Beware door-to-door scammers

This is an old story but one I should have blogged about three years ago. I’m kind of surprised it never made it to BrooklynRowHouse. Maybe I was worried about a lawsuit at the time because it involves a very large home improvement supply company, Andersen. This isn’t a knock on the Andersen product — well, it sort of is — but a complaint about one of their local franchisees for Renewal by Andersen, a home improvement contracting offshoot, operating in the 631 area code (Long Island).

It may be completely unique to this particular franchisee too and for all I know Andersen may have kicked them to the curb by now, and deservedly so. But they’re once again ringing doorbells in my Brooklyn neighborhood so beware. I just unloaded on the kid-with-clipboard who after hearing my tale cluelessly remarked, “But I just do windows, not doors” and kept pushing for a sale.

The lesson for the day is “get multiple quotes”. Don’t succumb to sales pressure to sign a contract until you’ve done your due diligence. You could lose a lot of money. A lot of money. I also advise people to be extremely careful about doing business with ANY contractor who rings your doorbell. Contractors who do quality work are too busy to engage in desperate, cold-call marketing because word of mouth usually gets them their next gigs. Unless of course their word of mouth is all negative.

The history: I had a 14 year old, plain-jane Andersen sliding door a/k/a slider in my kitchen. The seals on the outside aluminum rail panels had become brittle and had separated from the door. This allowed moisture to enter, which swelled the wood core of the bottom panel, accelerating the separation. Googling the symptoms, it turned out to be a known problem with Andersen sliders of its model and generation. I bought it at Home Depot in 2002 and paid around $800 for it. I installed it with a builder friend in about two hours.

Various attempts at repairing it failed. The bottom panel was bulging so badly that it was difficult to even open the door.

My first call was to Andersen corporate was to ask about their touted 20-year warranty. I was turned down because I was told that the fine print in my warranty says it’s only 10 years on the non-glass parts. However, that didn’t matter because I didn’t qualify for a warranty repair because my doors lacked the “Andersen triangle” etching on the window glass.

That exclusion isn’t anywhere in the fine print. However Andersen doors sold through Home Depot don’t have that triangle. My guess is that if you buy an Andersen door through Home Depot your warranty is with Home Depot, despite the Andersen 20 year claim. The door was sold with Andersen packaging, there are Andersen medallions on the door and it was even certified as an Andersen later by a sales droid. But apparently unless it has that little triangle, no warranty for you. Strike 1 for Andersen.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve encountered something like this with Home Depot products. You can read a similar story about a power tool I bought at the Hamilton Ave Home Depot around the same time as this door.

This is just the preamble. It gets better.

As luck would have it, Renewal by Andersen was canvassing my Brooklyn neighborhood that weekend with free estimates. A presentable young guy in a brightly colored Renewal By Anderson teeshirt with a handful of shiny cards rang my doorbell. I could see another one of them working the other side of the street. I decided to ask the kid to look at my door. I showed him and he said that it looked like a warranty issue to him. If I agreed to have a sales rep pay me a visit he could approve the warranty and then give me a 60-90 minute sales pitch about their wonderful windows. I’m happy with my Champion windows but if I could get a free replacement door out of it, hell, I’ll watch a Justin Bieber concert video if they want.

A senior Andersen sales rep arrived a few days later. After much tut-tutting about my failed Andersen door, he gave me an “Aw, shucks” look and also said that it wasn’t a warranty item. However, he’d make me a great deal on a replacement door. I told him that I’d already gotten one estimate for a top of the line Marvin door for $3100 installed and thought the price was excessive. I got another estimate from another local window company for essentially the same Andersen slider for $2450. I remember his response exactly: “Oh, I think we can do better.”

This was looking up. My hope was to just buy the door from him, do the installation myself and save the GC overhead.

So I sat down to watch his agreed-upon video presentation about Andersen’s marvelous line of vinyl windows. I hate vinyl windows. There’s no way I’d install them even if they were free. About ten minutes into the video, I couldn’t take it anymore, stopped him and said, “Look, I’ve already got replacement windows. They’re fine. I just want to replace that slider is all. That’s the job.

He said he’d like to inspect my windows and I pushed back. “No, the door is the job. There is no other job here.”

Unfazed, he spent the next five minutes talking about Andersen’s great financing deals and trying to sign me up for a credit check. I started getting nervous. It sounded suspiciously like the orchestra was tuning up.

And then it was show time.

Because his “great deal”? His “better” deal? It was $9,095! I kid you not. He dropped that number on me not fifteen minutes after I told this annoying twit the estimates I’d already gotten and rejected, all of which were less than a third his price. One of those quotes was for the the same freakin’ door he was trying to sell me at over 3 times the price: a plain-jane, six foot Andersen. No triple-pane glass, rare earth gases or diamond-encrusted hardware. Was he brain damaged?? He presented his quote to me as if he was doing me a favor with discounts and “instant rewards” for a door which he never actually showed me in a catalog but which he had nevertheless arbitrarily given an MSRP of $11,795.

There may be multimillion dollar Shore Road mansions with custom sliders with gold plated hardware and acid-etched glass Tuscany landscapes costing that much but I’ve never seen any off-the-rack slider cost even half that.

I was stunned. I stared at his estimate sheet in disbelief and muttered something to the effect of “we’re done“, but he kept pushing.

You can finance over 7 years at 4.99%! I just need $1820 for a down payment!” I’m in the market for a *door*, not a house in Detroit, and I’m looking for $1820 as the installed price.

But you’re not just buying a door! You’re buying the famous Andersen guarantee!” And, just like that, it was GTFO time for this bozo. I couldn’t believe this jerk was so clueless as to feed me that line after Andersen had just screwed me with their famous guarantee.

Again, it’s remotely possible that this guy was just scamming as a Renewal by Andersen franchisee. But he came with all the literature, iPad multimedia presentations and Andersen branded catalogs, estimate sheets and appointment reminders of an Andersen rep. His guys were wearing yellow Renewal by Andersen tee-shirts. If he was scamming at Andersen’s expense, he was damned well-equipped.

And contractors wonder why they have a bad name.

As I said, get lots of estimates. Thanks to a DIY father, I’ve been renovating old homes since I was a little kid. I’m a skilled woodworker and cabinetmaker and, more to the point, I’ve been dealing with slimy contractors for years. A couple of hours of market recon can save you tens of thousands of dollars and a lot of buyer’s remorse later.

Epilogue: Bay Ridge Windows did a terrific job installing a new Marvin slider, superior to the Andersen, for $2200. Still overpriced, but they did a good job of carefully removing and reinstalling the moldings that I custom cut in my shop. And they knocked a hundred bucks off the price because I was an “easy customer”.

 

 

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    Welcome to Brooklyn Row House

    This blog is about the challenges of renovating an old (1903) Brooklyn, New York row house.

    My last major renovation project was the master bedroom, most of which is about finish carpentry. You’ll find other completed home improvement projects in the Projects submenu at the top of this page.

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