How to Confidently Handle Contractor Upselling

How to Confidently Handle Contractor Upselling

Upselling is a fact of consumer life, from “will that be a large soda?” at the drive-thru to the credit card promotion at the department store cash register.

But when it comes to home services, how can you tell the difference between a worthwhile recommendation and a pitch you should ditch?

The answer revolves around one word: trust. Do you trust your plumbing, electrical, carpet-cleaning or other service provider?

Education vs. high pressure

Our members say that when they’ve hired well-rated companies, especially ones they’ve worked with before, they experience recommendations about additional products and services more as education than upselling.

One homeowner told us he braced for a hard sell after a garage door technician found more than just a broken spring. The customer was relieved that he got no pressure and that the repair pro took the time to show him the worn areas. Seeing was believing, and the consumer opted to pay for additional repairs.

Related story: Needed repair or upsell? Tips for garage door service

Another homeowner said he appreciated his plumber’s suggestion to replace a 15-year-old commode with a model that had more features than the original. The customer conducted his own online research and concluded that the more expensive toilet did, indeed, better suit his needs.

Related story: Plumbing upsells: Don’t Flush Your Money Down the Toilet

Tips for handling an up sell

Here are some ways to feel confident about evaluating service provider suggestions that you spend more than you expected:

•    Start by seeking multiple estimates from contractors who have positive reputations and are appropriately licensed and insured.
•    Make sure you understand what’s being proposed, and why. A reputable contractor should be willing to take time to explain everything, not simply push you to make a quick decision. If you’re told to replace your main sewer line, for instance, require video proof of the problem, and be certain the images are of your system. In the case of a major proposed expense, be willing to get a second opinion.
•    Don’t hesitate to ask questions, do research and take whatever time you need to make a decision.
•    Never forget that it’s your money. It’s your home. Don’t be afraid to say no.
•    When scheduling cleaning or routine maintenance work, make sure you understand what a typical service includes. For instance, with carpet cleaning, it may cost $3 a step or more to have a staircase cleaned. Also, special extra-cost treatments may be required to remove stubborn stains.
•    Be wary of “free” home analyses, which may be thinly disguised sales pitches that could end up costing you.
•    Be especially suspicious of anyone who uses scare tactics or insists you must get the service or product that day.

Angie Hicks is founder Angie's List. Follow her on Twitter at @Angie_Hicks.

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