Trouble in Omaha: Problems From 2001 Evolve Into New Problems in 2006
© 2006 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Summer 2006
Author: Tom Wadsworth
Trouble in Omaha
Problems From 2001 Evolve Into New Problems in 2006
By Tom Wadsworth
Editor’s Note: This story reveals the evolution of the door business in Omaha over the last five years. Read it and see whether your market has followed a similar pattern.
Rosie Vaske was “just livid … We could have had a new garage door for that amount of money.”
When the spring broke on one of their two single-car garage doors back in 2001, her husband, Lyle, opened the phone book to call Overhead Door Company of Omaha.
Overhead Door had previously fixed the spring on their other door for about $150.
Just underneath Overhead Door’s Yellow Pages ad was another big ad that said “Overhead Garage Door Repair,” with no address listed. Lyle thought it was Overhead Door’s repair division, so he called and scheduled an appointment. He didn’t realize that the company was not Overhead Door of Omaha.
When the work was done, Lyle was shocked. “The bill was $700 plus,” he says.
But that very night on the local television news, the Channel 6 News investigative reporter Mike McKnight warned about Omaha-area people being grossly overcharged for garage door service work.
“I was outraged,” recalls Rosie. “I realized that we’d been taken.” Again, this was 2001.
It was Mike Hichborn, another local victim, who called Channel 6 about the problem. Hichborn had a lot in common with the Vaskes.
Hichborn had the same problem: a broken spring. And he was fooled by the same ad in the Yellow Pages. He, too, was a customer of Overhead Door of Omaha. And, like the Vaskes, Hichborn had also had a spring replaced by Overhead Door in the last few years for less than $150.
When Hichborn called the other company by mistake, he recalls the way they answered the phone. “They didn’t say, ‘Overhead Door of Omaha,’ but they said something generic. I was a little confused, but I didn’t think I’d called the wrong place.”
Hichborn, too, set up an appointment, and the door technician responded promptly. The bill? $560.
“I was shocked at the bill, but he had already done the work,” Hichborn says, recalling the day when he faced the technician in his garage. “It was too late to do anything, and he was bigger than me, so I gave him my credit card number, and he left. I was upset with myself for being so stupid.”
Hichborn then called the “real” Overhead Door and told them what happened. “The girl at Overhead Door already knew exactly what had happened because a bunch of other people had also complained,” he says.
Making a List, Checking It Twice
But Hichborn didn’t let it end there. He began digging around, collecting the names of the other customers who had complained, and he called several of them, gathering all the key details. That’s when he called investigative reporter Mike McKnight of WOWT-TV, and that’s apparently where his story and the Vaskes’ story intersect.
Channel 6 collected five customers who had been burnt, and they were then interviewed on TV. Then, at the suggestion of reporter McKnight, Hichborn sent his list of names and details to the attorney general of Nebraska.
Hichborn thought nothing would ever come of it, but a couple of years later, he was surprised to get a check in the mail for the exact amount he had paid to the other door company. The check came from the attorney general. The Vaskes got a check, too, but for a lesser amount, only $314.
In each of these cases, the offending door company was Precision Door Service of Omaha, a franchisee of Precision Door Service (PDS) of Titusville, Fla. Ron Boyter,
operations manager for PDS corporate, says that the original owner of the Omaha franchise was terminated by PDS in 2002.
“The AG (attorney general) problem had a lot to do with that,” he added.
Later, in July 2003, Precision Door Service of Florida agreed to pay $2,611 to five consumers who had complained to the attorney general. PDS’s agreement with the attorney general also required Precision to not imply association with any business other than Precision. By all indications, it appears they’ve done so.
Overhead Door Responds
You’d think that Overhead Door Company of Omaha might be more upset than anyone. After all, it was this company that lost business in the scheme. But Rick Frank, general manager, has taken it all in stride.
“I don’t mind having competitors,” he says, “but don’t pass off your company as another company in town.”
He says that, today, the companies that are creating problems are non-Precision firms that spun off of the original Precision Door. Frank says that these spin-off companies continue to confuse consumers.
“Our firm is still confused with some of these companies,” says Frank. “We still have people calling us, thinking that we charged them $500 to $700 for some repair.”
“The consumer does not know how much repairs cost,” he explains. “When they get the bill, they’re either flabbergasted or too embarrassed to ask about it. But by that time, it’s too late.”
Overwhelmed With “Overhead”
At the heart of Hichborn’s and the Vaskes’ problems in 2001 was an ad that appeared to deliberately deceive consumers into thinking that they were dealing with Overhead Door. The problem continues, except that now, it’s on a larger scale.
At least three other companies in the Omaha market presently use “Overhead” prominently in their name: Overhead A-American Garage Door Repair, Overhead Garage Door Repair, and Overhead AAA Garage Door Repair.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has contacted “Overhead Garage Door Repair” for basic information, but the Bureau has not received a response. And, just like the offending (Precision) ad in 2001, the largest word on their full-page Yellow Book ad is “OVERHEAD.”
According to BBB records, this company also operates under the names of “A1 American Garage Door,” “Overhead AAA Garage Door Repair,” and “Garage Door Systems.” On Feb. 22, 2006, the BBB suspended Garage Door Systems’ membership for violation of BBB membership standards, citing “unanswered/unresolved complaints.”
The BBB has received 11 complaints for this company in the last 36 months. Based on our analysis of nationwide BBB statistics, 11 complaints is a high number for this size company in our industry.
As for Precision Door of Omaha, the firm seems to have experienced a significant transformation. Randall Ross, the company’s third owner since 2002, just bought the operation in March of 2006.
Ross says he has already spent considerable time researching certain competitors’ practices. Further, he says he has complained to the attorney general’s office about these competitors’ advertising practices and their numerous d/b/a’s that, he believes, deceive the public.
Unlike the Precision Door ad of 2001, Precision’s latest full-page ad in the Yellow Book no longer uses the word “Overhead” prominently. Ross has taken steps to make sure the ad is accurate and honest, and he has joined the Omaha Chamber, the BBB, and the International Door Association (IDA).
He believes that he has a great staff of techs who take good care of their customers. When possible, he says, he even helps customers fix problems over the phone, avoiding trip charges. “If there is a problem with work we performed,” he says, “we address the issue ‘no charge.’”
Omaha = America?
Omaha may be a small picture of a larger nationwide trend in the evolution of the garage door business in America. From 1999 to 2002, many cities around the country began seeing new garage door companies entering the market, led by large Yellow Pages ads and a focus on service work.
From 2002 to 2004, many dissatisfied customers began inciting negative attention from the media, Better Business Bureaus, and the law. Many of these early players dropped out or sold their businesses to others.
Between 2004 and 2006, some of these companies developed a conscience and began to clean up their acts. They eliminated deceptive information in their ads, trained their techs to do honest work and treat their customers like they would like to be treated.
Ron Boyter of Precision Door corporate, for example, says that, of the 17 original PDS franchisees, only two or three are left. “This is not the same company it was four or five years ago,” he adds.
However, some of the techs at these early companies left and started their own operations, continuing a tradition of using large misleading Yellow Pages ads to deceive customers, overcharging for service work, and doing repairs that were not needed.
What will happen from 2006 to 2008? In this writer’s opinion, it depends on the willingness and resolve of consumers and decent door companies to stand up and speak out. We encourage consumers and honest dealers to report deceptive activity to the news media, the BBB, and their state’s attorney general. This “Trouble in Omaha” story is a good example of how these avenues can be helpful and productive.
As someone once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
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