No visit from Terminix, but they sent a bill anyway

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Renee Delk insists a Terminix technician didn’t visit her home. Terminix’s records say otherwise. So who’s right?

Question: I’m being billed for service from Terminix that I didn’t receive. I need your help with getting a refund.

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I called Terminix to schedule service in early July. I had requested service inside and outside the house. No appointment was available until July 21st, so I set up an appointment for 9 to 11 a.m. on that day.

On July 21st, a technician telephoned me at 7 a.m. to cancel my service for that day. He wanted to come the following day, but I told him I was not available, and that I would call to reschedule.

I checked my account online, and found that my regular service date was listed as Aug. 21st, from 12 to 2 p.m. That didn’t work, since I had renovations going on in my home, and the technician would not have access to the areas that needed treatment, so I decided to keep the date listed online as my next appointment. I did not call to reschedule.

I received an email notifying me that I would have service on July 29th, from 7 to 9 a.m., outside only. I checked my online account and found that the Aug. 21st date had been removed, and replaced with July 29th. I cancelled that service, and set up the August date again.

A technician came to my house on July 28th to ask about my scheduled service, and we discussed the issues. I explained what I needed done, inside and outside the home, and why I didn’t want service at that time.

Then I received an email notifying me that I would have service on Aug. 5 between 7 and 9 a.m., outside only. The online account no longer showed the August appointment that I had chosen. I phoned the local office to cancel the August 5th service and to reschedule for the date and time I wanted, and the service I needed.

I received an email saying that I received service on Aug. 4th, outside only, at 8:36 a.m. At that time, I had electricians in the house, and other workmen in the attic, multiple trucks outside my house, and there was no Terminix service. No truck, no technician, no service inside or outside.

I phoned Terminix about the issue. Terminix said they would fix the billing, assign a different technician to service my house, and note on my account that I needed service inside and outside the house. They tried to reschedule my service — again.

I’ve had enough. It should not be this difficult to get the service I need at the time I need it. I’ve asked for a refund from Terminix, but it refuses. It insists it serviced my home. Can you help me get a refund?

Renee Delk, Bowie, Md.

Answer: Terminix should be able to prove you received your service with a signed receipt. Most pest control companies will ask you to sign a form acknowledging that you received the service. It appears Terminix had no such form, so it couldn’t prove it showed up at your house.

It looks as if you did everything you could to correct the problem. You called. You sent a letter — a real paper letter. You emailed. But Terminix steadfastly insisted that it had been to your house and that it correctly charged you $124 for the service call.

We could argue about whether billing someone for service they may or may not have received is professional. But there’s no real debate about how professional it is to call at 7 a.m. to cancel an appointment scheduled for that day. I mean, people have to take a day off work to be home for an inside job like this. And the runaround that followed — also less than professional.

Claiming you received service that you say you didn’t was the last straw.

You could have appealed your case to someone higher up at Terminix. Email addresses are [email protected], so you can contact someone directly. But something tells me that wouldn’t have worked.

I contacted Terminix on your behalf. No one there bothered to answer or to explain the company’s side of the story. Did they have a paper or electronic receipt with your signature that you weren’t telling me about? Maybe someone else in your house signed for you? They wouldn’t say.

However, the company contacted you and agreed to offer you a $25 credit as an apology for the series of misunderstandings. It also agreed to refund the $124 service call charge.

Who gets to determine if a pest control service is performed on a house?

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41 thoughts on “No visit from Terminix, but they sent a bill anyway

        1. When I signed up for Terminex, they required my credit card at the time I set up the service; I also was told that I *had* to sign up for a one year service contract; they didn’t do single service calls. So, I’m guessing they got her info at the time she made the first call, too?

  1. Yeah, the full refund, with an additional coupon is adequate.

    But the bigger picture is that these pest control services are a complete and total waste of money.

    About fifteen years ago I got tired of all the carpenter ants crawling around the house. Called a local exterminator. He came up did his job, left some information sheets, with the product information of the stuff that he put inside the house (it was a gel, rather than the spray).

    So, the next time I had a problem, I just looked up the stuff on the Internet, ordered it myself, got it. The stuff comes in a syringe, you just inject it into the corners of the room, where the ants are. My old house was, more or less, in the middle of the woods, so this happened regularly. And the gel stuff worked every time. Saved me a ton of money.

    And that was that.

    That was a long time ago. I live in another house now. Found some picnic ants the other day. Went back, ordered the stuff again, and put it out. The picnic ants just loved the stuff. Gobbled it up. No more picnic ants.

    All these pest control services do is buy the same stuff you can get in Home Depot, come out, spray it around the house, and charge you a hundred bucks. You can easily do the job yourself. Every couple of months, I get the gallon jug of Home Depot’s ant/termite killer out of my garage. It comes complete with a dispenser nozzle. I walk around the perimeter of the house, and spray the stuff down. Seems to work. Only one time those picnic ants got into the house, and the strong stuff took care of them.

    Save your money. If you have some physical condition that prevents you from doing this kind of light labor, then I suppose a pest control service will work for you. Otherwise, you can do this stuff yourself.

    1. I agree, even if you DID have some condition preventing you from doing the job, you could find someone for a LOT less to just spray your stuff around for $20 easy.

    2. Sam,
      I am in the pest control business and I just wanted to touch on a few things that you posted.

      It is true that sometimes you could get the same material from home depot – in your case you did – in most cases there are substantial differences between the material you can buy and the material that the pest control company can buy from distribution. If you look on doityourselfpestcontrol.com – there are many materials that are not available in states like New York because of the strength of the product or because the application is not as simple as putting a few dabs of gel in the corner.

      I also wanted to touch upon a few things. In your case, you came upon the solution through your pest control company through the information sheets left behind – which is to let you know the type of chemical and what to do in the event of accidental poisoning. What you didn’t know is that a ton of training needs to be done at the state level to be able to apply pesticides safely. There are considerations that need to be taken into account – does the chemical scatter insects (which could be a problem in a multi-unit property) – are there going to be young children around – is there a set period in which people can’t be near the chemical.

      I’m all for buying stuff at home depot and applying chemical safely – but I get somewhat concerned by people thinking that these chemicals are risk free. The first line of defense against insects is exclusion – the other is fixing sanitary conditions which are conducive to insects – but people believe that applying chemicals are the magic bullet. I have a commercial customer with a rodent problem that does not want to close the holes that provide access to the pests – but believes that the bait traps that I place around should get all the rodents. It’s just crazy.

      There are other treatments you could do that would target the nests that would prevent you from walking around every few months – that would resolve the problem – but you are spending time and money buying and applying chemical when you might not have to.

      Regarding the company mentioned in the article – I believe they have some great marketing but I don’t believe that they live up to it. The company serves at the pleasure of the client – in this case – they failed to live up to her expectations and ran her around. The only reason they did anything is because this website was involved..

      I wanted to add a further comment about finding someone for 20 dollars to apply the chemical – you can find anyone to do anything for less. The problem is that many of these chemicals have restrictions on how and when they can be used – and I would sooner pay the money to have someone who is actually trained in the proper use of the chemicals then find someone off the street to spray some liquid around. Or better yet – spend thirty minutes walking the property to list and fix deficiencies and not apply chemical at all.
      Google how many people burn down their houses trying to treat for bed bugs themselves. There are some things that are just better left to people who are licensed, certified, insured and required to take continuing education in the field.

      1. Oh, come on. The notion that pest control contractors are some highly-trained super-beings, who possess some set of mysterious technologies, and sophisticated training that’s beyond the mere mortals’ meager powers, is going to be something that I’ll find somewhat hard to swallow.

        It’s understandable, given your profession, why you’re saying what you’re saying so I’ll leave it at that. I’ll just comment on two points.

        First, if something is banned in a particular state, like New York, then it is banned. You can’t get it, and I can’t get it. So that’s completely irrelevant. Perhaps there’s some stuff that can legally be purchased only by licensed pest control contractors — presuming that a given state even requires pest control contractors to be specifically trained and licensed, other than just having a general business license — but that’s going to be a rare exception. Nine times out of ten, whatever stuff you use, I can use too, legally. And it is not going to require any substantial training — except in the mind of someone who /makes/ money off that kind of training, themselves.

        Now, the stuff at Home Depot — I don’t even remember how much it costs, the big jug lasts a long time. I don’t even recall, without going to the garage, how much’s in a jug, a galon, or maybe a liter, but one application will use up, maybe, at the most, a few ounces. And it needs to be done only every couple of months, or two, so you do the math. I can assure you, the out of pocket expenses, going to the do-it-yourself way, are negligible. And they still would be even if the stuff had a limited lifespan (it doesn’t).

        I don’t even think I really have a persistent pest control, in my current home. One small incident with picnic ants in eleven years. And even if I do have a problem, I’ll be shocked, just shocked, if a pest control contractor will tell me that it can be taken care of with just a one-time application of pixie dust. I’ll bet anything that I’ll be told that the only way to keep things under control is to have a regular service plan, that will cost at least ten times as what I’m paying out of pocket now. Come on, let’s not kid ourselves.

        1. Sam,
          I never said that we were highly trained super-beings or we possess some set of mysterious technologies. That is just you reducing what I said to the absurd.

          The only reason that my profession comes into play here is that I have multiple certifications from two states – New York and New Jersey and understand just a little bit more than you do reading a label from home depot.

          What concerns me most – is your comment regarding jug, gallon, liter – a few ounces. This is exactly why there is a state run certification with respect to handling chemicals. Most lay-people – including you – just want to apply chemical – more is better – without regard to understanding the correct amount. I have to report back EXACTLY how much chemical I apply to each state. I have to take into account water tables when applying pesticides.

          Tell me – how would you treat a commercial establishment? Would you apply a dab of gel in the corners? How about a food facility? How about a kids daycare?

          I’m not asking you to respect the profession. I’m asking you to understand that the amount of real knowledge you have in this field can be fit into a dab of the gel that you apply to the corners of your room when you have an ant problem.

          I’m all for customer education. I educate my customers about the problem, what could be causing the problem, what I’m going to do to treat the problem, safety concerns, etc. I don’t believe that there is any magic “pixie dust” to solve anything. We have customers with infestations that require a bit more research than going to home depot to buy a gallon, liter, etc. of the “same stuff we buy” and spraying it everywhere.

          I also want to comment that you can’t buy the same level of stuff at home depot – regardless of what you say. There are products that require a license to apply. You can get a lesser percentage of the active ingredient, or something that is not restricted – but hey – what do I know. I have multiple state licenses and have actually sat in the classes and passed exams.

          1. Well said, Keith. I don’t understand why people see the need to attack an entire profession. I think we’ve all had a bad experience with a vendor at some point….doesn’t mean they’re all bad. I would hate to be put in the same category of everyone else in my profession just because we earn our livelihood the same way.

          2. Part of the problem is with the industry itself. It’s a profession and there are great doctors and terrible doctors. The same thing is going to happen in every field.

            We have issues all the time with bedbugs where customers treat themselves using a scattering agent – causing the infestation to spread to their neighbors. We have had issues with people putting down materials in areas which are clearly problematic.

            I will agree with Sam – that there are some issues that you can safely handle with material at home depot. I don’t have a problem with that statement. It makes sense,

            I purchase some lawn stuff from Costco which I apply in the spring to my lawn. I’m not going to say that because I can buy the material at Costco that every single landscaper is ripping people off.

            I also won’t pretend to understand the landscaping business either – when I have a problem that I can’t seem to resolve on my own – I seek practical advice from the people doing the job every day.

          3. Excellent points about treating problems in special places like restaurants or day cares. I’d throw in special considerations if there are people living there who are particularly sensitive to chemicals, or if there are pets around. The biggest thing you see from DIYers (and I’m as guilty as anybody on this) is thinking that if a little of the chemical will kill the pests then a lot will kill them quicker. That’s a big reason why they won’t sell commercial grade stuff to the general public in many cases.

          4. Joe,
            Thanks for the comment. I also agree – the industry has evolved where are there materials and natural alternatives. There is an entire process called IPM – integrated pest management – which has you using as little chemical as possible to treat the problem.
            There are horror stories in the industry – a local pest management company was using a chemical off label inside the local McDonald’s – ended up getting fined 500k and losing his license. The crazy thing is that the chemical he was using inside was as expensive as the proper chemical designed to be used near food surfaces. This happens when the operator believes that it doesn’t really matter the amount of chemical or the ramifications to the environment, people, etc.

          5. We use a local company. When we realized we had termites, we called 3 different companies. One was Terminix. The inspector gave us a report of what we needed to do in addition to their termite program. I didn’t like the what he said, wouldn’t use them ever. In the report he sighted several issues that the other two companies didn’t note, and their reports matched each other. When we picked the one we went with, we use Orange Oil to get rid of the termites instead of tenting that Terminix said was the only procedure they would do. We have had the local company out each year to check on an reinfestation and to tend to a few other issues that have come up that we wanted fixed, none of which were on the Terminix sheet. We showed the sheet to our local company and they checked those sites and found no issue. Once you call out Terminix to your house, they bother you with junk mail once a month. So annoying.

    3. All these pest control services do is buy the same stuff you can get in Home Depot

      And because they buy in bulk quantities, they will pay less than you will pay at Home Depot…

      1. Right. They’ll certainly get it for a few bucks cheaper. But you forget what happens next: they will then charge me a hundred bucks that I won’t have to pay Home Depot, for using it, so I’ll still come out ahead!

    4. That logic could be applied to most services. Don’t eat at a fancy restaurant. You can buy the same stuff at the grocery store. But it probably won’t taste good.

      Like any service there are times when you can DIY and times when a professional is warranted. I find it ironic that you learned of the correct treatment because of the professional.

      1. Agreed on the irony of Sam getting the label for the material from the professional…..

        I talk to customers all the time, when they ask questions – I give them the answer. Most customers want to understand why they are having a problem and what they can do to make it go away (in the short term) and prevent it from happening again (in the long term).

        Depending on the problem and the proposed course of action, it might make sense to allow a professional to do the job – especially if it is something more complicated than putting down dabs of gel in the corners of the room.

      2. Plumbing rates:
        Fix leak: $50 /hour
        Fix leak that YOU fixed: $75 / hour
        Fix leak if you talk while I’m working: $100 /hour

        Total Invoice:
        Parts: 35¢
        Labor: $25 [billed on ½ hour]
        Expertise: $75 [ for knowing what to do w/out tearing out the whole house]

        1. How about:

          $10 for parts you can’t use because house is too old and needs expert plumber
          3 hours wasted time trying to find parts you can’t use because they don’t make them anymore in the sizes needed
          1 hour cleaning up water all over bathroom until stubborn DIY significant other figures out he can’t fix the problem and shuts water off at street
          A few hours here and there arguing about this
          $200 to plumber who specializes in old houses in our neighborhood, which included an extra charge for late service and the extra time it took to repair what DIY bf damaged

    5. Sorry but from personal experience I have to disagree. Two situations I could not handle myself. One – infestation of ants (and I mean thousands of them) that were coming in from the first floor and traveling up the wall inside. Yes I killed what I could with spray inside and they just kept coming. The pest control guy figured out where they were coming from, drilled into the wall and applied whatever it was that stopped them permanently. Two – giant wasp nest on corner of house – there is no way I would ever try to handle that myself or put anyone who is not a professional in harm’s way. I would add that if I ever have a termite issue or rodents in the attic I am calling a professional. As for chemical safety, I am not endangering myself or my pets by buying chemicals and thinking that I know how toxic they might be. Spraying a small wasp nest, setting a trap for a single mouse that for some reason the cats could not catch, or killing a few ants or roaches is an entirely different matter.

  2. Terminix pulled the same sort of stunt at my office…. Our tech couldn’t perform our outside service three trips in a row due to weather but their system says that its a quarterly service and billed us anyway. It took us months to get it straight.

  3. I had an incident with Terminix about ten years ago, only the local company had the cajones to insist that they performed inside service on my home – the same day I was 5500 miles away from home in Central Europe. They even said I was the one who answered the door and let them in. No signed receipts or record of their visit of course, but it still took 5 months to get a refund. Assume the apology got lost in the mail.

      1. As Bodega3 stated, my credit card was on file with the company, which made it even more fun since I was using my Amex to pay for dinner in the Czech Republic time stamped 22 minutes after they charged me for the “service visit” at home.

  4. Huh. Just for the naysayers in these comments:

    1. My local pest control company sends state-licensed applicators to apply proper levels of dangerous chemicals.
    2. They charge a quarterly fee, and are scheduled once a quarter, but will come as often as they are needed for no extra charge.
    3. They also provide, for a fee, protection against termites and a warranty that includes repair should an infestation happen and damage occur.
    4. If i’m not home when they come, and outside services are all that’s needed, they just do the outside and stick a note in the door. I don’t have to be there to sign anything.

    I feel that sometimes, corporations get too big to be able to parse the details. One missed appointment more or less, who cares? But if you’re that big, the resolution should be obvious: If you can’t prove you did it, then refund the charges.

    1. Agreed with everything you said above.

      Our business model operates the same way. We charge a fixed fee for the year. It includes scheduled visits – in our case – three times a year. We then have unlimited call backs for pests covered under the agreement. You can make as many appointments as necessary without incurring additional charges for the length of the entire agreement.

      Granted – it is more expensive to keep rolling trucks than to fix the problem the first time. We would rather spend an hour onsite really fixing the problem then rolling a truck to come back to visit again.

      The problem is when you have customers that have had pest problems – you resolve them – and then they believe that there is no reason to continue service. It becomes a value proposition question…

  5. Well, I don’t know about the specific questions of responsibility,, but I surely would not do business with a company that jerked their customers around like this. Unbelievable!

  6. Terminex does this all the time. We utilize them, and we never get a receipt for service. They will also come out without a reminder notice and “service your property” without anyone being there to see it. No real way to verify either.

  7. Renee here. Just to clarify, I never received an apology, or a coupon. And it took 5 months to get the billing issue resolved. I contacted them about this 1 day after the service was supposedly completed (the day I become aware of it), and I told them I could provide proof that the technician never came (multiple workers in and around my home at the time were willing to back me up). I think the lag time to fix the issue was completely unreasonable.

  8. I contacted Terminix for a termite inspection on the recommendation of my mortgage company and got this same type of runaround…cancellation, rescheduling (twice) and two no-shows. Then they stopped returning my calls. Fortunately, I was not billed. The company I did use is locally-owned and their inspector arrived promptly at the scheduled time. He charged me $60 less than the price Terminix quoted me, too.

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