Getting References from Contractors. Will the Real Landscaper of the Abriola Funeral Home Please Stand Up.

I met with a new landscape client last week in Goshen, CT.  After I gave the couple a proposal to upgrade the gardens around their property, they asked for references.   At the time, I thought it was odd.  In over twenty years, very few people have ever asked me for references.  Maybe it’s because a lot, but not all, of our work comes to us by word of mouth.  I’ll be honest, I’ve always thought that giving and getting references was a waste of time.  The reason is that I think most contractors can give the names of a handful of happy clients.  After this week, my opinion has changed.

The pictures below are of the gardens at the Abriola Parkview Funeral Home in Trumbull,CT that we designed and installed in 1999 and 2000 and still maintain today.

Last week, we were working in the gardens.  I was a little surprised when the owner pulled up rather abruptly and got out of his car.  He didn’t look happy.  I was wondering what happened and if I did anything wrong to prompt his demeanor.

He told me how he just received a call from a women who was checking on M.V. Landscaping.  It seems that Manny, of M.V. Landscaping who I know, passed the Abriola Funeral Home gardens off as his own.  The owner of the funeral home explained to the woman that the company did landscape a small area on the periphery of the property but the company has been primarily responsible for the lawn maintenance.  Although the owner of the funeral home was beside himself and couldn’t believe someone would stoop so low, it didn’t surprise me.  This is the third time I have heard that Manny has passed my work off as his own.  The funeral home is a prominent and well known property in Trumbull, even winning an award for preservation of a historic house and landscape.  I’m guessing that if it has gotten back to me 3 times over 12 years, he must have passed the same information out to a lot of unsuspecting consumers over the years.  I just happens that this person followed up on a story.  It’s safe to say that the landscape company won’t get the job and he has been caught in a lie in front of a lawn maintenance client.

As a consumer, wouldn’t you question why such a large, high profile project wasn’t on their website? Maybe this consumer did and that is why she followed up with a call.

I was thinking how this contractor has falsely advertised his abilities over the years.  How can consumers better protect themselves?  Below are a couple ideas.

  1. Search the internet for information on the company. I’m amazed on what type of information you can gather from a business on the internet. Call the Better Business Bureau. How about reviews on Yelp? See if they have a Home Improvement Contractor License at the Department of Consumer Protection etc…
  2. Analyze their portfolio. Are there mature landscapes or are all the pictures taken the day the job is finished before problems can occur with the work or the client. Mature projects prove that jobs have held up over the years and might mean that a long term relationship exists between client and contractor.
  3. Ask for not only a name and number of a couple of past clients but for project pictures from those references as well. By doing this, you can ask specific questions about the project. No emails! Physically call the references.

What other strategies can you think of that can help your fellow consumers from fraudulent contractors? Let’s hear your thoughts by clicking the “leave a comment” link below.

Thanks for reading. Rich

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Richard Schipul
Richard Schipul

For the last 30 years, I have owned the landscape company Designing Eden LLC based in New Milford, CT. We offer landscape designs, landscape installations and garden maintenance services in Fairfield and Litchfield County Connecticut. I am currently the only Nationally Certified Landscape Designer in Litchfield County and sit on the board of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and Mad Gardeners.


3 thoughts on “Getting References from Contractors. Will the Real Landscaper of the Abriola Funeral Home Please Stand Up.”

  1. Rich, This really bothers me!!! I’m happy that this person got caught in his lies! In the limousine business, our biggest issue is illegal operators. People that claim they are properly licensed & insured, but are far from it. You’ve asked about our strategies, and my biggest strategy is educating my customers & potential customers. For example, my latest blog is “Guideline for Hiring the right Limousine company for your Connecticut Prom”, I also have a page on our website dedicated to “CT Limo Laws”, and whenever I’m talking with people I make sure they know that taking someone to the airport is more than just having a nice car. Many people just don’t know the law, and it’s our job to inform them. While our services are different, I would think the same strategies would apply. Good Job, Rich!

    1. Thanks for the response Kirk. I’m more curious on what process homeowners go through before hiring a contractor. Are they doing any research online? Are they asking for references or additional information that proves the contractor is who he/she says he/she is?

  2. This is very disheartening to think that someone would use your project and claim it as their own. I wonder if your client would allow you to place a permanent small sign or a plaque with your company name so that everyone knows who is responsible for such a beautiful property. I agree with educating people about the requirements of being a contactor, i.e. licensing and insurance. Since I don’t install, I always let me clients know what to ask for when they are “interviewing” contractors. Good luck.

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