Port Arthur couple stunned by contractor’s broken promises
Ned and Jean Cole of Port Arthur need a new floor. The carpet they have at their charming yet modest home is about 12 years old now and is lumpy and misshapen, making it difficult for Jean to navigate when utilizing her walker or wheelchair. She has tripped and fallen across a bedroom of her home while just trying to make it over the humped carpet in the doorway. The tile in their kitchen and bathrooms is separating, making it unsafe and difficult to clean. And the worst part about it for the Coles is that they thought they would be getting new wood laminate to replace their aging floors, but instead they lost more than $6,000 to an Orange contractor.
The couple, who are both in their 80s, say they have been financially impaired by the loss and devastated that a contractor they thought they could trust has absconded with thousands of dollars of their precious savings.
“I trusted him, I really did,” Jean Cole says of Jay James, also known as Anthony Jay James, of James Carpet and Floor Covering in Orange.
The Coles paid James $6,000 on Aug. 1, 2013, as evidenced by the copy of the cashed check in his name from the Coles’ bank. James told the couple then that he would be back in 30 days or so to start the job. More than one year after making their “deposit” to James, the Coles are without adequate floors and without their $6,000, which could have served as payment toward new flooring from a different, and hopefully more timely, contractor.
“We try to maintain our home,” says Mrs. Cole, who has been married to her husband since 1952 and lived in the same Lakeside Drive home since about 1968, as she recalls. “It’s the only one we’ve ever owned, after all.”
When the Coles decided it was time to invest in maintaining their home by purchasing new laminate flooring in 2013, it was a big decision for the retired educators. They called Parker Lumber for an estimate and were told $10,500. After seeing new flooring that had been recently installed in a relative’s home, which they said appeared to be very well done, the Cole’s asked who had done the job. They were referred to Jay James of James Carpet and Floor Covering in Orange. He quoted them $12,000.
According to information from one website, James Carpet and Floor Covering was founded in 1968, purportedly by James’ father. More recently, the business was at 1509 Green Ave. in Orange, but now the space is empty with overflow from a nearby car dealer filling the parking lot and evidence of discarded flooring or flooring samples in a garbage mound outside the back door of the now-defunct storefront. Although Jay James could not be found at the Green Avenue address listed for him on a variety of websites, databases, and with the Better Business Bureau, he returned a call from The Examiner.
James admits cashing the $6,000 check from the Coles, but also claims the couple first postponed and then canceled the flooring job altogether. He says by that time he had already purchased materials to do the job, along with other “re-supply” items for his business, and could not refund their money when requested but “absolutely” plans to do so.
“They gave me the deposit (Aug. 1, 2013), and I told them I couldn’t do it for at least 30 days,” James asserts. “She said it would a month before she could pay me the other part.”
So, the plan was to start sometime in September, both parties agree.
“Then, she broke her hip and asked me to back it up a few weeks,” says James. “She was hurt and in rehabilitation from what I was told. Then one day she called, and boom, she wanted her money back. I had the stuff in stock. I had purchased the materials (for the Coles’ floor). I know I owe them the money. I just don’t have it right now.”
Jean Cole argues that events did not happen exactly the way James related them, and says he is “charming” with “a silver tongue.” According to her, he was never asked to “back it up a few weeks,” regarding installing their new floors.
“Yes, I was hurt, but there was no reason he couldn’t come over here and start the floors,” Jean Cole insists. “I didn’t tell him not to come. As a matter of fact, I had him come out and measure to give me an estimate on the backsplash in my kitchen.”
She says that is the last time she saw James and last spoke to him in November 2013. After that, he stopped answering her calls, she reports.
James said he stopped answering Mrs. Cole’s calls because she was “demanding” in phone conversations. Mrs. Cole does not argue that point. She says of course she was demanding – she wanted her $6,000 back “because he hadn’t come to do the job” and “for no other reason.”
Regarding the materials James says he purchased for their floors, she says show her a receipt. When asked to produce said receipt, James contends that he has one but it is in a warehouse in storage inside one of 70 boxes, and he was not able to produce the receipt at the time of this report.
When James ceased contact with the couple, they spoke to attorneys and friends asking what they should do. Finally, they took the only option they had and turned to civil court for help. On July 22, 2014, Jefferson County Pct. 7 Justice of the Peace Brad Burnett ruled in favor of the Coles and made a default judgment against James, who did not show up to the hearing. He ordered that James give the couple their $6,000 back plus $111 for court costs associated with the lawsuit and 5 percent interest from the date of the judgment. Now, the judgment stands in both Orange County and Jefferson County.
James says he is aware of the judgment but had not been notified of the hearing in advance, although information from a process server suggests he did receive prior notice. He laments that business is slow, and he is struggling due to an unstable economy, asserting his most recent job was quoted at merely $500.
“I’m just trying to keep afloat,” insists James. “Once I get flush, I’m going to give them all their money back … in a cashier’s check.”
In spite of James’ purported intentions, the Coles say they aren’t buying what he’s selling this time around.
“He never has any intention of paying us that money back,” Ned Cole surmises. “He spent it. And you can’t get blood out of a turnip.”
In addition to a complaint from Mr. and Mrs. Cole, the Better Business Bureau reports another complaint unaddressed by James Carpet and Floor Covering, which is not a “BBB-accredited” business, and rates the company an “F,” their lowest score. BBB scoring is based on 16 factors, described on its website, and in the case of James Carpet and Floor Covering specifically, the rating reflects the company’s “failure to respond to two complaints filed against business” and that “the BBB does not have sufficient background information on this business.”
The Coles say they wish they had known all that beforehand, and suggest anyone looking for a contractor in the future do their research online or in any way they can. While they come from a time of word of mouth referrals and handshake deals, the Coles say in this case, the word of mouth was all talk.