Never pay a service provider until after they have provided the service!

Have you ever approached a home service provider that is not providing any hard goods and they want you to pay them ahead of time?  Maybe you should run and not walk away from that provider?  Read on for more.

[tab: Think Before You Spend]

This has certainly been an interesting week and the most recent incident definitely requires a reminder to consumers.  If you are shopping for a home service only provider (one that is not selling or using any significant hard goods) then never pay for the service until after it has been performed!  Paying up front is an invitation to being ripped off in today’s business climate.  Once a service provider has your money you are now essentially at their mercy.  Any good service provider will, under most circumstances, not charge you ahead of time for a service they have not yet rendered.  A good service provider has little fear that you will pay them for any home maintenance or repairs once you see the quality of their work.  Besides if the homeowner does not pay a just debt to a service provider who works on your home then the service provider can place a mechanics lien on your home and eventually collect the debt owed.  The only real exception to this rule is if the service provider is going to be utilizing large quantities of expensive materials not normally on hand, or has to special order materials for your job, and requires a down payment to cover the cost of those materials.  They certainly can not afford to get stuck with materials if the consumer decides to change their mind.  Requiring a deposit to cover the materials in those situations is an understandable requirement.

So what happened that is prompting me to write this Blog entry?  Well let’s start with the story and move to what did or can happen.

Mr. And Mrs. Elderly Couple are having problems with their home.  Mr. Couple thinks it is being caused by roof leaks.  Mrs. Couple doesn’t agree given the signs present, or absent, and thinks the cause is something else.  Mr. Couple wins the debate and Mrs. Couple allows him to take charge.  Mr. Couple logs onto a very large, national referral service that consumers have to pay to be a member of and searches for a roofer.  This service is suppose to provide consumer referrals to only the best of the best service providers as indicated by the consumer reviews and screening process.  When Mr. Couple calls the roofer the roofer agrees to come to Mr. Couples home and inspect the roof for problems.  The roofer also convinces Mr. Couple that if he pays $200 ahead of time (before the service is even rendered) then he can save money on the roofer’s rates.  The roofer advises Mr. Couple that IF after the inspection any roof repairs or work is needed the $200 will also cover the first two hours labor of any needed work.  The roofer advises Mr. Couple that is the referral service’s special member rate, and others not using the referral service will pay more.  Mr. Couple agrees, sets the appointment date and time, and pays the roofer.  The appointment day comes and the roofer calls Mr. Couple to let him know they can not make it there that day because their schedule is booked up and asks if they can reschedule for another day?  For whatever reason Mr. Couple agrees instead of cancelling and demanding a refund.  At this point as far as I know Mr. Couple is still waiting for the roofer to arrive and perform the already paid for service.

Now we will throw in some additional information to better understand the premise of not paying ahead of time for a service, and why you need to think heavily if you do choose to do that.

  • Mr. and Mrs. Elderly Couple can hardly afford to shell out $200.  Mr Couple is disabled and Mrs. Couple is working well over the Social Security retirement age because they need the money.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Elderly Couple have little knowledge of home construction and all of the parts of it.  Besides their generation functioned a great deal on trust and handshakes at a time when businesses were much more customer satisfaction oriented.
  • On the roofer’s own WEB site they advertise free estimates.  How can they provide a free estimate for repair work if they do not inspect the roof for free as well?  After all you need to know what is wrong to be able to estimate repairs.
  • On the roofer’s own WEB site they advertise free roof inspections for insurance companies.  If they offer free inspections to insurance companies that can well afford to pay for them, and free estimates, then why are they charging Mr. and Mrs. Elderly Couple $200 for an inspection?
  • On the roofer’s own WEB site they advertise quick/priority inspections for Real Estate Agents who are trying to close their purchase or sale deals.  Even though this page does not state it is free I would fully expect it is.  Many roofers will provide free services to Real Estate Agents in hopes of getting the repair work and potential future referrals.  So if they can provide free priority service to Real Estate Agents then why can’t they even keep appointed times for consumers who are paying for the same service?

So what’s wrong here?  Well besides the questions added in the additional information above carefully consider the “IF” noted in bold red above.  Mr. and Mrs. Elderly Couple paid a roofer $200 and if no work is required because Mrs. Couple was correct then essentially they paid for an inspection that the roofer themselves give away for free.  Many very good roofers are out there and regularly perform free inspections and estimates especially for elderly on fixed income!  To add insult to injury Mr. Couple went to what is suppose to be a highly respected, members only, national referral service to find a roofer who is potentially ripping them off!  So much for the privileges of membership?

I am sure there are those out there that are screaming at me and claiming “Well they are a highly respected and referred service, and you do not get that without paying for it!”, or “Do you expect every service provider to provide free services?”, or “So what gives you the right to air your dislikes?  What did you do to help?”,  or some other completely inappropriate thought.  But I will head you off and say no I do not expect any service provider to hand out free services.  However when they are advertising free services on their WEB site but start charging people for them, especially elderly on fixed and low incomes, then you really have to wonder about their ethics and integrity!  As for griping I most certainly have full rights to those.  Not only have I provided reference(s) to some very honest and professional roofers who would do it for free, I have also offered to perform not only a roof inspection but inspect Mrs. Couple’s concerns as well and all for free.  Whenever I run into a suspected case of very bad business I do what I can to make sure the consumer does not get screwed!

So what is the point of this Blog.  It is simply stated in the title but I will also add one more major point.  Even if you have referrals for a service provider you need to check them out thoroughly no matter how good they are suppose to be.  Part of those checks should be to obtain detailed estimates for any service to be provided.  The estimates should provide at least a breakdown for materials, labor, permits and fees, as well as any other non-standard costs.  Many service providers will charge a fee for providing inspections and estimates.  After all they are professionals and that takes time away from paying work.  However the good service providers will clearly state on the estimate, in writing, that the fee will be subtracted from the final cost if you use their services.  Additionally their estimate fees are generally something very small just to pay for basic expenses (gas and basic vehicle costs) to come to your site and provide the work necessary for a proper estimate.  If you call around and ask you will get a feel for what the average estimate fees are if they charge any at all.

The bottom line is take a little extra time and check things out before you spend your money!  Only you can protect yourself from scams and rip-offs!!

Knowledge is power, but sharing knowledge brings peace!

[tab: Links and References]

PS Inspection & Property Services LLC is a full service home inspection and light commercial inspection company servicing the entire Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.  We strive to for the satisfaction of our customers in everything we do.  Our services offerings include:

Buyer home inspections
New Home Warranty Inspections
New Home Draw Inspections
Home Maintenance Inspections
Home Remodeling Inspections
Investor Inspections
Rental And Renter Inspections
Infrared Thermal Imaging Inspections
Energy Audit Inspections
Whole Inspections Or Inspections Customized To Your Needs

If you have an inspection need we can customize an inspection for it.  Please visit our main site at PS Inspection & Property Service LLC.

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