MIDLOTHIAN, VA (WWBT) - A 12 On Your Side success story: an 85-year-old Midlothian woman is getting her money back. She said a tree service company jacked up the price of a tree removal by $2,000, despite a contract she signed.
On Your Side Investigator Diane Walker broke this story last week. Now, we're talking one-on-one with the company owner, who says he was a victim too.
Owner Thomas Smith of Thomas Smith Tree Service says what happened to the 85-year-old Midlothian woman is not how he does business. He says nothing like this has ever happened to him in 18 years of running his company. Smith says he was victimized by rogue employees.
Smith came from Unionville to meet Jacquelin Gusti, just as he promised he would - except Smith showed up without making the call I asked him to to alert Jacquelin and me of his arrival time in advance.
When he showed up unannounced, Jacquelin called 12 and Special Projects Producer Matt Boyce was on scene, camera rolling.
Here's some of that exchange:
NBC 12 Producer: "Are you willing to do that, to give her $2,000 back?"
Smith: "Yes. Yes. Okay. Alright."
NBC 12 Producer: "Are you going to be able to do that today?"
Smith: "Yes. What, you are going to sit her and watch?"
NBC 12 Producer: "Well, I was going to stay here and shoot some video. She's invited me onto her property."
Smith: "All right, this is crazy, but I don't have a problem paying her money back."
Smith then counted out the cash and asked for a receipt. Smith handed Jacquelin Gusti $2,000 in $100 bills. She says she doesn't believe she would have received any amount near that if we had not intervened.
"No. I don't thinks so. He would have tried to give me a little bit back, but not much," said Gusti. "Diane, I want to thank you so much for what you've done for me. I appreciate it so much, and I don't know what I would have done."
Smith said dishonest employees acted without his knowledge. He wasn't there and those rogue employees signed his name on the contract and scratched in the higher price.
He says it's behavior he would never do.
Smith: "I wasn't there for none of it...They don't work for me no more."
NBC 12 Producer: "Okay. Did you fire them because of this?"
Smith: "No. I fired them because I found something beneath my seat."
He says the now-fired workers did overcharge Jacquelin, but adds it was more than a $1,400 job.
"If something's done wrong to a customer, I try to make it right," said Smith. "But I have never had nothing like this happen."
Smith says the size of the oak tree and the work involved in taking it down should have been a $2,800 job. He chose to refund $2,000 to try and correct a wrong.
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