First, I should say as with anything when something is “Free” read the fine print. Often “free” systems mean compromising the quality of the equipment, technician, or a very high recurring monthly rate. Even at $199.00 for our Basic Package we are actually losing money up front. The equipment alone costs more than that, let alone labor(by employees, not subs), programming, and our Quality Assurance Program. The first concern is if you are going to invest in a security system get one that actually keeps you secure, and be careful you aren’t saving on the upfront costs just to pay through the nose on the “back end” costs. In short, this is a decision you will live with for some time, so take the time to do your research. Know the reputation, equipment, and policies of the company you are trusting with the safety of your family or employees.
What follows is a list I made after a networking group encounter with someone who had a bad experience with another provider. It includes the issues they had as well as others I have encountered in the course of meeting with clients during my time here at Shiver Security. I made the list originally for their brother who had not yet selected a company but wanted to avoid the issues they had encountered. In this case her brother ended up selecting us, but whether that is the outcome or not, an educated consumer is the best client anyway. When people are misled it not only affects their immediate situation but it affects and infects their perception of our industry. Something we are actively combating.
The key things to ask are:
- If the equipment is free do we own it or is it leased until the contract expires? Is there a buyout payment at the end to “buy” the equipment. Is it new or “like new”(as in used from a previous client).
- If the equipment is free what is the installation charge, and if they are providing a gift card that offsets the install charge when will that card actually arrive? (this is a great one to google)
- Google the company for reviews/complaints
- If their equipment includes a Quality Assurance Program or something equivalent that is providing Free Parts and Labor on the new system does it also cover the following:
- Trip charges(many companies offer a version of QAP, but charge $69.00-$129.00 per visit as a “trip charge”)
- Service Charges (same explanation as above)
- Programming Charges (same explanation as above)
- If they wish to add additional devices beyond the “free equipment” what would the “complete” cost of that equipment be? Many companies will quote the equipment only price for additional devices and then add an additional “labor” or “labor and programming” charge.
->Also, will it affect the monthly rate? Many companies will charge an additional amount monthly for more monitored devices, this should only be the case with very particular pieces of equipment.
- Does the monthly monitoring happen via phone line/cable line/wifi network? These are all subject to either being cut or losing power or connection. If it is cellular(preferred & safer), if the installer has difficulty getting the cell signal strength needed will the company pay for an antenna extension to get the service running or will they charge an additional fee? This is a frequent occurrence in our industry, once the client is under contract for the “free” equipment and the install has begun you often cannot back out of the agreement…so the company will say the signal strength is too low to guarantee signal and an extension antenna will be needed(this is sometimes the case legitimately) , but now they need an additional $180.00-$300.00(company dependent) to add and install the antenna to “guarantee” the signal strength for monitoring.
- Who? As in who does the installation and who does the monitoring? When you are in a situation where either of these things are subcontracted out it can become a real headache if you ever have an issue. You become trapped in a game of finger pointing instead of a focused effort to address your issue. Ideally you will want the same company to handle the sale, installation, and monitoring.
- And finally, if there is an issue, and even if it comes with Full QAP, what is the average response time to a problem? As in how soon will a technician be out to fix something if a motion sensor is falsing or a door contact becomes loose. Many companies will install “next day” but their average response time to an issue can be anywhere from 24hrs to 2 weeks. Be sure to ask.
I hope this helps anyone out there trying to make this decision.