The San Fernando valley gardening scam

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Be careful of white trucks that pull up to your house with a lot of steer manure and grass seed. This happens all over the San Fernando Valley, maybe the whole of Los Angeles.

I’ve seen this scam go down many times when I’m out driving or out running. I saw this happen Friday when I was out running. I have seen it again and again.

Here’s how it goes:

You’re out in your front yard or someone knocks on your door and you go out into your back yard. This gardening guy says to you, Your lawn needs fertilizer, needs seed. You kind of walk around a bit with the guy, and you say, Well, my lawn does need some help, you’ve got me there.

Then it happens. A bunch of guys unload out of the truck and they start right in fertilizing your lawn. They take out bags and bags of fertilizer; like forty bags of it and they spread it all over and they spread the seed. You start to get a little anxious and you ask how much it’s going to be. (I slowed down to watch this lady at this point, she kept following them around asking but at this point, nobody seems to speak English) She kept asking, and I stopped to see what was going to happen.

This is what happens next.
The five or six guys finish fertilizing the lawn and spreading the grass seed. Then the leader guy comes over to you and says, That will be $600.

You hesitate. The guys kind of line up at this point and look at you.

At this point, I saw the woman in some sort of robe, was it really a bathrobe? Looking at the five or six guys. And then it was coming to her—these guys know where I live and I owe them money and I did okay it. I’ve watched this several times and you can almost see the wheels turning and the justification for the money as in, Well, maybe my lawn will be better as a result?

She went inside and came back with six hundred dollars in cash. Apparently, she was one of the lucky ones. Residents of L.A. report being asked to come back with as much as $1500. I’ve watched this happen on more than one occasion.

Most people in Los Angeles have a gardener. It’s probably best to just have your gardener do whatever it is you need done to your yard. If other people come up in a truck, it’s better to just say, No. And no, means no. A lot of the gardening being done in Los Angeles is done by Hispanics. Nails are done by Vietnamese. I don’t know why jobs got divided up like that.

California is a wonderful state, a state where you can make yourself over. But, it’s also a place where everybody’s trying to make a buck. It’s good to be careful. A crew of guys getting ready to redo your lawn? Looks too good to be true? That’s because it is too good to be true. Dreams are a way of hoping that life could be way better than it is. That people usually mean well. And maybe they do.

Published in: on November 17, 2013 at 4:18 pm  Comments (4)  

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  1. I’m afraid I fell for this scam. I live in Palmdale, CA. This happened to me yesterday, 3/22/14, exactly how you described. When they started with three bags, I eyeballed the lawn and figured it may take about 40-50 bags, which would cost me, at most, $350. So, I didn’t think much of it. While they worked, I was asking questions like “What happens to the old grass, will the new one choke the old lawn and take over?” “How long will the new grass take to grow?” I kept getting vague answers and was told they’ll be back in two weeks to check on the grass.

    I was in and out of the house and lost track of what they were doing. Then, I mentioned my backyard. The leader was more than happy to assess it with me. When I returned to the front yard, I asked for a bag count. To my shock, the front count was 218, amounting to over $1,500! At this point, I started to ask questions and suspected them of stacking bags. The leader made me feel bad about even thinking that! I was a bit upset, but I did agree to the work.

    The leader then offered to include the backyard for a total of only $1,500. Feeling I had no other choice, I agreed. They fixed a busted PVC pipe and sprinkler head, so I figured these guys were honest. I even gave a second check for $50 as tip for the five guys! After the work, I asked some friends while playing poker about their opinion. That’s when they told me that I paid way too much!

    Worried, I Googled it, and I found this article. Luckily, I paid with checks. I stopped payment on the two checks this morning. I got two names, and the cellphone number of the leader. I will demand to have my checks back, so they won’t be able to ever cash them. The stop payment is good for only six months. I will tell the leader, give the checks back or I call the police because they are scamming people. I hope that’s enough to get my checks and get these guys off my back!

    Now, I have to figure out what to do with these eyesores. I don’t know if the grass will grow. I’m thinking I’ll have two layers of grass, and my lawn will be awful! This is assuming that the seeds will even germinate! I may have to hire a real landscaper to clean up the mess!

    Never again!


    • Hi, I’m a 20 year old guy that would do this on a every weekend bases. It’s not that we are going with the mentality to scam you; we really do work hard on every lawn or backyard we have to do. I was 14 when I began to do this, it’s good money and the supplies we use are supposed to work or as far as we know. I’m sorry to hear that your grass did not turn out the way it was supposed to turn out. You must understand that when you have to pay 1200 a month for rent, on top of making sure your family has enough food. Not counting the bills! How do you expect undocumented men with families to survive off of 9 dollars the hour!? A gallon of milk is at 3.25; we know this is not right but these men don’t have a working permit or social security number. They have no other choice but to hustle for what their families are in need of. I am truly sorry if we have done damage, your money was a true blessing to these families. Thank you and sorry again

      • I grew up in poverty, so I empathize with your plight. But, that doesn’t give you the right to scam others. When I was young, every summer during school breaks, my siblings and I would help our parents pick grapes. We earned an honest living. We learned to work hard and valued what we have. We also learned to set goals, dream of a better tomorrow, and studied hard. We went to college and earned our degrees. Because of the values our parents instilled in us, we are now professionals who earn great living as positive contributors to society. What my parents did is how you instill good values to your children. By scamming others, you will teach your kids to scam others in the future. Again, I empathize with you. But, I adamently disagree with this scam. There are other ways to make an honest living.

        By the way, I’m thankful that I paid with checks. It turned out that the checks were totally voided, and it only cost me $20 to stop payment. After consulting with legitimate landscapers who all told me that there is no chance that the junk on my lawn will help my grass grow, I decided to remove the tons of manure from my lawn and slowly restored my grass myself. I’m one of the lucky ones. But, there are other not-so-lucky ones, mostly elderly who are on a fixed income and cannot afford $700 – $1,500. Do you have empathy for them?

  2. I’m in Lancaster CA. 3 guys in red dodge truck offered to lay sod and seed down and offered to pick weeds. I asked for estimate but they offered to do 5 bags free and I can see how much bags they use for rest of the area. With 5 bags they covered about 7′ x 7′ area. By looking at my yard I estimated I would need about 20 more bags. They wanted $8/bag, but seed and labor was included(“Today only special”). after about 1hour and 38 bags later, they didn’t even cover half of my yard. I asked them to stop working. They were supposed to lay 5bags at a time so I can count as they worked. But when I stopped them from working (at the time I counted 5bag per trips(expected 25 bags plus 5 bags from demo) But they counted 38. It felt like a scam and tried calling Sheriff but they said it was civil matter. I gave them my name and address to take care of this in court. I’m interested to hear about anyone else and how they handled the situation.

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