Monday, August 16, 2004

Chad from Eurotech 

Chad came over on Saturday. I know his name was Chad, not because he introduced himself, but because it said so on the patch on his golf shirt. He came over to take a look at our attic windows -- the ones directly to my left.

We've got this nice, finished attic, where I write. It's my little home above home. But the previous owner kind of half-assed the "finishing" job on the attic. The windows don't work too well and they have no screen or storm. So we thought sometime in the next couple years, we'd do something with them.

Such was our luck last week that a woman from Sam's Club stopped us in the middle of our shopping to ask us if we'd like a free estimate on some windows. There was no pressure to commit. Just a free estimate.

So there Chad was, dressed up in his company shirt, looking very serious about windows. It was at that point, at the beginning, that I knew there would be problems. The guy had no personality. Before we even introduced ourselves, I could tell he was concentrating on his script. It was like we were doing something to throw him off.

We took him up to the attic to give him some idea of what we wanted, but he didn't measure anything. He didn't even look at the windows. He just sat down and opened up his big binder. Uh-oh. Then he said, "These were the only windows you want done in the whole house?"

First, he had some ridiculous survey for us to take. "Would you say it was important for the use of your windows to be successful?" "Would you say that insulation was important to you?" "Do you want your windows to last?" I had the urge to say, "Actually, we're looking for junk. In fact, if you could just remove the windows we have, we'll replace them with a bedsheet. That's the look we're going for."

And this whole time, Chad looked at me. It's like my wife wasn't even there. After a while, I started looking only at her, but Chad didn't get it. He kept looking at me. If this idiot only knew who made the financial decisions . . . .

The mood in the attic was strangely, uncomfortably quiet when Chad finished the survey and pulled out his demonstration kit. "You see this aluminum window? They don't make any more of these because of this corner crack. See? There are twelve places in which this window can fail. We won't use this window." Don't ask me how four corners turns into twelve places; it's not important. Chad spent the next 20 minutes showing us all the crappy windows we wouldn't be getting before showing us the perfect window we would be getting.

More brochures were handed out. More explanations given. Finally, a measurement was made. Calculations were calculated. Then Chad wrote something down on a sheet of paper and looked at us. "Any guesses?" I looked at Jessica, like, "Huh? Is he for real? He wants us to guess the price? How the hell should we know? That's why we got the estimate." So then Chad said, "I'll buy you lunch at McDonald's if you guess within $500.00."

Finally, he folded the paper and handed it to me, like it was an envelope for an academy award winner. I opened it and couldn't even find the price. Jessica looked at it and nodded. Fine. $1,658 for the double-hung. $5,442 for a bay. Whatever. I don't know how much windows cost. Sounded good to me.

And it was at that point that I knew what we were in for. Because Chad wasn't packing up all his stuff, getting ready to leave. He wasn't moving at all. Jessica and I shrugged. Chad said, "So, were you surprised at the price?"

I've been in Chad's shoes, and all I could think of at this point was, "What an idiot." But I didn't say that. I just said, "No, we don't know what windows are priced at. The bay window is out of our range, but the double-hung looks OK," I said.

"We're going to get three estimates and make a decision," Jessica said.

Chad sat there, looking down, looking frustrated. "But . . . but you liked the windows, right?"

I smiled. "Yes, we liked the windows."

"So, it's the price, isn't it?"

I told him, honestly, it was not the price. We've redone our bathroom, put up a fence, and purchased air conditioning this year. All of it was done after we received three estimates.

"But you liked the windows."

"We always get three estimates," Jessica said.

"I can show you other companies' estimates," Chad insisted.

"I think we can get our own estimates," Jessica replied. "I have a crazy idea that the ones you would show me would not reflect well on those other companies. And I don't like being hard-sold, and that's what I think is starting to happen here."

There was a long pause, and Chad began to tell us about the cost of this kind of work. He spoke at length about working six days a week, to which I said, "You know, I did that for a time, and I recommend you get out of it while you still can." He went on to state that his company had a better offer for customers who sign up on the first day. Meaning, we'd save them some time and money "with all the paperwork", if we just sign up for the windows today. He read a long, impassioned letter from the president of his company that stated this policy. Then he said, "OK, that price I gave you is good for 30 days. But I'll recalculate the price you will get if you sign up now. You can say 'yes', and we'll get the windows. Or you can say 'no', and I'll go back to my jeep and cry."

Then he recalculated the price of the windows: $1,410 for double-hung; $3,900 for bay. Funny how he never mentioned this discount when he calculated the first price.

Jessica and I nodded. "We're getting two more estimates."

"OK, I'm calling my boss."

Seventy-five minutes had passed. "Hi, John? This is Chad. I'm sitting here with Will and . . . Jessica, looking at their attic window. And they're some pretty smart customers. They're looking at getting three estimates."

"Why don't they get four?" the voice on the cell phone yells back. This is the point in which I knew we were not buying windows from these people. A hushed discussion continued until Chad hung up.

"OK, my boss says we can do the bay for $3,900 and the double-hung for $1,000."

"No," Jessica said. "It's not the price."

"Well, what price do you want?" Chad said.

"Twenty dollars," Jessica said. "No, five. Five-dollar windows."

"But . . . but you liked the windows."

"I won't buy from you, just on principle," Jessica said. "I won't give you the impression that I think it is OK -- what you are doing."

"I used to contract labor," I said, "and I did I few things right and a few things wrong, but I only offered people one fair price."

"But $1,000 is an incredible price," Chad said, feeling things slipping. "I'm making nothing on these windows."

And then Jessica ends it: "I don't care. And I don't feel sorry for you for working six days a week. That's your choice. It's not my problem. What you're doing is sneaky and dishonest. No. We're done here. Do you understand? If you need help carrying your little kit outside, Will can help you."

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