Duct cleaning- Did my father-in-law just get ripped off?


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Old 09-09-14, 08:04 PM
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Duct cleaning- Did my father-in-law just get ripped off?

I come home from a business trip and check on my father-in-law. He tells me that while I was gone, he received an unsolicited phone call from a "duct and air cleaning specialist" who says that they will look at his air conditioning/heating duct work for a free inspection. The guy come over, does some sort of inspection, and says that the ducts needed to be cleaned out and the total would be $395.00 (attached). He lives in a 1,600 square foot ranch home build about 13 years ago with forced air heat/air conditioning.

Apparently after starting the cleaning, the technician comes back upstairs and tells him that he has "mold growth" and "visible water damage." I take care of his home and I wasn't aware of any of these things. My father in law is unable to climb the stairs down to the basement due to his physical condition, so he could not examine the "mold" himself.

So then he gets the second estimate (attached)......$638.00 to treat the mold and then $377 to seal the entire vent system with "soot sealer #1."

In total, he ended up paying these people around $1000.00. I have never heard of the company before, and even the invoices they use don't even have a company letterhead on it. I blocked out the name, but it's just a rubber stamp on top of the invoice.

This amount seems absolutely crazy to me, but perhaps I am wrong which is why I am here. I've received lots of offers to clean the duct work in my house (almost same size as his), but it's always been for a couple hundred bucks or so. Did my father-in-law just get totally ripped off? Check out the attached bills and let me know what you think.

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  #2  
Old 09-09-14, 09:53 PM
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A free inspection is a come on. The ducts "always" need to be cleaned.

The price of $395 seems to be inline.
The mold and water damage price seems to be excessive. Who knows if you did have mold.
Water damage is probably stretching the truth. A lot of these companies play on people's fears of mold.



A word to the wise..... if you want your ducts cleaned..... make the call to contact a company.... don't accept an unsolicited offer. Getting recommendations or using a well known company is highly recommended.
 
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Old 09-09-14, 10:16 PM
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I agree with all of that PJmax. Unfortunately, my father in law is elderly and I feel he fell victim to a fraud. I just can't imagine ANY duct cleaning service costing $1000. If this is very excessive, I want to contact my Attorney General. If the pros on this forum feel it's not excessive, I guess he's just going to have to eat his $1000.

And what the heck is soot sealer?
 
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Old 09-09-14, 10:29 PM
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It is unfortunate that these companies prey on the elderly. They mention mold since it's such a hot topic and basically everyone is afraid of it.

Unfortunately he approved the order for the extra work.

Others will stop in and offer their opinions.
 
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Old 09-10-14, 01:35 PM
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To add more drama to the story, I called the company and asked why they had called my in-laws when their number was on the Do Not Call Registry. He said that it was "OK" to call people's phone numbers because no business was done on the phone (not true). He then told me that they found mold in the duct work (who knows if it was actually there), and that they used some sort of herbicide that is "environmentally friendly" to clean the ducts then added a soot sealer after that. The problem is that both of my in-laws have cardiopulmonary problems and are on oxygen, and they were in the house when these chemicals were applied. Maybe that's common practice with the pros? Not sure.

Anyway, the guy ultimately called me a moron and hung up on me. I don't think he liked all of my questions. Maybe the guy is 100% legit and I'm the jerk for questioning him. Maybe he's a scam artist (leaning toward the latter). It's just weird that this guy has no company letterhead on his invoice, no website for his business, cold called my in-laws, and up-sold them such an expensive procedure.
 
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Old 09-10-14, 01:39 PM
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Just like BAD HVAC company's they give everyone a bad name.
 
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Old 09-10-14, 05:13 PM
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The problem is that both of my in-laws have cardiopulmonary problems and are on oxygen, and they were in the house when these chemicals were applied.
Play hardball....
Call the company back up and tell them your inlaws are having breathing problems and that you want the MSDS's (material safety data sheets)from the chemicals they used in your ducts. Tell them that since your inlaws were not asked to leave the house during the application you may be filing charges against them.

If they don't play ball..... a check is stoppable.
 
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Old 09-10-14, 05:31 PM
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Every state is different, but where I live praying on the elderly is scrutinized very closely. If they are crooks it is doubtful your folks were their first victims. I would immediately talk to the local polica covering their home. I would also look for a senior protection service and discuss what is or is not legal. The wife and I have taken care of my father and then her parents and are well aware of all of the phone calls and visitors at the front door.

Our state also has a three day waiting requirement for cold sales. Not sure how that would apply here, but it might.

Bud
 
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Old 09-10-14, 08:11 PM
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All through Bud. Thanks. I talked to my father-in-law about this whole mess and it appears he just wants to be done with it. We have no way of proving whether there was mold in the duct work or not. We have now way of knowing if they provided the services they provided although I opened up some of the duct work in the basement and they appear to be clean. We notified the Do Not Call Registry that he violated, and we're going to contact the State Attorney General so it doesn't happen to anyone else. After that, I think it's going to be lesson learned for them.
 
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Old 09-11-14, 12:38 AM
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Duct cleaning is rarely necessary but when it is a good job will take around six hours and probably cost in excess of $500. The advertisements in the flyers and post cards are mostly all hacks that are in and out in two hours or less.


Something must happen to people after they turn seventy. They become far more trusting than when in their earlier years. My mother (may she rest in peace) once answered the door to a man selling heating system maintenance. She let him and sent him to the basement where he then slapped his company sticker (permanent glue) on the boiler casing and then told her it was an extreme danger and could explode. The one smart thing she did was call me rather than sign up for service.

I came out and checked it out and there was NOTHING wrong with the system. Since I designed, built, installed and serviced the system (on a regular basis) I knew far more about it than the jerk who tried to sucker her into a contract. Truth is, I wouldn't be surprised to learn the jerk had never even seen a boiler since they are not common in this area.

I told my mother to NEVER let a stranger into the house.
 
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Old 09-11-14, 04:32 AM
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I understand their reluctance to continue fighting this as they are probably embarrassed having been pushed into something others might consider a bad deal. But, " After that, I think it's going to be lesson learned for them." The problem is, as we/they get older they will make more mistakes and not less. The learning process ended years ago and in old age we forget.

My point is, a couple of calls will quickly discover if this company has been doing this to others and if so adding another "cold call complaint" will help others put an end to their practice.

I talked to my local police department about a $50 bad check and they said it wouldn't be worth prosecuting by itself. But, if 10 businesses came forward with small checks the total amount could justify some action and having more than one complaint makes a stronger case.

You and your in-laws owe it to the next potential victim to speak up now or these senior vampires will go on forever.

Also, there are senior protection services to help them in the future and they can often provide guidance that will help your in-laws to "just say no".

Today it was just a questionable duct cleaning, tomorrow it could be a lot worse.

One quick example. In Maine if a company goes door to door selling driveway sealer and over charges for the work, they are prosecuted regardless of how good the job turned out. Over charging is a crime, especially if it is against seniors.

Best,
Bud
 
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Old 09-14-14, 11:08 AM
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I've had similar issues with my 92 year old mother being either ripped off or at least sold unnecessary products and services by local tradesmen, and I've tried to intervene, but she becomes very defensive when I suggest that she was taken advantage of. I understand the elderly wanting to maintain their independence, but it's hard to stand by quietly while less-than-honest tradesmen rip them off. I've tried to give her advice, but she believes whatever a "professional" says as the gospel. It's frustrating, but I guess it's something those of us who have elderly parents still living at home, have to deal with.
 
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Old 09-21-14, 10:07 AM
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Call a local TV news station. There is always someone there willing to do a little investigative journalism, especially when people -and especially the elderly - are being ripped off.
 
 

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