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FT Undercover checks out three home services


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Monster Tree Service’s Twin Cities crew trimming a maple tree, which only added $50 to the bill and reduced the risk of damage from the next thunderstorm blowing through.

What could be better than walking through your house with friendly and strong people in uniform, pointing at things that have gone unused for years, and asking those same people to pile it in their truck and haul it away within an hour or two? Nothing, you say? Correct! And that is why 1-800-Got-Junk qualifies as my favorite franchise. It’s addictive. You schedule one pickup, and learn the franchise gives you a bid for how much it will cost ($250 for a half truckload, $500 for a full truckload, with $50 off coupons widely available), and then if you accept the bid they’ll whisk everything away. And the genius part: You do not have to box it or bag it or do anything with it other than make sure great-grandmother’s precious antiques are not hiding at the bottom of that box with 30-year-old canceled checks on top (unless you need a convenient excuse.) Once you’ve tried it you’re hooked, and out goes the stuff in the sports closet; gone goes the crap in the furnace room; goodbye goes the memorabilia in the man cave (oops—that one might have been premature, according to my husband), and so on until your entire house, garage and shed are pristine—until the next round.

The upshot: Since everyone has too much junk and 1-800-Got-Junk takes out all the pain of whisking it away, this franchise will soon be your favorite, too.—BE

Like hearing a weird sound under the hood of the car, calling a tree service for a once-over on a wooded backyard is a scary proposition: I had no idea what they’d recommend, but signs pointed toward expensive. I gave my wallet a caress as I dialed the nearest Monster Tree Service. Our local Monster franchisee, Lane Schmiesing, came days later to share his prognosis. He agreed, that mulberry had to go, our twisting maple only needed a prune, and the slowly dying (but still alive) pine could hang on for a few years—and would cost around $1,500. Taking care of the immediate needs was estimated at only $400. My dogs and I did a happy dance. A week later Lane brought his crew, and I was shocked by the team of six workers with trucks and equipment lining the block. Watching them work was impressive—a chop here, a line there and suddenly our aerial mess was one huge pile on the ground. They avoided all but one of my perennials, which I guarded like a hawk. An hour later, it was like they had never been there. The debris was hauled, chipped and taken away, that mulberry was gone for good and our maple never looked better. Plus we would no longer fear the next thunderstorm.

The upshot: For a light $430 with tax, I’m convinced there’s something to that expression about an ounce of prevention.—TK

Ever wonder how consumers feel about your franchise? Editorial staffers Laura Michaels, Nick Upton, Tom Kaiser and Beth Ewen check out three brands in a different genre each issue, and report back.

Ever wonder how consumers feel about your franchise? Editorial staffers Laura Michaels, Nick Upton, Tom Kaiser and Beth Ewen check out three brands in a different genre each issue, and report back.

As one of those millennial renters, my closets are pretty much whatever I can cram together. Before my very adult Tupperware drawers, I had used concrete blocks and boards, upturned clothes baskets and even old moving boxes. As is probably obvious, my closet isn’t exactly my top priority. But as my wife and I are house hunting, I wanted to see what an actual adult closet might look like (and cost). So I sat down with Pat, a closet and cabinet guru from Closets by Design. After measuring everything and walking me through the materials, she sat down and sketched it all out. That was the most notable part of the experience for me. In a few minutes, I had a real visual way to see exactly what the closet would look like and a quote. I even got to add a few shoe shelves on the fly. All in, we could transform my wife’s closet from a functional disaster to an actual grown-up space for under $600. Now that’s a little steep for the rental, but makes a lot of sense for our future home.

The upshot: Pat’s advice for my renter’s closet: deal with it until you get a house, and then spring for the grown-up space. I guess it’s time to donate some old clothes.—NU

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