'Desperate' homeowners scramble to hire someone - anyone - to plow them out

Peter Reuell

Shelley Hurst has heard every sob story in the book.

She's heard from lawyers and little old ladies. She's heard from women in labor, and just this week heard from a doctor.

No matter who they are, they all get the same answer.

Unless they are a regular customer, they will simply have to wait to get their driveway plowed.

The co-owner of Arthur W. Hurst Inc., Hurst this week said the company plows driveways for 40 to 45 regular customers, as well as commercial properties.

With two major storms that dumped nearly 20 inches on the region last week, and more on the way today, Hurst said she has been bombarded by homeowners who opted not to contract a plow service for the winter.

While Hurst has been able to take on some new customers in recent days, she admitted they will have to wait in line before they see a plow.

``You've got to get your regular customers done before you take on any new customers,'' she said. ``You can't neglect somebody who signed up in October to take care of somebody who calls in during a snowstorm.''

Though she often hears tales of ``emergencies'' on the phone, Hurst tells everyone the same thing.

``I can't materialize more trucks than I already have,'' she said. ``My heart bleeds for them, but there's no excuse they can make up, other than they'll pay me $1,000 cash.''

Following the relatively mild winters of the past two years, plow operators said this week, many homeowners who might otherwise contract for plow services decided to roll the dice this season.

Many are now regretting the decision, as companies turn away customers in favor of those who signed contracts, or up their prices to plow driveways they'd otherwise pass by.

``My phone's been ringing non-stop for quite some time,'' said Shawn Fitzgibbons, owners of Fitzgibbons Landscaping Company in Framingham. ``We've had a lot going on.''

In some circles, homeowners have become so desperate they're even calling companies that specialize in plowing commercial properties.

``People are calling because it's too heavy (or) their snow blowers broke,'' said Linda Fossile, office manager at Fossile Construction Corp. in Marlborough. ``But usually it's that their snowplow guy didn't show up.''

Though most give up when they realize Fossile doesn't plow driveways, a few do make desperate offers.

``They do say, `I'll pay anything!' '' Fossile said. ``But I can't accommodate them. Desperate is the word.''

``We're getting a lot of frantic calls,'' said Rex Kidd, owner of Capital Masonry and Paving in South Natick. ``The people that don't want to sign a contract, and the people that are worried about paying when you have a three-inch storm are the people that are stuck now.

``They're actually paying a premium, because a lot of people will just say ... because you haven't got it plowed, it's going to be $125 instead of $50 or $75.''

For those who don't mind paying a premium, though, Kidd and his crews go above and beyond a typical plow job.

For as much as $250 per storm, plow drivers will not only clear your driveway, they'll shovel walkways and decks, salt and sand and even clean snow off of cars.

Though he has a roster of steady customers, Kidd said he is always willing to take on more, for a cost.

``We will take on more customers, as long as the price is right,'' he said. ``As long as we can get our quote, we'll take on new customers.''

Peter Reuell can be reached at 508-626-4428, or at preuell@cnc.com.

The MetroWest Daily News