Avoid these three most popular carpet-cleaning tricks that scam artists try to pull on innocent homeowners.
If you're meticulous about keeping carpets tidy and stain-free, you know the benefit of a professional carpet cleaning service. Unfortunately, carpet-cleaning scam artists try to take advantage of homeowners with high-pressure sales tactics.
If you're looking to hire a pro, become familiar with the process and watch out for these three common carpet cleaning scams.
The "unbelievably low prices" scam
You'll hear this one from salespeople who come to your door, claiming to offer the lowest price in town. They might tell you about competitors' offers or give you fliers that show what other companies charge. In reality, the person at your door is getting paid for the number of sales he or she makes. If you agree to the price, the salesperson leaves and a "pro" comes back a few days later.
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Once inside your home, the price suddenly starts to increase — because you have thicker than average carpet, your rooms are a strange size or there are certain types of stains on your floor. Regardless of what you initially agreed to, the price suddenly spirals out of control, and you find yourself paying for services you don't need or want.
The fix? Never agree to anything sold by a door-to-door salesman, especially if he or she tells you it's a limited-time offer. Always call the company on your own time and your own terms.
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The "best method" scam
There are several common methods for carpet cleaning. The most popular is steam cleaning, which actually uses hot water and a chemical detergent. Clean water and detergent are pushed into your carpet using high-powered tools, and dirty water is pulled out using a vacuum. Dry cleaning, meanwhile, uses a very small amount of water and chemicals to pull stains out of your carpet and refresh the fibers.
Some companies will try to scam you by claiming to use the "best" method available. The problem? There is no such thing. What works best for your carpet depends on its age, material, pile and the amount of cleaning it requires.
Of course, this "best" cleaning method comes with a huge price tag, and won't clean your carpet any better than either method mentioned above. To spot this scam, ask your prospective contractor exactly what his or her method involves. If the technician can't explain the method or acts offended that you asked, choose a different company.
The "surface clean" scam
Of all the carpet cleaning scams, this one requires homeowners to be the most diligent. Even seemingly reputable companies try this trick occasionally, though sometimes they don't do it on purpose.
It all starts innocently enough; you contact a company, have them come and do an estimate, agree to a time and a uniformed employee comes to your door. You vacate the house and return when the carpet is dry only to find that your stains return within days, and none of the surfaces seem particularly clean. What happened?
There are two possibilities. First, your contractor may have faulty equipment, which didn't push enough water in or suck enough out. It's also possible the contractor made no real effort to clean your carpet, instead doing only a quick surface clean before packing up and moving on to the next job.
To avoid this scam, do your research. Read reviews of local companies on trusted sites like Angie's List, and ask your carpet cleaning pro for references. Call the numbers provided, and ask for an honest opinion.
What to look for in a professional carpet cleaner
When hiring a carpet cleaning company, make sure to get a specific rate per room or per square foot, and ask about the preferred cleaning method. Ask if there's an extra charge for moving heavy items like furniture; many companies will clean only open floor space, or demand a huge surcharge to move furniture. If licensing is required in your city or town, confirm the company is licensed before you make a hiring decision.
Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally published on Sept. 11, 2013.