for the London Free Press – June 17, 2013 – Read this at lfpress.com
It always pays to be skeptical about unsolicited sales pitches. If someone tries to sell you something by knocking on your door, phoning or sticking a flyer in your door, think twice before you buy.
Some offers may be legitimate services for a fair price by a legitimate business. But others are for services you don’t need or from fly-by-night businesses. They also could be overpriced, of shoddy quality or outright scams.
Consumer protection legislation generally gives customers rights to cancel contracts made at the door or over the phone within a short period of time.
If you’re contacted this way, first think about whether you need the service. Ask the salesperson to leave you information or a quote if you’re being told the service is necessary, you aren’t sure you want it, you aren’t sure about the price or have even the mildest hesitation.
That gives you time to think about it, talk to someone else about it or get a second opinion or quote. A refusal to provide information, or an insistence that it must be agreed to on the spot is a sure sign that you should say no.
Common offers to be skeptical of are home repairs such as roof repairs and driveway sealing. A phone call saying that your computer is in need of repair is a common scam.
Energy savings plans also are common. Promises of significant savings are often made for things like the sale of natural gas or electricity — but they may be based on unrealistic assumptions, be misleading or lock you in in surprising ways.
A colleague recently brought to my attention a situation where an energy-savings thermostat was imprudently purchased over the phone. For a fixed monthly fee payable over several years, a new intelligent thermostat was installed, along with a promise of energy savings.
The buyer was required to sign a lengthy contract. It included significant costs for early termination, or if the house was sold and the buyer didn’t want to assume the contract. Removal of the thermostat required the homeowner to pay for a technician.
An attempt to contact customer service when a problem occurred with the thermostat did not go well.
Some quick math showed that within about three months you would have paid enough to buy a programmable thermostat. And within 18 months you would have paid enough to buy a new Nest learning thermostat, perhaps one of the most advanced, high-tech thermostats available.
The moral of the story is to be skeptical, and take time to think before you agree to buy anything that you didn’t set out to buy in the first place.