If you are going to do something for your retirement that goes well beyond shuffleboard, traveling abroad, golf, or sitting on a beach somewhere, be prepared for the people you contract with to be a much bigger obstacle to your success than the actual plans.
You simply cannot make this up. For those who have followed this blog from the beginning you know that not only is it our intent to build this farm as a symbol of sustainability and an effort to preserve traditions of our agricultural past, it is also to be our retirement place. We hope to be here growing food, raising animals, gazing at the stars, doing crafts and enjoying a rural existence until we are simply too old or unable to continue.
The setbacks have been stunning. All of them have involved dishonest people. We lost the first place we bid on, had to put money into this place before we even owned it, had myriad delays in deliveries, a greenhouse company that couldn’t get its act together, and is now bankrupt and out of business, and now…… not a month after the greenhouse was built, the solar company we contracted with to basically take the place off the grid has defrauded us out of $31,000.00!!! They are no longer in business as we can tell and we have nothing to show for it.
Solar Mart came to us with a spotless record. They were highly recommended, and we even have a credit union right near the place in town for whom they did their solar installation. We were told, because we were also having a battery back up system installed, that Arapahoe county didn’t really understand how the system worked and that they kept coming back with questions. Each question adding delay upon delay. Finally, we were told that we had a project start date. It was supposed to be the Tuesday after Labor Day. Because of that they needed the second payment to pay for the equipment we would have installed. The third being due upon completion. I shuffled my work schedule around so that I could be available for the crew when they arrived. That Tuesday, around 10 am, I received a call from the project manager stating that we were still in the permitting phase; that Arapahoe County still had questions. No one was coming. It was then that my BS detector had come off the neutral peg and started to quiver.
We gave them a week after that. I started making email inquiries and phone calls as to when we could expect the project to begin. No answers from anyone. No returned emails. My wife thought I was just being grumpy. Then she tried to get ahold of them. No answers. Then she got grumpy. I finally decided to jump in the truck and go pay them an unannounced visit. I drove to their showroom… it was dark. Fortunately the door was unlocked so I went in. After a little bit of a wait in a showroom that was clearly being boxed up, the woman we met to give our second check showed up. She told me they weren’t open. She didn’t recognize me at first but when she discovered who I was she got visibly shaken. The DeJong fireworks erupted in a display that I am sure some of the other businesses in that warehouse were quite entertained by. My voice booms. If put in an empty warehouse… it echoes. We were informed that ours was one of the projects that was cancelled due to some alleged negotiations of the sale of the company to another. At that time there was some dispute as to who actually owned the company now.
I got the numbers to both the old owner and the CEO of the acquiring company and both denied owning the company…. Believe me, both understand that I hold them all responsible for stealing our money. There is certainly reason to believe that the project never went to the county for permitting in the first place. It turns out, also, that the woman I encountered at the warehouse was the original owner’s wife. I confronted her point blank as to whether or not she knew about the company’s demise at the time we gave her the second check. Almost in tears and clearly scared to death, she denied it. That is almost certainly a lie. The company was allegedly purchased. The former CEO resigned on August 24th and we gave them the check on the 28th under the perception that there was some urgency to get it to them. It turns out that in the buy/sell agreement there was a clause that stated that if the records being used to justify the sale were not accurate or truthful that the contract was null and void. The seller defrauded that company too and they washed their hands of the sale. We didn’t know about the sale of the company or any of these events until this past week.
Now the money is gone, the project not even started, 40 other projects in disarray and another hassle from dishonest people bedeviling the build out of our homestead. This was to be the last “core” piece of construction needing completion and now we have nothing to show for it.
We have been getting some help. The radio show that Solar Mart had a good reputation with was a referral network. Zina contacted them and their director has been working with us to get some kind of justice. He has an “in” with the DA of the economic crimes division in Denver and we got all of our documentation submitted to him this morning. Zina has already received a response from him stating that this is a cut and dried case of fraud and they will be pursuing it. I doubt that we will see a dime from this. For my clients who read this…. this is why you keep cash reserves!! Fortunately we didn’t go into debt and it won’t break us. This is more a case of shock and disgust. No way they win… no way! I will take great joy seeing him arrested and doing jail time.
So in the meantime, we are all trying to once again heal from the antics of people who simply don’t understand the real meaning of the word honesty. I haven’t really had time to defuse from the whole greenhouse debacle yet and now this! I trust no one anymore. I am continually flabbergasted how some people can live with themselves. I don’t know how many psychological blows I can withstand, although I think my success rate to date has been pretty exemplary.
The warrior is once again determined. Make no mistake, we will pursue this to the end. The farm WILL have solar electricity and we will win. I do NOT take defeats lightly. In fact… I do not take them … at all.
I know the saying that what doesn’t kill you makes your stronger… I am strong enough thank you very much. Never let your guard down because even when something looks on the up and up (and we had NO reason to believe these people would do this to us) it can still go full goose bozo wrong on you. The key is to be able to take blow after blow, get up and keep moving forward. That is what I fully intend to do.
Beware homesteaders…. the monsters are out there and they want your money.
All dressed up but nobody’s home: