Consumer Watchdog: Before locking in on the fine print, read the rest of the contract


Comsumer Watchdog - Joe Dolinsky



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Have you been wronged by a business? Have you been the victim of a scam? Joe Dolinsky, our Consumer Watchdog, is here to help. To reach Joe, email ConsumerWatchdog@timesleader.com.

Pestered in Parsons.

It sounds catchy, but the real capture — or claims to a lack thereof — was the topic of a back-and-forth conversation with a resident of the northeastern Wilkes-Barre neighborhood who, two weeks ago, came to me with a problem: a pest problem.

Marge Trethaway’s yard has voles. Before swooping to the comment section to tell me I spelled “mole” wrong or am making up words, hang on — voles, rodents that are not quite a mole, not quite a mouse and, for some reason, have the letter “V” in their name, are the real deal.

And they’re troublesome. They’re herbivores, which means they love dining on grasses, bulbs and the rest of your favorite garden plants. They also burrow in and out of holes, commonly referred to as vole holes. Probably.

Marge’s yard was littered with them. So she called Terminix in June to take control of the onslaught. She paid $600 up front for the work.

That’s where things got dicey.

Marge, 91 years young, said someone came the following week to set traps. A week later, a representative came back and said the voles had taken the bait, she told me. Pest control representatives periodically returned throughout July, leaving a notice on her door with check marks, apparently signaling work having been done, she said.

As the calendar flipped to August, Marge couldn’t figure out whether the job was done. She said she phoned in several calls trying to find out, many of which went unreturned.

“Is it completed?” she asked me. “I don’t know.” She wanted a guarantee the job was done.

I reached out to a Terminix representative whom Marge said she had been dealing with. I asked him to return his customer’s calls. I told him Marge paid a lot of money for the service and deserves a response. To his credit, he was polite and the two eventually talked.

The twist: The representative told me Marge paid for a one-year contract. It wasn’t a lone job, executed in one fell swoop that vowed finality. Throughout the life of the one-year deal, Marge could call the company when the rodents resurfaced and the company would set more traps, he said.

It was pest control, not pest extinction.

Kelsey Owen, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Better Business Bureau, said this is a common problem the bureau encounters.

“Fine print and even the regular print can get tricky, especially if you don’t know what you’re looking for,” Owen told me.

It is important for customers to understand the terms of a contract, including whether a company will come back and if a customers will be billed a recurring charge. Ask questions, she advised. Get things in writing. Use the Internet to scout and compare companies and prices.

The bureau’s website is a great place to check for complaints against a business and get an overall impression of a company.

Paying with a credit card is also a smart bet, she said. You usually have 60 days after purchase to dispute a charge. Keep all documents and receipts, too.

“Understand the commitment,” Owen said. “Understand what’s written in the contract.”

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Comsumer Watchdog

Joe Dolinsky

HERE FOR YOU

Have you been wronged by a business? Have you been the victim of a scam? Joe Dolinsky, our Consumer Watchdog, is here to help. To reach Joe, email ConsumerWatchdog@timesleader.com.

Reach Joe Dolinsky at 570-991-6110 or on Twitter @JoeDolinskyTL.

Reach Joe Dolinsky at 570-991-6110 or on Twitter @JoeDolinskyTL.

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