MADISONVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A Madisonville couple thought they did their homework when they hired a business to install an air conditioning unit. They made their decision based on a friend’s positive reference, but the contractor insisted on half of the money up front and got it, but never showed up to do the work.
In the commercial world of big heating and air systems, in most cases, there is a small percentage of up front money required, according to their association. However, it’s different for non-commercial work – smaller jobs under $6,000 to $8,000. Contractors may request money up front when installing a system in someone’s home, some as much as 50 percent, but what happens if the contractor is paid, gives a start date, and never shows up?
Charlie Lockwood says their old system is worn out and had served its purpose for many years.
“She’s done all she can do for 30 years and dropped dead,” Lockwood said.
In early August with no cool air, they had to get a new unit. The Lockwoods moved into an older home in Madisonville two years ago. Charlie Lockwood and his wife Connie knew the air conditioner was on its last legs and had put money aside to eventually replace it.
A friend recommended AAA HVAC Professionals, a company based in Alcoa. The operator is Eric Agre. Lockwood said Agre came out and said he needed to replace the four-ton unit. An invoice was written on August 23.
“They were going to come in here and sketch the furnace,” Charlie Lockwood said.
The Lockwoods said they were excited. The job was going to be done quickly. They also needed the old heating unit replaced in their basement, so that was also part of the deal stuck with Agre.
“Sure enough, he came over that next day and said, ‘Oh, I can take care of this. We’ll take care of this tomorrow.’ So he wrote here, ‘We will be there tomorrow morning at ten.’ So, we were like, you are our man. He then said, ‘I’ll have to have $1,875 right now,'” said Charlie Lockwood.
Without questioning the contractor, they wrote a check for $1,875, 50 percent, upfront. They expected AAA HVAC Pros to be out within a day or two, but the contractor was a no-show.
“He wouldn’t answer the phone, but he texted us. Said, ‘Oh, I’m going to come, come the next day.’ We sat here the whole next day, he never showed,” Charlie Lockwood said.
In a series of text message comments to the Lockwoods, Agre kept promising for several days he’d be out any day. Finally, the Lockwoods got through to AAA Pros.
“I said, ‘Please have him call me, tell me what he is going to do.’ ‘Oh yeah, he’ll be right in, will call you the first thing.’ Never called me,” Charlie Lockwood said.
Realizing they messed up in doing their homework, Connie Lockwood said she went to Agre’s Facebook page where some customers left comments about their experiences. There were several unflattering reviews.
“Don’t waste your time with the fly-by-night company, they’re not professional. They take your money and run,” she read.
A UPS Store in Alcoa is listed as the company’s business address. However, WATE 6 On Your Side found a company truck at another location in Alcoa. It was Agre’s home, according to neighbors.
WATE went there to ask him why he had not installed the heating air system. No one was at home except for a little dog. Found in the front yard were some discarded parts of an old A/C unit. Unable to talk directly, WATE called Eric Agre and asked if was going to return the couple’s $1,875. He left a voice message:
“Hey there, Mr. Dare. This is Eric with AAA. Calling about Mr. Lockwood. His money will be sent to him certified return receipt, in question, on Friday. It will be in the mail by 6 p.m.,” he said in the message.
Five days after that deadline, WATE received a picture of a check and a certified return notice. After waiting for that check, it never arrived. The Lockwoods still don’t have their money and said they intend to file court action if the down payment doesn’t arrive.
“Because he was a referral from a friend, we let our guard down,” said Charlie Lockwood.
WATE called Agre a number of times over the last several days about that check, but there’s been no response. The Lockwoods said on Monday they’ve filed a small claims case against Agre. They had a deputy serve the warrant, but no one was at his house, so the warrant could not be served.