News 4 Investigates: Duct cleaning scare sales tactics caught on undercover camera
By Ruella Rouf
FLORISSANT, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- Seventy-year-old Janet Becker of Florissant got a random call from Anytime Duct Cleaning. The company claimed they could clean her air ducts for about $55. But the bill Becker received by the time they were finished was for more than $2,700.
“They dropped it on me in the end,” Becker told News 4 Investigates. She said the crew from Anytime told her she had mold.
They installed what appeared to be a lower quality UV light, which alone cost around $1,800. The light was powered with bundled extension cords which had ground wires that were broken off.
"They did a half-assed job. I don’t like to say that word,” said Becker. But Becker is not the only customer who feels this way.
Dale Ponce, 83, of Ellisville was offered a very similar deal: Air duct cleaning for $44.95. But after the job was complete, he was billed for $600.
“They really screwed me around that's what they did … (they said) everything was moldy” said Ponce.
The company has an “F” rating with the Better Business Bureau. The company’s tactics are simple--they offer cheap air duct cleaning to get in the door, then drive up the cost by claiming there's mold.
So the News 4 Investigates team hired an independent air duct cleaning crew, DUCTZ, to put Anytime to the test.
Patty Clisham, who owns and operates DUCTZ, says the home News 4 set up would cost a minimum of $600 to clean properly.
“No company is going to do any service, especially duct cleaning for $55,” said Clisham..
The DUCTZ crew spent several hours cleaning the home’s system from top to bottom and carefully inspected the blower. Clisham said there was “no mold, anything suspect of mold, [or] any suspect[ed] growth.”
With a clean bill of health on the home’s system, News 4 called Anytime Duct Cleaning to come to the home. Before they showed up, hidden cameras were installed inside the house in order to hear the sales pitch on video.
Patty Clisham posed as the homeowner. At the beginning the Anytime crew seemed friendly. Their pitchman said the vents looked pretty clean, but when it came to the blower; there were issues.
The employee told Clisham that “it looks like mold (it can cause) cancer, allergies … if you have mold in your system it can easily eat the wires.”
He said he could remove the mold for between $200 and $400.
When Clisham said “no thanks” and that she just wanted to stick to the coupon $55 price, he called her “lazy.”
When News 4’s Chris Nagus confronted the two Anytime crew members outside the home they asked him to “go away” and would not answer questions about the “wire eating mold.”
The bottom line is that professional air duct cleaning companies will cost more than a $55 coupon price. They also will not be in and out in under an hour. It will take several hours to get the job done.