Posted by: Dr. Grover B. Proctor, Jr. | 23 July 2017

If Vivent Comes Knocking, Caveat Emptor


 

 
Caveat emptor, let the buyer beware, has been part of the English language since 1523, when it was used in connection with the sale of a horse, which might have been ridden upon and be tame or might be wild. If wild, it was not the merchant who had to beware, but caveat emptor, beware thou buyer.”

— District Judge Michael Joseph Reagan (S.D. Illinois)
Spivey v. Adaptive Marketing, 23 September 2009

What follows is a recent true example of how important this legal dictum and common sense truth remains. Read on and Beware.

 
Upfront, in the spirit of full disclosure, let me say that this article is based solely on the experience my wife and I had with the door-to-door salesperson who represented himself as working for Vivint Smart Home. It turned out to be a most unsatisfactory experience (for us and for him, as well, I’m sure), and I feel very good about the fact that we did not become Vivint customers that day — regardless of how good Vivint’s products may or may not be.

In his favor, let me say the door-to-door salesman was very well trained by whatever marketing company he works for (see below). He is clearly well versed in the sales approach that they want him to use, one that has no doubt proved to work well in this kind of suburban setting. He had the “company line” down pat for every question, objection, skepticism, or comment we had.

Unfortunately, what they have trained him to do is to vaguely promise the moon and half the stars up front to get us homeowners interested. But as the details begin to emerge, we’re left being offered only a couple of acres of scrubland in Utah. (Pardon my metaphor.) It’s a common ploy, and I’ve been exposed to it in various forms throughout the years. (Since then, I have wondered if he realized that I was sitting there, predicting his next ploy, point by point, as he was attempting to play on our egos, our supposed vulnerabilities, and our greed.)

Vivint logoThe major “hook” they use is to make you think you are getting an insider’s deal (that will not be made available to anyone else, you are assured). They merely need to “pre-qualify” you to see if you are “verbal” enough and “social media savvy” enough to promote their products for them in the neighborhood and online. “If people see our sign in your yard,” he glibly began, “and come and ask you about it, it would be worth it to us to give you this equipment so that you would tell them how much you like it. Do you have iPhones? Do you ever go online, like Facebook? Do you blog? Do you know your neighbors well?

You’re supposed to think, “Well, heck yeah! You give me all this equipment free (or even at a substantial discount) and I’ll tell the world! That’s easy!!” In other words, you’re supposed to think they are willing to give you something for basically nothing. Well, clearly, they have zero interest in that.

Finally, excruciating detail after repeated excruciating detail, “pre-qualifying” gimmick after “pre-qualifying” gimmick, he finally gets to the money. And, as it turns out, nothing’s free. They are trained to use a “step down” discount method when dealing with costs. It begins this way: “How much do you think you would pay if you bought this directly from Vivint’s website? What if you went to Home Depot and bought it, what do you think they’d charge you? Either way, you’ll have to pay installation and activation fees.” He then writes down numbers for all the extraneous charges, PLUS the ridiculous retail amount for the equipment (expect it to be at or over $2000 for equipment alone). Then the whittling down starts.

If you’re willing to agree today, I’ll knock this charge off. I’ll reduce that fee. You won’t even have to pay the full amount for installation; we’ll cut that down to almost half. And we’ll even take the $99 standard monthly fee, slice it in half to $49 a month just for you.” He conveniently forgot to point out that Vivint’s own literature says the monthly fee starts at only $39.

And what about all that equipment he said at the beginning he wants to “give” us?

Vivint offer

Well, surprise! There was absolutely no equipment free or discounted in what this young man wanted to sell us! His “deal” required that we pay the entire roughly $2000 total manufacturer’s list price for all the equipment in the package!

Oh, but because he really wanted to put this equipment in our house — you know, so that our neighbors will also want to buy it — he was willing to spread the payments out (no discount, but interest free) over 60 months. Because we would only be paying one-sixtieth of the equipment’s total list price each month (in addition to the “forever,” supposedly discounted monthly fee), I’m sure he counted on our forgetting about all those things he, at first, hinted about “giving” us.

He skated a razor’s breadth from the line of untruths, but (to the credit of those who trained him) I never actually caught him lying. (I can’t say the same about the pair of young AT&T salesladies who once told me, I discovered later, whopper after whopper in an effort to get me to sign on the dotted line.)

At this point, I began my boatload of questions to our Vivint marketer. First, do you personally work directly for Vivint? “Well, of course! See my shirt?” No, that’s not good enough. Most of the door-to-door people that have come by here say they’re working for the main company, but are instead working for a Marketing firm hired to put hoards of people out on the streets to knock on doors. So he said, “See, I’ll show you. When I finish getting all the information I need from you, I call this number.” He made a great show of dialing 801-437-4037, from which a man answered saying, “Account Creation. What is your badge number?” — at which point our salesman hung up. I guess he thought I looked gullible enough to believe that this little charade actually proved something.

I have not yet been able to discover whether that phone number does or does not belong to Vivint. I did find one website that said the phone number belonged to “Gary Jackson, N 920 West St., Provo, Utah” — which appears to be a cul-de-sac of 7 small homes near Carterville Park and University Boulevard — but I don’t know if I believe that page either. (By the way, the salesman kept repeatedly saying that the home office of Vivint is in “Utah, Provo”   seemingly unaware that there is no such place, and as if believing that this fact would infuse some additional credibility to the company and his sales pitch.)

Vivint panelAnd I never got a straight answer from him giving me proof that he actually was an employee of Vivint.

By this time in our conversation, I had been on my tablet and found a Yelp review page for Vivint — on which 93% of reviewers gave Vivint the lowest rating possible; ouch!! — and similar customer screeds from several other sites. This confirmed for me what I had been feeling all along — that I didn’t want to do business with this salesman or this company.

I told him I would not sign a contract to pay for equipment over a period of 5 years after only hearing a high-pressure 30-minute sales pitch. He said, “I tell you what. I’ll give you 3 business days to decide if you like it. No, I’ll even stretch that to 2 weeks! If you were over 70 years old, I could give you a whole month, but I can’t put anything false in my order. Anyway, if you decide you don’t want it during that 2 weeks, you call us and we’ll come out and get all our equipment and refund all the money you’ve paid us to that point.

My final attempt to make sure we were understanding him correctly was this: So let me get this straight. Vivint has forbidden you to let me take a few days (1) to read your contract in detail, (2) to research your company and this offer, and (3) to compare it to your competitors — before I sign on the dotted line to pay for the equipment over a period of 5 years, as well as the $49 monthly fee? “No. You have to do it today. You can always decide in that 2 weeks that you don’t want it.” (…repeating sales pitch over and over, as if hearing it the 21st time be the magical tipping point.)

Clearly we were talking in circles around each other. We told him that, even if we loved the product and the deal (which, by this time, we didn’t), we would never be willing to sign or commit to anything this quickly. Further, we said that we understood him to be saying that the deal was not possible unless it happened today. “Well, what if I call my manager and get the FULL installation fee waived?

Seeing that he was clearly not going to convert this investment of his time into a profitable sale, his demeanor quickly changed into a simmering, sulky hostility.

My final words to him: No, sir. Have a good day.

Be very careful, folks, about deals that seem too good to be true, if only you’ll sign on the dotted line TODAY. You’re almost certain to regret it.

No Soliciting
 

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