No leis for summer sales in Hawaii

 - 
06/16/2011

Don’t let their Hawaiian shirts fool you. Despite their casual attire, members of the Hawaii Burglar and Fire Alarm Association were all business in a recent roundtable discussion with a Honolulu TV station as they voiced concerns that mainland security companies going door-to-door in the islands this summer are using deceptive sales practices.

While news reports frequently cite authorities in mainland states complaining about the sales tactics of out-of-state summer-sales-model companies, it’s unusual to see the issue being highlighted in Hawaii. I’ve got a call in to the Hawaii association to learn more about the problem there and what the association is trying to do about it, but Hawaii is six hours earlier than we are here in Maine so haven’t heard back yet.

Here’s more from the KHON2 TV news report, which doesn't name the specific companies allegedly using deceptive practices:

“They will represent themselves as being from a local company and that they’re there to upgrade your system, which can't possibly be the truth,” said Mary Paulson, an official with Security One and vice-president of the local alarm company trade association.

In May Hawaii’s Better Business Bureau received 844 inquiries about alarm companies doing business within the state.  Many of the inquiries were tied to door-to-door sales.

BBB spokesman Timothy Caminos told Khon2 there have also been complaints about high pressure sales pitches and deceptive practices.

“They promise a lot of things but they won't leave a simple thing like a business card,” said Caminos.  “There are complaints that do allege that the companies mislead the consumers.”

Paulson said one of the most common practices for fly-by-night companies is to deceive potential customers about the length of alarm monitoring contracts.

“I've had a customer that they told them six months, but it turned out to be a sixty month agreement,” said Paulson.  “It wasn't until that they read their contract that they realized what they were really getting into.”

HBFA members also claim some mainland companies mislead customers into thinking the salesperson that arrives at the door works for a local alarm firm.

Some residents of Olomana in Kailua experienced the high pressured sales tactics first hand.  Bob Brown and Pat Patterson of Ululani Street were approached by a salesman last month around 8:30 at night.

“It was like, ‘Do you care about your family?’  You know he tried to play on any little paranoia,” said Brown.

“He couldn't produce a business card,” added Patterson.  “Basically he was telling me it was free, it was a free system (and) that all I had to do was put a sign in my front yard and tell my neighbors or whoever inquired about it.”

 The story also also said the local firms say they have found instances of “shoddy workmanship” when it comes to installation. They contend the mainland technicians are untrained and some may not have had criminal background checks.