NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- When you're looking for someone to clean your carpets, a Nashville-based carpet cleaning company hopes you'll call them.
But the Better Business Bureau is now warning potential customers about that company, saying Stars & Stripes Professional Cleaning Services first needs to clean up its act.
It's a company that you'll like find near the top of the list in a Google search for the cheapest carpet cleaner in Nashville. Stars & Stripes Professional Cleaning Services claims to "do excellent work" and makes "home care easy."
But we found customers don't always agree.
"It was probably the worst one I've ever had as far as service industries are concerned," Amanda Gentry recalled.
Gentry is one of at least two dozen customers who have complained to the Better Business Bureau about Stars & Stripes.
The company offers a $70 special to clean three rooms.
But Gentry said that when Stars & Stripes showed up to clean her carpets, the price suddenly tripled.
"It went from $70 to $242," she said.
Gentry insisted her carpets were in good condition, but the employee claimed they really needed a deep cleaning that would cost extra.
The BBB's Kathleen Calligan said, "There's nothing wrong with upselling." But she said this company appears to be doing more than that.
"Customers allege that items were stolen from their homes, that they were victims of bait and switch advertising," Calligan explained.
Jermie England, who owns and runs Stars & Stripes, told NewsChannel 5 Investigates: "We do good, quality work. I mean, we really do."
But England didn't deny there have been problems and customers who have felt they've been overcharged.
"Was it a bait and switch operation? Of course not. OK? But I could see how some people could take it as that," England said.
The BBB's Calligan asserted, "This company alone generates more of the complaints for this industry than all of the other businesses in the carpet cleaning industry."
And this isn't the first time the BBB has issued such a warning about the company.
A year and a half ago, the BBB gave Stars & Stripes an "F" rating and put out a similar alert about the company's advertising and business practices.
The BBB is also concerned about owner Jermie England's criminal record. Five years ago, he was sent to jail in Florida and ordered to pay restitution for scheming to defraud an elderly carpet cleaning customer.
"I don't understand why you all are bringing up my past -- a lot of people have pasts," England told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
But Calligan said, "Consumers have a right to know that."
Our investigation also found the supervisor at Stars & Stripes, Derek Goodgine, was accused of stealing by a customer. In December, a customer told Dickson police that Goodgine stole a large amount of coins and jewelry while in her house to clean her carpets. A judge issued an arrest warrant for Goodgine in early January, but so far police have not served him with that warrant.
England, though, admitted he was aware of this, yet he continued to send Goodgine into people's homes until earlier this week.
"Most consumers, I would say 99% of consumers, if they knew this would not want to select this company and those individuals to be in their home. I don't care how good the price was," Calligan said.
England insisted Stars & Stripes' problems are in the past.
"We've changed some of our practices that we do," he said.
But the BBB says Stars & Stripes said the same thing after the BBB's last warning about the company.
"It's not gotten any better?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked the BBB's Calligan.
"No, it's gotten a lot worse, " she replied.
The BBB says it's gotten nearly 20 complaints from customers in just the last 12 months. We also checked with the state consumer affairs office, and they too have gotten complaints about Stars & Stripes concerning the same sorts of problems.
Derek Goodgine meanwhile is no longer with the company. He left Stars & Stripes on Monday.
So how do you protect yourself?
The BBB says ask for references. If you get a quote over the phone and it doesn't match the price they want to charge you when they show up at your house, find out why and get it resolved before they do any work.
And, ask if the company does background checks on its employees before you let anyone in your home.
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