How to smoke out a sweep who has bad intentions

Date:26 November 2012 Tags:,

Summer is a good time to tackle your chimney service: after all, you don’t want to be without your replace during those chilly winter nights. However, you should be wary of dishonest sweeps who may try to dupe you into unnecessary or shoddy work. As one insider warns, unscrupulous “experts” have been known to diagnose huge problems, regardless of whether or not they exist, because they stand to earn substantial commissions.

So how do you separate the pros from the pretenders? There are several easy ways. An obvious bad sign is a chimney sweep who operates from an unmarked van, or one who requests payment up front, in cash only. Here are three other warning signs:

Low bid

The most common red flag is an extremely low estimate. Often a scammer will go door to door, offering a “promotional price” for an inspection. Says our expert: “Once they get in there, they invariably recommend expensive repairs.” Don’t take the bait. Ask for a written estimate and say you’d like to get a second opinion; this may send a scammer scurrying off in search of easier prey.

Cold caller

Another ruse is the cold call. Scammers will talk as if they already have an appointment or say they’ve serviced other chimneys in your neighborhood and then try to pressure you into inviting them to do an inspection or cleaning. Ask for the caller’s name and phone number; no honest sweep would refuse to give this information.

Time pressure

The sweep offers a price that is conditional on your making a decision on the spot. Above all, says our expert, trust your gut reaction. “If you don’t feel comfortable with this person, then don’t do business with them.” – Steve Rousseau

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