It’s a familiar story for homeowners: they call a repair company for a minor issue only to be told they need a bunch of extra services instead. And it’s exactly what the Today Show’s Rossen Reports team, led by Jeff Rossen, found in a segment aired on Dec. 3.
The team visited a suburban home in Cross River, NY, to conduct its investigation of area garage door repair contractors. Before they began, they brought in two independent, certified experts who inspected the garage and confirmed that the garage door and all of its parts, including the opener, were in good operating condition.
In order to give the four contracting companies they called something to “fix,” the experts loosened the garage door sensor in order to prevent the door from closing. The homeowner then contacted four area contractors to repair the issue, with hidden cameras placed around the garage to observe them.
The first garage door repair technician to arrive found the problem within a matter of seconds. He tightened the bolt on the sensor, charged a modest service fee of $80 and went on his way.
But that’s where the team’s luck ran out, and the next three contractors got gradually worse as the day went on.
The second to arrive told the homeowner she needed brand new sensors and charged her $210. When Rossen and his camera crew confronted the contractors, they maintained their innocence and drove off; later that day, the company contacted NBC News and claimed to have a “flawless customer service record.”
The third contractor didn’t even inspect the sensor before telling the homeowner it was “no good” and wanted to charge her over $400. He declined comment and drove away once the reporters confronted him.
Finally, the last repairman displayed the most shocking behavior: not only did he want to replace the sensors, but he told the homeowner that the pulleys on her garage door needed replacement, as well.
His charge? A staggering $683, plus tax — all for completely unnecessary work.
The two experts pointed out that the doors were in perfect working conditions, and the repairman simply concluded, “We all make mistakes.”
In all, three of the four contractors charged for unnecessary parts and services.
Garage doors have appeared in the news all around the country, as more burglars use them to break into the homes of unsuspecting families. Six garages in a Pittsburgh, PA, suburb have been broken into and ransacked so far this December.
Add in the cold winter weather, which can lead to malfunctions like stuck garage doors, and there’s plenty that can lead homeowners to call a local garage door repair company.
“Cold weather can wreak havoc on garage doors, freezing temperatures can cause problems with alignment when metal parts start to contract,” says Jim Null, Owner of Durbin Garage Doors. “If it’s really cold out, parts can become brittle and more vulnerable to breaking. It’s important not to let urgency lead to carelessness in choosing an honest, qualified, professional. The best way for homeowners to protect themselves from being swindled, is to ask questions. If someone says, ‘it’s broken, you need a new one, and it’ll be X dollars to fix/replace it,’ homeowners should ask them to show them exactly where and what the problem is, what they did to test it, and what may have caused it.”
At the end of the segment, Rossen also gave his suggestions to homeowners to keep them safe from contractor fraud.
Viewers were warned that repair services should always display signage on their vehicles. None of the companies that arrived at the house in Cross River, even the one that did a good job, had any company names displayed on their trucks.
Rossen also told viewers to ask friends and family for recommendations and check with local consumer reports agencies to find a reputable and licensed repair service.