I was pointed to an article in the Daily Mail (I don’t read it myself) by a Twitter follower on Thursday evening which described how two roofing company directors had been jailed for two and a half years each for using manipulative sales techniques.
“Inflated reference price”
I won’t post the whole article on here, you can click here to view it in full if you wish. But, from these snippets from the Daily Mail article, how much of this sounds familiar to us guys in the window and door sector?
Sarah Beadle, 40, and her co-director Martin Evans, 58, gave workers a ‘how to’ training manual detailing manipulative sales techniques.
Salesmen first showed customers a hugely inflated reference price. They then said they could offer them a one-off bargain that was available for one day only, but still cost far more than it should have done.
The firm then inserted a confidentiality clause into the contract aimed at keeping the deal secret from a victim’s loved ones and neighbours.
So, prices raised way up then dropped back down for a limited time only. Sounds very double glazing to me. The article goes on…
During their four-year investigation into the firm between 2011 and 2014, officers found a training guide called ‘The 14 Steps to a Sale’.
A court heard the manual acted as a step-by-step guide for staff to dupe victims into believing they were receiving substantial discounts when they were in fact pressuring them into vastly overpriced sales.
In one case, a pensioner paid more than £20,000 – including interest on a loan he could not afford – for guttering that could have been repaired for just £40.
Fairly sure that most large companies employing such tactics have these sorts of manuals and training sessions. It’s the praying on vulnerable pensioners that is most frustrating. Unfortunately, it’s not shocking any more. We hear all too regularly about elderly people being taken advantage of by rogue companies. Despite the various laws, it’s something that seems it will continue forever, no matter what we do.
Prosecutor Mark Jackson told the court the swindle, which was set out in the scripted 14 step guide, involved establishing an inflated reference price.
After a pitch lasting up to six hours and a call to a sales manager, customers would then always qualify for a ‘grade A subsidy’ as long as they agreed to take part in a fake marketing promotion.
The firm then inserted a confidentiality clause into the contract to keeping the deal secret from a victim’s loved ones and neighbours.
During the trial, the jury heard dementia suffer Betty Tipper, 86, was sold windows and guttering to replace products installed just four years earlier.
The company continued to harass the pensioner despite her son John cancelling the orders and telling them both by letter and orally not to contact his mother.
This sounds like a carbon copy of the sales techniques used by many of the national and large regional businesses. There have been one or two people comment on DGB in recent weeks defending these sorts of sales tactics in the glazing industry. The drop closes. The ridiculous pricing structures. The sign on the night culture. Well, I’m afraid you’re wrong. This has to stop. I’m happy to see these people have been taken to task over their manipulation, and I’m pretty sure there are plenty of window companies who should now be starting to feel a tad uncomfortable.
But, after passing this sentence, I think the judge may have set a new precedent. Could the ruling now deem that inflated pricing structures are now illegal?
A new precedent
Think about it. If a judge has jailed two people for manipulating customers, and their manipulation was aided by using inflated pricing structures and temporary false discounts, is this now illegal? Perhaps.
Although not against the law, I think it could open the door for companies who use similar tactics to be taken to court for using such methods. It would have to be proved, but I guess it won’t take much to prove it.
For me, this is very good news. It’s satisfying to see karma coming round and biting these kinds of people on the backside. I just hope that this story gains traction and puts pressure on our industry and all others who use these methods to stop them.
If you’re working at a company and worried about the sales methods being used at your company, I would like to hear from you. Please leave your thoughts and comments, anonymously, via the comments section below.