You can almost set your watch by the door-to-door salesmen who seem to visit several times a year with the same sales pitch: They want to give you a “free” home security system and all you have to do is put a sign in your front yard. The “value” of the system is anywhere from $800 to $1500, depending on the salesman. While it sounds good at first glance, a closer look reveals some serious warning signs.
Not Exactly Free
Some of the best things in life are free, but that doesn’t apply to home security systems. Many of these home security salesmen will tell you that there is a “small” monthly monitoring fee. This fee is usually about $35 to $55. There is also typically a contract involved. Should you decide to sign up, but then change your mind later, you will be hit with a big cancellation fee. Some companies also attempt to tack on other “administrative” fees once they’ve hooked you in. In the end, this “free” system could end up costing you thousands of dollars.
Some salesmen will literally try to scare you into signing up for their alarm systems. They may even show you maps of crimes in your area, and point to statistics that show homes with security systems are safer. If you have kids, they may suggest scenarios of intruders facing your children. And of course they won’t back up these scare tactics with anything other than printouts. In a related tactic, some shady security system telemarketers have actually called implying that they are from the FBI, and imply that break-ins were occurring in the area.
You may be told by the salesmen that they “chose” your house because of my “highly visible location” in the neighborhood. They may offer to let you have their system in hopes that a highly-visible sign will prompt some of your neighbors to sign up for their services as well. Of course they may approach every other house in your neighborhood with the same offer. Didn’t they just say your house was special?
If you tell them that you want to think about it, they’ll tell you that the offer expires today and you must act now to get their free system. Complete nonsense. If any salesman tells you that the offer expires today, don’t buy from them. Or, as one security company writes in their article on the matter, “Any alarm company that pressures you to ‘sign up now’ is sending the wrong signal.”
The “free security system for a sign in the yard” ploy is usually a bait-and-switch tactic in which they come to you touting the word “free” but then ask for you to pay. This is just one reason why so many people refuse to buy anything from door-to-door salesman, especially from fly-by-night companies with no established reputation. As one commenter on this forum so eloquently stated:
“So, basically you get a cheap alarm system; they get an expensive alarm monitoring contract.”
Updated August 11, 2015
Originally published March 2012