Let’s say your garage door needs repair—who are you going to call? If you have an established relationship with a good company (perhaps the people who installed your garage door), then the answer is obvious. But if you’re starting from scratch, you face the challenge of figuring out not just who is capable of doing the work, but who is trustworthy enough to allow into your home. The same questions come up with hiring other kinds of service people, and the answers are largely the same.
Do Your Homework
First, do some research, not just about the local service providers, but also about your garage doors. After all, if someone comes in and tells you that your very-expensive reticulated lag spring needs replacement, you need to know there is no such thing! Find out how your door and opening mechanism work, what needs to be inspected, what kinds of maintenance the system needs, what is likely to go wrong, and what everything should cost. Then if someone tries to over-charge you or do work that isn’t really necessary, you’ll notice.
Look for an Address
Once you start researching companies, remember to look up the address of each one you’re considering. A company that doesn’t have a business address or works out of a PO box only might be a scam, or they might be ill-prepared. Maybe you’re looking at two guys with a pick-up truck and some tools who do a little repair work in their spare time. The company might also be very new. There’s nothing wrong with being new, but if they haven’t been in business long enough to have a track record you can look at, how will you be able to tell if they’re any good? Look for a company that has a brick-and-mortar storefront you can visit, so you can get a feel for the business before you decide to hire them.
North Carolina doesn’t require a garage-repair license. Some states don’t. But as service providers, they may need other kinds of licenses or certifications, depending on applicable regulations. Before you let anybody into your home to work, make sure they have whatever licenses they need and that they are properly insured and bonded. You can also check to see what professional organizations the company belongs to. Note that some disreputable companies have the necessary licenses, insurance, and so forth, but hire contractors who don’t have any of the above to. Find out who works for the company you’re thinking of hiring and do your homework on the individual technicians, as well as for the company as a whole. When the techs show up, ask them to introduce themselves.
Check for Good Customer Service
Look up reviews of the company you’re considering—these should be customer reviews on a reputable, independent website, not testimonials on the repair company’s own site. Specifically, pay attention to the quality of customer service. Someone who arrives late, does not promptly return phone calls, and does not clearly answer questions is likely to be neglecting other parts of the job, too. You can’t be sure that prior customers know enough about garage doors to recognize shoddy or unnecessary or overpriced work, but if the service techs show up late, the customer will know!
Some of the people you shouldn’t hire just don’t know what they’re doing. They are honestly and innocently incompetent. But others very much know what they’re doing—they’re trying to separate you from your money. There is a whole continuum of scam, from legitimate companies that overcharge or up-sell aggressively, to well-organized interstate fraud schemes.
Start by going through the steps already outlined and look for falsehoods, evasions, or things that don’t make sense. Addresses that actually belong to unrelated businesses, coupons distributed from the wrong state (check the fine print), or price estimates much higher or lower than that of the competition (always get estimates from multiple companies) are all red flags. When you call, if the receptionist doesn’t say the company’s name before getting your address or zip code, the company might be doing business under multiple names. Service trucks with no logos is a similar bad sign. So are names or websites that too-closely resemble those of other companies. Finally, an ethical service person may tell you that you need more work done, but they’ll leave the choice up to you and will clearly answer all your questions. If you feel pressured at all, you are being scammed.