Normally, I'd have my holiday gift guide ready for readers today. However, I've been sucked into drama on my "Is Home Depot’s Water Test from RainSoft a Scam?" article from almost 18 months ago. If you stick through this, I'll give you details on a great, unrelated deal that's 65% off of what I personally paid for the service... (or you can just scroll to the bottom, I'll never know the difference.)
Regular readers know that I often write about multi-level marketing (MLM) and the scams there, but this non-MLM topic has exploded to almost 150 comments now. In at least three cases, I've had RainSoft dealers comment and leave a review of how wonderful their system is.
The latest drama came when commenter John, left this glowing review. I recognized that some of the language sounded like it came from a RainSoft salesman. The commenter also left an email of "JPetrich@"... I put two and two together and decided to see if John Petrich was a RainSoft salesman. It turns out that there was a LinkedIn profile for a John Petrich who appears to be a Water Treatment Sales Professional with RainSoft listed as his company. This John Petrich is based out of the Houston, Texas. The comment I received came from an IP address in Houston, TX.
I asserted my logical opinion that the comment from the suspected RainSoft dealer was indeed the John Petrich of that LinkedIn profile. The commenter went crazy, saying that I was "way off" and "an internet stalker." A few hours later a John Petrich emailed me saying that he's getting email on his LinkedIn profile and he's going to sue me for defamation because he's not the same John Petrich who left the comment. That's been going back and forth and the RainSoft debate rages on.
Catching people up on the RainSoft debate
My RainSoft article is long, but tells the story of how we signed up for a free water test at Home Depot and instead of getting water analysis as you might receive from your city or county, we received an in-home demonstration, a "magic show" according to my wife, of RainSoft's EC-4 purifier. We were told it would be a half hour long, but it went on for 3-4 hours. It was filled with fear-inducing stories about the danger of chlorine. It went on about how much money we'd save vs. buying bottled water.
In the end, we were told we could buy a system for $4888 that would purify our water. We could spend another $1200 on a reverse osmosis machine for the drinking water in our kitchen sink. They were happy to let us finance this purchase at 17% interest, essentially like a credit card.
The representative offered to "throw-in" $2700 worth of soap, detergents, etc. Though he wouldn't say what brand it was and I'm guessing it is an inflated price for some no-name soap that people don't typically buy.
Then they topped it off by cashing a $100 deposit that they said they'd hold on to while we decided. I probably shouldn't have given the money in the first place, but I wanted to buy time to research and this deposit held the soap offer, which is normally only available if you buy the same day. After a fight with the independent dealer and reporting them to Home Depot, RainSoft corporate saw my article and offered to give me the $100 deposit back.
It seems that other commenters have had the same experience with the "magic show" based on the dozens of comments.
RainSoft's Assurance Guarantee
The latest thing that RainSoft dealers are pushing is their Assurance Guarantee. This guarantee says that if a RainSoft customer finds the same or better performing product at a better price in 30 days the RainSoft product will be free. Here is the text of that from a RainSoft Dealer. There's no real fine print that I could see and the terms are ambiguous enough to have multiple interpretations.
The problem is that you have to validate it is better and I'm sure that RainSoft is going to challenge your validation. They may find one contaminant in a list of a hundred that wasn't done as well and say, "Sorry, but our product performed better here, so the product you bringing to the table is inferior... no free RainSoft for you. Next!"
Additionally, according to the text, you can't put together a couple of systems like I illustrate below, which would cost 1/5th what RainSoft is charging. That's not one brand's product, and they have different warranties.
It is almost like trying to prove that Babe Ruth is the best baseball player of all time. It may seem obvious to some, but worded as RainSoft does, they'd be free to say, "Umm, Vince Coleman was a lot faster, stole more bases, and played much better defense, so no Babe Ruth is not the same or better than Vince Coleman."
It is unlikely that you'll be able to get another system set up in 30 days, get the proof, submit it, and get it RainSoft to validate your claim. Heck, the claim might even sit for a few days, costing you valuable time in getting a claim for another system in.
At the end of the day, I feel like Chris Farley in Tommy Boy covered the value of this guarantee best:
So How Do You Get Clean Water?
The John Petrich the RainSoft dealer seems to think that I'm not qualified to give water purification advice. Perhaps he's correct, because I have no background in it. Instead he suggests that we take the expert advice. I'd agree, except that the expert advice he suggests is from a salesman. In particular, he's a salesman for one brand of water purification system and his previous comment scam attempt along with the RainSoft experience that I and numerous others have experienced.
There's a big difference in getting car buying advice from Edmunds or Kelley Blue Book than getting advice from Larry Lemon the Used Car King. If there's a better deal elsewhere, Larry Lemon isn't going to tell you about it.
Instead, I suggest using a little common sense and some typical problem solving skills. Here's how I'd, and any smart consumer, would go about solving the problem.
1. Ask, "Is there a problem with my water?" Perhaps your water is fine. Rather than have a salesman come to your house, pick up this Watersafe Drinking Water Test Kit or this First Alert Drinking Water Test Kit. It will give you details about the chlorine levels, hardness, etc. in your water.
2. Analyze the results. These kits will tell you where the results should be and they test to EPA standards. This should tell you if you have a problem or not. Save the magic show for Penn and Teller.
3. If you have a problem, research products to fix it. Here are few greatly-reviewed products that have solved customer's problems:
- Whole House Filtration - This $297 water filtration gets 4.6 stars out of 5 with 143 mostly glowing reviews. That's a lot of people who are very happy for about 1/16th what RainSoft wanted to charge me.
- Reverse Osmosis System - This iSpring 5-Stage Reverse Osmosis Water Filter System gets 4.6 stars with 597 giving it glowing reviews. For $180, this looks like a huge bargain vs. the $1200 system that RainSoft offered... especially since most everyone loves it.
- Water Softener - This Whirlpool softener gets 4.3 stars with 75 reviews.
I may not be a water filtration expert, but combining these three systems would appear to be formidable water purification system... one that is probably overkill for 99.9% of homes. And you'd walk away with all three for under $900, plus tax. That's less than 1/6th the cost of what RainSoft was going to charge me for the EC-4 and reverse osmosis systems.
It is worth reading the comments on Lowe's site for the Whirlpool products. For each product, there are numerous reviews about a local company charging $5000 to $6000 for similar products and that they are very happy with these solutions.
RainSoft dealers will claim that their products are of a higher quality. They'll say that the perform better. They'll say that this is a comparison of a BMW to a Yugo. They've said all this in the comments of my previous post. The difference is that you aren't taking a journey with the water. You don't care about the luxury of how your water travels. You only care about results. With the water kits that I provided, you can test and ensure you are getting quality results. Still got a problem? Return it Lowe's and/or Amazon and get something else. It certainly is worth a shot at these extremely highly rated products for under $900 than simply saying, "Okay, I'll just shell out $6000 and finance it at 17% interest."
My guess is that some 95% won't need one system and 99.5% of people will be happy with these systems at a greatly reduced cost. I'm not saying that RainSoft won't be happy with the results of their system. I'm just saying that I bet they wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the two. I'm also sure most people don't want to pay $5000 more when the job can be done at 1/6th the cost.
If RainSoft wants to give out a real Assurance Guarantee let them give out one that guarantees all contaminants will be reduced by 6 times as much as the one above for 1/6th the cost. Then we are starting to get to the point of performance per dollar spent.
But what does Consumer Expert Clark Howard have to Say?
Again, I'm not a water purification expert, but I know basic problem solving, scientific process, and consumer scams... all of which are very useful skills here. You don't need to take my word for it though. Clark Howard is well-known for being a consumer advocate. I love his radio show and have mentioned him many times in this website in the past.
So what does Clark Howard have to say about these water filtration systems. He doesn't say RainSoft by name, but I certainly recognized what he's talking about on his website:
"After years of Clark's prodding, Christa has finally made the switch from bottled water to tap water. What finally made her cross over from the dark side? She got hold of the Watersafe All-In-One Test Kit at Whole Foods. For just about $20, she was able to test her family's tap water for bacteria, lead, pesticides, nitrates, nitrites, chlorine, pH and hardness. Well, the water passed with flying colors, and her brood has been drinking from the tap ever since." - (Source)
See, test the water first. Maybe it's fine and you don't need anything. You will have saved yourself thousands and thousands of dollars before just trusting the RainSoft salesman.
"The complimentary water test the marketer was offering Christa likely would have involved a hard sell in the home. As Clark says, they practically convince you that if you love your children and want them to stay healthy, you must buy their product. " - (Source)
This is exactly what I experienced with my RainSoft dealer. There is really no reason to have anyone visit your home. Anyone should be able to give you performance testing data of their water filtration device that you can compare. If they won't give you that data and instead try to do some kind of in-home demonstration/magic show run, run, run away.
"So what to do if you're afraid of tap water? Try a cheap filtration system. They're available for your whole house, your faucet or just by the pitcher -- and they all address water impurities and improve taste." - (Source)
I mentioned the whole house system here. I figure everyone else knows about the faucet and pitcher systems. After testing with a water kit that I mentioned above, I got a faucet system and installed it in about ten minutes.
At the end of the day I'm simply stating what should be obvious by now... you don't need some kind of water filtration expert. The kits make it very easy for you to test yourself. And stay away from a brand-specific salesman who pitches himself as an expert. He's probably getting paid on commission to sell you that brand's product, which might not necessarily be the best fit for your wallet/needs.
I spent $70 on this PlayOn and PlayLater lifetime service and feel it is some of the best I've spent. It is available for only $25 (for HD) now, which is a no-brainer. Big thanks to Rick Broida's CNET Cheapskate article for mentioning it.
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