We’re approaching summer, when home alarm salespeople will be out in droves – probably in your neighborhood. These “door knockers” continue to give the alarm industry a bad rap. Ongoing reports of aggressive sales tactics, fraudulent and deceptive sales practices, and even stealing customers from other alarm companies are all too common, and come in from all across the US, often from local branches of the BBB (Better Business Bureau). I recently reviewed this report from the Utah BBB office, where many of these door knocker companies are based – and where most of the related complaints are processed. The picture is not pretty: it’s bad enough when you have to protect yourself from burglars – now you have to watch out for the alarm companies, too!
Alarm companies have earned the top spot on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Utah’s Top 10 Industries for Customer Complaints for 2011. The BBB of Utah received 17,156 complaints last year, and of those, 13,723 were in areas of consumer concern. Overall, consumer complaints were down 8.6% compared to last year, according to a press release. However, with 1,130 complaints in 2011, grievances against alarm companies increased 2.4% over 2010.
Why so Many Complaints?
It’s easy to see the general nature of the complaints on a company-by-company basis at the BBB site. I often recommend that alarm shoppers check the BBB and other sites to get a more complete picture than is offered by the polite but often pushy young person at your door. But remember, the door knockers are well trained to close the sale right away – they know if they allow you time to comparison shop and check reviews, the odds of getting you to sign on the bottom line decrease significantly. And they hate to come back. Here’s some great insight into how door knockers ply their trade – definitely worth the read.
Not Just Utah – BBB Complaints are Nationwide
Utah Alarm Association (UAA) President Nathan Wilcox, who also serves as general counsel for Provo, Utah-based Vivint, says the complaints do not all come from Utah residents; rather, they also come from customers throughout the United States and Canada. “The BBB is national and the Utah [BBB] chapter handles complaints across the nation for any company headquartered here, and there are several alarm companies based in Utah. So if a customer in Maine files a complaint against one of the alarm companies here, then the BBB of Utah handles that complaint.”
That’s a good point – the complaints are truly nationwide. And by the way, the gentleman quoted above works for a company that has generated its own significant issues with BBB complaints before the company changed its name, as described in this post.
Good News for Consumers – About Time?
Noting that most of the complaints received are a mix between sales practices and service, the [Utah] association, which has 26 member companies, has taken steps to help improve business practices at alarm firms. The association is currently in talks with the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing to develop required training courses to help sales representatives earn burglar alarm agent licenses. Additionally, UAA encourages all of its member companies to adopt the Electronic Security Association’s (ESA) code of ethics, which focuses on providing excellent service to customers.
What You Can Do – Five Great Tips
- In the first place, be very careful about who you let in your house in the first place. There are lots of stories in the news about burglars posing as alarm salespeople to case your home. More and more homeowners are now shopping on-line, and doing research on their own schedule.
- Check with BBB for a Business Review to see if a prospective company has a positive marketplace record and ensure it promptly dealt with any of the issues that may arise. Check other reviews sites as well, like Yelp and Epinions. You can even Google on the name of the company, adding the word “reviews” – you’ll be amazed at what you find.
- Compare apples-to-apples bids on similar systems. Do not forget to factor in an initial installation charge, as well as monthly monitoring charges. What does it cost to add equipment over the basic “teaser” system? That’s when it can get expensive. Prices vary widely, so do your homework.
- Does the system offer safer cellular monitoring? How about advanced interactive services? And how well does the company support these services? This is another area where BBB complaints can really tell the story: once you get past the aggressive sales pitch, you are still trusting your home and family to the quality of the service.
- Find out the length of a monitoring contract. Consider the following questions before you obligate yourself to a long-term contract of up to five years: what is your recourse if you are not satisfied with the services provided? Does the company offer the standard three days, or is there a 100% risk-free 30-day trial, like the one you get with FrontPoint?
When you check FrontPoint on the BBB site – and we certainly hope you will – you’ll see that we have the fewest complaints over the past 36 months of any nationwide alarm company. That’s because we’re the kind of company that consumers like to deal with. On the other hand, FrontPoint has more positive on-line reviews than any nationwide alarm company that we can find – also a very good sign that you can trust FrontPoint with your peace of mind.
As we’ve said before, FrontPoint has never sold door-to-door – and we won’t be selling that way in the future. The best home security customers are the people who are looking for a system in the first place, and with home security expanding to including to include remote video, interactive features, and even control of light, locks, and thermostats, it’s no wonder that demand is increasing. Our systems are safer, smarter, simpler, more affordable, and virtually impossible to defeat. That’s what makes FrontPoint the leader in wireless home security – and the #1 ranked alarm company in the US. We’re the best when you want interactive, wireless protection and peace of mind. And it also explains why we have the best customer reviews in the business. Check us out and see for yourself!