Allston Piano Movers Founder Bobby Franklin has been in the service industry his entire life, and has heard all the horror stories from people that got burned trying to save a few dollars by hiring an unlicensed, disreputable contractor to work in their homes. When Allston Piano joined the Gentle Giant Moving Company family a few years ago, Bobby shared with us a lot of the wisdom he has collected over the years, and now we’d like to share it with you:
As the economy continues to languish, many businesses are struggling to endure the increasing cost of overhead caused by added OSHA regulations, IRS policies, healthcare and insurance costs, worker’s compensation claims, and more. While the impact on small businesses is apparent, how does this affect the consumer? With most people using the internet as their first (and most times only) choice in locating a business in the service industry, it is easy to fall prey to less than legitimate companies. Anyone can set up a slick looking web site making all kinds of promises and claims about being licensed and insured. Often times, the consumer is only looking for the lowest price, which these uninsured outfits usually provide. However, what is not commonly known is that hiring a company working “off the books” puts the consumer at risk from many different angles.
For starters, a company operating in the underground economy will not have proper insurance coverage. This means that not only will your family and possessions not be protected, but you may also be held liable in the event a worker is injured while working for you.
When hiring a company to work in your home, consider the level of ethics they have. Reputable companies that take care of their employees do so that the employees will in turn take care of the customer. Doing this often garners repeat business and the almighty referral, which are the lifeblood of service providers. On the other hand, an underground, unlicensed contractor most likely will not be giving their workers proper medical, worker’s compensation, and most of the benefits that a legitimate company would provide. If taxes are withheld at all, they may not even be turned over to the government. In most cases these companies pay their employees in cash.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
RESEARCH: Check to see if the company you are looking into hiring has a land telephone line with a local exchange. Also, ensure that they have a legitimate address in the state where they are advertising their services. Many disreputable companies will simply register a remote UPS Mailbox Store address in order to get a local address. Or they will also sometimes just use a friend’s address. Want to feel like the FBI cracking down on a shady business? Use Google Maps to zoom in on the address provided to check out whether the location is what it’s being advertised as.
DUE DILIGENCE: Ask for a certificate of insurance to be sent to you directly from their insurance provider. Once you receive this, call the provider to verify that all coverage is active and applicable to your state. Also, check to see if their trucks are registered in the state they claim to be located in. If their vehicles are registered out of state and they are claiming to be licensed in the state they are doing work in they are almost assuredly working illegally.
CHOOSE WISELY: When you hire a company that is doing business this way you are endangering not only yourself, but you are harming legitimate, law abiding businesses, their honest employees, and your fellow taxpayers. The rules were meant for everyone and people who chose to work in outside of them should not be rewarded. By supporting your local, legitimate business community, you are ensuring its long term stability and health.