The 21st Century version of “Lies, damned lies, and statistics” a phrase attributed to 19th Century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli would have to read “lies, damned lies, and marketing.”
Clever marketers know how to latch onto popular trends or good fads. In the 90’s everything was “lite”. It seemed that every product on the supermarket shelf had the word “lite” or “sugar free”, on its label. Then we endured several years of the “good fat” vs. “bad fat”, and today’s marketing campaigns exploit terms such as “all-natural” and “organic”.
Do you know why they label chocolate chip cookies – “reduced calorie”? Because it works! They know that consumers fall for these gimmicks over-and-over again. So why not tell us little white lies – it will make us feel better about downing a dozen chocolate chip cookies in one sitting. After all, they are reduced calorie cookies and we’re dunking them in low-fat milk.
Not to be left behind, the carpet cleaning industry has also manipulated some trends, popular terms and marketing slogans. For decades, one of the nation’s largest carpet cleaning franchisors built its name on “dry” cleaning carpet – when in fact their process is far from dry.
These manipulators understand that the average consumer wouldn’t know the difference (and couldn’t care less) if their process was truly dry. They intentionally create doubt, concern and fear about steam cleaners, implying that this method causes mildew and mold to grow on carpet (carpet dries in a few hours if truck-mounted equipment is properly used). They are aware that fear drives uninformed and uneducated consumer to dry cleaners. Never mind that independent laboratories and the largest carpet manufacturers in the world actually prefer the hot water extraction method (steam cleaning) over all other carpet cleaning methods, including “dry” cleaning.
But this article is not about whether one carpet cleaning method is superior over another. It is to make you aware of marketing tactics used by carpet cleaners. Today’s carpet cleaning buzzwords are ‘organic,’ ‘green,’ and ‘natural’. Throw in some scary words like ‘toxin-free’ and you’ve just created a whole new carpet cleaning market. (Just in case I forgot to mention it, for the last half century the words “new” and “improved” were amongst the most worn-out marketing terms?)
At least the food industry has some oversight by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The carpet cleaning industry is basically an unregulated industry. Industry standards are strictly voluntary guidelines from independent, usually non-profit, organizations like the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification (IICRC) and the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), Green Seal, and the major carpet manufacturers.
This being said, words like ‘organic,’ ‘green,’ and ‘natural’ are tossed around by many cleaners to capitalize on a trend. Carpet cleaning companies that are truly dedicated to using products that won’t harm your pets, children and the environment are easy to identify if you know how. Start by being wary of snake oil salesmen who use scare tactics to get in your home.
How Can You Be Sure You’re Getting The Real Thing?
Before you select a carpet cleaner, verify by telephone or e-mail:
– What cleaning process they use? (Portable Cleaners, Bonnet Cleaning, Steam Cleaning – Truck-Mounted)
– What cleaning products do they use? How do they treat stains, pet, odors, etc?)
– Can they provide Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for all their cleaning products?
– Can they provide proof of product certification by Green Seal or other independent organizations?
– Call at least 3 references that have had their carpets cleaned with this method.
– Do not accept home-brewed, non-certified products … (Kelp and Ginseng may be good for your health but not necessarily for your carpet)
The mere fact that you’ve asked these questions will put the cleaner on alert that they are dealing with an informed and educated buyer. I predict that you’ll get the best carpet clean and service – ever!
P.S. It is a common misconception on the part of many consumers that green products are not as effective as conventional products that may contain toxins. This simply isn’t true. You don’t have to compromise the cleaning quality – after all, you want your carpets cleaned.