They say, “The pen is mightier than the sword“.
I say, metaphorically, “EN GUARDE!!“
Note: I am only writing this after 9 or 10 calls to Terminix and as a second to last ditch effort after 2 weeks of getting the run around. My attorney has advised me to file a police report and notify the local agency for aging in her county – which is the next step if this situation is not addressed by someone with authority in….24 to 48 hours. I would ask widest dissemination from my friends to get the word out to protect your elderly parents and grandparents against such companies and their vile tactics. This post is serving as a warning also with how to protect the elderly people in your life from scams like this.
Also note, I have never sued anyone, and don’t even leave bad Yelp reviews. Someone took a substantial amount of money from my grandmother and I am using all means I can to protect her.
At this point, I feel I have been ghosted by Terminix. In this piece, I’d like to detail some of the highlights for you. When you call Terminix, no matter what the level of importance, they promise a 24 to 48 hour response. Well, I think it’s important they understand this post will remain for 24 to 48 hours from the time they contact me about this no matter the resolution. And, with this, the hope is that this goes just a little viral and some business practices are changed with this.
Terminix – you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and provide me a number to call to resolve this.
On or about 3/13/2023, I called the Terminix number and asked for a FREE ESTIMATE for the house that my grandmother lives in. She is 96 in 6 weeks, and with this, her sharpness is going. She is extremely independent and still lives by herself.
About my grandmother – a quick run down the jury is going to hear to provide context as to how she was taken advantage of. She has had a hard life. First, growing up during the Great Depression, her mother died and she was farmed out, along with her brothers and sisters – and her little 1 year old sister was adopted out as her father was laid off from the coal mines and worked on the Pennsylvania turnpike project. Her best friend in the world, her 91 year old little sister, now has dementia and can’t really have a conversation with her. While I hate to bring this type of thing up, I’m trying to tell you about the hard life and terrible things this woman has suffered through that juries hear in cases like this. She lost my father in 2005 from cancer as well. She has no one, and has lived in her house for 70 years and wants no part of going anywhere. She is FIERCELY independent, but with this, comes people preying upon her from the rafters.
In 2005, I inherited the house, kind of, from my father. More accurately, I bought it off of my stepmother (was in a 3 year divorce process from my father) at a discount so my grandparents could live out their lives in some sort of peace.
This woman has been through a lot, and in her golden years, she has pinched and saved every dime she could. She wants her independence. With this, she also has an instinct to want to take care of me so when she moves at some point to Shady Pines, that she would have left me with a pristine house.
That instinct was preyed upon.
The FREE estimate went south
I had asked Terminix for that free estimate. I live an hour away from my grandmother and work 2.5 hours from her. My brother had lived 45 minutes from her, but in the last two years, moved to Nebraska with his husband. A neighbor that looked in on her just moved 2 months ago. She literally now has NO ONE.
So she was at home and let in the Terminix people. She wanted to pay for this service. It helps her still feel independent and not a burden on anyone. So given the distance and the convenience of her being there, I had called and set this up on her behalf at the house she was living at – a house I owned since 2005.
On Wednesday, March 15th, I called her in the evening to ask how the free estimate went. She told me the guy charged her $7400 for termite services. I lost my mind.
I called Terminix on that Weds night, livid. I spoke with some guy for like 10 minutes who understood my issue and was going to put me on hold while he escalated. I sat on hold for 20 minutes, and after that, the music stopped, and I was transferred to an “icer” – someone they send you to in order to make you go away. Stone cold wording. Zero empathy. Told her I needed a call from someone. Still pissed that 30 minutes of my life was vaporized by a customer service rep putting me on hold for 20 mins and then disappearing. That was odd. I learned this was the beginning of the horrors of their customer service.
The day after – Thursday the 16th
At this time, I had called Terminix 2 more times. Each time, a person seemed somewhat sympathetic and told me someone would call me. However, it would be 24-48 hours before I got a call. I tried understanding from my grandmom how she paid, and she kept saying “the credit union”. I was trying to see if this was a check or debit card, but she couldn’t even explain to me how she paid this guy. She was having problems telling me how she paid for it. I found out it was some sort of electronic situation and tried calling her credit union. Unfortunately – while I had a power of attorney, I would have to drive to Reading to go there in person and hand my PoA over to them for them to add it to my account. Still no call back from Terminix after 3 calls.
At this point, I started asking my friends about this – is this normal? I once had a termite treatment on a city house I owned and it was like $1200 and I was appalled at that cost. One of the managers who works for me used to do termite treatment and he went out of his mind. A close friend of mine whose father owned a termite business for 40 years said it was outrageous. I asked other property owners. I asked my property management company. I asked about 2 dozen people in all, and most said somewhere in a range of $800 at the low to $2400 at the high. Many of these people had regular interactions with these types of companies – so there were a wide variety of opinions, DEPENDING. OK. But even $2800 seemed as a giant rip off to them.
Friday – first escalated contact, meet Mitch
On Friday, I went to the credit union by her house and got my PoA added, but not before stopping by her house to review the documents. Big picture is I’m going to break this down into 3 main areas to keep this simple
- $2800 for bait traps, chemicals, services rendered for about 3 hours
- $1200 for two future services, about $600 each. You had 3 days to cancel. I had called Terminix again Friday AM because I was aware of this window.
- $3500 for “repairs” which were not documented and NO ONE could tell me what this entailed. The CSR on the phone wanted to try and put me in touch with the tech. It was a way to get them to get me to try and speak with someone who will quote things I know nothing about and try to tech me to death until I “understand”.
At this point, around 10AM on that Friday, I call Terminix now a 5th time, and while I’m on the phone, someone calls my GRANDMOTHER’S NUMBER, and not mine. It was a guy named “Mitch” from the Allentown office. He was a regional manager and it appears he called me about 37 hours after my first call to Terminix.
Mitch used the term “embarrassed” to describe the situation on his company’s behalf and we talked for roughly 20 minutes. He was EXTREMELY friendly, and understood my situation. He, also, could not account for the $3500 in “repairs”. Frankly, a company who has this model of operating like this against a 96 year old woman needs to have attention brought to this. I went through the bill with Mitch, and told him I did not want the 2 additional future services for $1200 and while I “understand” where on god’s earth they MIGHT somehow get to $2800 – even far above anyone’s estimate with about 2 dozen opinions, I was “ok” with her eating the $2800. This left approximately $4600 unaccounted for. Mind you, there was a single tech there for about 3 hours. The tech did NOT install a brand new HVAC system. In fact, no one from the company can tell me what he actually did for that $3500 and they could not itemize the parts used to account for this service.
Mitch was VERY amenable to my $4600 refund request, given back to her. He gave me his direct number. He told me he would need until Monday or Tuesday to run this up the chain. OK. I now have electronic access to her accounts and as of this writing, they have not refunded her the $4600 and they even haven’t reversed the 2 future treatments that I explicitly told them to cancel and refund – which was part of the $4600 number.
Tick…tock – and the ghosting started
Monday and Tuesday passed with no call from Mitch. On Wednesday the 22nd, I tried to call Mitch. I got his voice mail and left a polite message. A few minutes later, he called me back – “this wasn’t taken care of yet? Someone was going to reach out and…I thought this was taken care of. Let me talk to a guy and I’ll get back to you by the end of the day”. That was a week ago, today. No call from Mitch. Mitch could be in Hawaii with his loving family for all I know. He could be caring for a sick child. I have empathy to a situation where a Mitch of the world doesn’t get back to you, but Mitch would have a “Bob” to take care of things in his absence, right? Apparently not.
On Thursday the 23rd, I left a polite follow up for Mitch.
On Friday the 24th, I left a polite follow up to Mitch.
On Friday, I called Terminix main number to try and get some sort of escalation – best I can recall.
On Monday the 27th, I called Terminix main number again and told the whole story to the 7th person in their organization. It seems each person I talk to have zero knowledge about my issue and act surprised.
On Tuesday the 28th, I called on my way to work. Talked to a CSR for 10 minutes and explained to the 8th person in the org. She was going to call Mitch and conference him in directly so we could get to the bottom of it. Then, 5 minutes later, the call dropped. No call back from them trying to re-connect me. Did she screw up the conference call? Or was she told to cut off the call? Did her supervisor press a “nuke” button to cut her off?
I called yet again, this time to try and get patched in with the CSR I was just talking to. I had to explain the story again, from the ground up. As I’m talking, the phone call drops, again, about 10 minutes into the call. Like I was hung up on. That’s it. They had their chances. By my accounts, I’m 2 weeks in and no closer to getting $4600 of my grandmother’s money back.
The only rational explanation I have, at this time, is Mitch tried to push for this to happen and someone above made a calculated bet that the services performed were “legit”. They figured that if we just draw this out over time, that it would go away. Everyone I have talked to, understands the optics with this. The one CSR got into a form of debate with me. She was like, “the tech thought it was her house. She can sign a legal contract”. Then, I said, “the service I asked for was a FREE ESTIMATE”. This seems to stop them every time, and the CSRs I’m talking to most sound sympathetic and put notes for escalation, it seems.
But their model apparently keeps pushing me to the same regional office in Allentown with Mitch I talked to on Friday the 17th. No one seems able to take this to a higher level than Mitch, and if they did, they calculated poorly that I would go away.
It appears to me that they are now ready for me to follow through with my threats. I BEGGED them to help me.
Now, I’m going on the offensive.
What to do?
Usually when customers complain like this, there’s a sliding scale of probability. The BET here is that a few things won’t happen….
- He will not hire an attorney and file a lawsuit
- He will give up because he is not getting the answers he wants
- He will lose because it is a valid contract signed between two consenting parties
- He has no reach to get his message out to do any kind of damage that would cost us more than the $4600 we pocketed.
- He will not call the police and file a police report
This is a 47 year old man trying to protect his 96 year old grandmother from people coming in and fleecing her. I had heard about a contractor that came in 5 years ago and charged her $8000 to help with the water in the basement. Today, you can take a pencil and poke holes in the concrete put up. I will have to pay to get this redone. But I didn’t know about this issue until a year after it happened. She was embarrassed. I have since this Terminix thing, asked her for ANY charge over a few hundred dollars from someone to please call me so I can talk with them. She has handymen coming for small charges rather routinely, and these guys have treated my grandmom great.
I was NOT expecting a FREE ESTIMATE to drain $7400 from her account. Furthermore, I was not expecting Terminix to have this kind of atrocious customer service. I was NOT expecting a regional manager who said all of the right things to ghost me – probably at the behest of his superiors.
As soon as this gets posted on Twitter and facebook, with their handle being tagged, of course, my next move is to file a police report with the City of Reading.
I’m also filing a report here: https://www.attorneygeneral.gov/protect-yourself/seniors/
I will give them….24 to 48 hours to make her whole, as my next step is to file a lawsuit and get my TV buddies involved.
Also I think this is a great stock idea for me to explore right now. Short them as a company like into a coming recession as people want to tighten up the wallets, perhaps expensive termite services might be something people cut back on. It is possible that if we are expecting all of this negative press about to happen over the next two weeks it has a potential to hurt their stock price. Perhaps I can make her whole by buying puts today to see if I can get her money back using their bad image against them? Gee – if I only had a few hundred FinTwit friends following me that could amplify this?
Note – this is NOT trading advice. DO NOT follow this trading advice. Speak to your financial advisor.
I know puts for me today is on the table.
This post might eventually come down. Might. But this is also the facts as best I recall for my deposition so I can record all of the information I have right now to preserve this for the future.
I have BEGGED Terminix to make her whole. They seemed amenable to a $4600 truce to be credited back to her.
Note – I have NEVER sued anyone in my life. THIS IS NOT what I wanted. But when you sell $7400 worth of termite services to a 96 year old woman when her grandson was asking for a FREE ESTIMATE, you understand there may be consequences to that business model.
What are those puts looking like?
Tick….tock Terminix. Your move.
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