Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014 | 8 a.m.
Shady contractors who have screwed Las Vegas victims are about to get their comeuppance while being exposed by reality-TV cameras. “Catch a Contractor” hosts Adam Carolla and husband-and-wife Skip Bedell and Alison Bedell are looking for local homeowners who have been ripped off by the “take the money and run” contractors.
Whoever would have guessed that funnyman Adam is a master carpenter and respected homebuilder before finding fame and fortune as a radio and TV personality? On this Spike TV show now going into Season 3, his trained eye can spot building blunders, crooked contractors and crappy construction.
If you have been a victim, the trio of vigilantes could right your wrongs. Go to Spike.com to sign up to have your bad builder busted and to look at video clips of the show that debuted this past spring as a 30-minute program before being expanded in Season 2 this fall to a weekly one-hour show.
Skip explained, “We are a one-two punch. I hit the contractor with the facts, and Adam hits him with humor. Together we’re more effective to get through to these bad guys, but they are not happy to see us.
“Our mission is to help fix the disaster and make sure justice is served.”
To date, Adam, Alison and Skip have filmed in Los Angeles, but now they’re headed here shortly with the belief there’s more crooked contractors to catch. I talked with Skip and Alison as they prepared for pre-production to get underway here.
How do you catch a shady contractor?
Skip: Well, it’s a process. We start by hearing the story that people write to us on our website CatchaContractor.com.
They can fill out an application and tell us their story. Once we choose the ones that we think will be good, they have to work within the time frame of the show that we have and the scope of work. Once they get those stories, then Alison takes over and does the investigation work.
Alison: We take whatever information the homeowner is able to provide because oftentimes the contractors aren’t returning their calls anymore, and they are making themselves scarce. I’m a private investigator, so we have access to certain databases that the general public does not have access to such as DMV records and things to do with the court.
We use these types of things to track down where somebody might be and then the typical talking to neighbors, going to places of business, last known addresses. There’s a lot involved in finding these guys, but ultimately when we do that, then we start the process to set them up to come over to the sting house.
Skip: They never want to be found. By the time we’re out looking for them, other people have been out looking for them for six months or a year. They might have changed their phone number or moved out of the area. Bottom line is they’re never happy to see us, Robin.
It sounds as though Alison has the more dangerous part of this partnership.
Skip: I don’t know about that! She definitely can handle herself. She’s a force to be reckoned with, no doubt. Once we get these guys cornered into a house, there’s no forewarning, there’s no script, there’s no preparation for them. They think they’re coming to a house to give an estimate.
So when we spring out on them with the camera crew, myself, Adam and a whole big posse, they’re very surprised and not happy at all. They’re like a caged animal looking for a way to get out of that room, and it can get pretty crazy.
What’s the worst that’s happened?
Skip: We’ve definitely have had some physical confrontations. A lot of pushing and shoving and yelling. Bottom line is they’re never happy to see us. In most cases, they’re criminal-type characters who basically have been caught doing something wrong on national television, and we have a handful of pictures like, “Hey, remember these people you screwed over a year ago? You left them in shambles, and their children are in a dangerous home.”
Alison: They end up fight or flight all of a sudden. You can see they’re looking at the door weighing out their options. Are they going to start with what’s right in front of them? Are they going to go for the door? It’s really a delicate process for Adam and Skip in choosing their words wisely because they don’t want to say something that’s going to make the guy take off and not participate in the conversation.
I take it these people really aren’t builders; they’re con men. Do you bother to get them to repair what they’ve done, or do you do the repairing?
Skip: The whole premise of our show is we want to give them the opportunity to redeem themselves. Our No. 1 goal is to always get the family and their home back in one piece and back together and what they set out to get and basically get them justice.
Along the way, we also feel it’s a very important process that they do come back and they participate in the reconstruction of the home. Some of these guys are contractors, some of them of are lifeless guys who just are in over their head.
I think in some cases they reach a point in which they realize, “Wow, I’m underwater here, I didn’t charge enough money, I’m in trouble, I don’t have what it takes to finish the job.” And they just take off. Then of course there is a percentage of them who set out to not ever complete the job in the first place. They just try to get as much money upfront as they could.
We want to make sure they come back to the job because that does a few things. That gives us an opportunity to really beat them up and point out every single thing they did wrong, and we really run them through the mill. It’s like boot camp for these guys. Also along the way, we’re hoping that they’re paying attention, that we’re teaching them things because they might actually want to learn something so they don’t go out again and do this another time to people.
Alison: That’s a big part of it. Unfortunately some of these guys are so stuck on their egos that they’re not looking at this as a great opportunity to learn from somebody who wants to teach them a skill that they can use so they won’t have this problem again. Some of these guys are just looking to get through it and they don’t really absorb what’s going on.
You generally find that tigers don’t change their stripes. Once a crooked contractor, always a crooked contractor?
Skip: A lot of these people aren’t licensed; they’re not professional. So for me coming from the side of the business — a professional, licensed contractor and being raised through generations of men who’ve been in this business and done it properly — it’s hard for me to watch these guys because some of them never had the intention of doing the right thing.
Those people, you’re right, we’re not going to change them, but what we do at the point when we realize that is we give them a hard time. We make their lives miserable, and we do it publicly on television and make sure they never want to try to ever take a job again.
At the end of the day, the whole thing is to really educate them and educate homeowners who are watching the show so they don’t get into the same situation. We try to tell them what to look out for when they’re in the interviewing process. So many people are so thankful for what we’re doing. They’ve learned a lot watching the show, and they feel it’s saved them from going through the same thing.
Alison: There is really no other public forum that I can think of where so much information is given to the homeowner so that they can prevent being a victim of the same thing that almost everybody seems to have a problem with when somebody has a problem with a contractor. It always seems to be the same set of issues with regards to somebody not doing something right and not coming back, or they didn’t do it at all. So the whole vetting process, screening and how to get the right guy to begin with, is the most important part of it to avoid all of these problems.
Catch a Contractor
Catch a Contractor
When do you come to Las Vegas?
Skip: We’re scheduled to start filming in March. This will be the beginning of our third season. We’re very excited about it. The first season had a phenomenal turnout, the ratings were great, and that was for a 30-minute show. This last season, which we just had our finale last week, has been one-hour episodes with even better response. We’re very excited now to step outside our circle. The last two seasons have been in the Los Angeles area, and now we want to try and step out.
We’ve been talking to people all over the country. This isn’t a problem that’s really specific to any area. It’s really wherever people have a home and they need someone to work on it; eventually there’s going to be someone who will try to get over on them. It’s something that every single person in America can relate to. We’re happy to be able to get out of California and branch out and help out other folks.
Do you already have incidents to start digging into in Las Vegas?
Alison: No. We need people in Las Vegas to apply. If they have had a problem with a contractor, they should go to CatchaContractor.com and fill out the application. We need people to help.
Skip: We’re in the process right now of casting for the show. When I say casting, there are no actors, there’s no script, everything in this thing is 100 percent the real deal. There’s very little production. What you see is what you get. We’re looking to do 10 stories this season. I know a good chunk of them are going to be in Las Vegas. I think a few might also be in California, but the first part of our new season is all going to be in Las Vegas.
Alison: If we can get a hold of those people who apply on the website, that would be great. They’re going to get a free fix out of it. They’re going to get a free renovation and street justice on the person who screwed them over.
Are you surprised at the amount of chicanery that goes on?
Skip: Yes. Some of the stuff that we see, Robin, would just make your head spin. I’ve been in this business or around it pretty much my whole life. My grandfather and father were builders. I’ve seen a lot of construction in my lifetime, and in the last couple of years that we’ve been doing this, we’ve seen things that we didn’t even think were possible. Some of the worst building practices, some of the most unsafe, negligent, criminal activity. It is really surprising, and every time that we think it’s the worst that we’ve ever seen, someone else comes along and one-ups it.
Can you give me a couple of really bad examples of the worst building offenses you’ve seen?
Skip: Every single one is a really bad one. Last weekend, we had a guy who came in and wanted to redo someone’s roof. This is the episode where the gentlemen didn’t speak any English at all. We used a translator for the whole episode. As we were up on the roof inspecting, we found out that the entire thing was done completely wrong. It had no structural integrity to it at all. He had cut out all of the vent pipes, the pluming vents, the attic ventilation ports in the roof, even the chimney that went to the furnace was all cut.
So when he reroofed this existing roof, he cut the pipes off underneath the surface of the roof in the attic and roofed right over the holes. All the plumbing vents, all the noxious gases and everything that accumulates in those plumbing vents that escapes your house through the pipes that you see sticking out through the roof, they were now dumping out into the attic.
In addition to that, he had cut off the chimney pipe to the furnace, which was also located in the attic, and roofed over that hole. So thank God the people were out of the house for six months because they didn’t want to move back in because the place was in such shambles. They never went home, and they never had run their heat since he had been there.
Had they done that, the entire home would have blown up like a bomb because all of the methane gas that was accumulating in the attic, and the fact that the chimney and the gas furnace were located in the attic as well, it’s just a recipe for disaster. If it hadn’t blown up, they would have died from poisoning. That was on a list of many other things that he did wrong.
Prior to that, we had a guy who attempted to renovate someone’s bathroom, was trying to do all the different traits himself like plumbing, electric, all which he is not qualified to do it at all, and he actually did some electrical right next to the shower. He left some exposed wires hanging out of the wall right over the tub area where their kids were in the shower. Not even any wire nuts, no nothing, so it was just a perfect example of how someone can get electrocuted.
All a kid had to do was reach out and touch one of those exposed wires sticking out of the wall while in the tub, and their life would have been over. We see stuff like that all the time. Then just really poor craftsmanship across the board, stuff that you would look at and even just as a homeowner say that looks completely wrong. Some of the things that we film on the show that these guys do are just unbelievable, and that’s just a few.
This is not a negative, but with his humor on radio and television, one doesn’t think of Adam Carolla as a serious construction guy.
Skip: He’s a very serious guy. We’ve come to know Adam really well in the process of doing the show on and off camera. I can tell you he’s a really standup, quality guy, and he knows his stuff. He’s been around the construction trades for many years. What many people don’t know about him, long before he got into radio or showbiz of any type, he was into carpentry. He started out as a laborer on the bottom of the list and worked his way up as a journeyman and carpenter.
It’s not what he does on a day-to-day basis now, obviously, but he is very talented when it comes to all the different trades, especially in carpentry. We’re very happy to have him on the team, and together we make a really ecstatic team. Alison is doing her thing, she’s the best at what she does at finding these guys, and Adam and I make a great team at getting them back there and making them do it right.
Alison: When they finally get the guy in the sting house, the confrontation, Adam and Skip have a good mix because Skip is about the facts and confronting them on all of the mistakes that they made, and Adam is really good at diffusing the situation or talking reason into people or calling them out. It’s like good cop, bad cop. They mesh really well together when it comes to trying to communicate with somebody.
Skip: I’m usually the one yelling at them and getting in their face, and Adam is the one pointing out how stupid there were and all the mistakes they made. He does it in a funny way. If you watch the show, it’s really an interesting chemistry because he really is a comedic genius. The guy is just so witty and so fast, and some of the things that he comes up with on the fly, I have to tell you, Robin, it’s really hard to keep a straight face around the guy.
What we’re doing is such a serious, confrontational thing, and I’m trying to stay focused and stay serious and I’m in fight mode, and Adam is cracking jokes. It’s an interesting combination, and it makes for a really entertaining show.
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We’ll keep track of when the “Catch a Contractor” cameras roll here in Las Vegas and will sit in on one of the sting sessions.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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