Each May the Internet starts to light up with complaints about door-to-door alarm salespeople. Since most of these “door knockers” are in still college, and schools are getting out around now, this is when the annual cycle begins. And they knock on millions of doors every summer. Lots of people buy alarm services from these companies: after all, the script is slick and well-rehearsed, and the tactics are designed to get the sale on the spot. But increasingly it’s getting harder for these companies to sign up new customers, because the word is getting out.
Top 10 Lies Exposed
Perhaps my favorite post about door-to-door alarm sales is the one that completely exposes the door knockers for what they are: aggressive, sometimes fraudulent, and not necessarily your best source when you are shopping for peace of mind. Then again, most of the people who buy from door knockers weren’t shopping at all: they just answered the door. And that brings us to the subject of today’s post, which is a recent comment on my blog entry that addresses the door knocker phenomenon – and one company in particular.
A Homeowner Speaks Out
Vivint salespeople have been harassing our neighbors for about a week now – I couldn’t believe the emails we rec’d from our neighbors (we have a small neighborhood watch group) until we experienced it firsthand today. This afternoon, there was a pounding on our door that wouldn’t stop and when we answered, a Vivint sales guy started with his spiel – we told him to leave and informed him that he was trespassing. If anything it encouraged him to become more aggressive. Again, we told him to leave and he kept talking and inching his way toward us. Finally, when we took a photo of him and rang 911, he departed. We found out later that he went to another neighbor and said he was from the City! Yup, we reported him to the police, and will file with the BBB and our State’s Attorney General. He has threatened other neighbors and our biggest concern is for the elderly and vulnerable. This marks the first time we’ve been subjected to abuse by a company that we never have and never will do business with.
Scott – Thanks so much for sharing your experience. Nothing is more powerful than real stories from the trenches, and yours is a classic account of a door knocker encounter. It’s easy to see why there have been so many complaints, fines, lawsuits, consumer protection cases, and other remedial actions concerning these companies: Vivint just happens to be the largest of them, although others have even worse records.
Reply Continued: How the Door Knockers Respond
The standard response from the door knocker companies on these complaints is twofold: (1) it’s only a few bad apples that are overly aggressive, and (2) this problem has already been recognized and fixed. Neither response is accurate. In the first place, it’s not just a few bad apples: it’s the culture of these companies to teach aggressive sales tactics. And the irony is that the more aggressive they are, the harder they make it for themselves, because the complaints just keep mounting up. In the second place, it’s clear that the problem is ongoing, and has not been solved – as your story demonstrates. Stopping these negative behaviors would require a fundamental change to the door knocking business model: not likely, as long as these companies continue to sell so many systems. How long the homeowners keep the services before canceling them is another story… and those cancellation rates are remarkably high, especially once the initial contract term expires.
Too Much Money is Tempting
One factor contributing significantly to the situation is the commissions made by these young people (in many cases they are college students): the potential earnings for a summer are so high that it encourages the behaviors. Because the managers get an “override” on the sales of their teams, they are apt to turn a blind or eye, or worse, even encourage aggressive or fraudulent sales tactics. But it’s also the culture of the companies: they know that the sale has to be made on that first approach to the homeowner. Once the homeowner has a chance to research the company, read the complaints, compare offers, and really understand what they are signing up for, the odds of the sale go down drastically. That’s why these kids hate to be asked to come back to a home – they know you’ll change your mind, so they push really hard for the sale on that first visit.
Bad for the Alarm Industry
The alarm industry is not happy with these door knocking companies, for reasons that are becoming increasingly obvious. Not only do the door knockers make the alarm industry look bad with aggressive (and often deceptive) tactics – they also have very high cancellation rates compared to other alarm business models, which hurts the overall perception of monitored home security. Suffice to say if you want to retain alarm customers, they should need, want, and understand what they are signing up for in the first place. When the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, and law enforcement agencies across the US are issuing warnings on these companies and the way they do business, clearly there is a big problem.
Thanks again for sharing your experience. Hopefully the word will continue to get out, and more people will just close their doors to these hucksters – as hard as that may be!
FrontPoint has never sold door-to-door – and we don’t plan to sell that way in the future. That’s only part of why FrontPoint has an “A” rating with the BBB – instead of an “F,” like some door knocker companies. The best home security customers are the people who are looking for a system in the first place, and with home security now including on-line video, interactive features, and even remote control of light, locks, and thermostats, it’s no wonder that demand is increasing. FrontPoint 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. And it also explains why we have the highest customer loyalty in the business. Just read the FrontPoint reviews, and think twice before you open that door.