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Carpet Cleaning Scams are on the Rise

“When it comes time to cleaning your carpets, how can you make sure no one walks all over you?”

In a Dateline NBC Hidden Camera Consumer Alert, a consumer by the name of Larry Gerdis simply wanted to get his carpets cleaned. He had his carpets cleaned every year, so when he received a coupon in the mail for “5 rooms for only $49.95”, it seemed like a great deal. He expected to pay a little more for a staircase and a couple of extra rooms, but when the company arrived, he was shocked.

Instead of the price listed on the coupon, Larry was quoted a price over $300. The company told him it was necessary for him to add on a number of extra services if he really wanted his carpets cleaned. Larry politely explained that his carpets really weren't that dirty and was stern in insisting the company do the job for the advertised price.

The so called “cleaning job” Larry was left with was deplorable. “It was a terrible job”, Larry said disappointingly, “the carpets didn't come clean. I was very disappointed in it”.

The tactic used on Larry Gerdis and on unsuspecting consumers everywhere is called “bait-and-switch”.

A bait-and-switch scam works like this: a carpet cleaning company advertises cleaning a roomful of carpet for an unbelievably low price. When they arrive, they inform you the price they quoted is only for certain areas like traffic lanes and includes little to no cleaning chemicals. So you agree to pay extra for chemicals and areas beyond their limit, and the final bill ends up costing you hundreds of dollars.

Bait-and-switch scams are especially targeted at the elderly, who are more likely to trust someone who “promises” to give them a good deal and be intimidated by high-pressure tactics.

So how can you protect yourself from a bait-and-switch scam?

The best protection against bait-and-switch is to be informed of the carpet cleaning process before the cleaner arrives at your home.  Do a Google search or call a few cleaning companies and inquire about their process.  If the company you've contacted cannot answer simple questions, move on to another cleaning company.  Don't let price fool you when you choose a company. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

What questions should you ask?

  • Are you certified in carpet, rug or upholstery cleaning?
  • How many years has your company been in business (the longer, the better)?
  • Is your company a member of a professional cleaning trade association?
  • What steps will be included in your cleaning process?
  • What kind of chemicals will you use?
  • How long will it take for the carpet to dry?
  • When can I walk on the cleaned carpet?
  • Do you have a business license?
  • Do you carry insurance?

After your questions have been answered and you've chosen a company to clean your carpets, remember that you still have the final say in the matter.  A bait-and-switch tactic could also be used by companies who advertise what seem to be more realistic prices, then send employees who are not professionally trained. A thorough cleaning should include the following processes, and if it doesn’t, you're not receiving quality work:

  • Pre-vacuuming with commercial equipment
  • Normal general spot removal
  • Pre-conditioning heavy traffic areas
  • Extracting suspended soil
  • Grooming the carpet pile
  • Offering fabric protection
  • Taking steps to ensure drying in a reasonable time

All professionally trained cleaning companies should adhere to the IICRC (Institution of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration) Cleaning Standards and follow the steps listed above.

Another tip to make ensure your cleaner is trained: ask him what type of carpet you have and listen to his answer. If he can’t identify your carpet as olefin, wool, nylon, etc., then he’s not a certified carpet cleaner. Don't fall for this bait-and-switch either. These are people that you need to trust in your home.

Having a trustworthy, trained, certified technician clean your carpet or upholstery is important, not only for your safety and peace of mind, but also for maintaining and extending the life of your carpet.

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