I was recently sitting on my mom’s front porch working on a bike when a car pulled up her long driveway. It’s hard to accidentally end up at their house, on acres of land at the edge of town. If someone is pulling up, it’s almost always intentional. That always gets a lot of attention.
A man and a woman get out and start walking to the door with clipboards and company-branded polo shirts. My mom came out to see who it was, and it didn’t take long to figure out that the people knew nothing about what they were trying to sell.
“We have a savings program for your electric bill,” the lady said. “You can pay the electric company nothing every month, or only a little. We do solar power and nothing down, with monocrystalline.”
I asked her whether they were selling, leasing, or doing power purchase agreements on the solar systems they were selling. “We need to get your information to set an appointment,” is all she could manage. Any further questions got the same response, worded differently.
At this point, my mom was still thinking there was some sort of government program being discussed, and asked me, “are they selling solar panels?”
“No, mom, they’re trying to sell your information to people who do, though,” I said. That was when they got into their car and drove away.
Deception Is Too Common
Today, the truth is that solar panels are a great deal for homeowners and businesses. People can avoid rising energy costs by going solar, and lower their environmental footprints at the same time. The financial and environmental advantages alone are enough to sell solar systems. There’s no need for deceptive practices.
The one we see all too often is the sales pitch that makes solar look like some sort of government program that reduces your bill. Numerous articles around the internet detail the anatomy of the scam. They often have images of state and federal politicians, or even Elon Musk to bolster the claim, and when clicked on, the pages do exactly what the people tried in my mom’s driveway: collect your information to sell leads to others.
Despite multiple crackdowns on Facebook and Twitter, the ads are still alive and running today under different names, and the people going door to door can’t easily be de-platformed.
What The Solar Industry Needs To Do
The best thing people working in the solar industry can do is stop buying leads from these unscrupulous operators.
I know it’s tempting to get easy money, but the long game matters, too. Buying these leads means sales today, but it enables the worst the advertising industry has to offer. It rakes in information from the most gullible and naive customers, but leaves the industry looking like a giant scam to others. It even helps perpetuate the idea that all solar technology is part of some Solyndra-type scam, can’t survive without government, isn’t really better for the environment, etc.
Solar installation companies need to think about the future of their industry. I get that the individual salesman might think the quick buck is good, but if you want a business that still works in 5–10 years, the leads need to come from good sources that don’t tarnish the industry with carnival barkery.
If nobody was buying the solar leads produced by these unscrupulous outfits, they’d quit doing it.