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Ask the Builder: The games contractors play

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Do you need a new roof?

Among the many columns I’ve written in the 30 years since Ask the Builder came to be, this one will be unique. I think it’s important for you to know why I switched careers from being a full-time builder, remodeler and master plumber to a syndicated newspaper columnist and then video personality.

It was always about money. I started Ask the Builder to save homeowners tens of thousands of dollars. Right now, you need this help more than ever because financial storm clouds are racing towards you and everyone here in the USA. It’s time for you to preserve every penny you have. It’s time for you to avoid all those who would prey on you using deep psychology to pry your money from your banking accounts.

I’m sure you realize that inflation is raging on a worldwide basis. Layered on top of that, in my opinion, is an impending deep recession. It’s a perfect storm that will put millions of homeowners under severe stress. I’m going to try to relieve some of that stress now.

It was my wife’s idea to create Ask the Builder. She said one day after I was selected as one of the top 50 remodelers in the country, “Tim, why don’t you take your book idea and write a syndicated newspaper column?” You see, I had always wanted to write a book about how homeowners were played and taken advantage of by many contractors.

Not only do many do substandard work, but some also use psychological tricks on you to persuade you to sign a contract. It infuriated me when I discovered one of these cunning contractors beat me out of a job. In some cases, I was called in a year or two later by a homeowner to fix all the mistakes that could have been avoided had they realized they were being manipulated.

Businesses of all sorts use this psychology on you and me each day. There are many tricks of the trade. One that seems the most innocuous, yet is quite powerful, is the psychological trick of reciprocity. You might have fallen victim to this easy one in the grocery store. Have you ever put one of those small sample pieces of cheese or summer sausage on the end of a toothpick into your mouth? If you did and walked away without buying the cheese or sausage, you probably felt guilty. If you did buy the product, they got you.

How do home improvement sales people use reciprocity? Simple. They tell you that if you agree to their offer, they’re going to throw in this or that for FREE. The free item or service they say might be worth hundreds of dollars. How many times have you whipped out your credit card for a buy-one-get-one offer?

Another very powerful psychological trick is called social proof. You see this one all the time on TV commercials, where four or five paid actors tell you how the product took away their pain, fixed this or that problem, or made them lose weight.

After you see about four of these people praising the product, your brain screams at you: “Hey, they know something you don’t! Look it must be true. If it worked for them surely it’s going to work for us!” That roofing contractor sitting in your living room invokes social proof by showing you photos of all the recent jobs he’s done in your neighborhood. Social proof is extremely powerful, and you need to be darned careful. Get the names and phone numbers of the people who own the homes in the photos. Call them to get the facts. See if they’d hire the roofer again.

All that said, the most powerful of all psychological tricks being played on you is scarcity. When a person makes something scarce, you might sign a contract faster than you’d race your pregnant wife to the hospital.

How is scarcity used on you by the roofer, the remodeling contractor, the vinyl siding salesman or the gutter guard company? It’s so easy. They say: “This offer is only good tonight. Once I leave the house, the offer expires.” You see they’re making the special lower price scarce.

Scarcity is also invoked if you hear a salesman say that this or that damage will happen to your home if you don’t sign the contract. For example, overflowing gutters may cause massive foundation failure, you may get deathly ill from mold, or a myriad of other scary things.

If you really want to prevent being taken to the cleaners by sly salespeople or others who want to control you, I urge you to read this fascinating book, "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion." I discovered it about 20 years ago and it was life changing for me. Go here to get a copy:

https://GO.timcarter.com/cialdini

(Subscribe to Tim’s FREE newsletter at AsktheBuilder.com. Tim now does livestreaming video M-F at 4 PM Eastern Time at youtube.com/askthebuilder.)

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