Monday, January 25, 2010

A window into the world of windows

When my wife and I bought our house almost two years ago, we recognized early on that the windows would have to eventually be replaced. The current windows (which have presumably been there since the house was built in 1966) are aluminum frame, single pane dinosaurs that emit cold drafts into the house that you can especially feel from our massive living room window when sitting on the couch watching television.

Naturally, during the winter, we must constantly run our heater - the fireplace will only reach the common areas - and our air conditioner during the summer. The current economic situation is a good one for home improvements if you have the financial resources to make it happen, so last week, my wife and I decided to take the plunge and have some estimates done to replace all 15 windows plus the sliding glass door which accesses the back porch.

The first estimate came in just under $8,000, which is pretty not bad. Nevertheless, it's never a good idea to go forward on just one estimate, so we had a competing company come out, which means we had to endure another two hours of measuring and window presentation.

When the rep from this second company was finished tabulating his estimate, he pushed the piece of paper across the table to me, and it was just over $13,000.

However, as they say in the biz, BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE!

We told the rep that it was a fair amount based on the company's reputation and the quality of the windows, but we would need to reevaluate his estimate after our mid-February tax appointment, as the prospect of a substantial refund would be a major factor toward considering his estimate. It was here where the sales rep killed any remaining chance he might have had.

He told us that the $13,000 dollar estimate was good for the next 30 days, but if we agreed to sign that night, he was authorized to give us a large discount from the current number. He wouldn't tell us what that amount would be, mind you; we would just have to commit that night and hope for the best.

Apparently my wife and I had suddenly donned some crazy costumes because all of a sudden, our sales rep was Monty Hall and we were on Let's Make a Deal: Do you stay with Door Number One? Or do you risk it all and see what's behind Door Number Two? As soon as he did that, the meeting was over.

It was only then - after we had refused the offer - that the sales rep revealed what the discount would have been had we accepted it: $2,000. So the final tally for the estimate would have been $11,000. This tactic revealed a couple of things to my wife and me.

First, sales tactics like that are an instant turn off; even if it really was done in good faith, it left us with the feeling that we were being played.

Second, if the job could really be done for $11,000, then why wasn't that the original estimate to begin with? Why was it necessary to play secret games with us in order to pressure us into committing to this company to do the work?

To ask the question, of course, is to answer it.

After our experiences with this episode, there is little wonder that the Better Business Bureau fields more inquiries about the home improvement industry than any other sector of our economy, and fields the 7th largest number of complaints.

Good Day to You, Sir


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the lesson.


Don, American said...

So, you have learned that the job is worth a little less than $8,000. It is probably worth the small extra if they are licensed contractors. The second guy just said he would sacrifice $2,000 of his commission, which gives you some idea of how profitable the window business is. Is it time for a career change?

Donalbain said...

In the US, is there a legally enforced cooling off period from any such contract?

Chanman said...

Yes. I believe it's something like 5 days. We just signed the contract with the $8,000 firm last night, and there was a document we signed that acknowledged that we were informed that we had so many days to back out of the contract.

The $8,000 dollar firm is licensed and has liability insurance. I believe they are able to be so much less expensive because the other firm heavily advertises on our our local talk radio stations. They gotta pay for that advertising somehow, I figure.

Darren said...

I just had my attic insulated. I'd met the salesman a few weeks ago at the Home and Garden Show downtown at the convention center, where he estimated for me, based on the numbers I gave him, a ridiculously low amount in $$/square foot. I knew it was too low, but I remembered the number anyway.

When he came out and did the formal measurements and crawled around in the attic and such, the number he came up with was twice what he said at the show. I called him on it immediately, and he apologized profusely, etc etc, and knocked a third off his quote, saying there was no way he could go any lower.

I knew the number he gave at the show was bogus anyway, and I was still pleased with what he quoted after seeing the house. A few days later the job was done.

Now I get to fill out some paperwork to get a rebate from my gas company (gas heating in my house). After that rebate, the cost will be down to about what the salesman quoted at the show!