Worst Columbus Contractors of 2011
Hague says Potok’s used the wrong mortar color to fill in a gap next to her fireplace. Photo courtesy of Ruth Hague
Urban Active Fitness | Columbus, Ohio
Urban Active Fitness, with eight locations in the Columbus area and several others in Ohio and Kentucky, faces the prospect of two class action lawsuits after at least 15 customers filed complaints of unlawful business practices when they tried to cancel their memberships.
The lawsuits, filed in April in Franklin and Cuyahoga counties against the Lexington, Ky.-based chain, allege violations of the Ohio Deceptive Trade Practices Act, breach of contract and unfair and deceptive business practices.
The suits claim Urban Active's 30-day cancellation policy is "unfair and abusive" because it obligates a member to a two-month contract, even though UAF markets month-to-month contracts.
Angie's List member Elisabeth Gelwick of Hilliard considers herself lucky after only paying $94 in extra fees while trying to cancel her membership at the Hilliard location. When she tried to cancel, a fitness center employee told her that she'd be billed an additional two months. "I asked for the phone number of the corporate office, and [the employee] feigned like he didn't know," she says. "He was very evasive."
She got the contract canceled after complaining to the Ohio attorney general and the BBB. The Hilliard center has a poor rating on the List, based on five reports. Four other Columbus locations on the List have high and low grades.
Thomas McCormick, an attorney representing nine plaintiffs in the Franklin County lawsuit, says Urban Active attorneys filed a motion for partial judgment in August to dismiss all charges in his lawsuit except breach of contract. As for when the judge planned to rule on his request for class action, McCormick says: "With class-action [suits], timetables for resolution are unpredictable."
Coby DeVary, the company's chief operating officer, says Urban Active takes the lawsuits seriously. "Everyone has the right to dispute signed agreements but using the terms 'unfair and deceptive practices' loosely without proper factual basis is simply wrong," he says.
In addition to the lawsuits, the Ohio attorney general's office recorded 214 complaints against the fitness center, including 33 at the Hilliard location, more than any individual location in Ohio. The facility remains open.
The Air Duct Doctor | New Albany, Ohio
Scott Loewenstine, owner of The Air Duct Doctor, racked up 11 failing reports in about four months last year from Angie's List members who complained that the company either failed to show up for scheduled appointments or took their money for air duct cleaning, but did little or no work.
Similarly, the Ohio attorney general received 16 complaints and the Columbus BBB received 36 complaints in the last year.
Columbus Angie's List member Gaurav Nagar says he paid Loewenstine $600 to clean the furnace, air ducts and dryer vent in his newly purchased home, as well as remediate any mold found in the air ducts. "I had no idea what cost what," Nagar says.
He says the company, which doesn't require a license, told him he had fungus inside his air ducts and it needed to be removed as soon as possible to prevent infections. "Two guys came and did a very shoddy job. They came and went in 15 minutes," Nagar says. "I asked one of the guys to show me the dust that came out, and he said he couldn't do that [because] it was too dangerous."
Dublin member Kevin Noesner says Loewenstine damaged his home while cleaning his air ducts. "His vacuum contraption got stuck in my bedroom floor, and they had to rip open my carpet and cut into my bedroom floor to get it out," Noesner says. "I negotiated a 20 percent discount, but that's when [Loewenstine] disappeared. I called about a half dozen times, but never heard from him."
Loewenstine told Angie's List Magazine that he's been out of business for several months, but he didn't specifically address the complaints. A notice on his AL company profile alerts members.
In January, outgoing Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland pardoned Loewenstine's 1989 and 1990 convictions for passing bad checks and a 1993 drug conviction, all in Hamilton County. A news release from the former governor says all who were pardoned applied for clemency after completing their sentence or never being incarcerated.
Potok's Contracting | Gahanna, Ohio
Ruth Hague of Blacklick lost $2,200 and gained a mess throughout her house and yard after hiring owner Aaron Potok to perform several handyman tasks, she claims.
"He had 10 projects going on at the same time, and he would keep asking for more and more money," she says. "He'd take checks, leave the job site, go directly to the bank and cash them and I wouldn't see him for two weeks."
Hague says she joined Angie's List after her experience with Potok's Contracting. The poorly rated company with 11 reports has 9 failing ratings, including Hague's and two in 2011. He also landed in the Penalty Box, and a notice on his AL profile alerts members.
City records indicate Potok does not hold the required general contractor, electrician and plumber licenses. He did not return messages.
Bassett Furniture Direct | Columbus, Ohio
Angie's List member Sara Bihari says she couldn't believe what happened when Bassett Furniture Direct delivered the wrong mattress to her Worthington home. "No one at the store would help me," she says. "They said they couldn't take 'used' mattresses back, but it wasn't used. It was unwrapped and in my house when I pointed it out."
Bihari says she didn't pursue the matter further, but the store lost out. "We needed to buy several things for the house, but we definitely didn't use Bassett," she says.
In June, the nationwide chain closed its Columbus location, which has a poor rating on Angie's List with 11 reports, nine of which are poor grades. A notice on the company's AL profile alerts members that it's closed.
Bassett customer service director Louise Collie says a licensee owned and operated the Columbus location, but customers can still receive help from the corporate office.
- by Adam Wire