I came across an interesting story this week
coming out of New Jersey. State and consumer affairs organizations there decided enough was enough when it came to local home improvement contractors operating outside the realm of state laws and operating requirements.
Officials organized a “sting house
” to solicit bids for various types of repair and improvement projects, calling to the carpet 18 contractors who submitted proposals for work without the proper registration documentation—which can only be issued with liability insurance, a permanent business address and other requirements.
The “sting house” was established in order to crack down on numerous consumer complaints of contractors cutting corners. In the article, however, some businesses that were cited note that their registration documentation was indeed in order, meaning they were incorrectly fined up to $5,000. Further, owners felt duped for spending time preparing a fake proposal for work.
I’d like to know what our industry thinks of this concept of a sting operation to crack down on illegally-operating home improvement contractors. Is it a way to raise the bar for all home improvement businesses—knowing they might get caught if they don't follow the rules? Or is it unfair to target contractors and waste their time during economically-challenging times?
Please send me an email or post a comment below. Let’s Talk about whether sting operations like this one in New Jersey would benefit the industry overall or create yet another challenge for window and door retailers?
Survey Results as of 04/19/2011:
I think "sting house" initiatives would:
Encourage greater compliance among home improvement companies.
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Create unnecessary burden for contractors and miss the mark in terms of impact.
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Have minimal impact in combatting illegal contractors.
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Though the results are split this week, I did get some great comments from the crowd, so I’ll jump right into those.
Even though a “sting house” may create extra work for legit contractors, some readers say it’s worth the hassle to attempt to put a stop to illegal business practices.
“I think it is a good idea if there is a problem with illicit contractors doing shoddy work in an area,” writes one reader. “The legitimate contractors could be screened early to save them from putting a lot of work into something that is bogus. Something needs to be done about the situation.”
“A few years ago I presented and idea to a top dealers round table group that it is time to bring legitimacy to our business, and that it is amazing what today's customer will do if only we just let them instead of try to make them,” writes another reader. “The stings that are happening should make the legitimate dealers excited to get rid of the tricksters, scammers, etc. Honesty is the best policy and the scams are so obvious to today's buyers. Sell on your company and products merits, and close the same way.”
He concludes, “Let the stings continue.”
Another reader shares:
“It can only help the industry get rid of unprofessional and unqualified contractors. But the real problem lies in educating the consumer. Until the consumer understands the process, there are always going to be scam artists ready to take their money.”
I’ll also add one more comment I believe has a lot of merit. This one comes from Joe Klink of ProVia Door, who throws in a broader perspective of what manufacturers can do to support legitimate dealers in the marketplace:
“I found your story on sting houses to be fascinating. On the one hand, I understand why officials did the sting and can appreciate their desire to have the law abided by, and on the other hand I can appreciate the contractors’ point of view that this was an unfair waste of their time.
“However, let’s not forget the core reason this whole endeavor got started – many contractors aren’t obeying the law, are cutting corners that shouldn’t be cut, and it’s the homeowners who are paying for it. Regardless of who’s right and who’s wrong in this scenario I think it should be a wakeup call to contractors and manufacturers to make sure we are doing things the professional way.
“That’s why six years ago, ProVia Door started an installer certification program which has since graduated over 400 installers. We realized that there are a lot of good-intentioned, hardworking people who just want to earn an honest living, but don’t always understand the details of what it takes to complete a job professionally, and delight the homeowner completely.”