9 Investigates

HIDDEN CAMERA: Action 9 catches salesman lying to sell water system

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In a hidden camera investigation, Action 9 recorded a salesman making wild claims to sell a water filtration system.

It all started when people in a northeast Charlotte neighborhood found offers on their mailboxes for free water tests.

Resident Rachel Brummert knows a thing or two about public health. She works closely with the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on consumer issues.  She was curious about the sales pitch and scheduled a time for a salesman to come over her house.

The salesman tried to sell Brummert a water filtration home system for $7,000.

He made claim after claim, many of which people wouldn't want to hear about their water. But some of them just weren't true.

He said:

"The water is dirty, OK?  It's very dirty."

"Right now, you're washing with dirty water and it's laden with poop."

"There's still anti-depressants and heroin and all kind of drugs and stuff that you're consuming."

Charlotte Water said those claims are all false or misleading.

The salesman said:

"We guarantee 29 percent off your gas bill when you get clean water. That's guaranteed 29 percent, so it could be higher."

When Brummert asked if he'd put that guarantee in writing, he said, "Well, it's not necessarily in writing, but it's something you'll see the first month."

A UNC Charlotte chemistry professor said it's "unlikely that there are homeowners with dirty enough water to cause a measurable change in energy usage."

The salesman claimed the people who make the filtration system are "a division of NASA."  NASA said that's not true.

The salesman looked at the ice in Brummert's freezer, called it "white ice," and told her "it's one of the leading causes of a kidney stone is white ice."

A urologist said, "As someone who manages kidney stones all day, every day, I've never heard of this."

When Brummert asked the salesman why his company picked her neighborhood to solicit, he said, "This particular neighborhood, it was approved by the homeowners association."

The HOA said no, it wasn't.  An HOA representative emailed, "I will be reporting it to the authorities."

[JASON'S RESEARCH: A breakdown of the water sales pitch claims, what he discovered]

"I understand aggressive tactics and I understand sort of exaggerating what a system can do, but to outright lie about so many things," Brummert said. "I feel disgusted by it. I feel like he's using people's fears to install a very expensive system."

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein also used the word "fear."

"If a company is trying to use that kind of high-pressure, fear-based tactics, you have real reason to be suspicious about what they're selling," Stein said.

Action 9's Jason Stoogenke called the number he had for the salesman. The man who answered sounded like him; claimed he wasn't, but he seemed to know a lot about why Stoogenke was calling.

"You sound very protective of him. I'll just, forgive me for asking, but you're sure you’re not him, right?" Stoogenke asked.

The man said he was sure and that he'd pass along Action 9's number. Stoogenke never heard back.

Brummert didn't buy what the salesman was selling.

The salesman told Brummert he was an independent contractor selling for a business called Aquafeel Solutions.

Aquafeel said it cut ties with him "due to reported misrepresentation," and it "does not promote or condone the use of misleading statements" and is doing "an internal investigation" and taking a closer look at its "training."

Stoogenke looked up the company. Its closest office is near Raleigh.  The Better Business Bureau revoked its accreditation for "unanswered and unresolved complaints."

Stein's office said it has one complaint against the company from October.

"One of our attorneys sent a letter to this company on October 11 requesting information and documentation about their services," Stein said.

You should always be skeptical when someone tries to sell you something you didn't think you needed, whether it's a water system or new roof.

If you think a salesperson actually has a valid point:

  1. Get a third party you trust to see if he or she agrees.
  2. Find three businesses with good ratings or reviews to give you price quotes.
  3. Choose one of them to do the work.