Avoid getting snowed by flaky plow services

Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 8:50 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -When that big snowfall hits, many Northeast Ohioans count on a plow service business they contract for the season to dig them out. But sometimes those services flake.

Donna Elam was in the market for a new plow guy last winter after the person who’d cleared hers for years was no longer operating.

“So, I found this guy. He seemed nice, legit. I think I got him off of Facebook. I read his reviews. It said he was good, reliable,” she said.

Per his request, she wrote him a check to cover the entire season, to clear the driveway of her Eastlake home.

“And then we had a really big snow and I couldn’t get out of my driveway. I texted him. He said ‘my transmission broke. I’ll send you the money,’ and he never sent me the money back,” she recalled.

She waited patiently for month, for a refund, or for his transmission to be repaired. But he flaked.

“I could have probably taken him to court, but the time, the money, the effort. I may never get the money,” she said.

Ericka Dilworth with the Better Business Bureau says this kind of scam happens every year around the area.

Dilworth says if you’re making a season-long commitment, it’s a good idea to look a potential contractor up, check if they’re accredited, what their rating is, and ask some questions.

“How long have they been in business? Have they gotten complaints? Have they resolved complaints? Have there been damage issues? Have there been reports of them not showing when the snow flies?” she suggested.

But just because a contracted plow service may not clear as frequently as you’d like, does not make it a scam.

“Just think about it. When it comes down 12 inches overnight, it’s hard for them to get everywhere. And we try to tell consumers that. They may not be there right when you think they’re going to be there,” she said.

There are some cities who make an effort to protect residents from being left in the cold by snow plow services.

In Seven Hills they have a small list of contractors who offer a discount rate to seniors. They’ve been vetted and are required to register with the city.

In Broadview Heights, snow plowing contractors are supposed to register with the city. They can then share that list of trusted vendors with residents.

The city of Parma handles private snow removal services through the Building Department. They must be licensed, registered, and bonded with their Building Department

And in Eastlake, where Donna lives, private snow removal services do need to register with the police records department.

“I’ve learned my lesson. I have a signed contract. We have a signed contract,” said Elam.

This winter, she says she operated differently, carefully checking references before cutting a check