Credentials and Credibility Count
There’s nothing we hate more than hearing about people who’ve been scammed by other air conditioning companies or unlicensed HVAC contractors.
With so many AC companies in the Greater Tampa Bay area and beyond, we operate in a highly competitive and sometimes cutthroat business. And unfortunately that means there are many unscrupulous contractors out there, licensed or not, that are running HVAC scams and ripping people off.
Common fraudulent practices such as the selling of unnecessary parts and faux “black mold scares” compromise the integrity of truly honest HVAC contractors and negatively stigmatize the AC business. These scam artists and shady contractors give the air conditioning business a bad name and the effects of their actions impact the industry as a whole.
At Super Heat & Air, we have built a reputation of and are lauded for honesty, trustworthiness and (you’re going to see this word a lot) transparency. We also hear horror stories from our customers about getting ripped off by other AC companies, and it ticks us off!
The review from Super Heat & Air customer Sylvia Diehl that inspired this post is a perfect example of the disappointing reality about a customer who got ripped off before finding a trustworthy AC company to do business with:
“We have been ripped off so many times by other AC people. It was great to finally find a company we can trust.” – Sylvia Diehl
We hate when people get ripped off, so here are some red flags to look out for and tips to avoid getting caught up in HVAC scams:
Know Who’s Calling
First and foremost, we want to highlight the importance of transparency. So we want you to know that Super Heat & Air does have a call center and we have representatives for both sales and customer service. It’s a crucial part of our business and of many other successful businesses. Unfortunately, call center representatives or “telemarketers” have a negative stigma attached to them as well, and with good reason. So many scams and shady businesses these days are run out of fly-by-night call center operations that it makes it difficult to trust telemarketers. Consumers have also gotten savvier over the years to the point that people generally don’t trust or don’t want to talk to call center representatives anymore.
Our call center representatives do make sales calls as well as customer service and follow-up calls. So you might be asking yourself, “What does this have to do with scams?” Good question!
While our call center is legit, there are many out there that are used for unscrupulous business practices. Common telemarketing scams include slick ripoff artists making cold calls to prospective victims claiming to be with a reputable company, often dialing from makeshift call centers. The elderly are especially susceptible to getting ripped off by faux telemarketers, and quite frankly it makes us livid!
Phone scammers will use tactics like claiming they are with “Example AC Company” and it’s time for your free inspection or offering a lowest cost discounted rate for a service because they just happen to be in your neighborhood. They do this to get their foot in the door and once inside your home, they will try to scam you by trying to sell you air conditioning parts or services you don’t need or by using scare tactics such as a phony “toxic mold” problem to get your money.
Before you agree to schedule an initial appointment, check the caller ID for the company name. If the company name doesn’t appear on the caller ID, do an online search for the phone number. If your search does not turn up a phone number associated with “Example AC”, ask the caller to tell you the phone number of the company they claim to be representing. Any actual employee of the company will know the company’s phone number off the top of their head and will be able to provide it effortlessly. If the caller doesn’t know the company’s listed phone number right off the bat, beware!
And while it’s not unheard of for AC technicians to use their personal cell phones to follow up with customers during a job, the phone call for an initial appointment should always come from a recognizable phone number associated with the company. Transparency!
Know Your Contractor
The first thing you want to ensure before hiring a contractor is that they are licensed, bonded and insured. If the contractor is not or cannot prove it, stay away! We also mentioned verifying the contractor’s phone number, but you want to check their email correspondence too. A reputable company will have a corporate email, such as firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re being emailed by a contractor with an email address that doesn’t tie back to the company, be wary. If you get a Joe Schmoe business card with an email that ends in @gmail.com, @yahoo.com or any other generic or public email provider, beware!
Any reputable or trustworthy company also has marked or branded vehicles. Super Heat & Air has an entire fleet of branded vehicles we use to provide our service. On rare instances, our techs will use their own vehicles for emergency house calls if their assigned company vehicle is being serviced or they’re helping with an emergency on their day off. However, if an AC technician does not show up in a marked or branded vehicle and is not wearing a uniform with the company’s logo on it, it’s good to be suspicious. For example, if on a rare occasion a Super Heat & Air guy shows up in an unmarked vehicle or not in uniform for an emergency, call us first to confirm that the technician is one of ours. Whether you hire us or another air conditioning company, be wary of anybody who shows up without a marked vehicle and credentials and call the company immediately to confirm that person does in fact work for the company. Again, transparency!
This is what a branded Super Heat & Air vehicle looks like. If somebody shows up to your house for an appointment in an unmarked vehicle, call us at 813-609-5015 to verify the technician works for us.
Do Your Research
We’ve touched on this in the past, but before you hire any HVAC contractor, search online for reviews about the company. If most of their reviews are negative, move along! If you can’t find any reviews at all, find information about the company on social media. Every reputable company has a Facebook page these days. Check the company’s Facebook page for reviews and activity. If the company hasn’t updated their page for months or years, stay clear. Any smart company will have a social media presence and at the very least will update their Facebook page regularly.
Check reviews about the HVAC company on places like Yelp!, Google, Home Advisor, the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List. Common HVAC scams include phony positive reviews, so it’s good to know how to spot fake reviews. Check the company’s website: if the company is confident about its reviews, they will have a place on their website where you can easily find them, and provide the source and screenshots of the original reviews to prove their authenticity. You guessed it: transparency!
We also recommend you check YouTube for videos about HVAC scams and other repair service scams like this one, which came across our Facebook newsfeed recently and made us sick:
A common tip for consumers for almost any service industry is to get a second opinion on any repairs or replacements, and the AC business is no exception. HVAC scams artists will often point out a perfectly good part and tell you that it desperately needs fixing or replacing. High-pressure tactics to have big jobs done right away are also a huge red flag!
A trustworthy company will never try to sell you unnecessary parts or repairs or pressure you into getting a repair done immediately. A reputable and reliable AC contractor will take the time to SHOW you and not just tell you what needs to be fixed or replaced.
Consumers have a tendency to go with the lowest price without asking questions. Super Heat & Air may not always be the most inexpensive option, but we’d rather do things the right way and make sure you know what you’re getting for your money before you make a decision. ASK QUESTIONS! Super Heat & Air will always educate its customers so they can make informed decisions, and any reputable contractor will do the same.
We will also be happy to give you a second opinion on any quote from another contractor to help prevent you from getting ripped off. By all means, do get a second or even third opinion before agreeing to have a repair or replacement done, even if it’s from us. Wait for it … Transparency!
Always look or ask for an HVAC contractor’s Certified Air Conditioning Contractor or CAC number!
Parts and Reparation
Parts do eventually go bad and need to be repaired or replaced: it happens. So if a contractor tells you a part needs fixing or replacing, it doesn’t mean it’s not true, but you always want to get a second opinion from another HVAC contractor. Always ask to see broken parts too and if you agree to the repair or replacement, ask the technician to let you keep the old parts that were replaced to avoid getting scammed.
Freon scams are common too, and because freon is not cheap, shady contractors will try to convince you to buy more than necessary. Before you agree to any freon service, make sure your air conditioning system is inspected in front of you for leaks. A reputable AC technician will inspect for leaks first and will be able to show you where the leaks are coming from, so don’t purchase freon until you see for yourself if there’s a leak.
Stay clear of any contractor that tells you they can do a replacement on the spot with a used part such as a compressor. Shady AC technicians may offer an on-the-spot replacement with a used part they just happen to have in their vehicle. Ask yourself why they happen to have that used part readily available. It’s probably a bad part replaced for another customer, so don’t buy it! Never buy used parts, period!
Get it in Writing
Most homeowners don’t have a clue how AC components, pricing structures and repairs work, so there’s a tendency to just take a contractor’s word for it. We recommend you get anything and everything in writing first! This will help you avoid the common scam of the bait and switch, which is when ripoff artists promise a low price for a service you agree to and then end up charging you for more than you bargained for.
Always get everything in writing before allowing a contractor to start a job, including start and completion dates, itemized parts and materials and any service fees and payment details. Besides an estimate, you should also have in writing a contractor’s license number, an established local physical address and the phone number of the business they are representing. One of the most important things to get in writing is a warranty! If the contractor cannot provide one, stay away!
If a contractor you’re thinking about working with doesn’t offer financing plans, you need to question it! This is a huge red flag that fly-by-night ripoff artists won’t offer. If the contractor is just out to make a quick buck by demanding all money upfront, stay away. All reputable and trustworthy AC companies offer financing plans, period.
Establish a Relationship
Great companies proactively follow up with their customers. Any air conditioning company worth its weight will followup with customers to confirm appointments, schedule maintenance and check up on its customers to see how they’re doing. Also, tune-ups and scheduled maintenance don’t need to happen any more than once or twice a year at the most. If an HVAC contractor tries to pressure you into doing more than one or two checkups or tune-ups in a year, steer clear!
One last thing about establishing relationships with an air conditioning company is to know not only where the company’s physical address is located, but who the the company’s owner and its employees are. At Super Heat & Air, we encourage our customers to call us with questions. We also invite you to come visit us whether it’s for business or to just stop by and hang out. If you see on Facebook that we’re having one of our monthly cookouts and you’re in the neighborhood, join us! Call us! Visit us!
Super Heat & Air is located at 3654 West Cypress St. Tampa, FL 33609.
Our phone number is 813-609-5015.
Our company email is email@example.com.
Denis Nuhic is the owner of the company, and he calls and visits customers personally. TRANSPARENCY!