St. Louis, Mo., July 12, 2011 – A businessman whose lawn care companies have been the focus of numerous customer complaints is again sowing seeds of discontent throughout the St. Louis area.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) suggests extreme caution when dealing with Matthew Buckingham or his Greener Spaces lawn service. Buckingham also has done business under the names Wholesale Lawn and Landscape and Buckingham Lawn. Customers told the BBB they paid Buckingham hundreds of dollars for lawn maintenance work, but he never completed the jobs.
Greener Spaces has an “F” grade with the BBB, the lowest grade possible. More than 40 complaints have been filed against the company in the past 36 months, 13 since May 1.
While several Buckingham customers said they have been unable to get their money back for unfinished work, two homeowners said they received refunds after involving the police. One homeowner said a police officer was at his home in Chesterfield when Buckingham arrived to refund his money.
“He was real nice about it,” the customer said of Buckingham. “He was apologetic.”
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said the large number of complaints is unusual, even in an industry that sometimes attracts questionable operators. “People have to trust contractors to do what they say they will do,” Corey said. “When a contractor breaks that trust, it can affect everyone in the business.”
In July 2008, the BBB issued a public alert on Wholesale Lawn and Landscape after consumers said Buckingham took their money and did little or none of the promised work.
The BBB notified Buckingham in May that his use of the BBB logo in newspaper ads and flyers violated the BBB’s trademark. The logo is reserved for use by BBB Accredited Businesses, who agree to uphold specific ethical standards. Greener Spaces has never been an Accredited Business. Buckingham did not respond to the letter.
Buckingham’s father, Larry, told the BBB his son suffers from serious health issues and was in a car accident two weeks ago. “He’s overwhelmed,” the father said. He said his son could not talk about the complaints, but wants to settle them.
A Ladue homeowner said she learned of Greener Spaces from a flyer attached to her mailbox. She hired the company in March for five lawn treatments at a cost of $480, but it never finished the work. She said she found it odd that Buckingham insisted that the check be written directly to him, instead of his company. She has been unable to contact him.
A Ballwin couple said they paid Buckingham $629 for five treatments that included fertilization and mole repellent work. “They aerated one time, threw some grass seed down and that was it,” said the wife. She said she too has been unable to contact Buckingham.
The Chesterfield homeowner said he paid Buckingham $850 in September 2009, half the cost of building a landscaping wall. When the work still was not done nearly a year later, he contacted police. “He seemed like a guy who needed the work; he seemed sincere.”
The company’s website, www.greenerspacesonline.com, calls the business “one of the premier full service landscaping companies in the St. Louis area. We offer a wealth of experience and expertise, at lower prices (than) the larger companies.”
The BBB offers these tips to consumers looking to hire a lawn service company:
- Get a signed contract, outlining exactly what work will be done and what you will be expected to pay, and read it carefully before making any commitment.
- Ask whether the business guarantees performance or offers a refund if it fails to meet your expectations.
- Beware of high-pressure sales tactics that offer you more services than you want and charge more than you want to pay. Be cautious of open-ended service agreements that charge you for long term maintenance programs.
- Be cautious of discount offers that encourage you to make all payments in advance.
- Contact the BBB for Business Reviews at www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.
Contacts: Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-584-6800, email@example.com, or Bill Smith, Trade Practice Investigator, 314-584-6727, firstname.lastname@example.org