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Who you should buy security from

Discussion in 'Security Alarms' started by Tyler Halbrooks, Feb 27, 2004.

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  1. Confused about which panel to buy and who to deal with ?

    There can be a great deal of information to deal with after getting several
    quotes from suppliers! Remember, in Ontario, unlike every other province in
    Canada, or state in the USA, this is a totally unregulated market !! There
    are no regulations governing who can operate a security business, so just
    about anything goes !! It is very much a "buyer beware" market....

    Following are some guidelines to help you wade through the mess of
    conflicting facts and pricing schemes:

    1- Before you even start your shopping, you should have make a basic
    decision as to HOW you wish to purchase; then investigate within the ranks
    of those companies who's business model mirrors that pricing structure. For
    example, the two extremes in the marketplace are:

    Nothing down up front ("free system") **, megabucks a month in excess of
    $30 per month under a long term non-cancelable contract for from 2 to 5
    years, usually minimal equipment coverage without extra upfront costs, extra
    cost warranty and service in many cases. Note that in most cases, after the
    initial term of the contract has expired, the high monthly price remains. At
    that point, you may wish to shop for a small or medium dealer who will
    "takeover" your future monitoring, service and warranty requirements at
    significantly lower cost to you.
    Full but fair price up front for a complete system, monthly contract only
    at minimal price, including free service, 100% warranty, monthly term only,
    and a 5 year rate guarantee. This can be the least expensive way to buy over
    the long term. However, it is not reasonable to expect major up front cost
    breaks on the equipment when buying this way. Anyone doing so is probably
    just entering the market, and is "buying" your account at a loss, hoping for
    your ongoing monitoring business over the longer term.

    Most alarm companies market within the middle ground, including a contract
    term of some length for monitoring services, and with or without no cost
    after sales service and warranty. Here you must shop around, since prices
    vary all over the map !!

    ** "Zero down" systems are a perfectly legitimate way to buy any product.
    However, alarm companies that advertise "free systems" are being deceptive;
    this is basically a dishonest way to market, and should always put any
    potential buyer on high alert.....

    Caution: Do not believe the line handed out by large companies (mass
    marketers and others) that no one except small unstable dealers will market
    services without a long term contract. This is simply their way of
    justifying maintaining a decidedly "consumer unfriendly" status quo !!

    Remember the one rule of thumb in this and any other business...." You only
    get what you pay for" !!

    2- Do not buy on price alone. The lowest price is not always the truly
    lowest price over the long term. You must compare costs over a five year
    period based on initial cost, cost of monitoring, cost of service calls, and
    cost of warranty. If you do decide on the "zero down" option, know
    beforehand exactly what you are locking into by way of total cost, service,
    and contract length (you should always ask about your options for early
    termination of the contract - this can be quite an eye opener !!) While
    price is always a major consideration, too much preoccupation with price
    alone can blind you to other equally important concerns. Again, I emphasize,
    understand fully what you are locking in to, and what your commitments are
    !!!!!

    3- Do not allow yourself to be locked into a monitoring contract in excess
    of one year if purchasing your system outright. Remember, a contract does
    not in any way serve your interests, and is there solely to protect the
    dealer's revenue stream. The argument that it guarantees you long term price
    stability is just not so with most alarm company contracts. A contract
    length of one year is more than sufficient to ensure longevity of service
    from a dealer perspective. You WILL have to shop around though to find a
    more progressive company that does not lock you in to a term contract of
    some length.

    4- Shop for your dealer with the same care you shop for your system. Look
    very closely at the person or firm you are dealing with. Will they be here
    tomorrow when you need service (this is especially important here in the
    Ottawa area, where people enter and leave this business on a monthly basis).
    These amateur "trunk slammers" are responsible for a lot of poorly installed
    systems purchased by people too quick to purchase on price only. My partner
    and I often comment on how we rarely see the same faces at distributor
    sponsored events from month to month). The smaller the dealer, the more you
    should examine his qualifications to do the job, ie: number of accounts,
    years in business, backup service capabilities etc. Remember, there is
    currently no licensing requirements or background check required to set up a
    security business in Ontario.

    On the other hand, dealing with a large corporation guarantees you very
    little as a consumer, other than most certainly costing you more, with
    generally a far less personal level of service, and having to sign a binding
    contract which can and often does get sold as these larger corporations
    swallow each other up (ADT recently purchased the assets of Honeywell, and
    now SecurityLink....)

    5- Be just as careful dealing with large companies as you would in dealing
    with smaller companies - maybe more so !! Often, being a large corporation,
    they can not or will not be as flexible on price or unique requirements that
    you may need or ask for. This seems to come about due to a certain level of
    "institutionalized bureaucratic stupidity" ingrained in most large
    corporations today!! Often too, that dealer who represents himself as the
    large national is in fact an independant dealer linked to the national
    through an un-monitored "authorized dealer program", and who sells that
    account to the large national, largely bowing out of any further involvement
    in after sales service (ADT and Voxcom are two mass marketers who operate
    dealer programs)

    While I admit my bias in this respect, I happen to personally believe that
    the best providers of residential security are usually small to medium sized
    companies. Large companies excel in large industrial security applications.

    If purchasing one of these so called "free" systems, you will be
    contractually bound for from $30 per month to as high as $50 per month for a
    period of time. If at the end of the contract period, you do not request
    your fee to go down to pay just for the monitoring (now that you have
    finished financing the system), they will leave your monthly payments at the
    higher level. The ethics of this situation I will not bother to comment on
    !!.... At this point, shop around for monitoring from another source and do
    not pay more than $20 monthly (monthly term contract).

    6- Don't pay much attention to companies telling you how their panel is
    better than everyone else's. In this industry, every installer / company has
    a panel which they prefer and in their mind, everyone else's choices are
    poorer. At security get togethers, this is always a point of lively
    discussion!! As long as you are buying professional equipment, and it serves
    your current and projected needs, all will serve your basic security
    requirements (DSC, Paradox, Ademco, Napco, Caddyx, ITI, FBI, Linear,
    Europlex, to name a few common makes - Radio Shack and Home Depot systems do
    NOT qualify as professional grade equipment!)

    7- Choose a hardwired alarm system over a wireless system. Although wireless
    systems have come a long way over the last few years, they remain generally
    more prone to problems and false than a hardwired system of equal quality.
    They are also considerably more expensive. Some difficult locations may
    truly require wireless components, but the usual reason a company recommends
    wireless is because of the decrease in labour costs involved in not having
    to run wiring. This allows them to put in two systems a day rather than one,
    thereby generating more monthly recurring monitoring revenue. As well, it
    doesn't require qualified installers to complete. Mass market companies
    heavily into the "free system" sales concept often specialize in wireless
    equipment.

    8- Follow your gut instincts about the person or company you are dealing
    with. Do they seem honest in their sales approach to you, or do they exert
    high pressure to close the sale. Be especially careful dealing with a pure
    salesman who is not himself going to be involved with the actual
    installation- they can be tempted to say things to win your business which
    may not be accurate or possible to do. Many "security consultants"
    (translation - sales staff) are short term in this business (especially with
    the mass marketing companies out to sell long term contracts), and may not
    be fully knowledgeable about security specifics and alarm system design.
    (Doing sub-contract work for large firms, we experience by far the greatest
    problems when going in behind a salesperson who has promised impossible
    things in order to close the sale, and we then must break the unhappy news
    as to what realistically can and should be done).

    9- Ask your friends for their experiences with their alarm companies. Did
    they come when service was required ? Did the service cost money, and if so,
    was the price reasonable? Did the company clean up after themselves? Smart
    alarm companies know that word of mouth is the very best advertising for
    security services. However, use that as a starting point only, but make your
    own decision. Most people (provided they haven't experienced problems) will
    wax eloquently about their choice of firms. To do otherwise is against human
    nature!

    10- Ask about the company's "false alarm policies". Reputable companies who
    care about their reputation will gladly pick up false alarm fees assessed
    due to failure of the actual equipment.

    11- Discuss up front any special requirements you need to ensure your new
    panel has that capability. While you may initially purchase for reasons of
    theft prevention, you may later decide to add to the system to cover fire,
    heat, cold, gas detection etc. Avoid installing a panel which is at capacity
    from day one. Leave yourself room (at least one zone) to add on additional
    requirements which you may need in the future.

    12- Insist that your company check all internal software settings via
    upload/download software after installation. Surprisingly, most companies do
    not check their panels via upload/download software !!!.....(Even being as
    careful as I am, I still make "finger trouble" programming mistakes in one
    out of five installations, which need corrective action via uploading). Also
    look for a company which programs in "cancel codes" and "recent close codes"
    for your protection against false dispatches which can cost you money.

    13- When you make your final decision, don't put any money down up front.
    That should never be required since the equipment costs are not in the same
    league as a furnace or air conditioner !! Smaller firms that do this are
    generally running their business on a shoestring budget, and this can be an
    indication of the level of service you can expect later on.

    14- Discuss the design of your system with several companies and look for a
    design which covers all traffic areas inside the home. For example, one
    medium sized company in this area typically installs no motion detectors,
    relying solely on glass break detectors to provide inside protection. This
    is clearly defective design in that should the burglar pry open a window
    rather than break it - far more likely with heavy modern double pane
    windows - there is absolutely no protection whatsoever.

    15- Insist on a guarantee that the equipment you are purchasing is not
    "proprietary" and can be monitored by any other company. Many larger
    companies especially are guilty of installing this type of equipment to
    prevent you from leaving them in the future. Insist that after the term of
    any contract, should you wish to go elsewhere for your monitoring, that:

    1- Your alarm panel can be serviced by any other monitoring station, and

    2- At no cost to you, the company will reset your installers code back to
    factory default, and unlock the board so it can be reprogrammed (this is
    vital - and get it in writing as part of any contract)

    16- NEVER sign any contract on the spot. Sit down and compare the three
    price quotes you obtained, and make your decision in the "calm light of
    day". You will likely be with this company for some time, so make the
    correct decision up front.

    And finally, one last word of caution - any salesman that insists that:

    a- The deal is "only good for so long", and that you "must make a decision
    now"

    ........or........

    b - You should sign up for his deal immediately because "there have been a
    lot of robberies on your street", etc should be shown the door in short
    order !!

    Most importantly, remember that your alarm system can not be effective
    unless you have done the physical security updates needed first to keep
    thieves out to begin with - good locks, good strikes, patio door security,
    and window bars for all your basement windows (sorry... I feel I have to add
    this again because it IS every bit as important as your alarm system
     
  2. anomynous

    anomynous Guest

    or just flash the salesperson and you might get a free lawn sign ;)
     
  3. RH.Campbell

    RH.Campbell Guest

    Sir, while I don't mind your posting word for word one of the pages of my
    website on the newsgroup, I certainly think it would be proper etiquette of
    you to give a reference to its source !

    R.H.Campbell
    Home Security Metal Products
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    www.homemetal.com
     
  4. No I didn't give reference to where I got this info nor did I take credit
    for it. I find interesting material such as this and I find it to be correct
    and beneficial to anyone that comes in contact with it. I do however find
    that on this web site to be one of the most truthful and beneficial models
    of how we as an industry should conduct our selves. I proudly recommend that
    all that are curious take a look. Mr. Cambell my hat is off to you. Thank
    you for your contribution in the industry. I meant no disrespect
     
  5. RH.Campbell

    RH.Campbell Guest

    Sheesh !......I guess I'm doomed to carry that baggage around forever on
    this newsgroup....

    RHC
     
  6. RH.Campbell

    RH.Campbell Guest

    None taken sir !! Nor did I mean to make much of it. And thank you for your
    kind words...

    RHC


    Thank you for your contribution in the industry. I meant no disrespect
     
  7. Jackcsg

    Jackcsg Guest

    I'm assuming you've "Mastered" the Residential Security Market. Good for
    you. Some of your points are valid, some are not. But since you decided to
    make a blanket statement covering what you perceive as legitimate, you
    prejudge consumers to be idiots. Too much information can be just as
    damaging as not enough.

    Anything you buy is a "buyers beware" market, if your personally paying for
    it.
    There is no such thing as a free system. National Averages here in the US
    place Residential Systems at an $800.00 per system average install. Nation
    wide averages of all security systems at $ 1,600.00.
    Low Ball pricing makes the package worth investigating. And a Sales
    appointment of "opportunity" available. You assume consumers are cheap. This
    tactic confirms that a vast majority of "Residential" consumers are looking
    for the best deal.
    Most security companies, much like most businesses "Must" earn money to be
    around in the long term. The term "free service", 100% Warranty, monthly
    term only, 5 year rate guarantee, is much like a "Political" campainge,
    people will believe you before the system goes in, but as your expenses to
    run your business grows, you've just created limitations that will
    ultimately prevent it. Large companies can afford to sustain losses in
    attrition, or during the infancy of a contract, but if your smaller, that
    kind of thinking will ultimately put you out of business.
    Which you probably can't offer, because you traveled across any map. Most
    companies will have a Warranty on the system. Is it free for the life of the
    system? No, reality check, again most businesses are in business to make
    money, and provide a good value of service.
    Agreed. Unfortunately most people deal with other people on the lines of
    faith, that the person will be honest. People get take advantage of through
    their own nieve patterns. It doeesn't make it right, but large companies use
    "name recognition" to justify it.

    If there was a "French" translation, I missed it.
    Five years? Most electronic systems typically will last 15 to 20 years.
    Unless your security system is being mounted on a shelf, think longer term.
    While I understand your personal views, contractual agreements protect both
    parties in writing. If you have ever, as an alarm professional, sat down
    with an attourney while composing one, you might acually know this. Alarm
    companies are not insurance agents, no does, or should any company (other
    than an insurance company) offer it. This is the part that confuses most
    consumers. It's not insurance...it's assurance. Having no contract can be
    far detrimental in the even of failures.
    Agreed. Business is an art, but not all artists can survive.
    That's often the nature of business. Some guys like to retire earlier than
    others. While others linger.
    In the Majority no. There are isolated cases where this can be true. While a
    small dealer can handle the $1,000.00 install, the often lack the capital to
    aquire the $100,000.00 system. I know your talking residential here, but
    some people do actually own businesses, who live in homes.
    applications.

    Good companies are diverse in both. It's part of the industry. The
    seperation comes from dealers who think they have to be cheap to compete.
    They feel consumers are cheap. They through away the actual value of their
    services. There's nothing wrong with the personal touch, don't take this the
    wrong way. Some dealers are happy in their ways, and growth is not an issue.
    Some consumers choose this road as opposed to a high intial cash outlay.
    Some businesses choose to do things that way for tax purposes.
    Like businesses, Manufacturers provide niches. Whether or not a panel is or
    isn't better has little to do with the approach. Dealers that know their
    products and the industry trends, are the ones who excel. You can spend 20
    years doing something wrong. This industry is a prime example.
    With that statement you should say "don't buy a system from a dealer that
    offers any equipment where you can buy the same equipment on the internet
    with a credit card", as they are probably NOT factory trained on the product
    they represent, or the Manufacturer is only driven by actual sales numbers.
    That would wipe out ALL the equipment Manufacturers you listed above.
    Wireless systems are just as effective, but can also be mis-abused. Every
    application requires a determining factor for it's success.
    Salespeople, without them there would be no creativity. Agreed
    You should have started, and ended with # 9. It would have saved me a shit
    load of typing!
    98% of all alarms are false. Find a company that is the oposite. I have one.
    Backward and Forward compatibility would be nice. But then you would only be
    limited to one Manufacturer.
    Hopefully, when hiring a professional company, this never comes to play. But
    I have seen it happen.
    There I disagree. If your a cheap ass consumer looking for the cheapest
    price...you just found a company running on a shoe-string budget. Most
    companies will require money down. I would never do business without it.
    Hopefully a consumer is smart enough to have the proposal in writting laying
    out the commitments of both parties, including services rendered.
    Discussing system design is a poor lack of judgement here.
    Guilty? You should have an Internet site selling alarms, you would go far...
    Hopefully another dealer, not a Monitoring Center.
    Don't get me started on that issue again.
    That's reserved for car salesmen.
    That's reserved for ex-police officers in the alarm industry.
    That should have been your opening statement. It all starts with risk
    management, which you as a professional, deem it to be the last. Sad.

    Jack
     
  8. RH.Campbell

    RH.Campbell Guest

    Pretty damn soon I think ! My son is now doing all my installs, and I only
    go in befiore and after the fact to check things out, test the system,
    paperwork, training, decals etc. I actually have time during the days now
    for all the paperwork and assorted chores of running the business rather
    than having to do that at night. Most important, it allows me to be very
    prompt on the few service calls I do get ! These days, the only real
    physical work I do is the takeovers where things have to be cleaned up
    before they go on line. It's a nice but unusual feeling to actually have
    time for myself and my wife. My son has good quality employment; I keep the
    business growing, and he learns things so that one day he can (hopefully)
    take over the business. Plus my customers have the assurance they won't get
    sold out to the Borg !! (....that'll be a "Frosty Friday in Hell" before
    that happens....)

    I've also once again opened up my business to take on certain types of DIY
    customers in the Ottawa area. And I'll see how that goes !!

    Now I'm going to start looking at taking some real vacation time. I have a
    buddy who owns a home not far from Sarasota. He's always bugging me to come
    down for a month or two in the winter. Once I'm comfortable that things will
    run according to my standards, I'm (as the saying goes)..."outa
    here"....hmmm....guess I better finish upgrading my own alarm...:))

    Keep those burgers hot !!....))

    RHC
     
  9. Mark Leuck

    Mark Leuck Guest

    Oh and like you did nothing to deserve it? :)

     
  10. G. Morgan

    G. Morgan Guest


    Yeah but .. awww forget it --- too easy.
     
  11. I wonder what your ultimate position would have been if Robert had not made
    comment that it was, in fact, taken from his website.

    The fact that you didn't put it together that Roberts website and the Robert
    that posts here, are one and the same, says something about your cognitive
    skills. Put that together with the very fact that you didn't attribute it,
    up
    front, says quite allot about your experience, the validity and source of
    anything else you might say in the future, don't you think?Jim

    Jim Do you not think I had not seen Mr. Cambells name in earlier posts. What
    gets me is how little contribution comes to this news group. All I have
    really seen is nothing but insults and criticism. If you took more time in
    finding more constructive and helpful advice and information that would
    benefit the majority here I am sure we would all appreciate it. Its not that
    I would or would not have admitted the fact that I didn't write the info I
    submitted. The fact is it had allot of helpful and truthful information that
    serves the betterment of any one in this industry or looking to buy from
    this industry. My take on your response is that I believe you wish you had
    found something as useful to share with the group and you didn't. What is
    interesting to me is that you had nothing negative to say about the article.
    How about we focus on what's important rather than pointing fingers.
    have a good day
    Tyler Halbrooks
     
  12. Spike

    Spike Guest

    yada yada yada, all you had to do was post a link to www.homemetal.com and
    say you thought it had some great info on alarms. You got caught with your
    hand in the cookie jar.
     
  13. Spike

    Spike Guest

    Bob's a magnet for this kind of thing, Jim. He's kind of a legend around
    here. Maybe I can draw him out...

    I bet he's just giddy with this latest scandal shit. I thought Martha
    Stewart was fun but we're having a ball here... federal gov't scandal,
    provincial gov't scandal AND a municipal gov't we're suspicious of
    scandal... hang 'em all I say!
    "Let them eat cake" Adrienne wails!
    I am not a crook! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, you Amurican's I implore you, check out
    obscure cable or internet www.cfra.com , whatever, we are coming of age !
    Look at Toronto! We murder too!
    This could be our next Prime Minister www.belinda.com

    We will entertain you! We do comedy too!
     
  14. Spike

    Spike Guest

    ooops www.belinda.ca


     
  15. Jackcsg

    Jackcsg Guest

    Hell I'd vote for her. I wonder if Belinda would mind becoming a
    spokesperson for the Alarm Industry "Mission Statement"? Sweet.

    Jack
     
  16. Mark Leuck

    Mark Leuck Guest

    She wasn't the one who posed nude in her office right after election was
    she?
     
  17. Spike

    Spike Guest

    Her handlers must have been worried about the gaff I just made,
    did you read how she plans to Look how she plans to capitalize on it
    ?http://www.belinda.com/recentevents.html
    God Bless America :)
    go girl
     
  18. alarman

    alarman Guest

    Spike wrote
    He sounds like a Rodney sock puppet.
     
  19. alarman

    alarman Guest

    Robert L. Bass wrote
    Uh, no, everyone has a right to be offended. The deceit was apparently lost
    on you, which comes as no surprise, actually.
    js
     
  20. Jakes452

    Jakes452 Guest

    My God ..might as well post your credit card number, you
    pin and
    whetever else you want protected if you use someone from this group! If your
    familys saftey is a concern...DO NOT USE THIS GROUP FOR
    ADVISE OR GIVE OUT ANY INFORMATION. If you deal with someone from this
    newsgroup you better keep one eye
    open while your sleep at night! this is the worse place to look for info
    for your home security. This group is a hive of activity to get your
    confidence then rip your off. Get "help" from here and next think your
    house is
    cleaned out and inexplicably your alarm didnt work......or worse.....
    Be very very careful using this group.
    Be sure to closely investigate (primarily if you
    buy online) any of the online alarm seller, especially if they claim a ASA
    certification, a totally false and misleading certification (see that
    later). You wouldn't want to buy from someone whose sideline is
    understanding your alarm system for the purpose of exploiting it later
    byknowing your codes or maintenance access numbers. Be wary of those who do
    not have a brick and mortar store.

    When I was shopping and using this newsgroup some online dealers advertised
    a ASA certification with a picture of a ASA emblem shown on their website.
    It gives a good first impression but when you look into it you find out that
    it was nothing more then some....guy.... creating a website to supposedly
    post complaints, with no entries of complaints or follow-through. It was
    analogous to someone flashing a police badge that turns out to be fake. The
    ASA moniker is a badge without any accreditation and surely this is
    misleading and a scam.

    Some of the free advice you get is not because of someone's unselfish need
    to make the world a better place to live. Most are giving you advice on the
    hope of getting a sale or...."other" information. Listen but don't act on
    the advice until you can confirm or gain some trust in the source by
    researching them.

    Sometimes you can learn a lot about sellers by plugging in email address or
    screenname into a Google search of past news postings. You will be
    surprised, .....no..MAKE THAT SHOCKED....AND I MEAN SHOCKED!!!!..... at what
    you find out about those offering to outfit your alarm. How can our legal
    system let these type of people sell home security!!!!!

    This is a very unregulated online business, and especially risky for
    something as important as YOUR HOME security.

    good luck....and go talk to someone reputible.
     
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