As soon as the economy takes a downturn, it’s guaranteed to happen. They promise to clean all the carpets in your house for $59.00. Sound too good to be true? It probably is. To make matters worse, they finally show up–three hours late-in a beat up pick-up truck with no company name, and hop out in torn jeans and a soiled tee-shirt. Then you realize it: you’ve been the victim of a bait -and -switch campaign.
What is bait and switch?
Bait and switch scams work like this: a company advertises cleaning a roomful of carpet of carpet for a ridiculously low price. When they arrive, they inform you the price they quoted is only for the traffic lanes and doesn’t include any cleaning chemicals." That’s like taking a bath with no soap," says textile inspector Rodney Mortillaro at AllstateCleaning.Com. So you agree to pay extra for the chemicals because you are thankful someone showed up. In the end, the final bill ends up costing you hundreds of dollars.
Another typical scam is hearing that a company will clean a set amount of rooms for a very low price ( like 5 rooms for $49.00). After they begin, you discover a linen closet, hallway, foyer, or regular closet counts as a room, and you wind up paying a lot more than you thought you would. Bait-and-switch scams are especially targeted at the elderly. Seniors are more likely to be intimidated by high pressure tactics and by someone who "promises" to give them a good deal.
Professional carpet cleaning technicians will arrive in a company vehicle with company identification on the side. They may also be uniformed, should be well groomed, and should provide some sort of business or certification card. If they are more like person described at the beginning of this story, then don’t let them in.
So how can you avoid a bait-and-switch scam?
The best protection against bait-and-switch is to ask some pointed questions before the cleaner arrives at your home. Call several local cleaning companies. If the company cannot answer simple questions, move on to another company. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Here are 11 questions you should ask:
1." Is your company part of a national building supply store, department store or franchise?"
Big national department stores, discount building supply stores and franchise cleaners have big employee turn over problems. The technician on your home route will probably change several times a year. So calling a large carpet cleaning franchise is usually a "roll of the dice" when it comes to getting a good carpet cleaning tech. More than likely you'll get a "green" rookie with one day of "training" who will be learning at your expense. Plus they book lots of jobs back to back so most of the time no more than 30 minutes is ever spent cleaning your carpets. Then they pray that their employees will do a good job for you.
Some of these large companies even advertise that they are "family owned" but in reality, they may have 100 trucks or more. So to them, you're just a number. And their office may be up to 2 or 3 hours away from your home. But many use toll free numbers so you have no way of knowing that you're not calling a local company. So your chances of getting an owner or a family member to clean your carpets are slim to none.
2. " Are you certified in carpet cleaning? If not, what type of formal training do you have?"
Hardly any of the franchise and bait-and-switch cleaners are certified by the Institute Of Inspection, Cleaning Restoration and Certification. In fact, only the top 10% of all cleaners in the nation are IICRC certified.
3. "How many years has your company been in business?" ( the longer, the better)
4. "Can you provide a list of references I can call?"
5. " Is your company drug, alcohol and criminal free?"
Many national chains and independent owners do not do background checks and drug testing on their employees. This puts you and your family at great risk. So to be on the safe side, DO NOT deal with companies who fail to pre-screen their employees.
6. " Can you provide proof of insurance and a business license?"
7. " What steps will be included in your cleaning process? Is your company 100% green?"
Besides using cheap cleaning solutions that cause rapid re-soling, many chain, franchise and bait and switch cleaners use detergents that may be harmful to you, your family and your pets. Make sure the firm you choose can prove that they use cleaning solutions that are safe for you and the environment.
8. "Does your company sell carpet?"
In most cases, you should never have your carpets cleaned by carpet retailers. Reason? Its a lot more profitable and easier for carpet retailers to sell you new carpet than to restore it like new. Plus it's easier for them to tell you that your carpets need to be replaced when it's simply not true. This rule also applies to firms that re-upholster and clean furniture.
9. "How long will it take for the carpet to dry?"
10. " Do you offer free, no-obligation, on-site written quotations?"
11. " Do you offer a written, satisfaction or money back guarantee?"
After your questions have been answered, you also may what to check the firm’s reputation with the Better Business Bureau at www. bbb. org . You can also check the consumer affairs department of your state’s attorney general’s office. "You’d be shocked at the number of companies that have lousy reputations when it comes to addressing consumer complaints", says Mortillaro.