Consumers are inundated with compelling ads that dangle unbelievable bargains for services they think they might want or, according to the pitchman, they just can't live without. "More often than not, a deal that seems too good to be true isn't a bargain at all," says Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List, a provider of consumer reviews for local service companies. Angie's List used member reports and surveys and chats with highly rated service professionals to compile a list of so-called bargains that often end up costing consumers more time, money and trouble than they expected when they called to take advantage of the bargains.
Many Angie's List members have submitted reports saying they were billed extra for costs that weren't revealed before the purchase, overcharged for carpet they didn't need, and that they were sent installers, subcontracted out by the carpet retailer, who did substandard work.
Often these unhappy members responded to advertisements offering whole-house installation from $139 to as low as $37, provided the consumer purchases the carpet from the advertiser. After buying the carpet, the customers found out they'd be charged extra for things like measuring the carpet, moving furniture and removing and hauling away the original carpet.
A homeowner with an average-sized single family home should expect to spend several hundred dollars or more for a quality installation from a qualified professional.
Beware of aggressive home alarm salespeople who use scare tactics to pressure you into a sale and/or a long-term monitoring contract. Often these techniques are practiced by companies that don't properly install the systems they sell.
Properly installed and used home security systems can work. Studies show that about two-thirds of burglaries attempted on security-armed homes will fail. Consumers should be careful about what they buy and how it's installed and monitored.
Home security systems range from the basics to the highly complex, and prices range from $100 to more than $1,000. Monthly monitoring fees average between $20 and $50 depending on the level of service options.
Air duct cleaning
Most unreliable air duct sales pitches have two components: a low price and startling information on the dangers your ducts pose to your family — especially those with respiratory illnesses. Some even claim special certification for their service.
Allowing an unqualified contractor to clean your ducts, however, could be worse than never doing it. Particulates could break up and be released into your home, or your air-conditioning system could be damaged.
Some companies advertise for as little as $49. A reliable cleaning will cost at least $400, take several hours to accomplish, require more than one worker and involve costly equipment.
Angie's List collects consumer reviews on local contractors and doctors in more than 500 service categories. The information is available to members.