There seems to be two types of carpet cleaners in California. One type is the legitimate business-person who cleans carpets for a competitive price. Then there is the other type who is a scammer who will try and take advantage of bait and switch false advertising to get as much money from the customer as possible.
How to Identify the Crooks: It is easy to identify the scammers or crooks from the honest business people. Here is what you should look for:
The scammers will advertise the carpet cleaning for extremely low prices, like any three rooms of carpet cleaned for $9.95 plus a hallway, or any five rooms plus a hallway for $16.95.
Professional carpet cleaners say that the base price for cleaning a room of carpet is between $25 and $35. These legitimate companies have to pay their workers, have insurance on them and the trucks they use, gas for the trucks and of course payments for the equipment that they use. So when the scammers say they will charge you only $2.50 a room, that is a total lie, it will cost more in gas for the truck to get to your home than that.
The flyers from the scammers are simple bait and switch. These flyers do not have company addresses on them, they just have telephone numbers. When these scammers arrive at your home they go into a high-pressure sales pitch to increase the price. Most will not do the cleaning for the low price on the flyer you received into he mail.
I set up a TV news sting and called one of the scammer operations to come to our house to clean the carpet. They said they would clean any three rooms and a hallway for just $8.95. They had sent us a flyer with that price on it.
When the carpet cleaner arrived he refused to do the cleaning for that price. All this was being recorded on two different hidden TV cameras. He told the people who were playing the part of the homeowners that the price was just a "leader" to get him in the door. He said he would not clean the carpet for the price on the flyer. He wanted to start cleaning the three rooms and hallway for $150. He told us he was a poor Russian Immigrant and if he charged the price on the flyer he would not make any money. By the way the workers are normally paid 35% of want they can get the homeowner to pay for the job. We argued with him for about 15-minutes and he came down to $108. We went ahead and spent CBS's money for the carpet cleaning. I wanted to see the type of job he would do.
He worked for about an hour and a half, and did a poor job and left the carpets wet.
We were ripped off! But I put it on TV to warn others about this rip-off carpet cleaning scam. Carpet Cleaning Check List:
When the cleaning price is $2.95 to $4.95 per room it will be "bait and switch".
If the flyer only has a telephone number and no address for the company that is a Red Flag.
When you call for an appointment, tell them you want a fixed price for the number of rooms. You should pay between $25 to $35 per room.
If you are a senior citizen and live alone do not let one of these scammers in your home. In the past they have forced an elderly woman to pay them $700 and threaten here with violence. They also ran up calls on her telephone to Russia.
If they get in by mistake on your part, tell them your son who is a police officer is coming by in a hour to check the work before they get paid. This is a "consumer protection white lie", it's OK.
Bottom Line, you get what you pay for, and if it sounds too good to be true, it is!
Here are some letters from Carpet Cleaning Company owners. These owners called in on the Troubleshooter Talk Show to talk about consumers fighting back against the scam carpet cleaners.
We live in an age where concerns over energy conservation have transformed our homes and businesses into tightly closed, highly insulated environments. With indoor and outdoor air quality rapidly becoming of equal importance, the carpet cleaning industry has developed a standard which literally separates the men from the boys-the carpet cleaning professionals from the carpet cleaning scam artists.
Having stated this, we at Pro-Service Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning believe there are a few things consumers should know in order to protect themselves from the ever-growing legion of frauds intent on ripping them off. First and foremost, as far as the carpet cleaning industry is concerned, you do indeed get what you pay for.
Cleaning companies have significant costs in the way of equipment, cleaning supplies, transportation, and payroll etc. that make it virtually impossible for any reputable operation to perform even the most basic services in the L.A. area for less than $27 - $30 per room. Anyone advertising for anything less is probably selling something other than cleaning services. How will you know for sure? Ask questions.
Professional cleaning firms have qualified employees trained to answer any questions a consumer might have. A legitimate company will also take the time to perform a complimentary pre-inspection to both identify the carpet's construction and recommend the appropriate cleaning method or procedure needed. Consumers should always make sure they receive a contract, as the better cleaning companies will offer workmanship guarantees in writing.
Finally, consumers should always ask for references and consult friends and business acquaintances about the reputation of the firm they are considering. All of this brings us to the question: "Why? Why go through all this trouble just to get my carpet cleaned?" The answer is simple: the carpet is the most overlooked piece of "furniture" in any home or business. Experts agree that a clean carpet contributes not only to the overall aesthetics of a structure, but plays a significant role in the healthful state of the overall environment in which people work, live and spend the majority of their time. We at Pro-Service Carpet and
Upholstery Cleaning urge consumers not to wait until their carpet looks soiled before having it professionally cleaned. People with allergies, children and pets especially need to realize that dusting and vacuuming simply isn't enough. Have your carpets and upholstery cleaned by qualified professionals every six months, but be smart about it. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
Here is another letter from a Carpet Cleaning Company owner in Fresno, Ca.
I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank Troubleshooter Judd for the efforts he is giving in combating scam artists and watching out for the consumers. I hope more and more people will tune in to the show and take advantage of Judd's investigative reports to avoid being ripped off.
In the carpet cleaning Industry, we have the most problems with "bait & switch" operators. It seems like anyone can rent a rug doctor or spend a few hundred dollars on some portable machine and call themselves "professional" carpet cleaners. While these bait & switchers exist, there are also excellent carpet cleaning firms that provide an essential service to you and your family, and clean for "your family's health".
These reputable companies go to carpet schools; they study fiber identification, carpet construction and chemistry, among other things. These companies have a starting capital in excess of $100,000. They carry a minimum of $1,000,000 liability insurance, and other costly expenses. It seems to me distinguishing between a professional company and a scam artist should be obvious. The following is only a brief abstract of what you should look for in a carpet cleaning company.
I noticed that these scam artists advertise super low prices, something like $5.95/room or even $10/room. While this may seem like a great deal, it is unrealistic. For a professional cleaning company to come to your house, they have a minimum charge anywhere from $40 to $100. So if anyone is advertising anything less to come to your house to clean an average size room or two rooms, then beware.
The ad these "b & s'ers" send you will have fine print with something like "Some carpets require preconditioning at an additional charge." That is the obvious sign that these guys will rip you off. Another sign is when they do not have a size limit per room on that coupon. So basically, if it is too good to be true, it most likely is.
On my web site, www.aladdinscarpet.com, I have a "price comparison" page that talks about what seems to be a great price when you call a company, becomes much more than you should pay for a reputable company to come out and take care of your carpet and furniture.
Another favorite of these people is what they call a Two Process System, or Deep Scrub Machines. There is no reason for you to pay extra for anything unless it is a specialty spot like Kool-Aid, Pet Urine Stains, etc. Some companies, like mine, we do not even charge extra for these stains.
In summary, to know if that flyer you receive is too good to be true or not, I suggest you ask that company the following:
1) Is the company you called licensed and insured? 2) Can I get the name and phone number of three customers of yours? 3) What kind of training have you had in the carpet cleaning business? 4) What is your guarantee? Do you offer 100% money back guarantee? 5) Please tell me about your cleaning process- the minimum standards set by the IICRC (www.IICRC.org) include 5 items:
Dry soil removal (vacuuming before cleaning)
Soil Suspension (include Chemical Action, Heat, Agitation and Dwell Time)
Soil Extraction (Removal of soils)
Nap Setting (Groom carpets after extraction)
Drying Principle (Carpet should take anywhere from 1 to 8 hours to dry under ideal conditions.)
If the cleaner that contacts you does not clean based on these minimum industry standards, or tries to charge you extra for any of the above steps, do not let them into your home. Overall advice is you should hire people based on quality and not price. You should expect to pay anywhere from $30.00 per room or 15¢ per Square Foot to $80.00 per room or 40¢ per SF.
If you need a carpet cleaner in your area, please send me e-mail at
and I will refer you to a quality cleaner in your area. I am part of a larger group of cleaners (about 3,000) that participate in a question and answer Bulletin Board and we have cleaners from all over the USA, Canada, Europe and Australia, Ca.