If I were a Cowboy, would you spot me?
Obviously if I arrived on horseback, wearing spurs and a big Stetson hat, you’ll probably spot me immediately, you’ll suspect I was a bit dodgy, but what if I wore smart work wear, with a nice printed logo, and showed you a business card, what if I looked “normal” even “legitimate”, would you still be able to tell?
So if you know what to look for in the first instance, you are less likely to become a victim.
Let’s start, did I arrive unannounced or did you ask to see me?
You should ALWAYS be wary of people who arrive at your front door, trying to SELL you something, there and then. NEVER just accept what they say. ALWAYS buy yourself some time, take their details and say you will get back to them. GOOD companies will be happy to return when it is better for you.
As a cowboy, I want you to decide NOW because I need your work, NOW!
Have I told you the truth?
Ask questions, never be afraid to ask questions, GOOD companies would rather you ask hundreds of questions and be happy that you are making a decision that will be right for you situation.
As a cowboy, I will tell you what you want to hear. I will say whatever I need to say, so that you give me your cash, your order, my pay day.
Did you see any Accreditations, certificates, impressive logos?
Logos, badges and accreditations are dead easy to “cut and paste” from official web sites. Good companies will be proud to show you the up to date, current certificate. They will have copies to leave for you; they will show you how to check that they are still current and what the benefits are to you because of their affiliation.
As a cowboy, I will have copied the logo, but it may be old, and I don’t want to give you a certificate number in case you decide to check it and find it belongs to another company. Best if I say I belong, flash a piece of paper under your nose and leave nothing with you, so you cannot verify what I just said!
Did you ask about other work I’ve done in the area?
Good companies will be delighted to explain who else has had these products installed, they won’t breach any confidentiality but they will be happy to show you their work. They will show you photographs of roads in your area, before and after pictures about how the property was improved, they may have hand written testimonials, thank you letters from satisfied customers. They may even suggest a couple of past customers who would be willing to show you their new windows in their own home!
As a cowboy, I will show you pictures, even nice installations in your area and say that I did work that I didn’t do (you won’t know and are unlikely to ask the occupier). I will have some references, but I’ll avoid providing any real detail, saying “under data protection you cannot have any information”.
Did you sign a contract?
Good companies operate within the law. Whilst word of mouth can constitute a contract, it’s far better (for both sides) to have a contract in writing. It will say what the sales person has sold you, and what you are going to pay in return for those products etc. Do read the details; you may have seen lots of sample products, ones with special locks or self-cleaning glass etc. None of that is relevant, it is what the sales person has written on the order that counts, that’s what you are ordering, that’s what you are signing to by.
As a cowboy, you won’t need a contract, I’ll give you a bill at the end, here’s a receipt for the deposit from my book, but it won’t have any detail on it!
Were you told about the cooling off period?
Because some people feel they were forced into making a decision or because they have since found out something they don’t like, there is a law that says, if you sign a contract in your home, you have an automatic right to cancel the contract, providing you do so in writing within 7 days (this may change to 14 days later this year). Whilst no company want to lose your business, especially as they thought you wanted their products, they will know about this cooling off period and accept the cancellation.
As a cowboy, there is no cooling off period, once I have your cash its gone, good luck with the phone number I left you, it’s a mobile number and I’ve moved on!
Were you offered deposit or an Insurance Backed Guarantee?
Most companies find it difficult to sell you windows and say “do you need an insurance policy in case we go bust before we do the work!” No one wants to worry you unnecessarily especially if they know they are a good company, and it’s not likely to happen. That said, these are difficult times, most companies have found the trading condition very difficult so you would do well listening to the options. IBG’s are not compulsory. Some companies GIVE a policy within the prices they charge, some OFFER a policy for a fee and some don’t mention IBG’s. Fensa require their members to OFFER them, DGCOS insist EVERY contract is sold with one, GGF members MUST safeguard deposits.
As a cowboy, I won’t mention IBG’s, and reassure you that your deposit is safe with me, we’ve been going years, don’t worry everything is included whilst avoiding leaving any clear information.
Is it the cheapest price?
Good companies will charge a “fair price”, one that means they can pay their suppliers, their fitters, their sales people etc. and enough so they make a profit so that they are still able to service claims under the terms of their guarantees.
As a cowboy, I’ll undercut anyone else, if I can get away with charging you VAT that’s good (but I don’t have any intention of paying it to the revenue) or I’ll do the job for CASH, real money, pay my fitters and suppliers but skip any income tax, national insurance, corporation tax or VAT.
Did you feel pressured?
Good companies will offer you a price in writing, detailing what you get with their offer and be happy for you to take your time to decide if theirs is the best solution. Some will offer their best price straight off and stick with what they have offered, others will try it on, and they will start high and sell it to you if you say that’s ok, gradually reducing their prices. Whilst this isn’t illegal and doesn’t help the image of the industry, because you feel that the offer only applies if you sign NOW.
As a cowboy, I’ll offer to be lower than anyone else but you need to pay me a deposit (or all of it if I can get you to part with it all) before I leave you, even frog marching you to a cash point so that you can pay me the cash.
Start straight away?
Good companies have existing order books, they have customers who ordered before you and fitting dates for the next few weeks some have fitting dates running into several months! They will tell you the first fitting date they have and sometimes the fitters who they will use to do your work. Windows often take 4 weeks to make, once the survey has been done so 6 to 8 weeks isn’t unreasonable.
As a cowboy, I probably not give a specific timeframe, or I’ll tell you I can fit them next week, if that gets me the order. I won’t mention the 7 days cooling off period either because I need to start immediately and I want to fit them before you cancel!
Did you look at the samples in the showroom or factory unit?
A reputable company should provide business cards with full details, names, registered business addresses & contact numbers. You may get their company registration number, their VAT number or numbers of their accreditations etc. Good companies will be pleased to show you their factory unit or show room, but not every company has showrooms because they cost to keep them open. You’ll be invited to view different finishes, different materials, designs and styles to suit your home.
As a cowboy, I’ll may show you a sample but I’ll say I understand what you want, just leave it to me to fit. I may give you a mobile phone number but getting anything else is impossible.
Did you check?
Clearly even good companies want your business and don’t want you to find a better, cheaper alternative contractor and lose your work. That said, good companies will not mind if you want time to check the things they have said, they will help you and be happy to explain things again.
As a cowboy, I’ll show you a certificate, knowing it to be false, because I know most people accept what I say as the truth, they never check if it is true or not, so I can make claims that make me sound like a proper company!