DennisBeaverJune 3, 2006 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver

This past August, Gracie and Cecil Bailey wanted to have their carpets cleaned. “There are two carpet cleaning companies in town that use the Chem-Dry method, and we had been very satisfied with one particular franchise. We called and scheduled a time for them to clean our living room, dining room and hallways. They came out immediately, but this time things were very different,” Mrs. Bailey told me.

Indeed, it was to be unbelievably different, as she and her husband would soon discover.

How big is your house?

“Without calling to ask if it would be o.k., two Chem-Dry employees showed up an hour early. They began to measure the area we were having cleaned using a laser device. This was the first time we had ever seen a carpet cleaner measure rooms, let alone with a laser. We were assured it was highly accurate and that no charge would be made for areas not cleaned,” she said.

Unfortunately, the Baileys were in for a bit more than they had expected, as, “a great deal of effort was put into getting us to pay for their Stain-Fighter and Allergen-Arrestor. The salesman said that if we did not agree to have those services performed, we had to initial the work order that we were declining! This was strange, as we had been offered similar services in the past–when different owners ran this Chem-Dry operation, but no one tried to intimidate us in the past for just saying we did not want those extras. This was really improper, in our opinion, and we’re not spring chickens; I am 76 and my husband is 87. Age can be a weapon in the hands of a less than ethical salesperson – we were being pressured to pay for something we did not need nor want.”

You signed the contract! Tough

The Chem-Dry crew completed the Bailey’s carpet cleaning in an hour – and the couple are satisfied, even “if less furniture was moved this time as compared with prior jobs.” Based on the square footage, @29 cents a square foot, they were charged $236. However, after the carpet cleaners left, Gracie and her husband re-measured the rooms using a tape-measure. There was an error. A big error.

“They were off by more than 200 square feet, but just to be sure our measurements were accurate we called the builder who confirmed the actual square footage: Chem-Dry charged us for at least 200 square feet more than we had!

“We called the owner, asking if they would send someone out to re-measure,” Gracie told me. “Instead of attempting to resolve the problem, he said, Well, you signed the contract – the laser is accurate. No refund. Period. I can only describe his attitude as arrogant, indifferent and extremely poor customer service,” she said, still upset weeks later.

Letter to the editor

After her letter to the editor was published in a local newspaper, warning others of these sales tactics, the story was brought to my attention. I offered to do what I could to get her a partial refund.

Chem-Dry’s position

I called Chem-Dry corporate headquarters in Logan, Utah and spoke with Technical Advisor Michael Ramsten, Kelly O’Reilly, VP of Marketing, and their California Rep, Camille Ezola. “Based upon what happened to the Baileys, this can’t possible be Chem-Dry company policy?” I asked. They assured me it was not, and that the Bailey’s would indeed be called, “Immediately!”

But that call never came, and I phoned Chem-Dry corporate again. The charming Kelly O’Reilly, sarcastically stated, “Well, these are all independent franchise operations, and the customer should take up the problem that owner.” “But Mrs. Bailey did just that, and the guy refused to give her a refund, and so what if they are franchise operations, it’s still your company’s name that looks bad. Don’t you at least think that it would be a good idea to hear what these people have to say?” I inquired.

Apparently, the nice people of Chem-Dry in Logan Utah don’t want to know what’s happening in the field. No one from Chem-Dry Corporate has ever spoken with Mr. or Mrs. Bailey.

But I did reach the owner of that Chem-Dry franchise. After going into a tirade about how he was tired of paying such high taxes, ridiculous workers compensation rates, and being ripped off by the world in general, I was able to get him to listen to me long enough to squeeze in one question; If your employee made an error in the square foot calculations, why not refund the overcharge? That’s all that Mrs. Bailey asked for, but you refused. Come on, isn’t that the fair thing to do??

He had no choice but to reluctantly agree and on August 22, 2005, a check in the amount of $84.15 was sent to the Baileys.

No matter how large or powerful, for any company to survive and prosper, it must respect the law and practice good ethics. Reputation matters.

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.