It’s an unfortunate reality that the alarm industry does not have a great reputation. For instance, service levels are often poor, monthly fees can go up for no reason, and door knockers are using high pressure and even fraudulent tactics to sell home security systems. Over the years there have been admirable exceptions with great service, like Brink’s Home Security (later Broadview) – but they were acquired, and now their customers are served by ADT. Recently spun off from parent Tyco into an independent public company, ADT is the largest provider of security services in the North America, but is considered by many to be a notable example of the concept that bigger does not always mean better. Review sites have it made it much easier for disgruntled subscribers to share their experiences, which can be painful for the companies that disappoint. I recently read such a post that raises some interesting questions about alarm company practices – not just at ADT, but in regard to any traditional security services provider.
Americans today are clearly willing to pay a hefty premium, i.e., the cost of the alarm system itself and monthly monitoring, for protection against crimes being perpetrated against their residences. The total annualized cost of home security can easily exceed $100 a month, or the cost of, say, cable television service with all the premium channel add-ons. Does this additional cost, in fact, result in greater security? Or might hiring a home security company actually compromise your security?
Now, that is a loaded question! But read on, and you see where this writer is coming from.
There are certain dangers associated with the operation of home security systems themselves (such as whether the alarm will sound properly when tripped) and the monitoring services related to these systems (such as whether the security company operator and the police will respond quickly). Given the overwhelming negative customer feedback regarding industry leaders, such as ADT (a subsidiary of Tyco International), on sites such as Hellopeter.com (90% unfavorable), it is apparent that there is room-for-improvement in the industry. However, your greatest concern, I believe, should be whether the individuals and the company you have contracted with for security can be trusted in your home, with access to your valuables, as well as information regarding your family and possessions. Remember that whomever you allow into your home could potentially use any knowledge gained therein to your disadvantage.
The writer is absolutely correct – although there are alarm companies(such as FrontPoint) that operate on a different (DIY) business model, based on plug-and-play wireless home security systems you can easily set up yourself.
Here’s a personal example of what can happen. In 2007, I contracted with ADT to install a home security system and monthly burglary and fire monitoring. The total installation charge alone was not cheap—several thousand dollars. On the installation date, a single technician arrived surprisingly early—at 8 a.m.—as opposed to the 10 a.m.-noon window that had been agreed upon. Also unsettling was the fact that he had no ADT logo on his shirt and did not speak a word of English. I called ADT immediately and the company acknowledged it had made an error. A supervisor would return later with another installation subcontractor who would be better able to communicate, I was told. The supervisor arrived at 10:30 with two other men who spoke little English. In response to my concerns, I was assured that these subcontractors, while not ADT employees, had recently been subjected to thorough background checks.
What Happened Next
When the men left after six hours, the installation work still had not been completed. Following further complaints, two weeks later a new technician was sent who indicated there would be substantial additional charges to complete the installation. Thus far, this probably sounds similar to gripes you’ve had with companies who failed to deliver products and services as promised. But the story gets worse. The supervisor had damaged a valuable artifact when he was in my home which (fortunately) was immediately brought to his attention.
Lack of Follow Up – No Satisfaction
After protracted negotiations, ADT agreed to compensate for the damage. Fair enough. Most disturbing, our family passports disappeared at the time the ADT technicians were in the house and had to be reported as stolen. When I informed ADT about the missing passports, I was told I would have to pursue it with the subcontractors—ADT was not responsible. So much for chain of command and accountability. In my last letter to ADT, in February 2008, I asked the company to please advise me whether ADT had determined that the passports had been stolen by ADT subcontractors. Four years later, I have yet to receive a response to my letter.
A Hard Lesson Learned
The moral of this story is that the next time you allow someone into your home for security purposes, scrutinize who they are and consider the formidable risks they pose. The people you allow into your home may be able to inventory your belongings and will forever know the details of your security system. They may share their knowledge of your home with unsavory friends. If they are not trustworthy, trust me (based upon my personal experience), you’ll pay the price. Home security firms provide a highly sensitive service for a relatively low cost—a service which they believe can be delivered on a scalable basis to the masses. Don’t be surprised to find all of the links in the chain of service they provide may not be as well-forged as you have been led to believe.
Background Checks for Everyone Entering the Home?
As someone who has been screening and hiring alarm industry employees for over 20 years, I certainly hope that ADT would require its subcontractor network to run checks on all employees. While I recognize that ADT did not directly employee the person charged in this case, ADT was using the services of the company that employed the suspect. And this is hardly the first time an employee of a company affiliated with ADT has run afoul of the law.
FrontPoint takes extreme precautions with all personal information, and has never suffered a data breach of any sort. We also perform robust background checks on every FrontPoint employee. More importantly, we are the largest (and most highly regarded) DIY alarm company in the US, meaning you get to set up your fully programmed and wireless FrontPoint system yourself, on your schedule, with no FrontPoint technician – or salesperson – ever in your home. Once you start shopping online for home security and automation services, you’ll quickly learn why FrontPoint is the leader in interactive, wireless home security: our long list of five-star reviews spells out very clearly what makes us the #1 ranked alarm company in the US. Being on top means we have to prove ourselves in every aspect of our business – with systems that are safer, smarter, simpler, more affordable, and virtually impossible to defeat. These days, that makes us rare indeed among nationwide alarm service providers. And no worries about who is in your home!