Monday, August 30, 2010

American Shingle Collapses

We never approved of the way American Shingle's door-to-door salesmen operated.  We've had complaints and heard horror stories about inappropriate behavior, escalating altercations, misleading sales claims, and on several occasions taking advantage of the elderly.  The company asked their customers to file claims with their insurance carrier and allow them to negotiate with the insurance company.  It is an unnecessary, abnormal and dangerous sales tactic.  For a long time, American Shingle addressed their complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau and maintained a satisfactory record. Despite their repeated attempts, however, we would not allow them to become BBB accredited. Their sales tactics were too problematic. Once American Shingle's bad habits started to wear off on our local businesses, we issued an alert, warning against these sales practices.

American Shingle President Carlton DeWayne Dunko opened with an aggressive plan to simultaneously establish his business in several states. To extend a company's resources across several states in this way is dangerous unless handled by an accomplished businessperson.  Perhaps Dunko had seen the success of BBB Accredited Aspen Contracting, a company that burst onto the scene in 2006 and now operates in 37 states.  It has continued to grow, regularly announcing the opening of new locations.  Aspen had the right idea when they opened many physical locations and established a local presence with sixteen offices across the nation (probably more by now).

 Instead of allowing the company to grow naturally, American Shingle outgrew its revenue and relied on overly-aggressive sales tactics to assure roofing jobs. It did not work.  American Shingle began paying for old roofing jobs with the payments from the new ones.

We received calls and inquiries, dozens by the day, about American Shingle.  Being naturally curious because of my position, I began asking questions about the company, their sales tactics and their work.   I continued to do this and by May, I could tell that not all was well with American Shingle.  By June, I was convinced that American Shingle was sinking and I began contacting consumer protection agencies, just to get a feel for the atmosphere.  I was somewhat surprised to find that most agencies I spoke with only had a passing knowledge of the company.  By the end of July, it seemed that everyone knew about them.  Linda Wagar from Fox 4 began her investigation of the company, as well as news organizations in Tennessee and Georgia.  The Kansas Attorney General's office, an incredibly tight-lipped group, even said "We're aware of them" (That's as good as you can get from them.  They're like the Russian guys in crime movies that don't say much but get their point across with presence).

Tennessee was the first state to feel the financial squeeze that American Shingle had gotten itself into and issued a warning  against them.  They just stopped putting on roofs.  In the Kansas City area, the company postponed telling their customers by reestablishing a date to install roofs.  The installation, of course, will never come because American Shingle was evicted from their Lenexa location before any work began on area roofs.  According to Fox 4, some 400 Kansas City area homeowners have paid to have their roofs replaced and received nothing.

In one of the most self-delusional or disingenuous comments I have ever heard, Dunko actually said,"It wasn't the hard-earned paycheck that I took, it was the check that their insurance company provided." I'm not sure if he realizes who pays the insurance policy, or that once an insurance company shells out money for a roof, they won't do it again, but Dunko's comments are either a desperate attempt to salvage an irreparably tarnished reputation or just...well, stupid.  He's facing several investigations for American Shingle as well as other companies, so he must have some grasp of how unfair his business practices were.  Everyone from the Secret Service and state Attorneys General right on down to county Sheriffs are investigating American Shingle for financial misdeeds. He could easily face jail time for his actions.

Right now, our local consumer protection agencies are taking complaints on the company so that they can better determine what action to take.  If you have dealt with American Shingle and wish to file a complaint, you can contact the Kansas Attorney General's office: (785) 368-8447, Missouri (573) 751-3321 or if you live in Johnson County, Kansas you can contact the ever-vigilant Johnson County Prosecutor's Office (913) 715-3000.

CLICK HERE for Linda Wagar's story about American Shingle on Fox 4


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