Troubleshooters: Customers want answers from longtime pool builder regarding unfinished pools

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Posted at 1:02 PM, Sep 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-21 17:56:41-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — One of the best ways to beat the South Texas summertime heat is taking a dive into the cool waters of a swimming pool, especially if it's in your own backyard.

For four decades, Barrett Pools has been among the premiere swimming pool builders in the Coastal Bend.
But several other customers have complaints about Barrett Pools, and have sent them to the Troubleshooters.

For instance, Amber Henkes wrote to us that a sub-contractor who works with Barrett Pools told her, "what Barrett Pools did was take all the 20% profit on every pool and pocketed it."

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Every day, Chuck Perry and his family walk out the back door of their Flour Bluff home and see an unfinished swimming pool. A big hole in their backyard.

"I'm $30,000 into this thing," Perry told the Troubleshooters. "Absolutely zero to show for it, except for a couple sheets of plywood, and…you see it. A hole in the ground."

Perry and Jeff Thompson are just two of an estimated two dozen Barrett customers asking the Troubleshooters for help getting answers or some kind of action from Barrett Pools.

Perry says he's already paid Barrett Pools $30,000, but the total cost of his project is more than double that amount.

Thompson's situation is a bit different. He can swim in his pool, but it has several flaws.

"It infuriates me. I swim. Get in there, and I don't enjoy it because all I do is look around at all the flaws. We bleed every time we get out of the pool, somebody's bleeding."

Barrett Pools' big sign, once clearly visible on Weber Road, close to the Crosstown Expressway, has been removed. There are 'Private Property No Trespassing' signs and vehicles on the property.

The Troubleshooters went by in an attempt to speak with someone, anyone, about what's going on.

No one came out to meet us.

According to the Better Business Bureau website, Tracey Barrett is listed as Barrett Pools president. We have left several voicemails for him as recently as this morning, but none have been returned.

Another name mentioned by Barrett customers is Francois Marais. On business website Dun& Bradstreet, Marais is also listed as Barrett Pools president.

Chuck Perry remembers Marais did the initial pool dig in his backyard, and then stopped communicating due to COVID-19, saying, "so we're doing our due diligence and social distancing and quarantining, and will follow up as soon as we know something."

"My family, when we moved down here, this was kind of our dream," Lewis Graff told us. "Warm climates. Beautiful sub-tropical environment. House with a pool. And this is my pool."

It's a nightmare. Not at all what Graff had in mind after relocating to the Coastal Bend and choosing Barrett Pools to make that dream a reality.

Graff says he just can't understand how this is allowed to happen apparently without any accountability.

"Literally, someone can take your money. Put a shovel in the ground. Do a little bit of work. And there's no criminal liability to them. And they can basically pack up all their stuff and just kind of go away."

Graff says he's already paid nearly $30,000 for what amounts to hole in the ground in his backyard, and still owes about that same amount.

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A business called Better Yet Pools out of Houston may be able to save the day for these customers. Company president Robert Toscano told the Troubleshooters he'll try and make good on Barrett's existing contracts as a a favor to Tracey Barrett.

Toscano claims he's worked as a sub-contractor for Barrett for years.

While he declined our request for an on-camera interview, he did agree by phone, to meet with us Friday afternoon, yet did not communicate further with us despite our repeated attempts to contact him.

Customers who've met with Toscano say they'll have to pay for work they've already paid for if they choose to use his business.

Barrett Pools did issue a statement to it's customers. It reads:

"We struggled with this decision but determined there is no alternative due to the combined effects and aftershock of the coronavirus pandemic, severe weather, inflation, material and labor shortages as well as shifts in the pool construction industry locally. Both us of have committed substantial personal funds in a failed attempt to stay open. Unfortunately we have now reached the point of no return for Barrett Pools."

The customers we spoke with told us they've sent their complaints to Nueces County DA Mark Gonzales and the Corpus Christi Police Department for possible legal action.

We spoke with Gonzales, who told us his office has been contacted by at least ten customers, and he's aware there are many more complaints. He recommends all customers present their information to CCPD first.
That will help determine if this is a criminal or civil matter.

We also spoke with District Judge David Stith because two other Barrett customers, Grant and Amy Hesseltine, filed Deceptive Trade Practice allegations against Barrett Pools on May 27. A spokesperson for the Judge tells us this is a civil case set for trial in July 2022.

Again, repeated calls to different phone numbers for Tracey Barrett and Francois Marais have not been returned.