Whilst most carpet and upholstery cleaning companies do their very best to provide a high-quality service at a fair price, there are some individuals and carpet cleaning franchises that are less ethical and employ bait-and-switch tactics on unsuspecting customers.
The bait-and-switch con is usually spotted in online or leaflet advertising with a company permanently promoting particularly cheap offers such as prices starting at £15, one room any size for £15, or a whole house for £75 etc.
What then usually happens is that the carpet cleaning representative will try to raise the agreed price with additional hidden charges. These are often explained by stating that “you were quoted for a basic clean, but your carpets need a deep clean” or “you need specific additional chemicals or special process not covered by the offer to remove these types of stains.”
Simply put, the “bait” is the misleading offer, and the “switch” is the attempt to scam the customer into paying an inflated price. And if the customer doesn’t agree to the new price, the clean is usually very rushed and the offending company out the door as soon as possible to minimise time and money spent on the job.
Unfortunately, this tactic is still being used in the UK even though it became illegal in 2008.
In England and Wales, bait and switch is banned under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008; breaking this law can result in a criminal prosecution, an unlimited fine and two years in jail.
The BBC TV programme Watchdog brought this to peoples attention a number of years ago, however it is still being used today.
Watchdog Part 1
Watchdog Part 2
How to avoid being scammed by bait-and-switch
Firstly, we recommend avoiding any company that is currently advertising any suspiciously cheap deals. It’s simple:
A carpet cleaning franchise operator simply wouldn’t make a reasonable living if he were to clean carpets at the prices advertised (after paying franchise fees, running costs etc.).
And if they did manage to do so, it would be at the expense of any sort of quality service because jobs would have to be completed at breakneck speed in order to cram as many appointments as possible into their working week.
But aggressively pushing an inflated price on a customer and then carrying out a substandard service when they decline is simply not acceptable.
Granted, there are sometimes genuine reasons for having to increase the price of a job: The rooms may be significantly larger than described. There may be additional areas or rooms added.
Always do your homework and if possible, get recommendations from family and friends. Using local companies, means you are more likely to have heard about their reputation – good or bad! Check reviews on Facebook, as people post under their own name and profile so probably more likely to be genuine. If reviews seem to be written in the same way, style, etc, they may not be genuine. Some tradespeople write their own, and if you are looking for that, it’s quite easy to spot.
THE MODERN BAIT & SWITCH TACTIC!
But in truth, bait-and-switch extends far beyond its legal definition. Bait-and-switch is prevalent in almost all social media platforms, online newspapers, magazines etc. You’re probably familiar with the techniques, even though you might not have considered them “bait-and-switch.”
Think of the last time you followed a clickbait link. You had sky-high expectations set by a too-good-to-ignore title, only to be disappointed by a lacklustre article behind it.
It annoyed you and wasted your time, but, in the end, that link did exactly what it was supposed to do. It got you to land on the page without providing you any value.
The idea behind bait-and-switch is to draw customers in with an attractive proposition, fail to deliver, and convert them under the fact they’re already there. Isn’t that exactly what that clickbait was aiming to do? Isn’t that exactly what’s happening when a white paper turns into a sales pitch halfway through? Interesting eh?