received an unsolicited phone call for chimney cleaning and
inspection. Since we had been considering getting this service done
anyway, I listened to the sales pitch (the company was going to be
working in our area in a few weeks) and it sounded interesting.
The caller said
his company was licensed and workers were bonded. Then I asked for the
companyís license number and a previous customer or two that I could
contact as a reference.
The caller said
that he didnít have the license number available, but that the
workers would have it when they showed up.
He also said
that current privacy rules prevented him from giving us contact
information for previous customers.
I know there are
lots of rules about who has access to health-related information these
days, but was this caller being truthful about not providing previous
customers as references?
I declined to
use the company.
Answer: You were
correct in doing so. I would have gone a bit further, however, taking
down the information and calling the 800 number of the state consumer
affairs division to report these people immediately.
no-call list prevents me from getting most of these kinds of calls,
and I suggest you look into it.
Sadly, it hasnít
stopped the "thereís nothing wrong with your credit but
...," inquiries from alternative providers of electricity,
solicitations from charities Iíve never heard of, or robocalls from
Bill Clinton on Election Day.
In fact, the
Pennsylvania Attorney Generalís Office, which oversees consumer
protection, reported on March 20 that "there has been a rash of
overly aggressive and dishonest sales pitches" in several
communities from electrical-generation companies.
The state Bureau
of Consumer Affairs receives 50,000 complaints a year for everything
from shoddy construction to violation of the no-call law.
laws? Give me a break. Most top-flight contractors and repair people
are polite enough to ask customers if theyíll recommend them to
others, but Iíve never heard of any concerned about privacy when a
good word will secure a job.
The best and
most reliable contractors get their business by word of mouth.
My plumbers on
both sides of the river, my electrician, the guy who sanded my porch
floor, my furnace repair person ó all were recommended by friends,
neighbors, or contractors who used them.
That said, you
have to make sure those recommending them arenít their friends or
relatives. If contractors are working in your neighborhood, you can
ask current customers about them or look at the work firsthand.
But this is a
classic example of something consumers should be wary of: telephone
solicitations by "contractors" who will be working in your
area in a few weeks and that fact alone will benefit you.
protection agencies in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey have been
warning about the proliferation of these fly-by-night creeps since
Sandy raged through the area.
But even in
normal times, contractors should provide you with their license number
up front so you can check them out with the authorities. In both
states, home improvement contractors have to register to work.
There is plenty
of information online on how to hire reliable contractors and repair
people, and there are groups such as the National Association of the
Remodeling Industry that can help, too.
Although I have
never used them and probably never will, clearinghouses such as Angieís
List are another reliable source of contractors and repair people.
You were right
to say forget it to the telephone solicitation. I only wish everyone
was as smart as you are.