As spring unfolds, the air is filled with buzzing insects and homeowners begin to think about pest control. Unfortunately, spring is also the time when another sort of pest emerges – companies that take advantage of genuine concerns about critters and lock clients into unethical contracts.
“There are so many people going around right now, knocking on doors,” says Steve Venables, owner of Venables Pest Management. “They tell people they have spiders, and coincidentally, there’s a truck available that could service the home today. But the fine print in the contract commits them to an ongoing program where they still have to pay 75 percent of the balance if they cancel, even if they’re not getting the service. It’s free money for those companies.”
Venables brings a science background to pest control, and his company practices a method called Integrated Pest Management. “Our treatments are solution-based rather than application-based,” he explains. “We use a minimal amount and the most environmentally friendly products possible that are still effective.”
Over time he’s seen an increase in the number of companies vying for clients within Thurston County, in some cases to their own, sole advantage. Within the building industry, the state Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) provides guidelines for what consumers should look for in a contractor, but no similar guide exists for pest control. Here, Venables offers advice for how to make informed hiring decisions based on his more than 30 years in the pest management field.
- Estimates should be free. Most pest control companies will provide estimates at no charge except for in cases of real estate transfers, which involve required documentation. “It’s similar to visiting an attorney’s office to ask some questions,” says Venables. “Usually they’ll sit down and talk with you at no charge, and the pest control business is the same.”
Licenses matter. All pest control applicators are required by law to hold a license from the Washington State Department of Agriculture. Make sure that both the company and the person doing the work are properly licensed, Venables advises. A quick search of the DOA website should yield licensing information about the company.
- Read contracts carefully. Make sure there is no penalty or ongoing fee for canceling the service and that you fully understand what you’re signing up for.
- There should be no time pressure. Any reputable company will allow time for clients to thoroughly read their contract and understand what’s in it. “It’s almost always to the consumer’s advantage to sit on making a decision,” says Venables. “Don’t allow yourself to get a pen forced into your hand and get coerced into some kind of a ‘great deal if you sign today’. You should be able to digest that information and think about it.”
- Local companies tend to be more responsive and invest in communities. Businesses with headquarters based in the region are better situated to respond to urgent needs than those based out of town or in another state. “Local companies also typically will put money back into their communities,” says Venables. “For example, we donate to several local schools, Thurston County 4-H, the United Way, the Senior Action Network, Nature Nurture Farms and Concern for Animals.”
- Get references and/or look at reviews. “It’s important to seek out friends, family members and co-workers to see what kind of services they use,” says Venables. “Can the company provide local references? Look at online reviews and ratings.”
Get a diagnosis of any pest control issues. Once they’ve conducted an initial assessment, pest control company representatives should be able to fully explain exactly where any problems are located on a graph of your house or property. “You should be fully informed about your particular problem and understand the diagnosis before you move on to any kind of solution,” says Venables. “It’s fine to get a second or even a third opinion.”
- Pay only after the service has been performed. As with any service industry work, it’s standard to pay at the time the service is completed and the consumer is happy with it. “If a person requires money before the service is performed, that’s a red flag,” Venables advises.
Bearing these criteria in mind can help when it comes to making decisions about who to hire. “There are a lot of really good people doing good pest control work in Thurston County, but there is also a lot of fraudulent activity,” he maintains. “A conscientious consumer will do their research and ask a lot of questions. Don’t consider the fact that a person who comes to your door is nice as an indicator of what they can do for you.”
To learn more about Venables Pest Management, visit the Venables Pest Management website or call 360-456-4999.