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Experience, service vital in pest-control contractor

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by Christine Ballew-Gonzales

SBJ Contributing Writer

Homeowners and business owners require pest-control services to ensure that their structures are free of bugs and comfortable for their families, guests, customers or clients.

But choosing a pest-control service isn't just about the largest company or the best price, according to area pest-control technicians.

Certain qualities will help the property owner know a professional from a fly-by-nighter, according to Tom Ratliff, owner of Republic Pest Control.

"Finding someone you can count on, who provides good, dependable service, is important," Ratliff said. "A lot of companies will set you up on a quarterly contracts and not come when they said they would."

Fair pricing is another hallmark of a quality pest-control company, Ratliff said, but finding the right price will take a bit of checking around on the part of the customer.

Prices for a given pest-control treatment can vary widely among companies, so shopping around is important, Ratliff said.

"Try not to be in too much of a hurry," he said. "In this industry, there are a lot of rip-offs out there."

Ratliff said most pest control companies provide free estimates for their services.

Pest control, particularly the application of pest-control chemicals, is a state-regulated industry that requires technicians to be licensed.

Chemical application follows strict guidelines listed on the label of the pesticides.

"The label is the law," Ratliff said, adding that it can be tough to know whether a technician is applying pest control chemicals in a legal, effective fashion.

Choosing a pest-control company should not be based on the organization's size or name recognition, Ratliff said. "There are a lot of good smaller pest control companies out there," he said.

There are several advantages to using a small company, according to Ratliff. "There's a lot less personnel turnover," he said. "That way, a technician can get used to your house and your pest-control problems."

In addition, smaller pest-control companies tend to offer more personal service, he said.

Ratliff said he advises property owners to generally avoid pest control companies who use hard-sell, high-pressure tactics.

Tim Blackwell, of Blackwell Pest Control, said the experience of the individual technician, rather than the company itself, is what really counts when choosing a pest-control company for your business or home.

"It doesn't make any difference what the name of the company is," he said. "Your job is only as good as the guy doing it."

Blackwell said property owners should inquire about the level of experience of the technician performing the service.

"That's what it all comes down to the guy doing the service in your house," he said.

Price should be scrutinized, but shouldn't be the sole factor in choosing a pest-control company, Blackwell said.

"Price may or may not be a factor, but guarantees are usually a factor," he said.

In addition, don't be overly impressed by a guarantee until you check with some of the pest control company's customers, Blackwell said.

"Guarantees are only good with companies that will actually stand behind it," he said.

According to Dennis Robertson, co-owner of McPherson Pest Control, lower prices don't necessarily mean shoddy service. However, rock-bottom quotes should be investigated as an added customer safegaurd.

"Cheap prices aren't always bad, but I would definitely question that," he said. Robertson also urges property owners to at least take the time to ask for references in order to assess a pest-control company's attitude toward such inquiries.

"When people have a problem, they usually don't want to spend a lot of time calling around," he said.

A pest-control company that is reluctant to give references should be closely examined before proceeding.

Robertson also said membership in such professional organizations as the Missouri Pest Control Association is another good sign.

"Overall, you need to look for a company that provides the service that they say they will," he said.

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