In any industry, there are always guys out there just trying to make fast and easy money. Our goal at Northshore is to provide honest work and quality care, but we can't cover all the market ourselves, so here's some helpful tips when you're deciding on which arborist to go with.
Joe and his pickup truck might be the best in biz - or your worst insurance nightmare. Either way, don't judge based on appearance. Request proof of commercial liability insurance and WSIB, and find out if they are a certified member of their local arborists' association. In Ontario, this means they should be ISA Certified (not just a member).
2. Beware the Con Man
If they offer to top your trees to "make them safer", kick them to the curb. Topping is known to be basically the worst thing you can do to a tree (with some exceptions), and is a big waste of your hard-earned cash.
3. Check Their Reviews
Obviously you can't please everyone so if there's a couple of cranky people that's to be understood, but if there's considerably more, then maybe proceed with caution. For small businesses like ours, there should be an even lower percentage of negative reviews overall than a larger company, as quality control is much easier. So if negative reviews are plentiful, it's likely an accurate picture of a lower standard of service on the whole.
4. Safety First
When completing the work, proper safety equipment should be utilized. This one is fairly obvious but because you can't tell ahead of time, often leaves homeowners in an uncomfortable spot as it would only become apparent once the crew has arrived on site and is ready to work. Without an above-average knowledge of climbing techniques, most people won't be able to tell if the removal method chosen is the safest option, but tell-tale signs of complete safety negligence are something you can see, primarily in the absence of safety equipment. If they start working without helmets, gloves, eye protection, chainsaw pants, boots, or even harnesses (yep!), quit while you're ahead. Request they return with the proper safety equipment or a refund. This industry is dangerous enough as it is, so if you see construction ladders, yellow nylon rope, running shoes, or jeans - it's time to find someone else.
This is something that is really hit or miss in our industry. Some companies are great at contacting their customers to arrange quotes, schedule work, discuss payment, etc., and then there seems to be an equal amount that just show up unannounced for estimates and, when a someone decides to book the work, say they'll "be by sometime in the next few weeks". This isn't unusual for a small company that just simply doesn't have the staff to handle administration, but often times these end up being the same companies that just never show up, either due to purposeful negligence or just simply forgetting.
At the end of the day all you can do is be diligent, and if you're ever unsure, get a second opinion.