Beware door-to-door scammers

Posted by Steve on Mon, 08/27/2018 - 7:23pm

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 ringing doorbells once again 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. I also advise people to be extremely careful about doing business with ANY contractor who rings your doorbell.  Quality contractors 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.

I had a 14 year old, plain-jane Andersen slider in my kitchen. The seals on the outside aluminum rail panels had gotten brittle and 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 getting difficult to even open the door.

My first call was to Andersen corporate, I wanted to test 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 an Andersen warranty because my doors lacked the "Andersen triangle" etching on the window glass.

That exclusion isn't even in the fine print.  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 isn'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

But 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 bright 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 senior 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 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. 

The senior 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.  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.  "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 required video presentation about Andersen's marvelous line of vinyl windows. I hate vinyl windows.  About ten minutes in, 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.  "No, the door is the job. There is no other job here."

Then 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 was sounding to me 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.  This isn't fifteen minutes after I told the twit the estimates I'd already gotten which were less than a third his price, one of which was for the same freakin' door he was trying to sell me: a plain-jane, six foot Andersen, no triple-pane glass, rare earth gases or diamond-encrusted hardware.  He presented his quote to me as if he was doing me a favor with discounts and "instant rewards" on 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 and acid-etched Tuscany landscapes in the glass costing that much but I've never seen an 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 him.  I couldn't believe this jerk was so clueless as to feed me that pitch after I'd just been screwed by the famous Andersen guarantee. 

Again, it's possible that this guy wasn't representing this particular Renewal by Andersen franchise.  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.

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 slimey 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.  They even did a good job 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".