Customer Awareness

Bait-and-Switch in Carpet Cleaning

They promised to clean your whole house for $99.00. And they’d even clean your dog’s house while they were at it. Then, to show how much they appreciate your business, they’ll throw in a coupon for free dinner at a local restaurant. Sound too good to be true? It probably is.

To make matters worse, when they finally show up — three hours late — in a beat up pick-up truck with no company identification, and hop out in torn jeans and a soiled tee-shirt, you realize it: you’ve been the victim of a bait and switch campaign.

What is bait-and-switch?

Bait-and-switch scams work like this: a company advertised cleaning a roomful of carpet for a ridiculously low price. When they arrive, they inform you the price they quoted is only for traffic lanes and doesn’t include any cleaning chemicals. That’s like taking a bath with no soap. So you agree to pay extra for chemicals (because your thankful someone FINALLY showed up) and the final bill can end up costing you hundreds of dollars.

Another typical scam is hearing that a company will clean a set of amount of rooms for a very low price (like 5 rooms for $49.00). After they begin, you discover a linen closet, hallway, foyer, or regular closet constitutes a room, and you wind up paying a lot more than you thought you would. Bait-and-switch scams are especially targeted at the elderly, who more likely intimidated by high-pressure tactics and to trust someone who “promises” to give them a good deal.

Professional carpet-cleaning technicians will arrive in a company vehicle with company identification on the side. They should wear a professional uniform, be well groomed, and provide some sort of identification (business or certification card). If they are more like the person described at the beginning of the story, do not let them in.

So how can you AVOID a bait-and-switch scam?

The best protection against bait-and-switch is to be informed about carpet cleaning processes before the cleaner arrives at your home. Call several cleaning agencies and inquire about their process. If the company cannot answer simple questions, move on to another cleaning company. Remember, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

What questions should you ask?

  • Are you certified in carpet cleaning?
  • If not, what type of formal training in carpet cleaning do you have?
  • How many years has your company been in business? (the longer, the better).
  • Do you have a reference list I can call to ask about their experience with your company?
  • Is your company a member of a professional cleaning trade association? (if they are, they will be exposed to continuing education courses).
  • What steps will be included in your cleaning process?
  • What kind of chemicals will you use?
  • How long will it take for the carpet to dry?
  • When can I walk on the cleaned carpet?
  • Do you have a business license? Carry insurance?
  • Exactly what areas are to be cleaned are included in the price quoted?
  • Are the cleaning chemicals included in the price quoted?

After your questions have been answered and you select a company to clean your carpets, remember that you still have the final word. A thorough cleaning should include the following, and if it doesn’t, demand the cleaners leave your home.

Watch for:

  • Pre-vacuuming with commercial equipment
  • Normal general spot removal
  • Pre-conditioning heavy traffic areas
  • Extracting suspended soil
  • Grooming the carpet pile
  • Placing furniture protectors under each leg of furniture that cannot be removed from the room, and keeping them there until the carpet is completely dry. (this keeps stain from the furniture from seeping onto the carpet and staining it)
  • Taking steps to ensure drying in a reasonable time.

All professionally trained carpet-cleaning companies adhere to industry standards and follow the steps listed above. Another tip to ensure you cleaner is trained — ask him what type of carpet you have and listen to his answer. If he can’t identify your carpet as olefin, wool, nylon, etc., then he is not a certified carpet cleaner.

Having a certified technician and firm clean your carpet is important, not only for your peace of mind, but also for maintaining and extending the life of your carpet. The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) recommends professionally cleaning your carpets at least every 12 months.

CRI also recommends using only a cleaner that has taken tests on industry standards and is committed to customer satisfactions such as those who have earned the “Seal of Approval”. The Seal of Approval program at CRI helps enable consumers to identify companies that have pledged to meet the highest standards for carpet cleaning. Seal of Approval participants have passed industry tests to demonstrate their awareness of industry standards, and have committed to uphold those standards. Ask to see your technician’s Seal of Approval card.