Everybody knows it’s risky business anytime you need your garage door to be repaired. It is not uncommon for service engineers to charge over $800 for their work, or $1000s for a needless door replacement. The only way to protect yourself and distinguish an honest tech from a crook is to recognize the tricks – at least the most common of them.
Unnecessary parts at high prices
A tech may try and talk you into buying new springs, new bearings etc., when all you really need is just some help with programming the garage door opener. Also, they often sell parts at very high prices. When making the first call, ask: “How can you prove your company will sell me only the parts I really need?”, and “If your company doesn’t have all the necessary parts, how much will it charge me to come back?”
Open-ended work order
One of the easiest ways to jack up repair cost. Never allow a tech to start working before you sign a work order with a specified price. Before signing it, check out for phrases like “parts as needed“. Otherwise you will be very surprised when, having finished the work, the repairman charges you three or four times amount of the initial cost. You may be told the quote was just for the labor or that it did not include the cost of the “service call” etc.
100 names – one company
This is a very common advertising trick. When you phone the companies with the largest ads in the yellow pages, the thought that all these ads are from a single business may not even cross your mind. However, one company may use hundreds of names and phone numbers masquerading as independent companies.
The same with the Internet. Such companies have a call center answering calls coming through multiple sources.
Typically, you will be quoted a very high price. Having phoned three or four companies, you may think that you’ve shopped around, while in fact it was just a single business.
The serviceman scrutinizes your garage door with a gloomy air. Then he names the fair price. If he sees you are not startled at that price, he explains that the quote is just for the parts. If you still do not look startled, he adds, “each” and points to both of the garage door springs.
“You need a new opener”
A tech opens the opener cover and shows plastic shavings inside. He says, you need a new opener, and those shavings are the evidence. However, the debris inside the opener housing does not necessarily indicate that the plastic worm gears are not serviceable. It is absolutely normal for the plastic to wear and leave a lot of debris, even if the gear can operate safely for years to come.
Want to know the real symptom the gear is worn out? If the springs are broken, and you still can cycle the door with the opener more than once (possible for doors that are really light in weight), you truly need to check the gear.
One for the price of two
When you phone a company and say there is a broken garage door spring, you are told that the repair cost is X dollars. It is a bit less than in other repair companies, so you hire a tech. When he arrives, however, the 2X price is quoted. He seems to be surprised at you indignation. He explains that the cost you were cited over the phone was for one spring only, while in fact both the springs should be replaced. If you start an argument, he will try to intimidate you, saying it is your fault that you haven’t asked the price for the two springs over the phone. So, the tech ends up charging you twice as much as the repair actually costs.
Also, if there is only one spring installed on your door, he will try to talk you into installing one more as it is safer. This kind of converting or changing two springs at a time is reasonable, but the 2X price is not. Actually, this trick is against the law in many states. However, service companies are almost never prosecuted, as no evidence, except phone calls, can be found.
What can you do if a tech is trying to overcharge you using this method? Dismissing him is a smart idea as there is little chance you will be able to negotiate a fair price. If you do not have the time to wait for another repairman, just accept this price quietly. An attempt to persuade him this scheme is against law will hardly bring positive results.
“Don’t tell my boss”
The repairman tells you that he has found one more problem and offers to resolve it at a “bargain” price. He just asks you not to tell his boss about it.
This scheme distracts you, so you do not realize that neither the repair is necessary nor the cost is a bargain (which is usually the case).
Typically, home warranties are useless. Do not think that one will cover the new garage door springs or any other major issue.
If the repairman asks for an outrageous amount of money referring to “safety problems”, it is very likely he is just trying to take advantage of you. Do not believe that something disastrous will happen just because you haven’t bought expensive parts. Still, if you have any doubt there is really any kind of risk involved, just get another estimate. Any tech likes to prove his competitor was not right.
Salesman in disguise
Technicians trying to upsell garage door repair are not the worst thing possible. The “Salesman in disguise” scheme is not obvious from the start. You arrange a service call over the phone (sometimes you are asked for a small fee up-front). Nothing arouses suspicion: the charming man wearing a neat uniform arrives in a technical-looking car; he has a big tool kit and impressive testing devices. He uses professional language and scrutinizes your garage door very carefully.
After that, he claims your door is not worth repairing and tries to sell you a new one. Most likely, this man is not a service engineer at all and he is incapable of making any repairs. Even if you refuse to buy a new door, he will typically charge you for a service call, which in fact is nothing but a sales visit.
Let him go as soon as possible and invite someone else. You may discover that, at this point, the salesman offers to invite his colleague at. He will probably look not as neat and charming, but resolve the issue (in some cases, at a fair price).
It is very much like the “safety-problem” trick. However, in this case they do not directly sell you a new door or expensive parts. They demean the cheaper alternative, thus making you come to the conclusion that you should purchase something costly (which is more favorable for the service company).
We cannot but mention that in some cases this solution may be reasonable. Many of the old garage doors (especially automatic ones) are risky, so replacing one is often a good idea, in spite of the fact that it may cost an arm and a leg.
The repairman shows you “cracks” in the door and claims you need a new one. These “cracks” are hardly visible and usually can be found in the central part, where the sections bow under their own weight. This is absolutely normal. Do not suggest that it is a good reason for buying a new door.
Tricks behind ads
|The ad||What it means|
|Many names, many ads.||A single business (look for the explanation above).|
|Company name begins with “A” or “AA”.||It is very likely that any other company would be better.|
|A big ad (typically mentioning “family owned”), but no physical address.||The “company” consists of one service engineer working out of home.|
|3 or more brand logos.||There is no affiliation, but we can buy import parts for you.|
|24/7 service.||You will pay three or four times amount of true cost.|
|Discounts for any trivial reasons (like senior age, for instance).||Starting prices are higher than average.|
|“Low prices”||“We hope you do not know how much repairs really cost”.|
|$59 (etc.) service call.||A typical ad for the “Salesman-in-disguise” trick. For that price they will send you someone who will just try to take advantage of you and sell you a new door.
The tech will quote you the real cost only when he arrives. And, when you refuse to hire him, he will charge you $59 just for the “service call”.
|Several addresses, several phone numbers.||All the numbers are forwarded to one cellphone.|
|#1, according to a customer survey.||“Only my family and friends took part in the survey”.|
|Member, Better Business Bureau.||Paid the member fees.|
|Certified engineers.||Paid certification fee.|
|Factory authorized.||Why isn’t the name of the factory mentioned?|
|Safety check. For free.||“We will find an issue, anyway”.|
|All major brands.||“Our engineers are trained while repairing your doors”.|
|Lifetime warranty.||“Hopefully you will forget about it in a couple of years”.|
|Free estimates.||Just ask yourself why they won’t publish their price schedule.|
Needless to say, costly parts might really be necessary when you expected only a spring to be replaced. Any honest repairman will inspect your garage door to find worn out parts. Also, many reliable companies do charge separately for a service call and repair.
How can you protect yourself then? Dishonest techs take advantage on those who are the least knowledgeable about what needs to be repaired, why and what the fair price is. So ask for an explanation what is being done. Ask the repairman to show you why extra parts are necessary.
Before the tech starts working, say that you want him to return you any old parts. This point should be added to the written work order. It will give you a chance to consult another engineer if you are in doubt. It may also prevent the parts-upsell trick. If the tech objects to this, you have a reason to suspect a scam.
Galvanized springs against bare springs
Many techs try to talk you into purchasing costly galvanized springs claiming they are longer-lasting. However, their advantage is mostly in appearance. Painted, powder-coated, or surface-converted springs will also last for the same period as bare springs. They just look better.
Not offering a 25 or 100 thousand cycle springs
Installing 25-, 50- or even 100-thousand cycle springs does not cost much more than 10-thousand cycle springs. Yet it is a very cost-effective solution, as it will prolong the spring lifetime. However, technicians almost never get into trouble of offering you such an option or explaining its advantages (especially if they do not have this type of springs on the truck, or you are not around, or they are short of time). Although this is not exactly a trick, still knowing about it may save you a considerable amount of money.