Metal Building Scams – The Metal Building Telemarketer
Every industry has the the good, the bad, and the ugly and the pre-engineered metal building industry is certainly no exception. With nearly two decades in business, we can attest to the fact that there are many honest and reputable steel building companies that are true construction industry professionals. Unfortunately, there is also a telemarketing group of metal building companies that we refer to as "telegangsters" who give our industry a bad reputation.
Metal building scams are usually perpetrated by the metal building telemarketers who use high-pressure sales techniques, deceptively low prices, and false promises to obtain a non-refundable deposit from gullible and unsuspecting customers. Providing any level of customer service and, in many cases, even delivering the building itself, is often not their primary concern.
The intent of this blog article is to share some tips that will help you avoid metal building scams and choose the right metal building supplier for your project.
Tip 1 Check the address
Metal building telemarketers generally prefer to hide their physical location. When visiting a company's website, forget the pictures of completed metal building projects, fancy graphics, videos, and website window-dressing and look for a "Contact Us" page that contains a real street address and a local phone number listed on it. If you can't find one, that is a red flag. Why would a legitimate company looking to earn your business not have their office address listed clearly on their website?
If a street address is listed on a company's website, look it up on Google Maps and make sure the location seems like a legitimate place of business and not a mailbox store in a strip-mall. Also, Google the street address to see what other businesses are listed at the same address. A single address with multiple metal building companies listed at it is another red-flag as it's likely they are all the same company and simply changing their name regularly to stay one-step-ahead of either disgruntled customers or their states Attorney General trying to put an end to metal building scams.
Tip 3 You can't hide from Google
Search the internet for the name of the company and carefully review the results - and not just the top 3-4 results - but at least browse the first 3-4 pages of results returned. Also, don't simply Google the name of the company, but do several searches using the name of the company followed by the words: complaint, ripoff, lawsuit, attorney general, and any other term you think relevant.
While most companies have at least some internet reviews, carefully study them and keep in mind that online reviews can not really be verified as to accuracy or even who made them. Be very careful of any company that seems to have all positive reviews. A company that has been around for a long time and has thousands of projects under their belt is going to have a few that didn't meet the customers' expectations and possibly a few bad reviews as a result. Don't focus on any one or two reviews for a company, instead focus on the general pattern of reviews when reading them combined with the results of the initial internet search results.
Tip 2 Check the business license
All states license the businesses which are incorporated in them and most states have websites where you can easily verify the status of a company's business license. Always check to make sure that any metal building company you are considering working with has a current license in good standing from the state they are headquartered in.
Additionally, a business license search will also provide you with how long the company has been in business. Would a "lifetime" warranty be worth much from a company that has only been in business for only a few years? Probably not.
While metal building telemarketers can exist anywhere, it has been our experience that they tend to be located in the states of Colorado and Florida (which is particularly offensive to us as Florida is our home state and we work very hard to serve our fellow Floridians). Below are links to both the Florida and Colorado business license search pages:
Florida: Division of Corporations
Colorado: Secretary of State
Tip 4 Listen to the pitch
The most common pitch used by the metal building telemarketers is the "cancelled order" pitch. Using this pitch, you'll be told that the company just happens to have another customer who had a nearly identical building to the one you are looking for and they "cancelled" their order so it can be yours at a discount if you act quickly. The reasons why this pitch is so absurd could be an entire blog article in-and-of-itself.
Another common pitch (or tactic) of the steel building telemarketer is a bit more subtle and revolves around making promises they can't (or won't be able to) keep. Often this is in the form of a very low price (that you'll be required to "lock in" by placing a deposit quickly) or in providing a very quick delivery time. This tactic works well because people are gullible and will always embrace what they WANT to hear and generally reject the truth. Additionally, customers with no metal building or construction experience tend to shop on price alone and this is a sure-fire way to get taken advantage of by the metal building telemarketers. In the end, after a Sales Contract is signed and non-refundable deposit sent in, the customer will be presented with the truth (and it it usually hurts).
True Stories from the Front-Lines
Revoked business license
A California General Contractor (yes, even General Contractors fall for steel building scams!) called us looking for a 911-rush building for a project they were working on. They had ordered a building from another steel building supplier (we knew them to be Florida-based metal building telemarketers) about 4 months prior - had not yet received the engineering for the building or foundation – and could not get a straight answer out of the supplier as to the status of the project. To make things worse, the General Contractor was under a contractual deadline to have the project completed in about a month or face a daily financial penalty. If prior to placing the order, the General Contractor had taken five minutes to look up the business license of the steel building supplier they chose to work with, they would have found out that the companies business license was REVOKED by the State of Florida – FOUR YEARS PRIOR!
Suspiciously small deposit
A small North Carolina manufacturing company contacted us recently looking for some information on metal building delivery times. Upon further discussion, they shared with us that they had purchased a building from another metal building supplier (one we knew to have a questionable past) over a month ago and that the metal building supplier was now telling them that they could not deliver their building for another 8 months! With industry-wide delivery times currently at about 3-4 months, we were suspicious of the long lead time. The company then shared with us that they had only been required to put a very small 8% deposit down and the balance due upon delivery. Metal building scams can sometimes be subtle. A reasonable question to consider is with only an 8% deposit required, was the intention of the metal building supplier to simply take the deposit or was it to ultimately supply and delivery a metal building?