United Air Care — unfinished work and hard-sell tactics
n response to a $79 coupon from Valu-Pak, I scheduled air-duct cleaning from my 3bd rental home on a Friday afternoon, 9/5/08. The sales rep, "Shawn", showed up with a non-English
speaking Mexican guy (who did all "the work" while Shawn was busy trying to sell me on $100's of dollars worth of extra product) They had a very impressive vacuum machine with them and Shawn explained that it exerts " 5 tons of negative ion pressure". Shawn told me that he only needed one duct vent open to hook the machine up to--that the machine was powerful enough to suck all of the dust and debri out of the entire system from the one vent.
Not far into the work set up, Shawn told showed me where there was a duct in my attic that had been improperly sealed with duct tape (by my landlord, most likely). I climbed up the ladder and looked into the attic as he explained to me what he was talking about. Shawn highly recommended that this duct be sealed properly with flexible, metallic tape. He offered to tape this duct properly for me as a courtesy, "no extra charge." I would think that this little taping procedure would be a standard part of cleaning the air ducts properly, but he acted as if he were doing me a big favor. After all, how can you suck all the air and debri out if there are leaks in the system?
As his worker was vacuuming the ducts, Shawn suggested that I stay outside. He came outside on the patio with me for most of the time trying to sell me on a new Electrostic Gold filter $181.00) and a UV Light Cleanser ($650.00). I told Shawn right up front that I was in financial hardship and although I agreed that these products made good sense, it was not a good time for me to invest in them at this time. He continued to hard-sell "pressure" me, albeit in a very friendly way, to purchase these extra products, offering to break the cost of the UV Light Cleaser into three monthly payments and to give me a slight discount on the cost. After listening to his enthusiastic convincing and reading the brochures he gave me, I gave in, and agree to purchase the filter and UV unit if I could pay in three monthly installments. I assumed they would invoice me for these installments, as most companies do.
At the end of their work, as Shawn was writing up the invoice, I noticed that he had not filled out the section that outlines my three monthly payments for the UV unit. I asked him to fill it in before I signed. As he did so, he stated that he needed me to write three checks, up front, (two of them could be post-dated). I balked at this and told him that I would write a check for the duct cleaning, air filter and 1/3 of the UV cleanser and asked that they invoice me for the other two payments. He insisted that he was "not allowed" to accept my payment any other way--that he must have the checks up front and that he "promised" the post-dated checks would not be cashed sooner than the date indicated on the check. Of course, I knew that legally, most banks could easily cash a check upon presentation of it, whether it was post-dated or not. I argued this point with Shawn, but he insisted that his company would not submit the post-dated checks to be cashed until the dates stated they should be cashed. Shawn was very smooth at gaining my "trust" and convincing me to do it his way, plus, the UV unit had already been installed and the ducts had been "cleaned" so I felt pressured to just write the checks, get them out of there and take a "leap of faith" that I would be treated fairly. I had a meeting to get to that night so I could not spend more time belabored these details with him.
When I started to sign the invoice/service agreement, I noticed that I was stating to have "checked and approved the work", but I had not yet done so. When I told Shawn that I did not want to sign the contract until I've checked the work, he told me I could not go in there for at least 15 minutes because they had just done a "smoke check" and it would be dangerous for my health. Even though they had given me a dust mask and we had been walking in and out of the house while they were working, Shawn insisted that I should stay outside until at least 15 minutes after they had left. I told him that I still wanted to check that the ducts had been taped up as he promised and he assured me that they had been. Shawn told me that if I were not satisfied with the service they provided, I could simply call the office and they would come back to correct the situation, but that I should not go into the house for at least another 15 minutes, to protect my health. So I decided to trust his word, wrote him three post-dated checks to pay for the very expensive UV Light Cleanser and signed the contract.
Soon after they left, I had a function to attend so had to leave for the night. The next day, I had a client to work with, so was gone all day. On Sunday, I finally had time to undo all of the vents and climb up to the attic to check United Air Care's work. The Vent he pointed out to me was NOT taped as he promised. Plus, each of the vent covers and some of the openings were filthy with dust and debri. Most likely, the super-duper vacuum unit did not suck all of this out because the ducts had leaks in them.
When I called on Monday to request that Shawn come back out to complete the job satisfactorily, I spoke to the manager, Denny Amar, who was very curt with me. After trying to explain my disatisfaction, amidst him frequently interrupting me, I began to get an even more bitter taste with this company. Since I did not feel I was being listened to, I asked him to please have Shawn call me so we can get him back out here to complete the job and show me where he believes the ducts were taped in the attic. Denny assured me that he would call Shawn as soon as he hung up with me and ask him to call me ASAP that day. I left at 5:30pm that day to attend a business meeting. When I returned at 10:00pm that night, I listened to a voice mail message from Shawn (he called at 6:23pm to tell me that they DID tape the ducts and that I must be confused about where to look in the attic--he did not offer to come out to finish the work or show me where they taped the duct). I then began to look back on the entire service visit with a clear head, and in hindsight, recognized some red flags. Now I'm suspicious, so I began doing some online research on United Air Care and found several consumer complaints written about them. When I called the manager back the next day, 9/8/08, I was told he "was on another line". Reading over their customer "agreement" I realized that they required any complaint to be in writing. So, after much searching for an address to write to (without success), I wrote a complaint through their "contact us" section on the website and then faxed them over a copy of the complaint. My letter informed them that I stopped payment on my checks to them and requested they send someone out to finish the work satisfactorily before I re-cut any checks to them. I also stated that I had second thoughts about purchasing the UV Light Cleanser and requested them to take it back. I explained to them that I had changed my mind on the purchase because I no longer trusted the company and because I was in the midst of financial hardship.
Soon after I faxed over the complaint letter stating that I stopped payment on my checks to United Air Care, Denny, the manager that I'd spoken to on 9/8/08, called me. Instead of working with me to rectify my dissatisfaction with the service provide me on 9/5/08, Denny became defensive and combative with me. He even threatened to "sue me for fraud"--for writing bad checks--and to report me to the credit bureaus, etc.). Although I stated to him several times that I intended to re-cut a check to United Air Care as soon as Shawn came back to finish the work completely, Denny continued to argue with me. Because I knew I was not being listened to or cooperated with, and because I was running late for a client appointment, I told Denny we would need to resolve this later and that I expected a call back from Shawn to come back out and show me where he believes the duct was properly taped up. That conversation was on 9/9/08. I have already vacuumed out all of the debri and dust from the openings of each duct vent and cleaned the vents. I have not yet received a call back or any kind of communication from United Air Care, although Denny had threatened to take me to court. What would YOU do?
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