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Vent Cleaning Scam

June 19th, 2010 at 03:43 pm

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? :-


10 Responses to “Vent Cleaning Scam”

  1. MonkeyMama Says:

    Ugh!

    My co worker was just telling us she was quoted in the thousands to get her vents cleaned. Rolleyes Needless to say, they passed.

  2. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    I've wanted for the longest time to get our vents cleaned. But I have also been suspicious that I would be opening myself up to the kind of foolishness you describe. Yuck....You were smart not to let Leo have your CC info....Could you tell us the name of the business? I'm guessing that these vent cleaning businesses are franchises and that to some extent the franchisor educates the investor-operators in these obnoxious sales techniques.

  3. Analise Says:

    Monkeymama - I think there are companies out there that actually just clean vents for a reasonable fee (less than $100). A friend had his vents cleaned and he had no problem. Too bad he couldn't find the name of the company or their number or I would have used that company.

    Joan - the invoice is from a company called Elite Aircare in Lafayette, CA.

  4. Ima saver Says:

    I am so glad my husband is a handy man and can do most things for himself. I hate when someone just wants to sell you something and won't just let it go!

  5. MonkeyMama Says:

    I was saying they were quoted that just for the cleaning. Which is crazy. They are definitely more affordable options.

  6. Looking Forward Says:

    My DH works in HVAC. We just talked about your post. Their company does duct cleaning with a very expensive piece of equipment. It's a roto-brush with a camera. They charge $600 for a cleaning, but it is the "real" thing. Not like what is offered by cleaning companies. They offer this service to already established clients, not sending out "fishing" coupons. My DH says it's good you passed on the "washable" filter he tried to sell you; those can ruin a furnace. Also, PG&E checks for carbon monoxide, but otherwise they don't know anything about furnaces so yours may need to be cleaned/serviced, but defiantly not by Leo! lol!

  7. Looking Forward Says:

    Also, your ducts should stay clean if you are always using and frequently changing your filter. So really you might never need a cleaning or just need it once (if it's done right) and then you keep them clean.

  8. Jerry Says:

    Leo needs a swift kick.

  9. Krista Says:

    The EXACT same thing happened to us! In the same order too! The UV cleaning, the washable filter... all of it. The guy was so RUDE every time I told him no. He tried to sell me a UV filtering system that would be an additional $2500, and I must have told him no 5 times, but he kept pressuring me. I finally told him, "Sure! I would love to have one. Are you going to buy it for me? If not, stop asking, because I don't have any more money to give you!" He finally got the hint, but it didn't stop him from pouting like a 3 year old until he left.

  10. Roxley Says:

    It is too bad that I didn't read this a few days ago. Last week, I invited two guys into my home to clean my air & dryer ducts for an estimate of $45.00. Unfortunately, I am old guy in my eighties & within less than two hours, they scamed me for $840.00 for Mold treatment & other things, I now know I did not need.

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