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Friday, November 7, 2014

This morning's snow/sleet mix serves as a reminder that winter is on the way. Many people have already hired companies and contractors to take care of their home and business snow removal. Still, others will scramble once the snow falls.

Better Business Bureau serving Upstate New York offers tips on how to hire the right contractor and make the relationship with them go smoothly through the spring.

“While there are several A+ accredited snow removal businesses, unfortunately we still receive several complaints from people who are left in the cold to dig themselves out after the fact,” said Warren Clark, BBB President. “Businesses and consumers that are looking for services can find trusted information and reliable snow removal businesses at”

The bureau says frequent complaints from consumers include Plows not coming when the snowfall was over the snow amount in the contract, people having to shovel their own driveways several times to make it to work or other appointments, plows came, but did a poor job and/or damaged property without restitution, calls for service never returned, and more.

Last season, one Rochester area-snow plow company received 72 complaints from consumers in a six month period, most complaints coming after major snowfall events when the company failed to show up or answer calls from customers, who all paid for the season in full.

BBB urges consumers to keep these important tips in mind when hiring snow removal services:

  • Look for experience. Each home or business is different; and experience does matter. Consumers need to make sure everyone who works for a company has relevant experience, not just the owner. Price factors include: property layout, the size of the service area and whether customers request removal of snow from other areas such as sidewalks or walkways.
  • Ask how jobs are scheduled. Some contractors do snow plowing as a part-time job, and this may affect their availability to clear a driveway when needed. Always check to see if there is a schedule for snow removal.
  • Get more than one estimate. There can be a lot of factors to be considered with snow removal. BBB recommends consumers get at least three estimates before making a decision. Ask for all the costs are known upfront to avoid any surprises. Keep in mind the lowest price is not always the best indicator of the best service.
  • Ask about insurance. Who is responsible if your home or grounds are damaged during the winter season? Find out what type of insurance coverage potential contractors provide, as well as homeowner’s insurance. Does a municipality require the contractor to have a permit or license? Consumers need to make some calls to find out and then check to make sure the contractor is appropriately covered. 
  • Review the contract. Consumers should not have to settle for a verbal agreement; the contractor should provide a written contract. A representative should come out to look at the property and make notes about services requested and potential obstacles. Find out how to terminate the agreement if necessary. Get all of these details in writing and always read before you sign. Know all the terms and conditions of the contract. Understand cancellation fees and any extra charges that may apply.
  • Split the payments. Find out how the company expects payment. Most snow plow contracts take two forms: pay per plowing or pay per season. If consumers choose a pay per season contract in a light snow season, the contractor is not obligated to refund any money. If consumers are expected to pay all fees upfront – consider it a red flag. Most contractors will split fees into two or three payments – one at the beginning, middle and end of the season. Never pay cash.
  • Get contact information. Make sure to get the contact information for the company in the case of a snow emergency, and know the policies about who to reach, standard contact phone numbers and any special number for urgent needs.
  • Beware of scams. Remember even if a business appears to be reliable, it does not mean it is. When a company is reluctant to answer questions, won’t supply proper information or unwilling to offer references – there could be cause for concern.
  • Check with the BBB. They provide background information, complaint history and resolution to complaints in our Business Reviews. Check out snow removal services at and if you can’t find a Business Review, ask BBB to start one.

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