproofing crews at AquaGuard Waterproofing Corporation were mainly subcontractors, at least according to their General Manager. Does it matter? You bet! Readers of this blog are well familiar with the fact that not only did AquaGuard ruined our basement but they did it by giving the entire job to an unlicensed, incompetent sub running an unregistered company. It doesn’t matter how reputable AquaGuard Waterproofing claims to be when they give your basement waterproofing job, without telling you, to someone no one would ever hire. It’s a crap shoot. They pocket 60% of the money I paid, hand the job over to God knows who, and wished me a nice day!
AquaGuard claims it was a simple mistake. “We’re not perfect”, they cry. No one expects perfection but a reputable company acknowledges their mistakes, doesn’t shift the blame on others, and works to correct the problem. AquaGuard, when the gross incompetence of their subcontractor was self-evident, defended his work! Indeed they kept sending him back to wreck more havoc. Why? Because it is their business model. As their General Manager answered (A) under questioning (Q):
Q. …the only person actually sent out to fix it was the same guy that made the mistakes. That would be Kevin London, right?
A. He has to pay for his mistakes.
Q. Not AquaGuard?
AquaGuard insisted I deal with the very person who was cheating me! After a dozen written communications and complaints to AquaGuard over the course of a month, a real AquaGuard employee finally came out to look at the mess. He reported back and the next thing I heard was they had fired him!
Many companies use subcontractors to do parts of jobs that they either don’t normally do or if they temporarily need help. Regardless, these subcontractors must be licensed. Not in our case. AquaGuard used an outfit called All Around Improvements Construction (AAIC). AquaGuard failed to check AAIC’s credentials. They gave several excuses, the most recent being they were in a hurry. Hurry to do exactly what?
It takes less than five minutes to check a contractor’s licensing, if you’re interested in the truth. They only had to go to the website of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Registration, enter the name of the AAIC owner, and they would have immediately found out he was unlicensed. Or AquaGuard could have check with the Better Business Bureau regarding AAIC. For some time one could have seen the following: ! There is an alert for this business ! They could have asked for references. They might have simply looked at his business card (see above) and noted the lack of a license number! But those actions would have taken effort and…
… AquaGuard was in a hurry. Not such a hurry that they couldn’t arrange to have AAIC do several jobs for them for weeks prior to sending him to my house. When the General Manager was asked again why they sent him back, he replied: “I sent London back out there because it was going to be for free”. No company that was interested in the quality of their work, let alone the satisfaction of its customers, would make such a statement.
When you’re in a hurry you miss things, especially the opportunity to do the right thing, such as owning up to your mistakes and making a good faith effort to correct them, even if it isn’t “…going to be for free”.