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ADT Braces for ‘Record Year’ of Door-Knocking Deception

ADT organized a press conference in Utah along with the Better Business Bureau to inform consumers nationwide about deceptive sales practices.

SALT LAKE CITY – If the goal is to raise national awareness about deceptive sales practices by summertime door knockers you may as well travel to the proverbial lion’s den to do it.

All the more resonate is having the president and CEO of Better Business Bureau (BBB) Utah helping deliver the battle cry, and hearing vulnerable consumers recount their experiences of falling victim to swindling salespeople.

Such was the scene yesterday (May 25) during a press conference organized by ADT Security Services that also included Jay Hauhn, executive director of the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), and Merlin Guilbeau, executive director of the Electronic Security Association (ESA).

Jane Driggs, president and CEO of BBB Utah, opened the press conference – held here at BBB Utah’s offices with a live video stream – and delivered some pretty stark numbers. Last year about 600,000 consumers nationwide turned to BBB to look up information about home security companies. But that’s not all they sought.

“We love it when consumers come to us for research, but they also turn to us to complain. Of the 3,500 business categories we tracked in 2015, home security sales ranked in the top 25 for the most number of complaints. Five thousand complaints were filed last year nationwide against home security companies.”

Because most of the offending companies are headquartered in Utah, BBB Utah handles the majority of the complaints that come in from across the nation. Prior to falling to No. 2 in 2015, home security companies ranked as the No. 1 complaint category at BBB Utah for six consecutive years.

I think it is terrible that some businesses operate this way and train their sales reps to lie, cheat, and swindle consumers like me. – John Meikle, consumer

“More than a dozen of these local home security companies have ratings below a C. Nationwide, nearly 160 home security companies have a C or below with BBB,” Driggs said. “That is only a fraction of the approximately 12,000 security companies that operate in the U.S. and demonstrates to us that the vast majority of security companies operate ethical, trustworthy businesses. But the problem is really right here in Utah.”

Two elderly consumers shared their stories during the press conference of being visited by deceptive door knockers at their Utah residences. John Meikle said he recognized the salesperson’s con almost immediately.

“He said that ADT would no longer be servicing landlines and that I would need to upgrade my security system to wireless or my system would stop working. That’s when they asked to come inside. I said, ‘No,’ and told them that ADT had not informed me of any changes,” Miekle said. “I think it is terrible that some businesses operate this way and train their sales reps to lie, cheat, and swindle consumers like me.”

Jacque, who did not provide her last name, did not fare so well after purchasing an alarm system from ADT after her husband passed away. Two years ago she was stung by a deceiving salesperson who told her ADT had gone out of business, her alarm system was outdated and that it could be disabled from the outside and she would never know it.

“He was really pushy, aggressive and insisted that he needed to check my keypad on the wall. Regretfully, I allowed him into my home,” Jacque said.

Although she was baited into signing a new contract with the trickster, a few days later she realized ADT was still taking monthly payments from her bank account. She phoned ADT and eventually was able to negate the bogus alarm monitoring agreement.

Hauhn, who formerly served with ADT for many years, said due to the company’s large base of 7 million customers it is the target of the majority of deceptive sales. The recent acquisition of ADT by Apollo Global Management can be expected to provide even more bogus sales fodder.

“This summer ADT is gearing up for a record number of complaints,” he said.

ADT Public Relations Director Bob Tucker told me after the press conference that the company is going to considerable lengths to prepare for the summer door-knocking season, which is set to begin Memorial Day weekend.

“We have put out internal communications to all of our 17,000 people in the field to be extra alert. We started communicating to our customers on things like their ADT bill, providing some of the BBB tips to follow,” he said. “We set up a hot line number. That’s how we are able to receive calls from thousands of people who want to verify information and to report if they had been scammed. We are expecting this, as Jay said, to be a record year.”

If you are a security dealer concerned about soon-to-arrive door knockers in your market, Guilbeau has some advice for you: Use this moment as an opportunity to touch your customers.

“I really view this, especially for the independent dealers, as an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to make contact with your existing customer base and warn them about a potential security breach or a security aspect that they need to be aware of,” he told me.

Take a look at the demographics of your customer base and especially zero in on the elderly, since they are the most vulnerable to sales scams. Communicate with them, have a conversation about the possibilities of being visited by a salesperson with ill intent. The customer will greatly appreciate the frank discussion, Guilbeau said.

“What an opportunity for an independent alarm company to use this time of year to educate. It’s not just our jobs as associations, it’s everybody’s job to educate consumers, especially if you are in the security business,” he said. “Security isn’t just detecting burglaries. Security is much more than that and security dealers should be much more than that to their customers. It is a huge opportunity. Not enough companies take advantage of it.”

About the Author

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Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for latimes.com. Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

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