I bring this information/review to you out of personal experience and chalk it up to paying Stupid Tax every month for 5 years. In hopes of helping you realize how bad of a decision it is to go with Monitronics as your home security monitoring service. At the end of this list, I have outlined a few alternatives that are cheaper and just as (if not more) affective than Monitronics (I receive NO commission or benefit from any of the links provided at the end, they are partially there as a shopping list for myself too.)
1) $52/month + tax
They are known as one of the most expensive if you do some research and you will quickly realize the reviews are right. At $50/month, they are double what other services cost. Obviously, during my contract there was no budging on this fee since they had me pretty well chained with a steep early cancellation clause in the contract. Once that contract was done though, they were quick to offer a $10 discount, when I turned it down on the phone the price was now half of what it was. I still chose to cancel since there are alternatives with cheaper hardware prices, lower monthly costs, and no contracts. I have come to the conclusion that a contract with a company has eliminated their incentive to treat you well as a customer. I am sure some of them do, but the incentive to be competitive (in price and customer service) has been eliminated until the final moments of your contract. At which point, the majority of people just continue paying without much thought because it has become habit.
2) Requires USPS snail mail letter to cancel
Now this is might be the single worst customer service point there could ever be. I called them to cancel my subscription with them after having been a customer for five and a half years. They kept me on the phone for 10 minutes trying to keep my money coming their way. Offered to lower my rate, then offered to lower it even more than the first offer they made. What this basically told me was that they were gouging me for quite some time. But then finally, when I have convinced them that I really am calling to cancel and not to try to negotiate a lower rate, they drop the bomb… “sorry, we can’t cancel your subscription, you have to write a letter to our main office in order to request cancelation.” … seriously? I know it is a bit cliché, but what decade are we living in here?
In a world of digital information sharing, where you can sign up and cancel your Netflix subscription multiple times a day if you want, they require you to put ink to paper, fill out an envelope, go to the post office, pay $3-4 for confirmation delivery (because at this point you can not trust them if they are this technologically backwards) and physically mail a letter to them. When I heard this, I knew the game being played, it is part of the law of large numbers… a certain percentage of people will either delay or forget to go do all of this and they will milk a few more months of payments from them. Ultimately, it is an unethical business practice, disguised as being done “for your security, so that people do not cancel your service without you knowing”. Considering if they had hacked alarm.com’s username/login, they could instead just turn my system off. I doubt they would go through the hassle of cancelling my subscription when there is a “disarm” button staring them in the face.
In all fairness though, I will say that after posting complaints on Twitter, the Executive Support Team reached out to me. Although nothing actually changed for me, they did say they are working on “simplifying the process” and “will hopefully allow email to be used in the future”. So perhaps in the future, one day, this will become irrelevant.
3) They bill you once more for 30 days before actually canceling
After having to deal with the antiquated USPS in order to notify them that you want to cancel your service, you will find out that they will not cancel your service upon receiving your letter. So, now you have had to waste your time going to the post office (because lets be honest, few of us still keep stamps around) and then had to wait a few days for them to even get the letter. Plus, they do not notify you that they are cancelling your service upon receiving the letter, which flies in the face of their claim that requiring this is for your own good. Then, if you are like me, you call them a week after they have received it and find out that it takes them a month to process the cancelation and that month is not free.
UPDATE 7/12/16: After having raised the twitter ruckus, they are not going to charge me for the month. But in all honesty, I do not know if that is just because it is already paid for or if they are being nice because I made a public announcement that will be searchable for the foreseeable future of the internet.
UPDATE 7/22/16: Less than two weeks later, I got a letter in the mail from Monitronics. They have decided to bill me anyway, even after Theresa in the Executive Support Team told me I was all paid up and there would not be another bill. So, do yourself a favor and avoid Monitronics, there are plenty of other security monitoring services out there that would love your business.
4) Asynchronous calling of the phone numbers on the account
If you have multiple phone numbers on your account and the alarm goes off, they are going to call each number to see if anyone will tell them it is a false alarm. Except, while there is potentially someone kicking your dog out of the way and stabbing your children in their sleep, they are going to call one phone number at a time trying to get ahold of someone. When the first number does not answer, they will then call the second, then the third after the second one does not answer.
How do I know? because my brother’s and mother’s phone numbers are on my list and got a call from them asking if things were ok… my phone must not have had service in the building I was in, because not long after getting a call frommy mom and telling her I am ok, I got notified of the voicemail message by Monitronics. I had already received a txt from my neighbor apologizing for setting it off, he had opened up my garage door to borrow a shovel. My mom had answered their call, but did not know the “secret code” and was in a different state, so had no information on the status of the house. My neighbor let me know later that night that the police never showed. Which made me discover #5 of my list here.
5) Requirement of two zones being tripped before police will respond
I do not have a large house, it is definitely classified as a starter home, measuring in at about 950 square feet, with an attached garage, but without a door leading from the garage to the living space. The security system that was in place was limited, front door, back door, garage door, and a glass break sensor for any windows that might get broken in a forced entry. It will pretty much secure the entire house that way. As you can quickly figure out, it’s highly unlikely that someone who picks the lock on my front door would set off multiple zones. The front door would alert, but the glass break sensors, back door and garage door would be undisturbed.
Being only one zone was ever triggered, the alarm companies such as Monitronics have decided to not alert the police. Regardless of what size home or configuration the system has, rendering their monitoring of the system worthless. During some of my Ranger training I found out the local PDs have this two zone requirement in order to minimize false alarms and wasted resources.
Since it is not always published as publicly by police departments, here are a few examples:
- “Confirmation that the Alarm System requires two independent zones to trigger before transmitting an alarm signal to the Monitoring Company.” (http://www.barnstablepolice.com/forms/alarm-regulations.pdf)
- “Multi-zone activation when there has been alarm activation in two or more separate monitoring zones and the alarm company’s monitoring station has been unsuccessful in its attempt to contact the premises and/or representative.” (http://www.stocktongov.com/government/departments/police/prevalarmpolice.html)
- “Design your customers’ alarm systems to achieve Sequential Zone Verification (multiple zone trips) in the event of an actual intrusion. For example, include adequate detection coverage of both perimeter and interior areas; install multiple motion detectors or other interior detection devices in protected areas, etc.” (http://coloradoalarms.org/news-articles/alarm-companies-prevent-false-alarms)
Considering a professional installed my alarm and Monitronics knows how many zones I have active, good customer service would have had them mention something about this to me. If nothing else, it would have been good salesmanship to inform me of this general requirement in order to sell me more sensors for the house. I am not against good salesman who can inform me of fairly important requirements like this as a service to their customers and make more money from the deal, if anything, I applaud salesmen who can get a win-win like that for themselves.
6) “Guard Response Charge” of $35 + tax, but no one responds
You will quickly learn that hearing the sound of your alarm or seeing that you have a missed call from Monitronics will bring a feeling of dismay and fear. But, not in the way you would expect. It will not be the fear that your house was broken in to, or you lost valuables in your house, but instead it is that that missed call just cost you >$35 and the police never even responded. It is like being kicked in the nuts while you are being tazed. I know, I have actually had both happen to me (just not at the same time).
Remember that story about having to tell my mom everything is ok after my neighbor set the alarm off after borrowing a shovel? That cost me $36.70 for their “response”, which consisted of automated phone calls and not dispatching police. Funny how they can automate the phone calls but not their cancellation process.
7) A 5 year contract
If being charged $35 every time a false alarm occurs is like being tazed, the 5 year contract you will have signed up for is the equivalent of pepper spraying yourself… you have agreed to the pain and the pain is going to continue for a while. Your security system will not be getting updated with new features and you can not choose to use some of the new cool stuff from other companies as part of the system. You are stuck and when you go to take a shower later that night, you will find you did not get all the pepper-spray/OC out of your hair and get to enjoy the stupid tax some more.
These are some alternatives I am testing out as a more robust system since I now own property in multiple states and want to have monitoring as well as remote video access to them for piece of mind. I will add a review of each as I use each for a while and have time to review them, but these have sparked my interest.
Nest Camera and the entire ecosystem in general (https://nest.com/)
Skybell – video doorbell (http://www.skybell.com/)
Ring – video doorbell (https://ring.com/)
Sengled Snap – spot light wifi security camera (https://sengled.com/pages/snap)
Do you have any suggestions on other products and services? Let me know in the comments, I am always up for adding more to the list and checking them out myself. I do love tech! No contract is a requirement though, no more stupid tax for me on that one.