Beware Summer Door Knockers Selling Home Alarms

Posted by , , at 9:04 pm

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.

My Reply

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.

Comments (12)

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  1. Duke

    I agree this is a company trying to make others look bad only to make themselves look above others. No one likes competition and door knockers usualy give away the system and waive the activation fee and are out there selling the same company you represent as a dealer. Most sell ADT! Ever heard of them?

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Duke – Thanks for your comment. It’s not that we don’t like competition – we actually have a lot of “friendly” competitors with who we share information and insights on a regular basis. What we don’t like is alarm companies that generate a lot of customer complaints, and that are the subject the subject of fines, lawsuits, and government actions – becasue those are the alarm companies that give our industry a bad name. It’s not that hard to run a good alarm company, even a big one – but it does require strong and consistent leadership and an iron will when it comes to matter of integrity. As for ADT – yes, we have heard of them. They just reported their quarterly results as a public company – and their annual customers cancellation rate was flat at 13.8%, which is significantly above the industry average (and several time higher than ours). We respect ADT – but like many in this industry, we love to compete against them! Thanks again.

  2. Duke

    I agree this is a company trying to make others look bad only to make themselves look above others. No one likes competition and door knockers usualy give away the system and waive the activation fee and are out there selling the same company you represent as a dealer. Most sell ADT! Ever heard of them?

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Duke – Thanks for your comment. It’s not that we don’t like competition – we actually have a lot of “friendly” competitors with who we share information and insights on a regular basis. What we don’t like is alarm companies that generate a lot of customer complaints, and that are the subject the subject of fines, lawsuits, and government actions – becasue those are the alarm companies that give our industry a bad name. It’s not that hard to run a good alarm company, even a big one – but it does require strong and consistent leadership and an iron will when it comes to matter of integrity. As for ADT – yes, we have heard of them. They just reported their quarterly results as a public company – and their annual customers cancellation rate was flat at 13.8%, which is significantly above the industry average (and several time higher than ours). We respect ADT – but like many in this industry, we love to compete against them! Thanks again.

  3. Trevor Lefebvre

    This entire article is misleading and biased. Your point is to bash on door to door sales people to make your company appear more legitimate and appealing. There have been plenty of people that have had positive experiences with “knockers” and most of the time they do give out many quotes and deals that are better than the leading rates. There are some overly aggressive salesman, yes. Yet they are because of the rude and disrespectful treatment from people that answer there doors, they get criticized and rejected the worst thing to do is tell him that he is trespassing and soliciting the job is hard it just makes his day worse invoking an offensive response the best thing to do do is polity let him know you are not interested but thanks for stopping by.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Trevor, thanks very much for your comment. While I can appreciate your stance on door knockers in general, the fact remains that complaints are on the rise – and the tactics employed by some (and I repeat, only some) door knockers are reaching new levels of fraud and deception. What I’m referring to specifically is the practice of pretending to be from a homeowner’s existing alarm company to gain access to the home, and then stealing the alarm service from the other company. It’s happening this summer in unprecedented numbers, as one can easily see from on-line news reports and complaints, and is probably the least ethical practice in this entire industry. I think it’s unfortunate that you choose to blame consumers for reacting naturally to the overly aggressive tactics used by some door knockers. The real problem, in my opinion, is that these salespeople are trained not to accept “No” as an answer: in fact, some of them are specifically trained to stay in the home until they hear “No” at least nine times! And the initial pitch is itself at least somewhat deceptive (“You have a beautiful home, I’m a marketing representative, we would like to put a yard sign in your beautiful lawn and we’ll give you a free alarm system,” etc.). Yes, door-to-door is hard – and yes, some consumers have a good experience. But the fact remains that many alarm door knockers are not demonstrating the transparency, integrity, and good manners that consumers deserve. How else do you explain all the complaints, fines, lawsuits, and government actions? Thanks again.

  4. Trevor Lefebvre

    This entire article is misleading and biased. Your point is to bash on door to door sales people to make your company appear more legitimate and appealing. There have been plenty of people that have had positive experiences with “knockers” and most of the time they do give out many quotes and deals that are better than the leading rates. There are some overly aggressive salesman, yes. Yet they are because of the rude and disrespectful treatment from people that answer there doors, they get criticized and rejected the worst thing to do is tell him that he is trespassing and soliciting the job is hard it just makes his day worse invoking an offensive response the best thing to do do is polity let him know you are not interested but thanks for stopping by.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Trevor, thanks very much for your comment. While I can appreciate your stance on door knockers in general, the fact remains that complaints are on the rise – and the tactics employed by some (and I repeat, only some) door knockers are reaching new levels of fraud and deception. What I’m referring to specifically is the practice of pretending to be from a homeowner’s existing alarm company to gain access to the home, and then stealing the alarm service from the other company. It’s happening this summer in unprecedented numbers, as one can easily see from on-line news reports and complaints, and is probably the least ethical practice in this entire industry. I think it’s unfortunate that you choose to blame consumers for reacting naturally to the overly aggressive tactics used by some door knockers. The real problem, in my opinion, is that these salespeople are trained not to accept “No” as an answer: in fact, some of them are specifically trained to stay in the home until they hear “No” at least nine times! And the initial pitch is itself at least somewhat deceptive (“You have a beautiful home, I’m a marketing representative, we would like to put a yard sign in your beautiful lawn and we’ll give you a free alarm system,” etc.). Yes, door-to-door is hard – and yes, some consumers have a good experience. But the fact remains that many alarm door knockers are not demonstrating the transparency, integrity, and good manners that consumers deserve. How else do you explain all the complaints, fines, lawsuits, and government actions? Thanks again.

  5. NickC

    I don’t remember how we found FrontPoint. Probably trolling the web. The responsiveness was very good and has been whenever we had questions or needed to make changes. I believe we started out with a clear understanding of what would happen if the alarm was activated. This was not the case when I had an ADT account. ADT missed an opportunity to have a burglar caught in the act at our old shop. They wasted valuable time screwing around on the telephone when the police could have been on the way. They’re history with us.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Thanks, Nick. No alarm company is perfect, even FrontPoint – but I can ell you that we work very hard to make sure the kind of incident you describe does not happen to our customers. The good news is that we appear to be doing a great job, based on lots of great reviews, and very few complaints. Also, people get tired of not being able to talk to a real person – and of getting the run-around when you do find someone who will answer the phone. We think it’s all about trust and transparency – after you do a good job, of course! Thanks again.

  6. NickC

    I don’t remember how we found FrontPoint. Probably trolling the web. The responsiveness was very good and has been whenever we had questions or needed to make changes. I believe we started out with a clear understanding of what would happen if the alarm was activated. This was not the case when I had an ADT account. ADT missed an opportunity to have a burglar caught in the act at our old shop. They wasted valuable time screwing around on the telephone when the police could have been on the way. They’re history with us.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Thanks, Nick. No alarm company is perfect, even FrontPoint – but I can ell you that we work very hard to make sure the kind of incident you describe does not happen to our customers. The good news is that we appear to be doing a great job, based on lots of great reviews, and very few complaints. Also, people get tired of not being able to talk to a real person – and of getting the run-around when you do find someone who will answer the phone. We think it’s all about trust and transparency – after you do a good job, of course! Thanks again.