Lou Ellen Tomlinson says she was half asleep when a young woman knocked on her door and demanded $8 for painting the address on the curb outside Tomlinson's Westchester home. Tomlinson and her husband, Robert, gave the woman $3.
She was miffed at paying for something she hadn't requested, Tomlinson said, but got angry when she saw the woman's handiwork.
"It's a sloppy job. There's no quality to it, she said. "We were dumb to give anything . . . but I wasn't even awake."
In the past, people who paint curbs to make homes easier to find gave residents a chance to say no thanks, Tomlinson said.
This time, a notice was circulated around the neighborhood saying only that curbs would be painted and that an $8 donation was requested. Tomlinson was vacationing in Hawaii and did not even receive a notice.
"It's a scam," Tomlinson said.
Los Angeles Police Detective William Murphy said there is nothing illegal about painters asking for money. But people who don't order work don't have to pay for it, either.
"Just refuse to give it to them," he said.
Which is exactly what Tomlinson's neighbor Marie Crawford did. But Crawford is also annoyed that she wasn't given a choice before her curb was painted.
Belford Avenue resident Leon Williams, whose wife gave a painter a few dollars, agreed.
"Who are they to come along and paint your curb?" asked Williams, who was also not pleased with the work. "The other notices we get tell you to paste the notice on your curb if you don't want it done. And the others in the past have done a decent job."
Curb painters are supposed to get an $88 city permit and must be insured before they can paint curbs, which are public property. They are also supposed to ask residents if they want the job done, said Jim Washington of the Bureau of Street Maintenance. "But in most cases, they simply repaint and then ask for money."
The bureau is taking legal action in at least three cases this year involving companies operating without a permit, Washington said. He promised to send workers to Tomlinson's neighborhood to investigate.
Tomlinson, 66, has lived on Belford Avenue for 30 years. Reflecting on the way she parted with $3, she said: "I must admit it was a pretty good ploy, but I just hate to see people get ripped off."