I recently got a call from a longtime customer asking me some questions about a boiler that a door-to-door salesman was trying to get him to rent. The homeowner told the salesman that he was under a maintenance plan with AtlasCare and that he was very happy with the service. The sales rep then assured the homeowner that AtlasCare did their installations, after sales service and maintenance. The homeowner trusted his instincts and felt the salesman was too glib and the offer was too good. He declined to sign on the spot and told the salesman that he was going to call a friend, namely, me.
I asked him a few questions and found out that the offer meant:
- The homeowner would pay no money up front.
- He would be locked into a a monthly rental fee for a minimum of 5 years that would effectively pay for the entire cost of the unit.
- He could buy the boiler out after that for an undisclosed amount.
In a nutshell, the homeowner would be on the hook for almost twice the value of the boiler. I advised him that we do not do any work for this company, neither service nor installation. In fact, AtlasCare DOES NOT do any work on behalf of other companies at all. When customers choose to work with us, they can rest assured they are getting our people and the products we stand behind. No exceptions.
Further investigation reveals that these “door knocking” companies who use high-pressure tactics to rent water heaters, furnaces and air conditioners are the number two source of complaints to the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services with over 3,000 complaints in 2012. It has become so bad that the Ontario government has tabled legislation to reign in these bad actors. They prey on seniors on fixed incomes and people with limited language skills. They misrepresent themselves as representatives of existing service providers, including AtlasCare.
The sales people are highly skilled and operate on a high pressure straight commission basis. That means homeowners are being asked to make a decision on the spot committing them to payments of anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 or more without an opportunity to scrutinize their contract or seek advice separately. Often these companies want to replace something that is operating perfectly well and has a healthy life expectancy. By focusing on the monthly payment, they minimize the significant financial impact it can have on someone.
You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again… if the offer sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
Caveat Emptor… Buyer Beware!