Heritage Restoration, Inc.

Online Coupon Scams

My friend Jeff shared a disturbing story with me. This falls into the category of trust no one until they earned your respect, have demonstrated a sufficient level of professionalism, or have the proper credentials. The story begins with Jeff buying a new house. His head was cluttered with hundreds of things to get done. While researching online, he found a “deal of the day” web based coupon for HVAC duct cleaning, a task he thought would be beneficial.

The deal was for a $49 “Complete Air Duct Cleaning”. Jeff is an accomplished businessman, can read people well, and has a keen sense for a tissue of lies, but does not know what should be done and for how much. So he called the service, mentioned the website coupon, and asked them to stop by and look at the house. The first warning sign was that they wanted to come right away without looking and complete the work.

Jeff smelled something fishy. He insisted on an appointment first. After about 2 months of calling and them rescheduling, they finally showed up. By now, Jeff began to unravel the scheme. He discovered the $50 coupon does not apply to him, that the service will cost about $450 for the full cleaning. Ding, ding, ding, you’re out. Many people don’t catch the scam early enough. Not that $450 is too much for a good job, it was not what they advertised.

This scam and other service-based scams are way too common. We’ve seen in the movies where someone sprays used motor oil on tar driveway and passes it off as a sealer. The bottom line is you should never buy a service, be it an online coupon or otherwise, before you have a complete understanding of the work to be done, how much it will be and if they are legitimate. An online coupon for a service you already like and use is great, or maybe take a risk like with a meal, massage, or maybe even some furniture. But when you get bad service or bad work on your house, it can cost you a lot more than you saved. And good luck getting your money back or having some kind of justice.

Here are some ways to get scammed:
ï‚· A different contractor than who the coupon was with performed the work.
 The check was written to a person’s name, not a company.
ï‚· They gave a “good news/bad news” spiel requiring additional work.
 You don’t give in to the up selling; they quickly blow air through the vents and say they’re done cleaning in less than an hour.

Having your ductwork cleaned is awesome. It makes your system more efficient and reduces airborne particles like dust, bacteria, molds, rodents, etc., which is even better when you are moving into someone else’s house.

How to find the right contractor:
ï‚· Find a reputable company. References, credentials, sometimes an online review since the review may not be up to date or could be false
ï‚· Ask for a site visit
ï‚· Request a type written quote
ï‚· Ask for references AND credentials, in this case the HVAC Inspection, Maintenance and Restoration Association, otherwise known as the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA).
 Pick a start date work for you. Don’t be rushed.
ï‚· If there are coupon restrictions.

A qualified professional should clean the ducts and all the parts of your HVAC system, including the coils, drain pans, fans and humidifiers/dehumidifiers. If just one part of the system is not cleaned it could re-contaminate the entire system. A thorough cleaning can take three to five hours. Some cleaners use a filter that traps the debris they removed, so you can see what they have extracted. An inexperienced duct cleaner can actually do more harm than good by releasing more dust into your home, or worse, damaging your HVAC system.

If Jeff were not savvy he would have been taken. Most coupons are legitimate; since the company hopes your first visit will not be your last. There are plenty of scams out there from people could care less about reputation, they just want your money. Don’t hire on price alone. Any deal that sounds too good to be true usually is.

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