As many door knocking alarm reps take a breather with the colder weather, I am still finding warnings from around the US on the scams perpetrated by some of these “seasonal” alarm sales organizations, generally referred to as “door knockers.” The companies have been around for years, but their tactics have only gotten more unsavory over time, as it gets tougher to sell this way. This news report from Grand Rapids, Michigan
comes with a short video segment that says it all:
- A clear case of fraudulent and deceptive sales.
- Reference to a warning on alarm door knockers by the Federal Trade Commission.
- Advice from the local Better Business Bureau on how to deal with door knockers.
Remember, door knockers are the outfits whose representatives show up uninvited with a home security offer that is just too good to pass up. Of course, these deals are often just that: too good, and not true. Now add in the high-pressure sales pitch - and even the fraudulent and deceptive tactics that have come to embody door-to-sales in the alarm industry - and you see where the mountains of complaints come from. The fact is, the absurdly high sales commissions paid to college students selling door-to-door result in some door knockers engaging in overly aggressive selling – or even obliterating the truth to make a sale.
The Broad Picture
When we hear about someone being taken advantage of, we often ask how could they fall for that? In the heat of the moment, it's probably easier to fall victim to a scam or aggressive sales tactics than you might think. For a couple of years now, the Federal Trade Commission has been warning people about shady practices by some door-to-door salespeople, especially those representing home security systems. While many reps are legitimate, others have found success using high pressure tactics and outright lies to get you to switch companies, or sign you up for new service.
Details of One Scam
Earlier this summer, a woman was sitting on her front porch when two men approached. They told her that they represented a home security company that had just purchased her current security company. It was not true; it's a common lie told by unscrupulous sales people. "I am asking questions during this entire time, 'So when did you guys buy out Monitronics?' Well ma'am, we don't officially have any dates, but we know that to be in effect," explained one local victim who asked not to be identified. However, she didn't ask enough questions so she ended up signing a five-year contract with the new company.
What Happened Next
She was lucky, because the new company did agree later to pay for the remaining six months left on her old contract. Legally, the security company is not obliged to do that-- and many other people in the same position end up making payments to two companies. The FTC says never agree to anything until you have checked out the sales person and the company, something the Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan also recommends.
Great Advice from the BBB
"First and foremost, do your homework before you allow them to step across the threshold of your door," says Phil Catlett of the Better Business Bureau. "Where are you from? Show me ID before I'll let you in, I'm going to contact the company to check it out to find out if you are who you say you are"
Even the Federal Trade Commission has Warned
And it’s a fact: even the Federal Trade Commission did issue a warning about these folks. States and local jurisdictions are also not happy, as many new article indicate. The complaints are increasingly about misrepresentation, as above, where a door knocker pretends to be from a homeowner’s existing alarm company. As word has gotten out on door knockers, and it’s harder to make the sale, some of them are resorting to lies and downright fraud to sign up new customers.
What Can You Do?
Consumers should utilize the following tips to protect themselves in door-to-door sales:
- Be wary of high pressure tactics. If you feel uncomfortable, don't answer the door.
- Get all verbal promises in writing. Otherwise, they may not be honored.
- Read the fine print. Check the length of the contract and all costs, including equipment, installation, and monthly monitoring fees.
- Understand your right to cancel. For door-to-door sales, sellers generally must give you three days to cancel and they cannot start the installation or any service until after the cancellation period has ended.
- Take your time. Don't sign a contract until you have carefully reviewed it.
The fact of the matter is that it pays to shop, so take your time: there are more generous offers from other alarm companies with far better reputations and service records – like FrontPoint. When you’re ready to learn why we are the nationwide leader in wireless home security, just check us out online. We make home security and home automation safer, smarter, simpler, more affordable, and virtually impossible to defeat. And best of all, you’ll never have to answer that knock at your door.