Sunday, June 8, 2008

Alarm Sales in the neighborhood.

Both Friday and Saturday, just past, saw the Medfield neighborhood inundated with crews of door-to-door alarm selling guys. Buz thought they were an alarm cult. They all wore fancy white Polo shirts with the words "Pinnacle Security" on them, though some shirts said other things, in addition, like "GE", leading you to believe that they were worked for General Electric.

Now, since Buz used to sell things door-to-door when he was in high school (a couple of years ago!), he has great compassion for people trying to sell stuff that way.

However, these folks raised all sorts of red flags in your consultant's poor pea brain.

After listening to the guy's good pitch a moment [punctuated by lovely pictures of a mom with babies], I was alerted to the fact that "free" had been mentioned several times. They would install an alarm system in-my house for free! Just for putting a sign in my yard! Huh!? Since when is anything that valuable free? He implied it was an offer only for the first three houses in the block or neighborhood (or something), so they could then use us to market to others.

When I asked for his card or brochure, I was bluntly told: we don't have any; we don't work like that. Oh. In other words, one must say yes or no right now. I said no. That was on Friday. {I think that counts as 3 red flags right there!}

On Saturday, another salesman came to the door, to proudly state that several of my neighbors had bought alarms "for free". When I derided this, ands asked him if he were working for free, he said well, the equipment is free. You just pay for the monitoring. Ok, how much is the monitoring. "About 30-something a month". "And you're a very smart guy for saying nothing is free".

Buz later learned that the wireless system installed "for free" for one of my neighbors was in return for a THREE YEAR MONITORING CONTRACT AT $46.99/MONTH! Buz does not think it is wise to lock yourself in that long a contract, nor does he think that price is competitive.

I wonder what others think, and what they pay for their alarms, and what happens if they have to end their contract.

Buz also learned thru searching that there is a site for rating alarm companies, alarmsystemsreview.com. He is unsure what to make of it at this time. But Pinnacle and several companies there had very negative reviews for hard sell tactics and poor service.

Let me know what you think!

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Buz,

What if any are your thoughts on the proposed fines to be levied on non-Baltimore residents purchasing drugs within the confines of our fair city?

I believe that it sounds great, but the practical application of it will result in no change to the status quo. Those who buy the drugs will unlikely be deterred by the additional penalty. Collecting the fine will be quite difficult, as most addicts aren't going to have the money to pay, and those that do will likely have good lawyers and avoid having to pay. Finally, I believe that it will likely be declared unconstitutional for equal protection, free transit and due process grounds.

Seth said...

Free* is more like it. The equipment is subsidized by the cost of the monitoring. If you don't sign up for the monitoring on a 3-5 year contract, you do not get the equipment for free. How free is that? How free is $1400-$2000 over 3-5 years? Not very free if you ask me. And as for the advertising, it is all apart of the pitch. It gets peoples attention and gives them a reason for thinking they are really getting it for free.

One other note, the break even point for one of these entry level/bottom of the line alarm systems compared to top of the line $1000 alarm system with inexpensive monitoring is around 30 months. If you keep it for more than 30 months it will keep saving you money in comparison to these free* alarms.

I write more about the Door-to-Door Alarm Industry at alarmsales.org

Great blog by-the-way!

buzoncrime said...

Buz's eyes glazed over and he became almost comatose after one of our fine council members came up with the idea of fining out-of-city persons who came to the city to buy drugs.

It probably sounds great to his constituents and perhaps others. But it strikes Buz as a reflection of a tremendous sense of "victimization" and self-righteous blame attached to "them" by some of city residents. Depending on whose stats you believe, Baltimore has between 40,000 and 60,000 "addicts" in a city of about 630,000. (60K is the figure most often cited).

The idea that this drug use is somehow driven, facilitated, or enabled by "county residents" is very amusing to me. By God, 15% have non-city addresses! Your consultant is unable to evaluate exactly what that's supposed to mean.

The sad truth is that in certain neighborhoods in the city, white people are generally seen out and about for one of three reasons: they're cops, they're doing work/landlording, or they're looking to buy drugs. So any whites seen in high drug areas are targeted by the police for surveillance, stops, frisks, and searches. And the arrests are usually pretty easy: they don' usually fight, run, (where they gonna run to?), or carry guns. So, it jacks up the percentage.

I don't think this bill will make it past the city law department. Possession of CDS is already illegal under state and federal law; cities only have that power which is given them by the state; they can't add penalties for crimes. And your arguments about constitutionality are strong.

Further, there is the issue of implementation: it sounds as though it will be a civil citation, much like a parking ticket. So, if the buyer doesn't pay it, and doesn't live in the city, how will the city collect?

The deterrence effect will be non-existent, since there is already a huge deterrent: arrest, central booking, bail, court, fines, possible prison sentence, arrest record, towing of car, violence on the street, robbery, beatings, and cost--all for a little high.

Buz thinks that the idea of Woody Curry, therapist/Vietnam war vet/treatment guy at the Baltimore station sums it best. At the Baltimore Station, one walks into the first floor and sees all these floor-to-ceiling mirrors. Woody, why all these mirrors, the consultant asked? Woody: everywhere you look, there's a problem.

buzoncrime said...

Thanks for your compliment!
I just don't think it's ever a good deal to sign up for 3 years, whether you're hiring a Ravens player or an alarm contract. Who knows where you'll be or what the situation is 3 years from now?!

I just don't care for the high-pressure sales tactics, but that's just dumb me.

helix said...

I had someone from pinnacle alarm come to my house to pitch a GE wireless alarm setup. I turned him away when he got rude and pushy. He also had a bunch of literature intended to frighten people into buying these things.

Later, I called GE alarm and eventually got a number where someone knew about this program. I complained and they said they would have someone "in charge of the program" call back, but that never happened.

I had thought the days of high pressure door-to-door sales were long over. Apparently GE hasn't gotten the memo. In any case, the people doing the pitch are CLUELESS about how to deal with us in Baltimore.

buzoncrime said...

helix--just curious: what neighorhood were they trying to hoodwink you, er, sell their product to you?

Anonymous said...

Buz,
I know for a fact after doing the research that ADT and Brinks will at the very least charge you for instillation. You are saving quite a bit of money from these guys. And the equipment they give you is by GE - the same exact equipment that ADT and Brinks uses. And you still gotta sign a contract with any company to get any kind of system free! And the people who buy the system still pay for monitoring every month ($40-$50). It is a good deal - they just got to package it so you will believe it.

Kelly said...

Pinnacle is awful. My husband got hooked on their sales talk and decided to upgrade our system and change the monitoring. Most of the guys who work for this company are college kids with no experience. A couple summers work constitutes a pro for this company. They came in, took our alarm keypads down, then went to look at the main panel and realized they couldn't do the job. Our system was too advanced.

Oh - in the process, they blew one of our electrical outlets. Basically, they told us they couldn't go through with the installation so we asked them to return our original alarm to the original state. Of course they could not do this. What they ended up doing was crossing all the wires so when you opened the back door it said "kitchen window", or when one of the kids' windows was opened it read "front door". Not good when you have a special needs child who tends to try to get out. Literally, the "head technician" said he couldn't fix it.

So, here we are more than 2 months later and fighting through BBB to get our money from Pinnacle. We got two companies to come out and give estimates to fix our alarm. Both said it was fairly simple but the job was just tedious since it required 2 techs (1 to open windows and read the keypad upstairs while the second one messed with the wires in the basement control box). Both said the cost would be $800 - one offered $300 if we switched monitoring. Of course at that point we didn't want anymore changes or expenses so we paid the $800 (plus $150 to repair the blown outlet).

Pinnacle wants to pay us $450 - they said we should have taken the $300 offer and gotten new monitoring.

There are tons of horror stories on the net about them and there's also a site where previous employees write in - according to one the techs only get $50 per job which explains why they wouldn't want to handle a lengthy repair.

Avoid this company like the plague - if it seems too good to be true IT IS.

buzoncrime said...

Thanks, Kelly---I appreciate your comment. I always believe if at all possible one should go with a local company with offices in the area. The fact that the sales guys didn't have a brochure ("we don't do that") was a big red flag in itself. That means that they're only interested in this one-time sale and this contract.

Good luck getting someone to come out to fix problems, as you point out.

In Baltimore, some local companies are: A-1 Security, Serious Security (formerly Serious & Simon), and Crimco Alarms. I have no relationship with any of them.

eric said...

The other big problem with almost all of the free installation with monitoring deals is that they use a lockout code that prevents the system from being reprogrammed by someone else. If the service won't give you the lockout override (and why would they) you have to replace the alarm's main board. In other words, not only are you locked into a contract, but the most expensive element of the system will need to be replaced if you want to use a different monitoring service.

Fortunately all of the work involved can be done by a slightly trained college kid (or a monkey), so I was able to do the replacement work myself. Of course I had to fight off an attempt to up-sell when I ordered a replacement board. Apparently our board was "old" and "not digital".

Anonymous said...

I have been selling alarms for about 3 years now. I started with APX (they do the same thing). Where every you live you can get the FREE alarm from any Monitronics dealer or ADT dealer. You will have to sign a 3 year agreement. You will get 5-8 points for free(a point is a door or a window contact. Motions, smokes and glass breaks are 2 points). You get the install waived aswell however the sales rep can wiave the activation too but you recieve less equipment. Monitoring ranges from 24.99-44.99, with most around 34.99-39.99 remember you get what you pay for. Sure you can go through one of those summer company's like APX, Pinnical, Platinum, or Icon. All their corporate offices are in Utah.

Just be a smart consumer. There will be a contract of 3-5 years and you have to pay the monitoring. Thats not Free. You might be able to get a month or two for free. AND YES THEY CHECK YOUR CREDIT. They are investing $1000-$2000 worth of equipment in your house. They want to make sure your going to pay your bills. Most require around a 600.

Anyway if you want a good deal from one of these companies talk to the guys manager. He makes more per deal which he can give more in your favor so both parties win.

If I wanted to proctect my house I would wait till the summer came around and talked to a guy from each company. well atleast Pinnacle and APX. Try to work a good deal with them and then pick one. They are in the metro area for the whole summer.

The reason why I wouldnt go through them is if you have a service related problem after the summer your SOL. They have to send a tech from utah to your house where ever you live in the US, or they pay a local company to do it. My advice...Find a local company that does the same thing. You will get the same benifits but you will have a local tech if needed. Ex: you live in California and you buy a car in Arizona and have it dilivered. Now the sales rep tells you that if there are service issues he will have to come to Cali to fix it. He will do it to for free but it will be two weeks until he can get out there.

Be nice to these guys. If you dont want an alarm thats fine. Offer then a bottle of water. They are just doing a job. You dont get mad at the UPS guy.

Taylor said...

Just clarifying some not-completely-accurate information i read on here. I've sold alarms for 3 years now. I've been a sales manager for 2 years. Some companies like APX and Platinum along with ADT and Brinks will always have a service technician in the area and will not need to send one from Utah. You do need to watch out for other start-up companies just out to make a quick buck. As for some of these companies, you may have a headache-of-a-time getting a technician to your home.

Don't be afraid to buy an alarm from a door-to-door salesman though, just check the BBB first at www.bbb.org to make sure they represent a reputable company. Your city and state have mechanisms in place to protect its citizens such as licensing and permit requirements.

Ask the sales rep for his id badge, his solicitor permit if one is required in your city, and his state license (if required). You can also verify the authenticity of these documents by calling the city hall or police department. If they have all the correct permits and licenses you should be good. If you aren't comfortable, call the company directly to ask any questions you may have. Some owners of these companies aren't that difficult to get in touch with either if you have more difficult questions. These are small business owners just like any other small business owner. They want to provide the best service possible to grow their company.

Alarms are very good deterrents and they do save lives. You can't beat a deal where you get all the equipment and installation for $99. 3-5 year agreements are standard regardless of the company. The companies that don't require a contract are very few and far between. Usually, they don't have the best reputation for service or very good deals on equipment. If you don't want a contract, don't expect the best service and definitely expect to pay a lot more for equipment, installation, and future service repairs.

buzoncrime said...

Taylor---Thanks for the comments. While I agree that the deal may be "legitimate" (possibly), I am concerned that someone can come to your door, and try to sell something, and wants you to decide right now. And so what if they have some sort of ID? It's meaningless.
When I asked my two guys if they had a card or brochure, they said "no, we don't do that." Ok, I don't do no more interest then, either. The older, more senior one was more aggressive and nasty. (Hope you're not like that).

Calling city hall or the police department to verify your legitimacy? Ya gotta be kidding. This ain't Mayberry, man. If they don't even have a card or brochure, just want to show you a huge picture with a cuddly baby, I don't like high-pressure sales tactics.

And almost all of these alarm companies that do the big summer door-to-door sales are large national companies, several based in Utah and apparently related.
Their business model for growing the company is high -pressure door-to-door sales during the summer. And the web is full of complaints about poor installation and poor service.

And, yeah, life is full of tradeoffs in business decisions. But Buz recommends going with a local company if possible, or if not, go for the well-known brands, such as ADT. Weigh your equipment needs versus your danger, and whether you want a long-term contract or not. And many local companies have a good reputation, such as, here in Baltimore, Serious Security, Crimco, and A1 Security. And there are others. And with hard times upon us, I think a person needs to get a couple or three different estimates from alarm companies that you call and request, not some aggressive frat boy who comes to the door and insists and who is borderline rude. It is now a competitive environment, and let's see who will offer you the best deal.

Alarms can be a deterrent. But I was and am surprised how many people got the equipment installed and stop using it and/or did not renew the monitoring when the contract ran out. Mostly, because they realized that the installation and little decals and yard signs became deterrents in themselves, and the cost of the monitoring wasn't worth it--especially when the fines from the city for falsies began mounting up. And the crime/burglary problem in their area just wasn't that bad.

In some areas, alarms are a must, though, and must be used. However, like much concerning security, alarms are to be viewed a merely one part of a total security program for your home or business.

buzoncrime said...

Taylor---Thanks for the comments. While I agree that the deal may be "legitimate" (possibly), I am concerned that someone can come to your door, and try to sell something, and wants you to decide right now. And so what if they have some sort of ID? It's meaningless.
When I asked my two guys if they had a card or brochure, they said "no, we don't do that." Ok, I don't do no more interest then, either. The older, more senior one was more aggressive and nasty. (Hope you're not like that).

Calling city hall or the police department to verify your legitimacy? Ya gotta be kidding. This ain't Mayberry, man. If they don't even have a card or brochure, just want to show you a huge picture with a cuddly baby, I don't like high-pressure sales tactics.

And almost all of these alarm companies that do the big summer door-to-door sales are large national companies, several based in Utah and apparently related.
Their business model for growing the company is high -pressure door-to-door sales during the summer. And the web is full of complaints about poor installation and poor service.

And, yeah, life is full of tradeoffs in business decisions. But Buz recommends going with a local company if possible, or if not, go for the well-known brands, such as ADT. Weigh your equipment needs versus your danger, and whether you want a long-term contract or not. And many local companies have a good reputation, such as, here in Baltimore, Serious Security, Crimco, and A1 Security. And there are others. And with hard times upon us, I think a person needs to get a couple or three different estimates from alarm companies that you call and request, not some aggressive frat boy who comes to the door and insists and who is borderline rude. It is now a competitive environment, and let's see who will offer you the best deal.

Alarms can be a deterrent. But I was and am surprised how many people got the equipment installed and stop using it and/or did not renew the monitoring when the contract ran out. Mostly, because they realized that the installation and little decals and yard signs became deterrents in themselves, and the cost of the monitoring wasn't worth it--especially when the fines from the city for falsies began mounting up. And the crime/burglary problem in their area just wasn't that bad.

In some areas, alarms are a must, though, and must be used. However, like much concerning security, alarms are to be viewed a merely one part of a total security program for your home or business.

buzoncrime said...

Taylor---Thanks for the comments. While I agree that the deal may be "legitimate" (possibly), I am concerned that someone can come to your door, and try to sell something, and wants you to decide right now. And so what if they have some sort of ID? It's meaningless.
When I asked my two guys if they had a card or brochure, they said "no, we don't do that." Ok, I don't do no more interest then, either. The older, more senior one was more aggressive and nasty. (Hope you're not like that).

Calling city hall or the police department to verify your legitimacy? Ya gotta be kidding. This ain't Mayberry, man. If they don't even have a card or brochure, just want to show you a huge picture with a cuddly baby, I don't like high-pressure sales tactics.

And almost all of these alarm companies that do the big summer door-to-door sales are large national companies, several based in Utah and apparently related.
Their business model for growing the company is high -pressure door-to-door sales during the summer. And the web is full of complaints about poor installation and poor service.

And, yeah, life is full of tradeoffs in business decisions. But Buz recommends going with a local company if possible, or if not, go for the well-known brands, such as ADT. Weigh your equipment needs versus your danger, and whether you want a long-term contract or not. And many local companies have a good reputation, such as, here in Baltimore, Serious Security, Crimco, and A1 Security. And there are others. And with hard times upon us, I think a person needs to get a couple or three different estimates from alarm companies that you call and request, not some aggressive frat boy who comes to the door and insists and who is borderline rude. It is now a competitive environment, and let's see who will offer you the best deal.

Alarms can be a deterrent. But I was and am surprised how many people got the equipment installed and stop using it and/or did not renew the monitoring when the contract ran out. Mostly, because they realized that the installation and little decals and yard signs became deterrents in themselves, and the cost of the monitoring wasn't worth it--especially when the fines from the city for falsies began mounting up. And the crime/burglary problem in their area just wasn't that bad.

In some areas, alarms are a must, though, and must be used. However, like much concerning security, alarms are to be viewed a merely one part of a total security program for your home or business.

rericsawyer said...

I know my comment is way out of date, but I just had an experience this week that shows that notheing has changed. I was so hacked that I decided I would post my gripe anywhere I thought someone might read it, then I e-mailed the company and told them I had done so (It did bump the traffic on my web-site, and from the "referrer" listing, a good number of folks at "pinnacle" decided to read what this idiot had to say!"

(Here is the link to my original post, it exeeds the size limits for here)
http://rericsawyer.wordpress.com/2010/05/19/visitor-at-my-front-door-a-rant/



10 Minutes ago I had a very interesting “front door” experience that I would like to tell you folks about; partly because I am worked up enough to want to gripe, and partly because some folks deserve to be talked about. I hope it helps someone, I know it will help me.... (Snip)

Fariha Chowdhury said...

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