Saturday, December 13, 2014

Door to door salespeople in Utah sticking it to military families...

Yesterday on RfM, someone posted a news report about military families in Utah being "ripped off" by a company based in Provo, Utah.  Vivint Smart Home Solutions, a company that sells home security systems, was recently profiled on ABC news because there had been many complaints from military families about their hard sell door to door sales tactics.  As anyone who knows anything about the military knows, you're pretty much bound to move at some point.  And these families were finding out that breaking their contracts with Vivint was exorbitantly expensive.

Marine Jason Plummer signed up for service from Vivint, but then was injured in Iraq and had to retire from the military.  Vivint refused to cancel the contract, even though Plummer had to move.  This isn't just happening in Utah, either.  Watch the video below.

More ABC US news | ABC World News
It took the intervention of a news reporter to get Vivint to do the right thing.

Click on Vivint's homepage and you'll see they are targeting service members, most likely because people in the military deploy often.  There's a picture of a smiling guy in an Army uniform with a pretty wife and child.  Next to the photo, there's a caption that says "Protecting those who protect us.  At Vivint, we appreciate our military families and the sacrifices they make.  That's why we've created technology dedicated to keeping them safe and connected."

Since so many service members are men, that means a lot of women and children are home alone.  Naturally, husbands and fathers want to protect their families, so that makes them a natural target for home security system sales.  However, according to the ABC News article referenced on RfM, many military families who have signed up with Vivint have wound up being stuck with services they don't need but must pay for because of iron clad contracts.  Salespeople are telling subscribers one thing, but the contracts say something else.  And too many people are signing without understanding exactly what they are signing up for.

More ABC US news | ABC World News
ABC's story about this sleazy company...

Aside from getting people to sign contracts that they apparently haven't read carefully, Vivint is also allegedly tricking people who are already signed up with other companies to switch to their service.  Employing a technique called "slamming", some Vivint employees are outright lying to people, saying they work for ADT or GE and offering a "free" upgrade, which turns out to be a five year $3000 unbreakable contract.  

Vivint used to be known as APX Alarm Security Solutions, Inc.  Founded in 1999 by Todd Pedersen and Keith Nelleson, the company was purchased by The Blackstone Group in 2012.  Pedersen is currently Vivint's CEO.  The company has been besieged with legal issues and complaints.  Nevertheless, Todd Pedersen appears to be someone with a knack for aggressive sales.  According to a 2011 article on

In 1992, Todd Pedersen was passed over for what he considered the perfect summer job: selling pest-control services door-to-door in Sacramento, Calif. Some of his college buddies had pulled in $10,000 doing it the previous summer, while Pedersen was making about half that much hanging sheetrock. Pedersen, then a 23-year-old Brigham Young University student who had spent countless afternoons knocking on strangers’ doors as a missionary for the Mormon Church, ended up earning $82,000 working for a rival pest business that summer. “[The recruiter] didn’t think I had what it took to do it, which is odd because I’m from Idaho and Idahoans can do anything,” he says.

The Idahoan has been fighting unwelcome creatures for more than a decade, frustrating human intruders with a home security outfit he co-founded in 1999 in Provo, Utah. Now Pedersen is embarking on a push to diversify the 5,000-employee company, which had $245 million in revenue last year. To do so, he’s combining aggressive sales techniques with digital technology to automate the home, pushing homeowners to embrace a simple way to control everything from appliances to locks via a smartphone. In February, Pedersen rebranded the company, renaming it Vivint for “intelligent living.” Sam Lucero, a networking technology analyst for ABI Research, calls Vivint “a leading edge company in the sense that they have moved very quickly. They are an early adopter of these kinds of technologies and an early mover into this space.”

No doubt, Pedersen's experience selling Mormonism for the LDS church has come in handy.  He obviously was "blessed" with a strong and persuasive personality and the ability not to take "no" for an answer.  He's clearly the type of person undaunted by confronting people, even those who have made it plain that they aren't interested in what he's selling.  Notice in the above video, he tells his sales recruits to ignore "no soliciting" signs, all in hot pursuit of the almighty dollar.

But in all fairness, Vivint isn't the only company targeting military folks and others in search of more cash generating sales contracts.  While ABC's report was about Vivint in Utah, there have also been complaints in other areas involving other security companies.  

Report about Power Home Technologies targeting Phil Angelo.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, Air Force nurse Phil Angelo was targeted.  He had a sign in his yard indicating that he already had a home security system provided by Vivint.  Angelo reports that he'd had no problems with Vivint, but was later visited by a door to door salesperson from a company called Power Home Technologies.  The salesperson lied, saying Power Home works with Vivint locally and just needed his signature for an upgrade.  Angelo signed, but it turned out Vivint didn't work with Power Home, so Angelo ended up with home security contracts from two different companies.  Though Vivint tried to get the other company to release Angelo from his contract and even offered to pay the other bill, Angelo contacted the news in order to fix the situation.  No doubt to avoid bad publicity, Power Home Technologies allowed Angelo to break the contract.   Clearly, Vivint isn't the only home security company that engages in "slamming", though they only seem to want to be fair when they get caught and the media gets involved.  

I guess the moral of the story is to watch out for home security system companies, especially if someone comes to your door uninvited and tries to sell you the service.  And if you already have a home security contract and someone asks you to sign up for an upgrade that you didn't request, take a moment to verify the offer.  Ask for identification, too.  It could turn out they are trying to "slam" you.  Remember that you don't have to open the door when someone rings the bell.  As reassuring as it must be to have a home security system, I'm thinking getting involved with them could be more trouble than it's worth.

For more information on resisting hard sell door to door salespeople, click here.  

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