There aren’t many businesses that still rely on door-knocking as a way of generating business. But home security companies are an exception.
Summertime is an extremely active season for home security sales. Many locally based home security dealers make the most of longer daylight hours and more people being at home to generate sales of home alarm systems and alarm monitoring.
The majority of home security companies are reputable. Their salespeople are trained to honestly assess a homeowner’s needs, and offer solutions and services to fit those needs. But occasionally, you’ll find someone who is commonly known as a “trunk slammer.”
The label represents someone who typically operates out of the trunk of their car with no office, selling snake-oil security solutions to unsuspecting homeowners. In a larger sense, the term can refer to any unscrupulous salesperson who is willing to do or say anything to make a sale.
Whether you already have a home security system or not, here’s how shady slammers work, and some steps you can take to avoid being victimized.
Watch Out for Pick-up Lines
Right from the beginning, slammers typically sound fishy. They see a home security sign in the yard, then approach the home. Once they get a chance to speak to a homeowner, a misleading pitch is usually something like:
- “Your current home alarm security company has gone out of business.”
- “Your equipment may be badly out of date and might no longer be working.”
- “We have a special deal that your current provider can’t match.”
Those are some of the more common bogus sales angles. They may even say they’re from your existing security provider and tell you that you’re scheduled for an upgrade.
An unscrupulous salesperson just wants an excuse to get in your home and start their shtick. And some salespeople can be a lot like an unwelcome relative: Once they get in the door, they can be awfully hard to get rid of.
The Best Defense is a Good Offense
Don’t be intimidated. If the reason for their visit seems shady, challenge them immediately – before you let them in.
- Ask for proof that your home security service has gone out of business, and even have them wait while you contact your current provider.
- Ask for identification and company credentials, and demand to know more about the company they represent.
- Above all, don’t be bullied and don’t be afraid to say no. You may have to do it repeatedly but – unless you feel totally at ease with their company and their service – it’s the best way to protect yourself.
Remember: It’s your house, and you control the conversation. Don’t apologize for being wary.
If you already have a security system, it’s always good to have the facts before you’re approached by a home security salesperson. Know who your home security provider is, whether you are still under contract, and how long you have left on your home alarm service contract.
This can play an important role in not getting scammed. Unsuspecting homeowners often sign a contract with a new company, just to discover that they’re also under contract with their current provider.
Ask for Details
A qualified home security sales representative know that home security isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly. Ask your questions, no matter how long it takes. A good sales rep will understand your concerns.
They should have thorough knowledge of their products and services, and patiently address any questions or concerns you might have. If they aren’t patient and informative, or if they don’t have satisfactory answers, it raises a red flag.
Reputable salespeople don’t want to take you out of your comfort level. The best home security companies want a relationship that lasts a long time, so they want you to be happy and confident.
Look for a Brand
There’s no substitute for brand recognition. Many local home security providers partner with larger national brands, and that can be a major boost to your level of trust.
If a salesperson comes to your door and says they’re associated with a specific brand, start by looking at their clothing. Reputable companies send their people into the field dressed professionally, typically with a branded polo shirt, cap and lightweight chinos or a clean pair of jeans. Beware of a sales rep with an unbranded t-shirt, ragged shorts, or an otherwise sloppy appearance.
Any sales or marketing materials should also be branded and professional-looking, since that’s a reflection of a company’s reputation and image. Quality collateral is generally too much effort for slammers to worry about creating. They just want to make a quick sale.
Not Necessarily a Salesperson
Many slammers present themselves as technicians rather than salespeople. Then they tell the homeowner that they’re ready to install new equipment or upgrade the system. This is a huge problem, because once they start installing, it can become difficult and confusing to get them to stop.
The best home alarm service providers will never send a technician to your home without making an appointment and letting you know what to expect. If a technician shows up without an appointment, call your security provider immediately to verify before they start doing any work.
One of the best ways to keep from getting “slammed” is to start the home security search on your own terms. If you’re not comfortable purchasing from a door-to-door salesperson, turn the tables and shop among a number of different home security providers.
That lets you select a brand and system that you’re comfortable with, plus take advantage of any promotional specials on a company’s website. You’re in control.
Even after the purchase, the Federal Trade Commission’s Cooling-Off Rule usually gives you a three-day right to cancel a sale made at your home. A competent, legitimate salesperson should provide information at the time of the sale about your right to cancel.
Often, it’s just a matter of contacting the company and discussing your concerns. Reputable companies want you to be comfortable with your agreement. But if that fails and you feel like you’ve been slammed and scammed, file a complaint with the FTC.
Not all summer home security salespeople are scammers, of course. But you should be able to determine their intent and their honesty by simply following a few best practices.