Scam Alert! Some Salvage and Reclaim Companies Are Less Than Honest
by Brett Maynard
(Northumberland County, Ontario Canada)
I just recently stumbled across your site, and like it very much. I hope that it will become a useful tool to my company as well as others on your site.
My company Bored Barn has been in the salvage and reclamation of old period barns and homesteads for several years.
Within the last 6-8 months, there has been an influx of people claiming to "take down barns for free", or "we pay for your barn" across Ontario, Canada. Unfortunately, they are giving companies like ours a bad name.
Due to the higher unemployment rate and the demand for barn board (that is dropping) several people feel that this industry is the new "goldrush". While these people make a desirable sales pitch, the property owners are also driven by cost. However once they have fallen prey to these people it is often too late.
The scam is that these companies will often offer to clean up everything in exchange for the wood, or even go as far as offering $500-$1500.00 for the barn and still offer to clean everything up.
Not true. The people strip all of the usable interior and exterior board and a couple beams and leave the less desirable skeleton that has been butchered even for a kit along with the scrap.
The owners have often called us to say that the cost to seek legal recourse is far greater than to just have the site cleared. Unfortunately when the reputable companies like ours try to explain this to customers at the beginning, they feel that we are doing a sales pitch also.
So my question Aaron is this, is this a common occurrence nationwide, or only across Ontario, Canada? And how can we make more people aware of the various scams such as how to deal with vendors that claim to be insured but aren't?
I would very much like to hear from your experience.
Welcome to the BarnGeek community, and thank you very much for your question.
Let me start by saying that I understand completely where you are coming from, there are many fly by night operations out there that will take advantage of folks who may not have money but have a resource like an old barn. It is really sad when this happens. It has been happening since the beginning of the reclaimed lumber industry, in fact it happens in many other industries as well.
The only solace is the fact that companies, (and I use that term with hesitation, usually it's a guy with a chainsaw and some crow bars) these guys are usually found out fairly quickly and their reputation follows them. At that point if someone is taken advantage of by them it's because they didn't do their due diligence and check out the company or person ahead of time.
So in answer to your first question, yes this is a nationwide problem, and an industry wide problem, in fact I would go so far as to say it's a world wide problem.
You said in your comments
"The scam is that these companies will often offer to clean up everything in exchange for the wood, or even go as far as offering $500-$1500.00 for the barn and still offer to clean everything up. Not True"
I would say that for the most part you are correct, however there are many exceptions to this, depending on the marketing angle of the person doing the reclamation. It all boils down to if the person or company is getting a high enough price for the barn-wood products they sell. If they do then they may very well be able to afford to do the reclamation for free or even pay a little for the barn.
Say the reclaimer is using the lumber to make a high value end product such as flooring or furniture, and they have found a market for every piece of wood then they very well may be able to do the work in exchange or even pay for the barn.
The reclaimer may have a buyer that will buy every piece of wood in a certain type of barn, and can be confident in making such an offer.
These examples are normally the exception and not the rule.
So indeed how do we educate folks that could fall victim of a reclaimer scam? I think one of the ways would be to direct them to this website and other websites that list reclaim companies and allow anyone to rate and comment on their listing.
If a company does well and maintains a high standard of integrity then people will say so, they will rate that company, which will give others confidence that they can trust this company because they have kept their promises to others.
If a company takes advantage of people and runs off with a job half done then people will most certainly say so and rate the company according to what they have done. This very thing has played itself out with one of the companies listed here:
Having a listing on BarnGeek.com can be a tremendously valuable thing if you are a reputable company, or it can be devastating if you are not.
Here is why, these listings are free and when submitted to us they are the property of barngeek.com, so if you end up with a lot of negative comments and want your listing removed, guess what... tough! You want to be a bad guy and get away with it? You won't be doing that here my friend!
That wasn't directed to anyone in particular just a warning to all the bad guys out there, you know who you are, and soon we will to.
So in a nutshell I would say the best way for folks to avoid these unscrupulous reclaimers and there shenanigans would be to do their due diligence before agreeing to let them on your property. If they claim to have insurance get a copy of there policy, get references from former clients of theirs, and finally get more than one "quote" (in fact get at least 3) on the job, and go with the one in the middle, and check the reputation of the person or company online, people talk and if they are a bad egg you will most likely find out.
Thanks again for your question Brett. Have a great day!