On Real Estate: Avoiding carpet-cleaning bait-and-switch scams

By Jim Hagerty
Staff Writer

For many homeowners, the chore of cleaning carpet can be stressful, especially in areas subjected to considerable foot and pet traffic. While several relatively inexpensive carpet cleaners, solutions and soaps are available to get dirt out of soiled carpet, you may occasionally need to hire professional cleaning services to tackle the job. Some professional carpet cleaners are as famous for bait-and-switch tactics as for their ability to properly clean your carpets.

Price scams

Some carpet cleaners advertise low per-room prices, leading consumers to believe they can have wall-to-wall cleaning done at little cost. For example, a coupon, print or broadcast ad may give a price of $6 or $7 per room. What is commonly not disclosed is that the low per-room charges are only for areas of a specific size. When rooms are larger, some cleaners do the work without mentioning the size limit, then add on charges for the larger area after the job is done.

Charges for cleaning solutions

It is common for dishonest carpet cleaners to complete a job, then hand the consumer an invoice for an amount much higher than the advertised price. Often in such cases, the company has failed to disclose additional charges for the types of cleaning solutions used. A $6 job can turn into $75, $100, or more, marking a classic bait-and-switch scam.

The up-sell

A common bait-and-switch device in the carpet-cleaning business is to bait consumers with a low advertised price, then sell them more expensive cleaning packages once the carpet cleaner has arrived to do the work. These sales tactics are meant to convince consumers they won’t get the quality job they expected at the lower “basic” price. If the consumer turns down the more expensive service, he may find those fears confirmed.

From the Aug. 18-24, 2010 issue

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