More and more people are using the internet as a primary source of news and information. I’m sure that anyone reading this blog is aware of the issue of “fake” news online to try to influence the last USA presidential election. Did you hear the true story of the man who showed up at a Washington DC pizza parlour, armed, because he had read on line that Hillary Clinton was using the restaurant as a location for a child sex-ring in the restaurant’s back rooms? This really happened!
So, you are asking yourself, how am I going to segue this back to the window and door industry? Very easy! You are about to have a sales representative come to your home to quote your windows and doors. You found them online when you googled what you were interested in having installed.
You might not have noticed whether or not they came up organically or as a pay per click, so let me explain. When you ask google to research a topic, it will find what it considers to be the most appropriate matches and will list them on a series of pages. Being on page one is considered important, because the farther back a potential supplier is, the more likely the consumer will never get to that point in the listings, having found a few possible already. Getting on that first page is very competitive. Google has some complicated algorithms it uses to decide that a particular web site has good information that justifies an early placement in this list, which is called organic listings. The blog you are reading is the kind of useful information that the ‘google bots’ who search the web reward with early placement.
The other way to get on the first page is one of the ways that google makes its money. It is called ‘Pay per click’. you will notice clearly identified advertisements on the first and subsequent pages of the organic listings. Suppliers literally bid to be tied in to key words and have their advert come up. You can bet that for a variety of reasons, the word ‘window’ is pretty expensive! When you, the consumer, click on an advert and go to a landing page on a site, that company is billed for a click, at the agreed upon rate.
There is nothing wrong, unethical or misleading about either of these approaches for a company trying to attract your business. The problem starts next!
Many companies have invested in some beautiful web sites that will tell you in glowing terms that this is the best, most trustable company with incredible products at ridiculously low prices. How do you know from these sites which companies are for real and which companies are actually a dirty room, with a broken desk, chair and a phone operating out of a building with a dozen or more similar operations?
The answer is, you don’t know from a company’s site. This is not to say that legitimate companies don’t have detailed sites with useful information, but it will be extremely hard to really know who to trust.
The companies with the hole in the wall offices (which can disappear overnight) always have to have you enter into a contract in your home and can’t bring you to a showroom and a legitimate place of business. That is why the government distinguishes between a contract signed in the suppliers’ place of business and one signed on your kitchen table. A contract where you went to a legitimate place of business only has, by law, two days where you can cancel without a penalty. A contract signed in your home has, by law, a ten-day cooling off period where you can cancel without penalty.
When the 10-day period was about to be introduced, I remember one dealer panicking that it would be a disaster for his business. This was because that dealer charged three times the normal price and knew that there was a significant likelihood that if someone who made a purchase got further information, they would conclude that they had overpaid and cancel the contract.
So, we are back to how to protect yourself! How about independent third-party review sites? There is a definite value to checking out these sites, however they too can be part of the ‘fake news’ cycle. You’ll always run into the occasional complaint about a legitimate company because sometimes the homeowner’s expectation was not reasonable, and no amount of discussion and explanation helped. As a result, they write a negative review. One approach is to eliminate both the best and worst reviews and focus on giving credence to the rest. Why ignore the best? These reviews can also be ‘fake news’, when written by Uncle Billy and Sister Jane. In fact, there have even been ‘professional’ review writing companies, hired to beef up a company’s review quality. Tsk tsk.
It is a good practice to ask for addresses and names of previous customers within driving distance. A good company should be able to provide these. They will show both credibility to the company’s quality claims and make a statement about the company’s longevity in your neighborhood.A long delay in providing any names and addresses could be a warning sign that the company doesn’t have a great track record.
A visit to the dealer’s published address is a great way to get the reality behind the beautiful web site. (At GEM, we think you’ll find the best showroom in town and a vibrant, engaged staff that we’re proud of and will give you a legitimate reason to have confidence in our company.)