This post may seem completely out of context for this blog and it is indeed. However I am writing it because the other blog I ran, mattamyfairwindsphase5.wordpress.com was taken down about 18 months ago. I feel that it is important for purchasers of homes from Mattamy in Fairwinds Phase 5, the few that remain, know why.
This is a long story but it’s necessary for everyone to see it in its entirety since the aforementioned blog was taken down. In May 2008 I plopped down 25K, yes Twenty Five Thousand Dollars, on a new home being built by Mattamy in Kanata. In early August we got a letter from them stating that construction had been delayed due to permit issues with the city of Ottawa and the province of Ontario. By the way our original closing date was March 3rd 2009, if memory serves me correctly. Upon receiving the letter I of course immediately called Mattamy for further information from their sales office/front line PR person. She was a very pleasant young women who could offer me no more information and I did feel sorry for the position she was in as I imagined she was getting inundated with calls. During the conversation I asked her when Mattamy would be providing up a follow up letter and she stated most likely sometime in October/November. I was a little put back that they were not going to provide me, the customer, any more information for another 3 or 4 months while my money was sleeping in their bank account. So I suggested to her that perhaps they could start a blog to provide at a minimum weekly updates, or hold an information meeting in short order, something at least. The young women said that was a good idea and would feed it up the food chain.
So a couple of weeks went by and nothing happened, it was now late August and I happened to be on holidays for a week. So the wife and I decided to take things into our own hands by initially starting a blog and a group on FaceBook. We did this for about a week and then my wife suggested we contact the media as it would make a good story and perhaps we could get some traction from Mattamy and the city of Ottawa that way. So on the Thursday we were on CJOH then on the Friday we were on CBC and also got a write up in the Citizen. This resulted in Frank Cairo, vice president of Mattamy, calling me directly to set up a meeting. He was impressed with the level of attention we had achieved in such a short period of time and wanted to come around and discuss working together. So around came Frank Cairo along with his co-worker Susan Murphy. A very quick back story on Susan Murphy. She is a lawyer who used to work in the planning department of the City of Ottawa and was involved in the shutting up of a certain city water engineer who raised concerns about the planning in Kanata West. She subsequently jumped ship from the City of Ottawa and went to work for Mattamy homes and Frank Cairo. So along comes Frank and Sue into our backyard where we sit down and have a beer and Frank proceeds to explain the history of what has happened etc, etc, while Sue looks on. During our discussion Frank goes on to say that it would be great to work with us, in essence we could be the public face of the issue as from his point of view the problem lies with the city of Ottawa. We of course are more than happy to oblige his concept on the proviso that he has to fill us in on what is going on at his end and we can blog about it. At the end of the backyard have a beer summit Frank and Sue shake our hands and I remind him to ‘participate’ with us and ‘use’ us to help push the city. In other words email or phone would be required, but hell he’s a vice president and a smart guy so he did not need to be told that. I realize now that the meeting was in essence bullshit and was just a scouting mission to see if we posed any real threat. I think in hind sight they had a mistake in there impression. I will say this however, I honestly did like Frank. He was a nice down to earth guy, seemed genuine and was honestly enthusiastic about the community they where building out in Kanata. Remember, Frank was a fast riser at Mattamy. Straight out of school he was in Mattamy where he drastically improved some of there business models, he even apparently, wrote some software to help them do it. He was a fast mover and to be given V.P. in Ottawa was a very big step in his career, but I honestly felt he must have worked for it.
Anyways, so a week goes by and I call Frank a few times and leave a message of his cell phone but he does not return my calls. Meanwhile, we have been contacted be a lot of home buyers and even some people ‘in the know’ from within the industry who are providing us a lot of information. I will not say whom these individuals are as I said I wouldn’t. By the end of week two we have arranged a meeting of homebuyers in our home on a lovely September Saturday morning. During this meeting we discuss what the next steps could be etc etc etc. In the end we decide to ask Mattamy 3 options which we posted up on the blog. These where:
- Allow home buyers out of their contracts if they should choose.
- Freeze Upgrade prices and present values
- Allow home buyers to switch lots to the new Barhaven community
We also wanted to have a meeting with the city planners along with Mattamy and the Ministry of the environment. In other words, all of the players in the same room, what a novel idea! I met with Shad Qadri, city councilor for the area and he agreed and he and his staff would set it up. By the way Shad was great as was his staff. In the end the meeting was set for sometime around the end of September beginning of October if memory serves me correctly.
Meanwhile, my calls to Frank had gone unanswered after numerous attempts. Finally one Friday afternoon after calling him numerous times on his cell phone I got a little frustrated. So I left him a message that went along the lines of ‘Frank, if you do not call me back I will be forced to continue my conversation with W5”. 5 minutes later RING! Hey Frank, how are ya! I cannot honestly remember the context of the conversation as I was too busy laughing inside my head at how fast my message had elicited a return call. Perhaps it was only chance that he called back immediately after that message, who knows, but certainly by this time I was feeling a little jaded about Mattamy’s behavior.
The following week we had another piece in the paper run as we wanted to keep the pressure up. One Friday afternoon while at work I received a phone call from my lawyers secretary. She informed me that my release form from the Mattamy contract was ready for me to sign. It took me a few seconds before I said ‘what?’ The secretary then proceeded to tell me that Mattamy had decided to release me from the contract sighting a comment by my wife that we wanted out of the contract. I guess she should have said we would have liked a bigger home for the same price as compensation. Since when can you take 3rd party edited comments as the wishes of the individual who has a signed contract! I was a little incensed to say the least as I felt like they were trying to pull a fast one and get rid of us. So I told the secretary that I would NOT be signing and promptly hung up and went for a smoke to think for a bit. When I got back to the office I picked up the phone and called the sales office and I said ‘Hey this Joe from over at phase 3. I was taking to Frank this morning about some issues we need to discuss but I don’t have his office number with me, can you give it to me?’ She promptly gives me Frank’s office number. I say thanks and hang up. I then call the number and get the secretary and I say. ‘Afternoon, its Joe from over at phase 3, I was talking to Frank this morning about some issues he wanted to discuss this afternoon. Is he in?”. The secretary says “Yes he’s in Joe, I will put you through.”, thank you I say. A few seconds later I hear, “Frank Cairo!”. “Hi Frank its Keith Chadwick calling how ya doing!”. This was followed by about 5 seconds of silence then finally a begrudging “hello Keith”. The conversation went on where I explained to Frank that you cannot use 3rd party reports in the media as a means to push me out of my contract. Let’s not forget that this offer had NOT been made to any other home buyer. I wish I had recorded the conversation as I had the ability to but did not think of it at the moment. Two comments of Frank’s from that conversation have stuck in my brain every since and probably will until I die. These where:
- I don’t think you are a Mattamy type person!
- Every time you write a blog post it’s like a stab to my heart!
After the conversation I sat a little dumbfounded for a minute then shook my head vigorously and turned to my coworkers and told them what had been said. They were as stunned as I. First off, when I signed the contract there was not a personality or aptitude test that could be used to help in defining me as a ‘Mattamy type person’. Hell, i’m a bloody WASP, how much better to fit into tight suburbia or am I wrong. I did not know that Mattamy looked for a ‘certain type of person’. I will not even go into the tones of discrimination Franks statement can lead to. The second statement is just plainly bizarre but I have had a fair amount of time to think on it. Remember my comments about Frank earlier, that I thought he was a genuine person and honest. I feel now that on that day I was talking to a person under an extreme amount of pressure to do things one way that went against his own personal views. This type of work environment can really kill you so in retrospect I do feel sorry for Frank. However, as a V.P., those comments are inexcusable to a customer regardless of how much stress you are under. Enough said!
So the meeting I had requested to be set up went ahead at the local Sportsplex on Woodroffe avenue. The city was there in full force. In fact the city brought basically numbers’ 1 and 2 from every department including legal that had anything to do with the issue, good on them I thought. I cannot remember if the MOE was there so I will leave them out of it. Of course Mattamy declined to show. You would have thought this would have been a wonderful opportunity for Mattamy to discuss in front of several, about 12, of their CUSTOMERS!!! But alas, in the world of building common sense does not seem to exist when it comes to customer service. You know where J.D. Powers can stick its award for customer service as far as I am concerned. So, back to the meeting. It was a very interesting experience and certainly the head legal guy, I apologize for not remembering his name, was a real pleasure to listen to. He was the definition of saying a lot without saying much but was one hell of a smart guy. He had a lazy eye which left me with the effect of listening to some Greek Oracle. He was indeed one hell of a smart guy. The meeting of course was completely the cities side of the equation since Mattamy was not there for any counterpoint. Overall however, I felt it is was informative and constructive.
A short time later I heard through the other home buyers that Mattamy had decided to call a meeting at a local hotel of all the home buyers. The meeting was invitation only and of course they did not send us an invitation. This spoke volumes of how Mattamy viewed my wife and I, so much for working with us! Luckily the invite to the meeting included a guest and I went with another home buyer along with my father. Of course we all got in, they even had a name badge ready for me but I will be honest on the way there was not sure if there was going to be a few tough’s waiting for me to bar my way. At this point I was starting to get a little paranoid about Mattamy to be honest.
During the meeting Frank went on about how approval was underway and was not a problem and was very upbeat. In fact during this meeting I spoke on several occasions attempting to back what Frank was saying. I was trying to be a conciliator as much as possible. As part of the meeting Frank introduced several options to the home buyers. Guess what they where, you guessed it the same ones we and the other home buyers came up with and put on the blog. The condition to resign was time based and we had until the following Saturday to sign up under the new contract which included an extra 5K in upgrades and upgrade prices frozen. After some discussion with my wife and parents I phoned Mattamy on the Monday to inform them that I would be resigning and would be around that week to do so. A short time later I got a call back from the sales office asking if I could come in on the Saturday to meet with Frank directly to go over the new contract. I of course said yes would love to. I figured after my backing of him at the hotel meeting it would be an opportunity for him to say thanks and bury the hatchet, boy was I wrong.
So on the following Saturday I, with my father in tow headed off to the main office of Mattamy in Kanata to meet with Frank. We arrived at an old farm house they were using as mission control and where escorted into the board room at the back. After a few minutes Frank came in with a large bundle of papers with one of his sales guys in tow. He introduced the guy as I sales guy but I half suspect he was a lawyer. He then proceeded to go through the enumerable schedules that make up a housing contract in Ontario. Schedule A, Schedule B, Schedule C then finally schedule X. Hang on I thought, we missed a lot of letters there! Frank then went on to explain that schedule X was a gag order preventing me from any further contact with the media or public in general in regards to Mattamy Fairwinds Phase 5. It also stated that anything I had said in the past about Mattamy or wrote about Mattamy was incorrect! My father argued this point at some length as he was a bit put off because he felt I had not said anything but the truth. In fact he was correct but I said screw it, I did not care, I wanted my bloody house and if this is what it took fine, the hell with it. The gag order was to be in place until one year after taking possession of the home. This is why I took the blog down. Although I was not going to write anymore, my fear was they could use its existence as an excuse/evidence that I was breaking the order. Now interestingly I was never made the offer to take the contract back and review it although I did have 5 days to pull out. I was told in no uncertain terms sign the gag order or no deal. Interestingly Frank said it was because they had trouble in the past with customers going to the media etc so this was there policy. Really!!! I wonder how many Mattamy home buyers out there have had their traps shut with a ‘sign the gag order or no home’ situation. Of course we will never know because they are not allowed to tell you. Oh before I forget, during this meeting I pointed out that the options they had provided where the same ones we had recommended to them at our very first meeting then on the blog after we met with those home buyers on a Saturday morning. He said that was not true and of course I was signing to that affect, funny isn’t it!
Fast forward one year and another letter arrives from Mattamy, the first we have had from them. Apparently more delays have occurred and now they cannot give us any closing date. This time the options are provided right in the letter, hey they learned! We opt for option A, time to get the hell out of this thing and get the 25K back. So again I call them and inform them of my decision and again I, with my father in tow, head up to the Mattamy sales office. In we go where we are asked to sit and after a short time a gentleman approaches with some papers for me to sign. He barely says a word, in fact in general he was distasteful in his demeanor. He hands me a lousy cheap bic pen to sign the papers, makes the necessary copies and hand them back to me. Not so much as a ‘sorry for all the trouble’, ‘sorry for the inconvenience’, not so much as a f’ing simple have a nice day. I cannot resist so I say to him on parting ‘As Joe Pesci said in Casino to the banker, You put my fucking money to sleep you asshole’ and I left. Not one ounce of interest on 25k over 20 months. I did however manage to keep that lovely Mattamy pen they gave me when I signed my original contract. I think I will sharpen the tip, put some wings on the back and make it into a dart that I can throw at pictures of Mattamy homes in the news paper.
So if you are thinking of buying a new home and are considering purchasing from Mattamy go for it. Just be prepared to bend over and get not so much as a please or a thank you as they shove there nice Mattamy pen where it should not be! J.D Powers award for best customer service 3 years running, give me a break, Mr. Powers must be on drugs or on the take.