PEORIA, Ariz. -- Steve Palmer knows the importance of keeping his two air conditioners tuned up and maintained during the scorching Arizona summer.
That's why he bought a $24 Groupon for an a/c tune-up from a Valley air conditioning company.
“I figured it was time to get a tune-up right before summer," he said.
The company sent out a technician who determined that Palmer had a big problem with one of the air conditioners.
“He had been here for about 20 minutes and called me out to the backyard and said that I had a leak,” Palmer said.
He said the technician wrote on the invoice that it would be better to replace the one unit due to the high cost of repairs and was given a quote of $7,800.
Palmer said he felt pressured to pay because by the time the technician left his house, his a/c was no longer blowing cold air.
“The night before, we slept here and had it down to 76 [degrees] and everything was fine,” he said. “By the time he left we couldn't get it below 81.”
Despite the heat, Palmer held off on spending the $7,800 and decided to get second opinion.
It was a wise decision, one William Mundell, director of the Arizona Registrar of Contractors, said all consumers should make when faced with a costly situation.
“Go and get three bids from different contractors, check the references and, if you can, go to the construction sites where previous work has been done by the contractors you're thinking about hiring,” Mundell said.
Doing your own homework is as easy as logging on to the internet.
Just go to the Arizona Registrar of Contractor's website and type in a business name. If they're licensed, they'll be listed.
But, if company has complaints against them, those complaints will be listed, too.
If a company has a lot of complaints, or a revoked or suspended license, you need to stay away from them.
“It's a major red flag,” Mundell said.
The business Palmer hired has five complaints in six years; one is classified as an open complaint and four others had been investigated by the contracting board, but resolved.
As for Palmer, he wishes he would have checked the ROC’s website before he called that first air conditioning company.
He wound up getting a second opinion and his a/c was repaired for a fraction of what he almost spent.
“We rely on these people as experts,” he said. “So, you assume that you're going to get the right price and the truth and it can be very misleading.”
Consumers can also find out the name of a company owner by searching it on the Arizona Corporation Commission’s website. That should give you more background information on a company and give you more leads to do additional research, like cross-referencing the owner's name with the courts.
Consumers may also find it helpful to research companies on the BBB’s website.