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Customers Say They're Out Thousands After Hiring Pool Builder

NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 I-TEAM) - A Burleson woman called Consumer Justice after she says a local pool builder took her money and dug a hole but never finished the job. That's when we found several customers with similar complaints.

Kandy McCorkle was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis four years ago. She says the disease hit hard and fast. "I was taking 13 medications… I was struggling just to hold silverware to eat." Her doctors suggested she swim to help maintain and improve her mobility. McCorkle said she did her homework and set up meetings with five contractors to get bids before settling on Pool Country Designs. "He said 'I'll have you swimming in less than four weeks.' "

McCorkle signed a contract with Bob Pickens, the owner, in March 2017. According to her, the trouble started right away. "I think there were 21 times he said he would be here and he never showed up," said McCorkle. "Any time I would call him, he would make me cry. It was horrible." She says when he did show up, the little work completed was offset by all the damage to her property. "He damaged our fence, our yard, our concrete, our furniture, our house." Then he just stopped returning calls and texts. McCorkle says she hired an attorney who sent Pickens a demand letter. "He said 'I'm not giving them a [blank] dime.' "

Bob Pickens
Bob Pickens (photo credit: CBS 11 News)

McCorkle had paid Pickens $10,000 down and was on the hook for another $9,000 her finance company gave him. She wondered if other customers were having the same issues, so McCorkle looked up recent permits filed by Pickens and drove to one of his jobs in Dallas. "My husband said 'we're working with Pool Country,' " said McCorkle, "And that's when Bo just let it all out."

Turns out, Bo McNurlen was having the same problem with Pickens. He had hired him in December 2016, and says it took Pickens six months to dig the hole for the pool. "Finally, after nine months, he said 'you need to have some patience,' " said McNurlen. That's when he fired Pickens, even though he had already paid him $21,000. "[Pickens] tells a great story, I mean if you listen to him, you'd buy a used car from him," said McNurlen. "That's how good he is."

Consumer Justice found permits for seven jobs filed by Pickens in the last five years. Five of those customers said they paid him, he dug a hole and left. The other two said Pickens' work was solid but slow. Pickens told us he typically builds four pools a year and has been in business for 45 years with few complaints. Pool Country Design has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

"I don't like that she's upset about this, I don't like it at all," Pickens told us, referring to McCorkle. "But we had a conflict of personalities."

Pickens says McCorkle was "too involved" from the beginning and told us, "Kandy likes to cry I'm sorry to be harsh like that." He also blamed the weather for his delays. "We no more dug her hole when a huge rain happened." He says rain caused problems at McNurlen's property as well, and McNurlen's request for a redesign slowed things down. "I did more for Bo than I needed to," said Pickens. "I had places in my contract where I could have said 'stop, you owe me more money.' "

But Pickens seemed to contradict himself when talking about the timeline of any project. At one point he said his objective for McCorkle's pool was four to six weeks, saying, "that's what we tell everybody." But here's what he said a few minutes later:

Pickens: I would like to do them all in four to six weeks.
Cristin: But you don't tell people that?
Pickens: No, I don't tell people that!
Cristin: I think a few minutes ago you told me you tell everyone four to six weeks.
Pickens: I told you I was, if I could, I would do it in that period of time, and if you want to record it go ahead. That's what I told you.

A Dallas couple sued Pickens in 2013 after he took a $10,000 down payment, dug a hole, then failed to finish the job. A judge sided with the couple; Pickens is making payments on the settlement.

Pickens says he'd like to be fast but quality takes time. "Put it to you this way, who is more famous: the turtle or the rabbit?"

McCorkle filed a complaint with the Attorney General's Office. She also contacted the Tarrant County Sheriff's Office and was told it was a civil matter. McNurlen says he called the Dallas Police Department, the Attorney General's office and Home Advisor where Pickens advertises.

Consumer Justice also found issues with Pool Country Design's right to do business in Texas. The state comptroller's office says the company owes franchise taxes dating back to 2014, meaning Pool Country Design can't legally operate in Texas.

The Texas Secretary of State's spokesman said in an email:

"Pool County Design LLC is an inactive entity that forfeited its existence in 2015. This means the entity's right to transact business in Texas has been forfeited by the Comptroller's office . According to the Comptroller's office, 'The Comptroller is required by law to forfeit a company's right to transact business in Texas if the company has not filed a franchise tax report or paid a franchise tax required under Chapter 171.' "

Pickens told us he had no comment about his franchise tax.

You can look up businesses on the Secretary of State's website for a small fee. Search results show basic information about a company, including filings and some tax information.

Experts recommend getting reviews from a pool company's recent customers and checking with the BBB before signing any contracts.

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