I spend more than my share of minutes eating up bandwidth on the internet. The internet is a very valuable resource for savvy users. But, it has to be taken with a grain of salt and lots of cross-verification. If you Google a term long enough, you can find an article that says precisely what you want to hear. That’s one of the dangers on the Internet. I’d like to use this week’s blog to address another, much larger danger to consumers. Some of you are loyal customers, and I sincerely thank you. But I’m constantly hearing the stories about good people who get ripped off and taken advantage of by competitors that I wish weren’t out there for people to have to screen.
I’m so tired of it, that I decided to write this blog to give the good people who read it some tools to help! If this blog gets picked up and spread on the internet, maybe it will help someone make a good choice for their family!
Much like Brad Paisley’s hit song, many companies look “so much cooler online” than they are in real life. It is pretty simple to throw together a website that sounds professional, looks professional, and feels professional when in truth the consumer is looking a the website of a guy with one or maybe two trucks who works out of his home.
In this day and age, you really can’t afford to do business with companies like these! Who’s to say that the guy working out of his home is going to be there tomorrow, or next week, or three years from now when you need him to fulfill his warranty obligations? You as the consumer will be left out in the cold–or in the Florida heat.
Here are some things to keep you safe when you’re choosing a contractor:
- When you do a search, take few moments to verify the address BEFORE you call the company. If they’re working out of their HOME or a residential address and NOT in a place of business, be VERY wary. These are the fly-by-night, low-budget, one-truck wonders that won’t answer the phones on weekends, or holidays, or whenever it isn’t convenient for them. You deserve better than a guy working out of his garage. You deserve a company with a storefront and a staff, and a reputation and guarantees you can trust. Google maps makes this verification really easy by simply showing you the location on a map. Take a minute and zoom in. Can you really drop by the house to meet the dispatcher? Is there a dispatcher? Yikes! When did they incorporate? Look for companies who’ve been in business at least 10 years, but as a rule the longer the better!
- Open a new window and navigate to myflorida.com. From here, you can click on business and verify when the business was incorporated, who the license holders are, and what kind of standing the business is in with the state. Also, check this link to make sure the business is license to perform the type of work you’re looking to hire.
- Before you call a company: GOOGLE THE COMPANY NAME. Too often, I hear the horror stories from consumers who get taken by the snake-oil salesmen who prey on the unsuspecting consumers in our industry. Chances are, they’ve been busted before in very public manners, but since it is buried in time, not everyone heard about it. Google the name, read reviews, and search local papers for stories. You might just be surprised what you find.
- Check the Better Business Bureau, but know this: once a company decides to advertise with them, their rating goes right to an A+. Better to listen to those Google reviews. They’re often more honest!
- Ask the company to provide you with a copy of their certificate of insurance. Make sure they carry at least a million dollars per incident of General Liability and Worker’s Compensation coverage. If they don’t know this: any claim that goes ABOVE their limits and happens on your property will hit your homeowner’s policy!
- Check out AskTheSeal. Is the company verified through them? They verify the license and insurance information for you (but not the specific limits). They also perform background checks on all employees. Sex offenders aren’t forgiven, ever. But, no company can get their seal if they’ve committed a crime against a person (theft, kidnapping, etc) in the past seven years.
The phrase cavaet emptor originated in A.D. 1215 but it has never been more relevant than it is today. Buyers, beware. These are trying times and people are often out to make a quick buck. Many unemployable slackers are finding it easier to hang a shingle and rip off unsuspecting consumers than it is to stay gainfully employed with a larger company because they don’t want to play by the company rules. Consumers need to hang on to their pennies and spend them wisely. Make sure you choose a company you can trust who will be there when you need them and will always back up their work with a no-questions-asked money back guarantee.
Don’t Sweat, Call Bayonet!
Thanks for your loyal patronage: Kris Blankenship