Monday, February 26, 2007

Need New Windows, Doors, etc?

Before I start, I would like to say that the purpose of this blog entry is not in any way, shape, or form to be critical of Window Wizards, but to share an experience. I haven't been ripped off or wronged. I'm a paying customer, and I just want to post some information for potential shoppers to consider. I won't be critical. I'm just a little frustrated and if you're looking for windows or doors then please read on if you're considering Window Wizards. I'm not even saying not to use them. I'll explain.

When I first moved to New Jersey in 1999, Bell Atlantic was the local POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) provider. They've long since been purchased by Verizon. When it comes to the incompetence of large corporations, I'm not sure if its simple bearocratic inefficiency or deliberately crafted business practices, but I literally had to call them three times to get anything done right. Each time they would promise to resolve the situation, and not do it. Twice they sent my Caller ID box to the wrong address and tried to charge me for it, for instance. That was back when not all phones came with Caller ID, and I liked the phone I brought here with me anyway. I had a problem with my voice mail once, and that required three calls to straighten out. I guess they hoped if they didn't fix it you'd go away and somehow their shareholders get rich. Kevin Trudeau, in his "Natural Cures" books, frequently points out how corporations have a legal responsibility to their shareholders to make a profit. If somehow you benefit with good service, it's sometimes an accident.

Anyway, Window Wizards is sort of like that, without the feel of a big bad corporation. I'm sure they don't mean to cause some of the frustration that they do. My house was built in 1950. My wife and I bought it in 2001. Half of the windows had been replaced with the dual-pane vinyl windows, the other half were original installs: wood frame single-pane. They let in cold and drafts, many were stuck in place, and those that weren't stuck in place were about one more cold season away from being stuck in place. The sliding glass door in my kitchen was about to disintegrate and badly needed to be replaced. That and letting the dog out was a major workout.

We were in the process of taking out a second mortgage, so we called Window Wizards. Because their office is in Pennsylvania, we didn't have to pay some tax or other for them to install across state lines. The salesman came out and worked with us for a few hours to decide what windows we wanted to replace and what to replace them with. Then the carpenter came out to make the measurements. After that, they scheduled the installation. I took the day off, the first of many.

The installation went very well and they carpenter and his workmen did a good job. It took about a workday to install 10 windows and a sliding glass door. They were good guys and didn't mind me watching them and asking questions. The trouble began when the carpenter noticed a small machine mark on the sash of one of the windows in my family room. It wasn't a big deal, but he said since we have a lifetime warranty we should have it replaced. We figured sure, why not?

When the worker came out to replace the sash, he accidentally cracked the glass. It wasn't a big deal; it was only one pane. However, it took several more weeks to get a window replacement, and I had to take the afternoon off again to wait for service. I seem to remember living in San Diego that you could actually get appointments for deliveries and service calls. One time I called the cable company late at night on a Sunday and I was told that the serviceman would be there at 10 AM the next morning. He showed up by 10:10. Here on the East Coast, you get a window of time, say from 8-12 or 12-5. That means you may have to wait 4 or more hours sitting around your house waiting for someone to show up. What happens if they don't show up? Well, that's happened to me several times. You call to complain and get another 5 hour window to take off work and wait for them to show up. (My wife is a Stay At Home Mom, but isn't comfortable with servicemen so I still have to take off and wait for them. She takes the opportunity, like this morning, to sleep in because I'm here to watch the kids).

Anyway, I took off again to wait for service. Because the window was broken, they had to bring a new one. Would you believe the new one was 1/2 an inch too small to fit? ARRRRRRG! When I called to reschedule for them to bring the right sized window, they began asking me if I want to blow a morning or an afternoon waiting for them, and I might have said that I've already used up me entire year's worth of vacation waiting for Window Wizards service department so I really need them to try to make it convenient for me. They said they'd call me with a time. Several months later, winter was coming and my wife was nagging me to call them, so I did. I asked why they never called me back and they said there was a note on my account that I couldn't get anymore time off. We scheduled the appointment, and I spent yet another afternoon waiting for Window Wizards.

This time the window was the right size and I was glad that's over with. Thus concludes 2003.

Not long after that, the 1950's window frames began to expand and contract and my wife complained of a draft. Two of the windows weren't fitting in correctly anymore, and one wouldn't even stay up. Then my wife left the dog out too long and he destroyed the screen for one window. The nagging started to build up (Seriously, why can't she make the darn phone calls?) and finally I had to call Window Wizards again about the middle of 2006. I got a voice mail and left a message. A week later, I had heard nothing back, so I called their warranty service department again and left a message. Two weeks later I called and left a message. Then I called their sales desk, because I know that HAD to be manned, asked for help, got transferred to service, and left another message. Then I called, demanded to speak to a live person, left my information, got promised a callback, and three weeks later still hadn't gotten it. I called again, asked for the person I had talked to, asked why I'm waiting more than 2 months just to schedule a service call, and finally get something worked out. They came out and adjusted my window frames. However, that lifetime warranty really isn't a lifetime warranty. They'll come out, but we have to pay $65. Maybe Hyundai should start selling windows. They have the best warranty in the cars business. While we were waiting for service, we also noticed a crack in the vinyl of our sliding glass door, so I called back and added that to the list of things to look at.

The service guy came. I couldn't get off work, so my wife had to handle it. They adjusted the window frames, said they couldn't fix the screen (again, what exactly does LIFETIME WARRANTY mean?) and promised to call us back about the sliding door. After almost two and a half months of waiting, I had to call them.

They came out last Thursday to replace the sliding glass door. My wife had to handle it again. It's not that I can't leave work whenever I want, but I was already flexing time for something else and this would have left me too tight to make up. I'm trying to build a decent vacation balance. When I got home, we found that the sliding glass door didn't fit right and it rocks back, leaving a gap in the top right against the frame. The only way to keep it closed to to rock it up and lock it. I called Windows Wizards and, even though it was still business hours, left a message. They called me back Friday to schedule an appointment for this afternoon. My wife now refuses to deal with them, so I'm sitting home, with work piling up, and they called just before I got the idea to write this entry to say they have to reschedule. They might be able to make it out tomorrow, but they'll have to call me back. That normally means I'll be calling them in six weeks to ask why I'm having to go through winter with a glass door that doesn't seal into the frame correctly.

Like I said, I'm not trying to bash Window Wizards. I'm not even saying not to use them. They make a good product, and they do sort of support it although you have to be very proactive and have a flexible job and a huge vacation balance in order to get that support. Chances are if there's a defect in the installation, you'll have to schedule that cruise for another year because you'll use the whole 40 hours of vacation waiting for Window Wizards. If you want to buy from Window Wizards by all means go ahead.

I'll leave you with this. My wife has an Averatec laptop that we bought from Circuit City. It's been sent in for service five times, four through Averatec's manufacturer's warranty and once through Circuit City's extended plan. I think the service is very good, very responsive, and I'm glad we got it. On the other hand, I have a Compaq V2414NR laptop. I don't have the first clue how HP's service department or Best Buy's warranty work. And you know what? I'm much happier that way. Warranties are good and nice, but I prefer products and services that are built well enough that you NEVER, EVER have to learn how good the service department is.

I can't say that for Window Wizards.
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