Residents accuse Houston trash company of taking their money, leaving their trash

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- When Spring resident Sena Bethke hauls her trash can to the street on pickup day, many times she pulls it back home still full.

"Rotten shrimp, crab legs, oysters, cat litter," Bethke says. "Sitting out in a hot can for a week or two, it's nauseating!"

A few months ago, Bethke's trash provider, Royal, merged with trash-giant Waste Corporation of America, a Houston-based company serving 300,000 local homes.

"It was OK for the first week or two," Bethke said. "Since then, I don't know that we've ever had our trash picked up consistently each week."

Bethke pays for once-a-week pickup, but at times she's waited more than two weeks for WCA to take her trash. And when she called to complain, Bethke says she received more excuses than answers.

"They never had a clue as to why you weren't picked up," Bethke said. "There's nobody that can say, 'I'm sorry, let me get this fixed for you.'"

Bethke lives in a remote part of Spring, so she didn't have many other options for trash service. She held out hope that WCA's service would improve.

"Surely this couldn't go on and on, but it can. And it did, and it did," Bethke said.

In Houston, Michelle Goldberg's Greater Heights neighborhood has used WCA for 10 years. While they pay for twice-a-week pickup, Goldberg says WCA only showed up half of the time in July.

"It looked like you were walking through a slum, and it smelled like sewage," Goldberg said. "There were maggots on the street, there were flies circling. You could smell our community as you drove in."

After nearly two weeks without service, Goldberg says her HOA hired someone with a trailer to pick up the trash and take it to the dump as a temporary fix.

Out of the blue, WCA finally returned, but Goldberg says they didn't receive an apology or a refund.

"They haven't made any sort of announcement to their customers to let them know that, 'Yes, we acknowledge your problems, yes we're going to fix it,'" Goldberg said. "Instead, they just ignore the phone calls or don't answer our questions."

From Magnolia to Brazoria, WCA customers have complained to the Better Business Bureau about similar problems. Of the 38 Houston-area complaints filed in the last year, 23 remain unanswered.

"It's obviously a company-wide issue, that they're just continuing to ignore, continuing to not respond to customers," Goldberg said. "It needs to be addressed."

Goldberg's HOA wants to dump WCA once their contract is up. Meanwhile, Bethke is already looking for a new provider.

"It's trash pickup, not rocket science. Just drive-by, pick it up, throw it in your truck and go!" Bethke said.

Despite repeated requests for an on-camera interview, WCA Regional Vice President Matt Graham would only provide a written statement:

"These accounts were part of an acquisition that was completed in November 2014. When we purchased the company, we gave the drivers retention bonuses to stay on and help us transition the company. These bonuses have been expiring over the past several months, so the drivers have been leaving. We are working to hire new drivers to fill their routes, but the market for qualified drivers is very poor right now.

This shortage is causing us to have service issues. We have diligently attempted to service all locations as soon as possible whenever the regular service day is missed. Our apologies to our customers, but we are working to get staffing back up to the appropriate levels."
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