le Vendredi 3 février 2023
le Mercredi 18 janvier 2023 14:59 Vision (Clarence-Rockland)

Plowing service leaves customers snowed in

Dozens of homeowners from Bourget to Orléans were left high and dry by a snow removal and contracting company hired over Facebook, totalling thousands of dollars lost.  — file photo
Dozens of homeowners from Bourget to Orléans were left high and dry by a snow removal and contracting company hired over Facebook, totalling thousands of dollars lost.
file photo
The stresses of the holiday season this year were only buttressed by a series of winter storms that ruined Christmas travel plans for many across Ontario.

Not wanting to deal with the headache of an extra 30 centimetres of snow after the December 16 snowstorm, Arnold and his wife Jennifer, whose names the Vision has agreed to alter for their safety, turned to Facebook Marketplace to find a snow removal company willing to take the load off their shoulders and clear their Rockland driveway. As both suffer from health concerns that restrict their mobility, a snow removal service was necessary.

The couple were happy to hear back from Zeps Contracting, who posted its services on one of the largest Facebook groups used by people in Clarence-Rockland and the Ottawa area to find work and contractors. To find someone enthusiastically responding to their messages so late in the season and on the eve of a massive storm was a relief. After reviewing the price and contract, Arnold and Jennifer paid the required down payment and an extra amount for the company to remove the windrow after the plow passed.

But when the storm hit and the snow started piling up, Zeps Contracting never showed up. Numerous phone calls, texts and Facebook messages and more than 24 hours later, their driveway still wasn’t cleared.

“I thought maybe I was missed because I was a new customer,” said Jennifer. “So, I messaged the Rockland / Ottawa: I Need to Know Facebook group asking if anyone else got their clearing.”

Not soon after, Hunter Rombough, the registered owner of Zeps Contracting, called Jennifer and Arnold ,screaming at them and uttering threats of bodily harm. A scary situation for the couple.

“He calls, threatening myself, my husband, my home, my vehicles,” said Jennifer. “He says he’s coming with a group of people saying that I’m not going to leave the house without needing stitches. He knows where we live. We gave him our address.”

Not the only ones deceived

After calling the police and filing a complaint, Arnold and Jennifer returned to Facebook to warn others and soon learned there were many others who left in the cold by Zeps Contracting. As many as a dozen people had paid for a service that was never provided, for households ranging from Bourget to Orléans, and totaling thousands of dollars lost, including one person who hired the company to renovate their chip stand last summer. In fact, so many people were impacted they set up a Facebook group dedicated to helping those wronged by the company.

According to others who were scammed, Arnold and Jennifer’s experience was typical. Getting in touch with Zeps Contracting was easy and they were eager to help, but once a payment was made they were either nowhere to be found or performed a cursory one-time job. Any sort of follow-up or complaint was met with threats of violence.

OPP stated they cannot comment on any complaints reported, but said they “investigate and follow up on any reports made” and determine if any fraud has taken place.

Contractor says intensity of storm to blame

Through a Facebook messenger conversation, Rombough said a series of unfortunate events made him late to do some clients driveways, but he still got to them.

“I had over 30 driveways, my employee for the east end quit on me after the huge storm we had so I got stuck having to do them all, from Rockland to Baseline in Ottawa,” said Rombough, adding that road conditions and accidents slowed everyone down. “Every time I tried hiring someone to help me, they would not show up.”

Rombough claimed to be on the receiving end of threats as well, saying clients grew impatient despite assurances he would get to them eventually.

For those who lost money or cancelled their services with Zeps Contracting, Rombough said he intends on giving the money back.

Until then, the Facebook group against the company is still active and continues to grow, nearly doubling its membership over the last week.