Last Fall, the ABC News show 20/20 aired a feature story on a carpet cleaning scam that many un-ethical companies employ – bait and switch advertising. These companies advertise ridiculously low prices for their services. (the bait) Typically, once they are in your home, they tell you that the advertised price is for “basic water cleaning only,” which will not do a satisfactory cleaning job. They then pressure you into buying a whole list of add-on services, (the switch) often bringing the total price for their services to several hundred dollars!

According 20/20′s website, here are three mistakes that many consumers make when falling prey to bait and switch carpet cleaners:

Choosing a cleaner based on low price
Most people are attracted by low price, but some cleaners use price as the bait for their misleading advertising. They offer a cheap price – usually between $3.95 and $9.95 per room; then, once they’re in your home or office, they pressure you into buying add-ons. It’s as if you were buying a car and found out that the dealer was charging you extra for the tires and steering wheel. Professional carpet cleaning is not as cheap as some unethical cleaners would like you to believe. Low price could also mean the cleaner has cheap equipment or untrained personnel who won’t do a good job.

Not getting references
Any cleaner can say anything about his past jobs. Sadly, some of what he says may not be true. So first ask friends to recommend cleaners they’ve been happy with in the past. Another option is to get references from the cleaner and check with them to see if the work was done to their satisfaction.

Choosing a cleaner that doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee
Every cleaning company should be fully accountable for its work. If you aren’t pleased with the job in every way, the cleaner should return free of charge and re-clean. If you’re still not satisfied, you shouldn’t have to pay for it, period. Not all cleaners offer a guarantee. Or, if they do, the guarantee may be “limited”. Ask the cleaner if he offers a money-back guarantee and then make sure he includes his guarantee on his written quotation.