How to Identify Ice Dam Removal Scam Artists
Picking an ice dam removal company should be a choice between good companies and great companies. Instead, it’s riskier business for you than for the guy walking on your frozen roof. Scammers are everywhere in this industry, and it’s actually hard to avoid hiring one. You’re more likely to emerge unscathed if you buy gas station sushi.
Some ice dam removal “professionals” are more inexperienced than dishonest, but most are a combination of both. In any event, the results for you are the same: They sound great over the phone, but let you down in the end. They can do what they do because enough people believe their exaggerations, omissions, and lies.
Here are some of the common claims to look out for:
“We’ve been in business the longest!”
There is one “first” ice dam removal company out there. It’s impossible to say which one, though. It may be our company, Ice Dam Guys®, because we began removing ice dams in the ‘90s, when there were only a couple of other companies dabbling in ice dam removal (and I’m not sure how many of those are even still in business). In any case, it doesn’t matter much. Nobody picks us because we’re the Mick & Keith of the ice dam removal space, but because we do the best work.
The many ice dam companies that all claim they’re the “first” usually do so because they can’t point to a years-long history of happy customers. They may have been window washers or roofers for the last 20 years, and they may focus on ice dam removal at the moment, this winter. But then they claim things like “our ice dam removal company is 20 years old.” They leave out the part about how 18 of those years were spent hammering or squeegeeing. That’s not the same thing as 20 years of experience in ice dam removal.
“We’ve got a super low hourly rate!”
They’re happy to quote their rate loud n’ proud over the phone. What they don’t tell you is how many guys will show up at your house, and that the hourly rate applies to each guy. Or they melt your ice slowly and inefficiently, or they drag their knuckles while still on the clock.
These companies know your ice dam has you in a pinch, and that your options may be limited. They think they can make money OR be honest, when the reality is a company ultimately profits more if it’s honest.
We never show up and say, “Hey, surprise, we charge by the man-hour.” For unusual or jumbo-sized jobs occasionally we’ll need to charge by the man-hour because we’ll need to send several Ice Dam Guys® technicians. (For instance, if you’ve got a 4-story building, we’ll need one “safety guy” on the ground, one to operate the hydraulic lift, and one to do the steaming on the roof.) But in those cases we’ll tell you the deal very clearly up-front, before you even schedule your appointment.
“This other company uses the wrong equipment!”
Most often the claim is that the ice dam company uses a pressure washer, rather than an ice dam steamer. To make the case, they’ll point out bogus “signs” of a pressure washer, like a trigger on the steaming wand or colored tips on the muzzle. A trigger simply lets the operator start and stop the flow of steam, whereas the colored tips serve as color-coding that lets the operator pick the tip that produces the best shape/pattern of steam for the specific application.
The latest hoax is to say that “it’s a pressure washer if it uses a gas-powered engine.” That’s like a Big Three car company claiming that electric cars aren’t cars. It’s an ice dam steamer if it produces steam. The power source doesn’t matter.
In those examples and in others, the signs that a company uses “the wrong equipment” not only are meaningless and misleading, but also are signs of features you probably want the operator to have (like being able to adjust the steam).
Again, these ice dam removal companies figure the best defense is a good offense. That’s why they make crazy claims. It’s to compensate for not having a longstanding track record of happy customers.
Yet they still get on the news
It’s not too hard to get on the news. Journalists need stories every day. Generally, those stories need to be interesting or relevant to the time, or a little of both, so on some days reporters don’t have as much to report on. On those days, when you call them and offer a story they may very well take you up on it.
It’s not a journalist’s job to be an ice dam expert. Rather, reporters rely on their sources to be experts, and don’t always have time to dig any deeper. Do you think someone who’s just getting into the ice dam removal business – or has struggled in it for a few years – would say no to an interview? Didn’t think so. He’s fine with not being an expert as long as he can play one on TV.
Of course, a dishonest “expert” sees a different opportunity, which is, “If I can broadcast that my competitors’ equipment is bad and mine is good, I’ll get all the work.”
What do I suggest?
A few tips strictly for ice dam removal people:
- Say you’re new if you’re new. Nothing wrong with that. You can still do great work for customers, do right by customers, and make a name for yourself.
- Make sure customers understand your rates. If your rates sound high, explain why you need to charge that. If what you charge “just depends,” explain what it depends on. Nobody likes the hotel with all the hidden fees, or the health insurance company that keeps sending bills, or any other businesses that drop surprises. Most people care less about a certain dollar amount than they care about clarity up-front.
- Focus on making your equipment better, rather than disparaging others’. If their ice dam steamers do a bad job, customers will call them out in their online reviews. Especially if that company has more good reviews than you do, maybe that’s a sign you’ve got it backwards.
I’m optimistic the ice dam removal industry will eventually have fewer troublemakers, but that doesn’t help you much in the meantime. For now, just don’t work with any ice dam removal company that makes any of those claims. Instead, find a company that can stand on its own merits.