I have an old house, and as with any old house, repairs eat up a big chunk of change each year. This year, I was investigating replacing some of my windows. I called several window companies and asked them if they could come out and give me an estimate.
The first guy came during a hurricane—well, not an official hurricane, but we did have sixty-mph winds. He said he liked to come to homes on nights like this so he can prove to homeowners how bad their windows were. We got an “F” in windows.
I was not surprised as the owner before us put in these cheap replacements in the front of the house for curb appeal. So, the salesman pointed out everything that was wrong with those replacements and then gave a two-hour presentation on why we needed his windows.
“May I be blunt, Donna?” It is amazing how we were on a first name basis already. Granted, I am not a formal person, but I think he got a little too friendly a little too fast.
“Sure, Steve,” I answered making sure to emphasize the Steve part.
“Your windows are crap. Just crap. Every one of them.”
“Well, Steve,” I said. “That is funny because I already had the bulk of the windows replaced just a few years ago. They are in fine shape. I was just looking to replace the ones that are in the front of the house.
“Oh, yeah, that’s what I meant. I recognized you had some new windows.” He was backpedaling pretty quickly now. He didn’t think I had it in me to be argumentative. He thought I was a pushover because I made him a fresh cup of coffee when he came in from the rain. He was convinced I was stupid and nice, and I was visualizing sicking my dog on him. “Oh yes, Most of the windows do look great. I meant the front ones. Let’s get to the numbers.”
You would think that the man would have attempted to be honest after I caught him in his little lie. But he just went with the script that the company gave him. He took out this huge calculator that I think was meant for the visually impaired and began punching away on the numbers. He dazzled me with mathematical formulas and technical jargon. Since I was a nice person with a kind face, he threw in a 10 percent discount. I have to say, I was impressed—by his total lack of conscience. Then, he hit the final total button and turned the calculator to me so I could see the great discounted price he was giving me.
“Okay, Donna. We can do this job for you for just $15,000.”
I literally gasped aloud.
“Are you freaking kidding me?” I asked. “I can’t pay that for eight windows. I think I will wait a year or two.”
“Is this way over budget? Well, let me see if I can fudge some numbers for you. I would hate to not get your business. You are such a nice person, I’ll re-calculate.”
Again with the nice person line. You would have thought that the smoke spewing from my ears would have let him in on the secret that I am not that nice a person.
”Well, if I am so nice, why don’t you do it for free?” I suggested seriously. He emitted a nervous laugh and went back to his calculating. I was amazed at how many numbers he could punch into that thing. I don’t think NASA scientists have to do as much math as this window guy has to do. Then, he was done again.
“Okay, Donna. How about we do this job for $8,700?”
I was stunned.
“You are going to give me half off your original estimate? How is that possible?”
“Well, we always have a little room to give with people who seem nice.”
Well, that was about all I could take.
“Okay, being nice is not a free ticket anywhere, so I am not sure why it would get me anything with your company especially since you were relying on me being nice at the beginning and just accepting your ludicrous $15,000 estimate!”
“That is just our starting number. That’s how it works.”
“That’s ridiculous. Why can’t you just be upfront?’
“It doesn’t work that way. How about we start over and you take the lower offer?” At that response, I started to get up from the table and he jumped up and said,
“Hold on, let me call my manager and see if he can do anything else for you.” Now, I was just losing patience. I tried to tell him not to bother, but he didn’t seem to hear me. Before I knew it, I was talking to Pete the manager on the phone and hearing Pete tell me how he was doing calculations to get the price down some more. Then, Pete asked to speak to Steve and they had a few short words. Steve reiterated that Pete said I had a nice voice, and he instructed Steve to give me a bigger break than he gives most customers.
What I really think Pete said to Steve was that he thought I might be the sucker of all suckers and he thought they could reel me in. So, Steve hung up the phone and said,
“Donna, Pete really liked you (Gee, what a shock!). He said to give you our employee discount. So, with that we can do your windows for $3,900.”
I was so tempted to sign that document to let them do my windows, but how do I trust a company who was willing to rip me off and do a job that was worth $3,900 for $15,000 without feeling a pang of guilt? Again, I declined the offer, and the awkward begging and pressuring began. The man would not take “No” for an answer. I had not said the word “No” this much since I was in the backseat of my boyfriend’s car in high school.
It took another 30 minutes, but I finally got Steve out of my house. I swear I think the man cried. He even uttered something about losing his job. I almost gave in after he said that, but I managed to stay strong and usher him out the door with the promise that I would reconsider his generous offer.
Will I call him back? I don’t think so. But I am thinking of hiring him to come with me the next time I have to buy a car. I think Steve might prove himself valuable.