Call Collett: A Groupon deal for $89 turned into a $1600 nightmare for a Lowcountry woman

A Groupon deal for $89 turned into a $1600 nightmare for a Lowcountry woman who says after having her air ducts cleaned her heat and air stopped working.

Marie Lynch called News 2 after attempts to resolve the problem with the company were unsuccessful.

She bought the Groupon hoping to have her ducts cleaned inexpensively.  Her husband was diagnosed with bone cancer, and his health was failing. She made the appointment with Atlantic Green Cleaning, and when her husband had to be admitted to the hospital she didn’t want to cancel the appointment.

“He came back and said I had big problems,” she explained.  The technician from Atlantic Green Cleaning told her she had black mold growing in her duct system.  That’s when the service went from $89  to $1600.

Marie left the technician at her home while she tended to her husband.   Once she got home and began reviewing the bill, she realized it didn’t make sense to her. She agreed to $600 for the technician to handle the mold.

She thought $89 covered unlimited duct cleaning and the dryer vent, but she was also charged $378 for the main duct and an extra $100 for the dryer vent.

“These are charges I already paid for,” she said frustrated. “That’s what the special was.”

When the investigators at News 2 reached out to the company, they pointed to the fine print on the coupon.  The main duct was extra.

The company declined to speak on camera but sent News 2 the following statement:

“Not only was the original damage caused by the plumbing service, the technician discovered extreme mold that had infested the entire duct work system due to rising dampness and exposed duct work lying on the ground in the crawl space.

Our technician explained the situation to Mrs. Lynch who agreed that the mold service was needed. This includes cleaning the trunk lines, the furnace, bowers motor and evaporator  which were also infested with mold.”

There is another issue News 2 discovered.

The company doesn’t hold the certification with the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration it claims at the top of their receipts. And Angie’s List cautions to never hire a duct cleaner that isn’t  National Air Duct Cleaners Association certified.  We checked with that organization too.  Atlantic Green isn’t certified with them either a spokesperson confirmed.

A spokesman for Atlantic Green Cleaners says he’s working on getting certified.

It’s not an easy process, according to the owner of ServiceMaster, Lawton Hayes.

“They go to classes outside of our internal training, and they have to take industry standard type tests,” Hayes explained.

And the certification must be maintained according to ServiceMaster Manager, Justin Beinkampen.

“We have to do continuing education with our certification,” he explained.

Beinkampen inspected Marie’s home to give News 2 second opinion, and he said the vents looked cleaned.  He also said problems with the vents in her home would require the work an HVAC company. After reviewing the bills,  he said the scope of work done is much more expensive than he would have expected.  He suggested consumers get multiple quotes before approving work.

Before buying a coupon for a deal,  Angie’s List warns of these three running scams:

1. The bait and switch

It happens when you’re  offered a significant coupon deal, and once a technician is in your home, they will perform minimal work and continue to offer you upgrades to the service for additional fees.

2. The quick and dirty 

It happens when a company schedules too many homes for services in a day, in order to make up for their cheap prices.  The technician pretends to clean, then quickly moves on to the next home.

3. Mold inspection scams

Once the technician is in your house, they will “inspect” for mold, and they always find it. Now the job will cost hundreds more because of it.

Atlantic Green offered to go back to Marie’s house to fix any problems, but she didn’t want the technician back at her home since she has been widowed.

The company told News 2, “If any inconvenience was caused by our service and Atlantic Green Cleaners we apologize, but are still available to return to the home and resolve any issues that we are responsible for.”

Now they are in a impasse.

 

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