They promised to clean your whole house for $99.00. And they’d even clean your dog’s house while they were at it. Then, to show how much they appreciate your business, they’ll throw in a coupon for a free dinner at a local restaurant. Sound too good to be true? Well, it probably is!
To make matters worse, when they finally show up -- three hours late -- in a beat-up pick-up truck with no company identification, and hop out in torn jeans and a soiled tee-shirt, you realize it: you’ve been the victim of a bait-and-switch campaign.
What is bait-and-switch?
A bait-and-switch scam works like this: a company advertises cleaning a roomful of carpet for a ridiculously low price. When they arrive, they inform you the price they quoted is only for traffic lanes and doesn’t include any cleaning chemicals. That’s like taking a bath with no soap. So you agree to pay extra for chemicals (because you are thankful someone FINALLY showed up) and the final bill can end 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 that a linen closet, hallway, foyer, or regular closet constitutes 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, who are more likely to trust someone who “promises” to give them a good deal and be intimidated by high-pressure tactics.
“Professional” carpet cleaning technicians should arrive in a vehicle with company identification on it. They should also wear a professional uniform, be well groomed and provide some sort of identification (business or certification card). If they look more like the man described at the beginning of this story, do not let them in.
So how can you avoid a bait-and-switch scam?
If you’re looking for a specialist in wool carpet or area rug cleaning, go to the WoolSafe® North America website @www.woolsafe.org/usa. There is a listing of Service Providers there. The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration (IICRC) also has a list of IICRC-Certified cleaning and restoration professionals. The IICRC provides wallet cards to carpet cleaning technicians who complete certification courses in specific areas of expertise. Ask to see your technician’s card. For more information about the IICRC, go to www.certifiedcleaners.org.
The best protection against bait-and-switch is to be informed of carpet cleaning processes before the cleaner arrives at your home. Call several cleaning agencies and inquire about their process. If the company cannot answer simple questions, move on to another cleaning company. Price alone should not be a reason to choose a carpet cleaning company. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
What questions should you ask?
- Are you certified in carpet, rug or upholstery cleaning?
- If not, what type of training do you have?
- How many years has your company been in business (the longer, the better)?
- Do you have a reference list I can call to ask about their experience with your company?
- Is your company a member of a professional cleaning trade association (if they are, they will be exposed to continuing education courses)?
- What steps will be included in your cleaning process?
- What kind of chemicals will you use?
- How long will it take for the carpet to dry?
- When can I walk on the cleaned carpet?
- Do you have a business license?
- Do you carry insurance?
After your questions have been answered and you select a company to clean your carpets, remember that you still have the final word. A thorough cleaning should include the following, and if it doesn’t, demand the cleaners leave your home. Watch for:
- Pre-vacuuming with commercial equipment
- Normal general spot removal
- Pre-conditioning heavy traffic areas
- Extracting suspended soil
- Grooming the carpet pile
- Offering fabric protection
- Take steps to ensure drying in a reasonable time.
All professionally trained cleaning companies should adhere to the IICRC - Cleaning Standards and follow the steps listed above. Another tip to make ensure your cleaner is trained -- ask him what type of carpet you have and listen to his answer. If he can’t identify your carpet as olefin, wool, nylon, etc., then he’s not a certified carpet cleaner.
The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) and many carpet manufacturers require or at least recommend professionally cleaning your carpet every 12 to 18 months. Having a trained, certified technician clean your carpet is important, not only for your peace of mind, but also for maintaining and extending the life of your carpet.