Consumers are inundated these days with compelling ads that dangle unbelievable bargains for services they think they might want or, according to the pitchman, they just can’t live without.
“More often than not, a deal that seems too good to be true isn’t a bargain at all,” says Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List, the nation’s leading provider of consumer reviews on local service companies. “That low, low price often comes with fine print caveats that tend to drive the price up fast – and sometimes you’re in too deep to call a halt to the deal.”
Angie’s List used member reports and surveys, and chats with highly rated service professionals, to compile a list of so-called bargains that often end up costing consumers much more time, money and trouble than they expected when they called to take advantage of limited-time bargains.
Many Angie’s List members have submitted reports saying they were billed extra for costs that weren’t revealed prior to the purchase, overcharged for carpet they didn’t need, and were left with installers, subcontracted out by the carpet retailer, who did substandard work.
Often these unhappy members responded to advertisements offering whole-house installation from $139 to as low as $37, provided the consumer purchases the carpet from the advertiser. After buying the carpet, the customers found out they’d be charged extra for things like measuring the carpet, moving furniture, and removing and hauling away the original carpet.
“By the time all these extra charges are added on, consumers feel trapped,” Hicks said. “They’ve already chosen their carpet, are eager to have it installed, so they cave in and agree to pay the extra charges, rather than cancel the deal and start again from scratch with another seller and installer.”
A homeowner with an average-sized single-family home should expect to spend several hundred dollars or more for a quality installation from a qualified professional.
Beware of the aggressive home alarm salesperson who uses scare tactics to pressure you into a sale and/or a long-term monitoring contract. Often these techniques are practiced by companies who don’t properly install the systems they sell.
“Sales tactics like that should be seen as alarms themselves,” Hicks says. “If you’re pressured to buy right away by a stranger at your door, end the discussion, and look for a service company that has an address and a reputation you can check out.”
Properly installed and used home security systems have proven effective. Studies show that about two-thirds of burglaries attempted on security-armed homes will fail. Consumers should be careful about what they buy, how it’s installed and monitored.
Home security systems range from the basics to the highly complex and prices range from $100 to more than $1,000. Monthly monitoring fees average between $20-50 depending on the level of service options.
Having a quality home alarm system can save on home insurance costs, too, but insurers will require proof your system is installed and monitored properly. The steepest discounts, up to 15 percent, are for systems connected to centrally monitored – 24/7 – response centers. Single-digit discounts are available for local alarms – those that blast sound but don’t alert the police.
Air Duct Cleaning
Most unreliable air duct sales pitches have two components: a low, low price and startling information on the dangers your ductwork poses to you and your family – especially those with respiratory illnesses. Some even claim special certification for their service.
While customers who use reliable air duct cleaning companies rave about the results, there’s no scientific evidence that regular duct cleaning improves air quality. But even those who doubt what they can’t prove to say there’s value in having clean ducts.
Allowing an unqualified contractor to clean your ducts, however, could be worse than never having them cleaned. Particulates could be broken up and released into your home, or your HVAC system could be damaged. Some companies advertise cleanings for as little as $49
A reliable cleaning will cost at least $400, take several hours to accomplish, require more than one worker and involve costly equipment.