Monday, April 20, 2015

• Meet Mitchell The Local Tree Hacker or Caveat Emptor

Ever have one of those times you'd like a Mulligan in real life?

It really started the night before when some tree hackers were using a chain saw at 8:00pm across the street from me. We all know —or should know, that leaf blowers (and the use of other noisy equipment) are to be confined between the hours from 7:00am to 7:00pm.

Several years ago there was a worker using a loud cement mixer in the cul-de-sac where I live at 8:45pm one Summer night. I went out there and politely asked him to stop... which he did... though my neighbors were a little bent about it. Sorry, but your lack of planning isn't reason enough why I should have to listen to your broken down equipment after hours.

So, back to this story... I chose to ignore that our dinner music was going to be the dulcet tones of a Husqvarna. Sometimes it's better to just grin and bear it rather than open up a can of worms. Then, 6:40am the next morning rolls around and lo and behold if I don't hear the Chainsaw Sonata again. 

That was it... time to pretend I'm a bad ass and start flailing my arms around like one of those fan powered signs. The action was happening across the street from me and as I neared the sidewalk I let loose with one of those fingers-in-the-mouth whistles that probably woke up more of my neighbors than the chainsaw had.

My guess is that I looked like the blue one.

They looked over and I pointed to my wrist (where a watch might be strapped). The first guy was apologetic and they cut the noise. So I headed back to my house but that's when the big guy thought he'd try and get tough with me.

"What's your name?" he demands of me as we then met in the middle of the street.
It's at this point that I started to hear The Twilight Zone theme kick in...
"My name? What the hell is your name?" I barked back in disbelief.

"Mitchell" he responded. To which I told him, "My name is Joseph."
The saber rattling was at full tilt at this point.

He asked, "Where is it written that I can't start until 7:00am?"
"In the city code," I said and walked away.

Once inside I told my lovely wife Grace the story as I was searching the city code webpage for the precise wording... but alas I could NOT find it. Hey city of Wildomar, how about adding a key word search to the entire city website, but especially to the code section.

I must have "Sucker" emblazoned across my dome.
Well, after about half an hour I was thinking twice about whether those guys might retaliate or not (they knew where I lived and I had no idea who they were). So I went over and apologized for being a grouch in the morning. Mitchell apologized for his end of it and all was good. We were bros now. Then he said, "It would really be good if we could trim your olive trees too."

I love my olive trees. First they are a screen that provides us privacy in the backyard. Second, I actually use the olives.

Still, Mrs. Wildomar Rap has long wanted the trees and vegetation to be cut back so I asked for a price. He was going to shape the trees, cut back the vines from the fence and even shape the tree in the front for $300. So we agreed to the job.

He then asked for a $40 advance so he and his compatriot could get breakfast and they were low on cash yada, yada, yada sob story.

Being a chump I agreed and handed him money... though I  didn't know his last name, didn't have his business card, didn't have a phone number, and his truck had no writing on it either.

The guy did leave some of his tools in my yard as a ersatz show of good faith. He said he'd be back right after breakfast... which turned out to be after 5:00pm at the end of the day.

After they returned I went out to tell them how I wanted the trees. Again I ignored the flashing lights and blaring sirens that were going off in my head, telling me to nix the deal, when the guy told me, "We've got it boss."

It's as if I was The Manchurian Homeowner, and 'boss' was the code word that made me turn glassy eyed and walk away like a robot.

It had been one of those days and I didn't want to be there as they were working so I took my dog and went to the levee for a long walk. While there I saw a company called Quixotic Studios setting up to do a commercial shoot for USAA.

A view of the the two mile mark of my walk on the levee that was allowing me to think of things not tree related.

When I got back, they were gone and were about half finished. When they finally returned they wanted to start working again... in the dark and after the 7:00 pm noise curfew.

I was in one of those weenie moods and refused to leave my computer room. I have no excuses it just happened, but that left Grace to hang out to dry dealing with them. They wanted payment in full, though they weren't done and had done a shoddy job of it. She flatly refused.

They finally left being owed $100 and our yard full of lopped off branches, along with many of their tools. They said they'd return on Sunday morning at 7:00am to collect their tools and take away the cuttings. So like a good lemming I waited from about 6:30am until well past 10:00am looking out the window for them to drive up. Just like Linus does, year after year, waiting for The Great Pumpkin to arrive.

I know that Mitchell will come... I just know it.

Oh wait... I left out a key piece of the story. On Saturday morning we happened to notice some damage to our fence. It seems that Mitchell was in such a hurry that he opted for the chainsaw to do basic pruning of vines. You see, I usually prune those with a hedge trimmer and have never had a single problem with damaging my fence... but what fun is there in doing it that wimpy way?

When you use a chainsaw against a cedar fence, the fence loses every time. Over 60 planks were marred. Many with very deep marks which makes you wonder how he didn't know what he was doing. A neighbor of mine said he could understand nicking one or two by mistake, but this was ridiculous.
I've heard that "Chicks dig scars" but I'm not sure if they "dig" them when they are all over a fence.

Mitchell was a no-show all day Sunday and I thought that maybe he was going to come early on Monday... I mean, doesn't he need his tools for other jobs? However Monday morning came and went... and his tools were still on my front porch at the end of the day.

Grace thinks they'd rather just leave their tools behind rather than have to deal with the cost of repairing the fence. I did a quick test and those boards are regularly priced at $2.25 apiece from The Home Depot. At 60 damaged boards, that's $135 before tax, delivery or labor. To have the damage repaired probably would be several hundred dollars.
Some scars go more than 3/8ths of in inch deep into the wood.

Either way, let me suggest this to all of you... when you hear those inner voices telling you that something is awry, LISTEN!

Ruffles aren't the only thing with ridges after Mitchell gets through with your trees.

Caveat Emptor — Buyer Beware
That means you dummy!!!

Also, I suggest that you do a video contract with such workers. Have them look at your video camera and repeat back what the job is. If they don't want to go on video, then they are pulling on the church bells in your head trying to wake you up.

At this point we simply want him to come back and get his tools. He's not going to get the balance, but I also know it would be a waste of time to pursue someone, that is proven to be a flake, for the damages. To show there are no hard feelings, I even made him a commercial to promote his business. Check out the short video below.

In my earlier life I made my money from such humble work as cleaning houses. I worked for one family for 25 years. I was never flaky and was always where I said I'd be and I never ruined people's possessions. On the rare occasion that I did break something, I always brought it to them or left it out on the counter with a note. I always figured that everyone had the same work ethic, but have been learning that such a thing isn't as common as I'd thought it was.

Live and learn.

What would you do in a similar situation?

The day after I uploaded this blog, at about 2:00pm, Mitchell came back to "finish" the job. I was out on a Wildomar Multi-Purpose Trail Bike Ride when he showed up. When I returned I could hear a shouting match going on between Grace and him. 

Grace had her video camera rolling when I got onto the scene, and mine was already rolling by the time I could jump in. I'll save you the boring details. In short, he told me that he was going to take me to small claims court for the $100. I told him that I look forward to it. That I'll be bringing all the pictures of the damage too.

He did suggest that he could try and fix the fence, but I told him no, that his work here is over. I truly don't understand it when people insist on maintaining a position that is clearly in the wrong. He couldn't understand why we would be upset about the damage to the fence... not too mention the poor quality of work or that he didn't show up for days. Again, you get what you pay for, and I payed for this headache.

Don't talk to me about contracts, Wonka, I use them myself. They're strictly for suckers
Sam Beauregarde, Willy Wonka 1971


    15.04.010 Hours of construction.
    Any construction within the City located within one-fourth mile from an occupied residence shall be permitted Monday through Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. There shall be no construction permitted on Sunday or City-observed holidays unless approval is obtained from the City Building Official or City Engineer. (Ord. 92 § 5, 2014; Ord. 56 § 2, 2011)

  2. Is a chain saw considered construction?

  3. Its a business not the homeowner making the noise (more than likely not licensed or bonded and without workers comp). Otherwise the restrictions are even tighter with no more the 55 Db ( 60 noisy office) being allowed from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM and 45 Db from 10:00 PM to 7:00 AM.

  4. Joseph, the last comment referring to ....7:00AM to 10:00PM is from Table 1 of Wildomar Municipal Code 9.48.060.. Unfortunately this Table 1 conflicts with WMC 9.48.060.B which states "Power Tools and Equipment. No person shall operate any power tools or equipment between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. such that the power tools or equipment are audible to the human ear inside an inhabited dwelling other than a dwelling in which the power tools or equipment may be located. No person shall operate any power tools or equipment at any other time such that the power tools or equipment are audible to the human ear at a distance greater than 100 feet from the power tools or equipment...." I pointed these Code conflicts out over a year ago at one of the General Plan Update mtgs. That draft plan update included noise policies which conflicted with all the City Codes already conflicting criteria...oh well, Monty
    PS: Sorry about your fence and trees.

    1. Thanks Monty.
      Glad to learn that I was wrong about the 7:00pm cut off time.

      You'd think that fixing the conflicts would be something easy to do.

      Gotta love government.

  5. All the experts taking it easy sitting on the sidelines should run for city council.


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