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'I don't know how to give up': Food truck owner fights to get back $27,000

Virus Outbreak Food Trucks Suburbs
Posted at 4:00 AM, Nov 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-22 14:25:16-05

For a small business owner — or nearly anyone — $27,000 is a lot of money. Yet one owner thought she needed to spend it in order to keep her business going.

Tami Treadwell doesn't work in Arizona but signed a contact with a business here.

From her cell phone, Tami showed me where she works.

It's Chef Tami, and she operates a food truck on a sidewalk in Harlem/New York City, just down from the Apollo Theater.

"I am literally steps away," she shows me.

She sells the food she grew up with including her biggest seller, shrimp and grits.

COVID not only hurt her business, but Tami also says it took her husband at home last year. She says he died during a time when there was a delay in picking up bodies.

"Go gather all the ice you can, put it all over the body to slow the decomp," is what Tami says she was told to do.

She had been through a lot.

So last December, she took the advice of some Arizona relatives and decided to take a break and spend a few days here.

It's during that time, Tami says, she saw a food truck business in Phoenix that could expand her business.

"Giving me three to four times the capacity in sales than I'm doing now," she says.

Food Truck Builders of Phoenix would take a truck, add electricity, plumbing, burners, fryers, and more.

Tami signed a contract for $55,000 and gave half of the money upfront.

It's the final half that became a problem.

An invoice awkwardly states "50% of order" due when ready for installation, and a Food Truck Builders contract says final payment due when 80% complete — but it doesn't state what that 80% should look like.

Tami says she was told the truck reached that point and she came back to pay.

But she says when she saw the truck, plumbing, floors, and walls weren't even complete.

"This wasn't 10% finished, it wasn't 20% finished, and it certainly wasn't 80%," Tami says.

Tami calls it a shell.

"I was to pay the remaining 50% balance and I said I'm not going to do that," Tami says.

So, Tami didn't give them the money and says she lost trust in the business.

She wants her $27,000 back.

In emails, Food Truck Builders of Phoenix stands behind their business.

They say "our standard of 80% completion... is construction of the interior shell, electrical and plumbing. Afterwards, we install all the equipment."

They say when they finished the truck and Tami wouldn't pay, they sold it and offered to put her money towards a new truck.

"Give me at least $27,000 of something," Tami says.

Tami still wants a truck and her money back so she can buy it somewhere else.

"I don't even know how to give up. I don't use the word 'can't' in my vocabulary," Tami says.

So Tami and the business disagree.

What do you think? Email me at joe@abc15.com

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Here's Food Truck Builders of Phoenix statement:

"We met with Tammi the first part of December and discussed her need for a food truck. In our conversation, she described some hardships she was going through (losing her husband to Covid 19 and Emergency Medical Services not showing up to her house for 12 days after losing her husband). We could never imagine how horrific this was. All of us admitted to tearing up hearing what she had to go through. We wanted to do what we could to help and gave her a significantly reduced price on a food truck. (This truck has a base price of $80,0000.00) She signed our Proforma which specified the deadlines for payments during construction of the truck, and also makes is explicit that there is a no refund policy. Our policy is that there are no refunds after the Proforma is signed and first payment is made. 50% down is due to start customization on each truck we construct. The reason for our no refund policy is that it is very difficult to recoup our costs of a customized truck from another buyer.

We sold the food truck to Tammi for $55,000 plus tax. She paid $2,000 on December 14, 2020, and $25,000 on February 19, 2021. We informed her when the truck was at 80% completion, (this is before plumbing, and equipment are installed). She choose to fly in and personally inspect the truck and pay the balance due. On March 3, 2021, she came to our location to view the truck. She was so excited for the completion and to receive her truck and said she would have the balance of the Proforma sent over to us that day. The next day, on March 4, 2021, she came back to our location with a less than enthusiastic attitude, stating that in her opinion we had not reached 80% completion and insisted we must provide her certain additional items that were not on her Proforma/Invoice. Also, she wanted the truck truck to be completed before she paid her balance. This is not our policy; at 80% completion the balance is due. We have never had any one dispute this before, due to this being explained both verbally and in writing on the invoice/Proforma they sign. To compromise, even though we have never strayed from our Proforma/invoice before, we agreed to provide some of the additional items she requested, even though they were not on her Invoice/Proforma. In return she agreed to pay her balance.

At this point we continued the construction on the truck. We continued the build to try and accommodate some of her additional added requests, On March 25, 2021, the truck was at over 95%

completion within 36 days of her paying the 50% of her balance ($25,000.00) this process is normally estimated at 8-12 weeks depending on availability of materials. We sent an email to Tammi with photos of the truck at over 95% completion, indicating the balance of $33,937.66 was due within 72hrs (3/28/21). We also indicated that this would be the final notice for her to pay the balance. She never paid the balance, and we were left with a highly customized truck having only received less than half of the already reduced sales price. By the end of May the truck was sold to recoup our time, labor, materials, and storage. We did not even recoup even the base sales price of the truck.

We are still willing to build her a different truck as per her original proforma/Invoice but the balance of $33,937.66 must be paid in full.

We appreciate your concern in this matter and the opportunity to explain our side of the story.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to email us regarding this matter and we will be happy to answer any additional questions by email.

Thank You,

Food Truck Builders of Phoenix