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Archive for June, 2010

Vent Cleaning Scam

June 19th, 2010 at 08:43 am

Yesterday morning we had the vents to our forced air heating and cooling system cleaned and the process was a nightmare. Why? We chose a company based on a coupon we received in the mail, and they had a hidden agenda. We get coupons all the time but I chose this company because they gave a "15% senior citizen discount." All the coupons charged about $65 for the service which included "free" dryer vent cleaning.

So why was it a scam? Well, the minute the two men started the job, one got busy working while the other, Leo, said their "service" included a free inspection of our furnace. Hmmm... first red flag.

After the inspection, Leo began a high pressure sales pitch trying to sell equipment and services ranging from $850 to $150. Leo began by telling us our furnace needed cleaning and the air in our house was 70% more polluted than the outside air.

First of all, a few months back PGE came out and inspected our furnace and said all was OK. We said no to the $150 furnace cleaning. Then Leo wanted to sell us a UV Cleanser... $850 but we would get a special price of "only $499." Again, we said NO. I told him I don't spend that kind of money without researching it first.

Then Leo insulted me by asking, "Are you Jewish?" I responded, "Are you suggesting that I do not want to spend money because I'm Jewish? It's very insulting to make remarks like that about any group of people, and it's none of your business..." I would not be ashamed to be Jewish but I was angry because it projected a pejorative attitude. When Leo saw how angry I was, he said, "Oh, I'm Jewish" and he walked away.

Next, Leo tried to sell us a washable filter for $150. We already use high quality disposable filters (~$20 each) and it had recently been replaced, so we said no. Leo then said he (Leo) could not believe my dh would not spend money to have clean air in the house, especially since I have allergies (something my husband shared when Leo asked why we were having the vents professionally cleaned).

Then we found out the service did not include cleaning the cold air return vent... that was $35 more. I said OK on that only because they had the grill off and hanging and it's located in a place that is too high for our only ladder to reach. Since moving to this condo, we've given away most of our tools and equipment.

Next, Leo told my husband we had holes in the vent off the heater and poked his finger through one to show him. But wait, for $200 he would duct tape it. By now my husband was fed up and told Leo to just go. So we ended up paying $65 + $35 minus 15% discount. My dh later patched the vent holes... he said he couldn't prove it but thought Leo purposely made the holes.

I had planned to pay by CC to get points but ended up paying cash because the invoice required me to put my CC number and CVC code. Leo was such a hustler that there is no way I would let him have this information. I later called the company and told them I would be filing a complaint with the BBB and explained why. They offered to return 50% of the cost.

So the lesson learned from all of this is that next time I decide to have our vents cleaned, I will ask some questions before booking the appointment:

~ Will you try to sell me other services or equipment?

~ Does the service include cleaning ALL the vents, including the cold air return?

~ Is the technician named Leo? :-


Rent or Sell?

June 9th, 2010 at 11:07 am

Now that we're retired and free to move about the world without the encumbrance of jobs, we've been contemplating what to do with our condo in CA. Here is what we have discussed so far:

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Sell It

Pros:
No more PITI, HOA fees, and utilities;

We could invest the equity or use it for something else, TBD.

Cons:
The real estate market's just starting to improve here, so it might be prudent to wait;

We might owe taxes since we would not be buying a replacement property.


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Rent It

Pros:
The rent would cover all or almost all expenses (PITI/HOA/Management);

We could save or invest what we now pay in PITI/HOA;

We know a good property manager.

Cons:
Renting can be a disaster with the wrong tenants;

Renting won't help us tax-wise due to income limits.


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So, back to the question: rent or sell? After much thought and discussion, we've decided to do neither. We're going to keep the condo and look at things again in a year or so. This way, we will have a place to stay whenever we're in CA, and we will be spending about 4 months here in 2010. Dh, as an Emeritus Professor, still has access to the campus library and other resources and he wants to do some research/writing (with no stress or deadlines, just for enjoyment). We'll keep the Prius parked in the garage for wheels and thankfully, not have to deal with packing and moving dh's office just yet.