What is Price Conditioning and How is it Used Against You?

Ever heard of price conditioning?  Chances are you’ve experienced it, probably several times every day.  Here’s how it works.

Companies know that you want a “great deal”.  Who doesn’t, right?  Think of what happens every time someone you know buys a new house.  What’s the first thing they tell you?  They tell you all about how they got such a great deal.  Of course they did, nobody buys a bad deal (insert sarcasm here).

How do they know they got a “great deal” on that house?  They might compare the price they paid to the asking price, or to the Zestimate, or the price their sister paid.  That’s price conditioning. They got another price in their head, that price was higher than the price they paid so they must have gotten a great price.  It makes sense and it’s often not based in reality.

How is this used against you?

The odds are pretty good that you’re not a window expert.  You don’t know what custom windows like this cost, but everyone knows you want a good deal.  How can the company convince you that they’re offering a great deal?  Easy, they’ll show you a really bad deal and then show you how their deal is better than that.

Their deal might still be a long way from good, but if it’s better than the horrible price they showed you they’ll at least have a chance of getting you to think it’s a smart buy.

You got $40,000 worth of windows for $25,000 whoa you must be a great shopper!

You’ll see companies start with a very high price only to lower it right away with a “special sale”.  They might show you the regular price of $40,000 only to then let you know about the sale that is going on right now.  With the price at only $25,000 on sale you’d be a fool to pass up this deal.   Never mind the fact that you could get similar windows for $15,000 from someone else.

They know full well that nobody is going to buy those windows for $40,000.  They start at $40k, let you hit the ceiling, tell them to get out of their house, etc.  Then they talk you back down.  They let you know about the sale that’s going on now and the fact that they need one more order to hit their monthly goal.

They tell you that you might not have to pay that price to get $40k worth of windows.  If they could offer you a substantial discount on your order tonight would you be interested in hearing about it?  Of course you would.  Now you’re sitting back down and they have you right where they want you.  That’s price conditioning.

Do you want to hear a funny story?

One of our competitors in Maryland is a one of these old fashioned companies who uses all of the old timey tricks.  They do the half off installation and the buy 2 get one free and more.  It’s fun to listen to their radio commercials.

One of their reps met with a potential customer and gave her the full treatment.  Our rep was the next person in there that night and the customer was so upset at the other company she spent half an hour venting abut what a jerk that other guy was.

It turns out the other guy left a binder behind by accident.  In it he had probably 10 other “quotes” from brand name companies for ridiculous amounts.  Something like 10 vinyl replacement windows for $18,000, etc.

They were using that binder to try to overcome the objection about getting more quotes.  They know one thing you might say to avoid committing to their order is to say you have 2 other quotes scheduled.  They’re ready for that with their binder.  They’ll show you 5 other quotes that are much worse than theirs so you just might decide to buy their windows for $1,200 each so you don’t need to mess with window salesmen anymore.

After all, that’s a much better price than these other companies offer and you can see that for yourself right here in these quotes.  It’s not a great deal, but you might find it to be reasonable.

Why do companies operate that way?

Well, working in the home improvement business isn’t easy.  It’s especially challenging for companies with a bad value proposition.  They know if they give you time to shop around you won’t be calling them back.

You can see it in some of the comments on our other sales articles.  Salespeople write in to talk about how they need to close the deal today because customers never call them back.  The important point they’re missing is that people would call them back if they offered a good deal.  Since they don’t, their options are limited.  They can either get you to buy tonight or they can go home hungry.  Which do you think they’ll pick?

How can you avoid price conditioning?

It’s easy, you just need to keep an eye on what’s going on.  For example you probably wouldn’t buy a car without a reasonable idea of what that amount of money would get you from another manufacturer.  If you’re spending $30k on a Toyota you’d want to know what Ford would give you for $30k.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay more for one than another.  Get what you want, just do it with both eyes open.

In keeping with the car analogy does it matter that the Ford is normally $50k, but discounted to $30k if you buy today?  It shouldn’t.  What matters is what your $30k will buy you.  Do you like it more than the other options?  If so, but it and be happy.

Can I have one more real life example?

Sure, just today I was emailing with a customer who wanted external grids or Simulated Divided Lites (SDLs) in his windows.  This option costs a few bucks and it’s not the most popular, but some people prefer that over internal grids.

The pricing for the model he was looking at was $204 for the grids and he was shocked.  Keep in mind the total price for double hung windows, in beige, with Energy Star rated glass, professional measuring and installation by the manufacturer including the external grids was about $650 per window.

You’ll see folks commenting with prices much higher than that for typically white vinyl windows with internal grids all the time.  Unfortunately this customer was price conditioned by us to think that $200 per window for grids was ridiculous.

It can work both ways.  He saw our low prices for internal grids and somehow that made the prices for external grids seem too high.  He lost sight of the fact that $650 including a color, upgraded glass and external grids is not a bad number.  He was sure he “could do better”.

When considering your options its best to focus on the opportunity  cost.  If $5k spent with this company gets me this and it takes $7k with the other company to get me something similar than the first company is a better deal.  If the s

It can he hard to sort through the clutter.  Companies make it hard on purpose, but knowing is half the battle and now you know all about price conditioning.  Have fun out there!

Understanding Window Prices

Recently the owner of one of our favorite window companies told me that a customer who had found him through our site was confused or unsure about my pricing examples so I wanted to clarify things a little bit.

This potential customer met with the owner of the company and when he showed her how the pricing would work for her project she said that Dan at TheWindowDog.com told her it would cost less and she thought he was offering a bad deal.  I know him to be an upstanding guy, so I need to try to fix this situation.

It’s important to keep in mind that when I’m throwing out examples of what a window project should cost I don’t know anything about your house, your old windows or the options you’d like in your new windows.  I know a lot of things, but I don’t know as much as the person who has taken the time to learn the details of your specific window replacement project.

As you’re reading my reviews it’s important to remember that most of the time when I’m talking about prices I’m talking about a plain, simple project with white double hung windows as that’s the most common scenario we deal with.

If your project requires extra work to fix a problem or if you’ve picked out windows with fancy options the prices will be higher.  For example, if you’re ordering triple pane windows with a nice exterior color, a woodgrain interior and etched glass it will cost a bit more than any estimate I’ve thrown out there as those are expensive options.

This is why I repeatedly suggest starting with either the companies that we recommend here or with the best rated companies on Angie’s List.  You can be pretty confident that they’ll treat you well and give you an honest assessment of your actual project.

Folks do contact me with questions regarding specifics relating to their project and I try to help as much as I can, but without being directly involved in your project all I can do is guess.

I hope that helps to clarify any misunderstanding.  If there is ever anything I can do to help just drop me a line with the contact link at the bottom of every page.

Thanks!
Dan

In Defense of Salespeople

Since starting this site I’ve attracted a bit more attention than I anticipated.  As is often the case on the internet, there have been many people with questionable spelling skills who have criticized me for one thing or another.  For the most part I have a chuckle, forward their emails to my friends, and move on with my life.

However, there has been one criticism that struck a nerve and it has to do with salespeople.  Some of my most popular posts have been explaining the common sales tactics used in the shady corners of the replacement window business specifically and the home improvement business more generally.  I’ve tried to shine a light on some of the methods that salespeople use to get folks to overpay for new windows and judging by many of the positive comments, I’ve been able to help quite a few people.  That really feels great.

The criticism that has stood out to me has to do with the reasoning that because I’m exposing these tactics I must not like, appreciate or understand salespeople.  This bothers me for several reasons, but most specifically because I have a deeper respect for a serious professional salesperson than just about anyone you’ve ever met.

I’ve worked in professional sales for almost 20 years in several industries.  I’ve known great salespeople and sales managers and of course I’ve known the bad ones too.  There are several important misconceptions relating to what it means to be a salesperson and this feels like a good time to address them.

First, misleading someone into making a bad purchasing decision is not the job of a professional salesperson.  I’ll tell you why.

Sales is a craft.  It’s a hard job that many people are afraid to do.  It takes work and it involves failure; often quite a lot of failure.  The failure is different than a baseball player who strikes out.  That is done on the field in front of the crowd.  Everyone knows you put in the practice and tried hard.  You still might get cut, but your efforts are seen.

The failure that you’ll experience in sales is solitary.  It’s you sitting alone in your car on a cold rainy night listening to a voicemail from a customer saying they bought elsewhere.  It’s knowing you needed that sale to hit your numbers and remembering that customer shaking your hand and looking you in the eye just last week saying he was going to work with you.  It can take an emotional toll that folks with regular salaried 9-5 jobs just don’t understand.

Folks deal with that kind of pressure differently and unfortunately some choose to take the easy road.  You can lie or mislead your customers and if you’re half way good at that you can make a living.  Being good at deception doesn’t make you a good salesperson.  Why not?  It’s too easy.

James Brown once said there’s a big difference between a lounge act and the main stage.  If you need to mislead your customers to get a sale you will never make it to the main stage.  You may be able to pay your rent, feed your family, buy a nice car, and you may even pickup a few “salesperson of the month” trophies, but you’ll never really be successful if you base your success on lying to your customers.

After college I was a finance manager at a car dealership in Indiana.  We helped to arrange loans, sold extended warranties and other insurance products. During that time an undercover piece aired on a national news magazine show (Dateline or 20/20 or one of those).  The show exposed some shady dealings amongst finance managers and it included hidden camera footage.  It was pretty bad and as an insider it was completely unsurprising.

I knew that I never wanted to be the bad guy featured on one of those shows.  I also knew that some of our transactions were not always the type that would make my mom proud.  The pressure to hit our numbers was strong and we had to face the music in the managers meetings every month.  A professional salesperson faces a level of accountability that Jill in customer service or Mike at the sandwich shop will never understand.

I was faced with a choice.  I could keep doing things the way I had been taught and hope Stone Phillips never came walking through my door, or I could find a better way.  I hid a tape recorder on my desk (this is back when recorders actually had tapes) and I listened to my interactions with customers, the successes and the failures.

I asked myself if I would be comfortable with this tape being played on the nightly news and at first the answer was a resounding no.  To keep things short here I’ll let you know that I made it my business to solve that problem.  I sought additional information about my products, met with experts, and focused my efforts on selling the products that created the most value for my customers.  Within just a few months I was generating the second highest profit per contract in the dealership group, I was making more money each month and I was doing it with my head held high.  There’s nothing wrong with making a lot of money when you’re not deceiving people.

Unfortunately in the window business it’s not uncommon for a salesperson to be in a no-win situation.  There are many companies out there offering bad deals every day and the salesperson often has little to no say in the matter.  A company offering typical vinyl replacement windows at $1,000 – $1,200 per window is offering a pretty bad deal and that salesperson is faced with a difficult choice.  They can tell you it’s a bad deal and quickly find the unemployment line or they can follow the script and try to get paid.

In cases like that it’s common for the sales manager to recruit salespeople who are not familiar with the business.  That way they can teach them that all of their claims are actually true.  The inexperienced salesperson will believe this for a while which of course makes his job much easier.  You can see evidence of this in the comments on my posts.  We have industry people posing about how their windows really are so great that they are worth that cost.  I ask them what makes them so great and they say things like virgin vinyl, special glass, fully welded frames, “top quality”, or they just don’t respond.

In many if not most cases the salesperson actually believes that his products are better.  Why wouldn’t they?  Their boss seems like a knowledgeable guy and he’s explained all of this very thoroughly.  Once the salesperson realizes that many other companies are offering the same or very comparable products with similar installation and similar warranties at a fraction of the cost they’re faced with a pretty hard choice.  If they’re going to keep their job the only option is to lie to the customer, try to sell the contract and justify it as being a “good salesperson” in order to sleep at night.

The job of a professional salesperson is to understand the wants and needs of their customers, provide a solution to a problem and to do it in a way that represents a real value to the customer.  

Of course if you’re the salesperson you’re going to emphasize the positives and downplay the negatives.  You’re going to know what your competitors are offering.  You’re going to show that customer why your solution is the best solution and you’re going to continue to put yourself out there facing rejection every day.

You’re going to offer a professional demonstration of your products and you’re going to present information clearly and accurately in order to make sure that customers know you’re the best deal going.

If you’re going to make it to the main stage you’re going to work on your craft over and over and over again.  How are you presenting this option?  What caused you to lose that deal?  What caused you to get this one?  What could have gone better today?  You’ll need to put in a lot of work that never gets seen.

When your coworkers spend 2 hours in a Starbucks waiting for their next appointment you spend that time in your car listening to a recording of your last sales call and talking out loud to yourself as you’re role-playing a different customer interaction.  Does that feel awkward at first?  Sure.  Is it effective? Absolutely.  Is it harder than drinking a mocha latte and talking about football with your friends?  Yep.

When I started my company I knew I wanted to create an environment where success could be achieved without compromising our character and we’ve been lucky enough to achieve that.  We have any great salespeople on our team who work hard every single day to help our customers.  I know as the owner of a business I have the opportunity to control my own environment in a way that many people do not.

Ultimately if you find your self in a sales position that is a lounge act you have a responsibility to yourself and your family to find another job.  Chalk it up as a life experience, and put those sales skills to work in the job market. As someone who has hired a lot of people I can tell you there are great jobs out there regardless of what you hear on the news.  Staying in a bad sales job is nobody fault but yours.

Sales is a great profession.  It can offer earning potential unmatched by many other professions and it comes with a freedom and a level of control that many people will never experience.  Don’t be the guy out there lying to customers at 10:00PM about the managers special that expires today.  It really is unnecessary and it gives us all a bad name.  The really great professional salespeople in our industry make a whole lot more money up there on the main stage than any lounge act ever will.  I promise.

If you’re looking for a window company right now, the best advice we have is to join Angie’s List.  For just a couple bucks you can get a 1-month membership and it’ll be worth much more than a caramel macchiato in the long run.  You can find the best pricing for Angie’s List on the internet right here

If you’re already a member of Angie’s List or if you’re just not going to join (despite my ringing endorsement), you can find our suggestions for the best companies in your area right here.

Chickens, Eggs & Online Reviews

We were recently contacted by the president of a window manufacturer with a concern about the way we were reviewing her products.  We know running a business can be stressful and the thought of less than positive info about your company isn’t thrilling.  We get that, but the point of the site is to provide our thoughts on various products to folks considering a replacement window project.  It’s not our job to be nice.

We’re in touch with manufacturing folks all the time and we typically don’t write a post about each one.  The reason we wanted to write about this one relates to this specific comment she made:

“I’m certain the manufacturers you carry enjoy the benefits of a favorable review on your site, while those of us you compete against mysteriously have less than stellar reviews.”

This misses a really important point and it occurs to us that other reasonable people might come to the same errant conclusion.  For that reason we wanted to make sure we address it.  While it’s a bit of a chicken an egg scenario, the ultimate answer is pretty clear.  I hope.

Do we give favorable reviews to the products we carry as she suggests or do we carry products that compare well with the other offerings in the marketplace?

There is really nothing mysterious about it.  Like most businesses our only goal is to grow the business.  We work hard to earn more customers every day.  In that effort we know we need to offer great products that will hold up over time from a manufacturer that is likely to be around for the long haul.

We don’t want to send our reps into a customer’s home with 25 window samples so we evaluate the options ahead of time and we make recommendations based on what they’re trying to accomplish.

There is a lot of effort that goes into deciding which products to offer.  Much more than most customers probably realize.   That’s ok. We’re supposed to be the window experts and we take our job pretty seriously.  We routinely evaluate new window options to make sure we’re aware of what is going on in the marketplace.

I would bet we spend 50-100 hours per year evaluating window options to decide if we want to offer them through our business.  Even after doing this for years we still routinely compare window options.  We do it all the time; we’re crazy like that.  Our customers are hiring a professional window company and they want our expert advice.  We take that seriously.

At the end of the day we offer a rather expansive range of replacement windows.  We have basic double pane single hung vinyl windows for a rental property, we have fancy triple pane options for the greenest of customers, we offer a complete line of historic wood and aluminum clad windows and we’re about to bring on a new composite window line.  The shortest warranty we offer is 20 years and most everything we offer comes with a complete lifetime warranty.

There are quite a few windows that we don’t carry because we’re not thrilled with some aspect of the product, the company, the warranty, etc.  Sometimes customers specifically ask us to install a model they want.  We will do that when we can, but we often refuse those requests as we know we’re the ones that will be blamed if/when something doesn’t perform as expected.  We stick with quality because we want happy customers.  I would much rather lose an order than have an unhappy customer.  That very scenario played out yesterday at our Alexandria, VA office.

We do carry some of the products that we’ve reviewed on the site and we’ve made note of that.  We’re offering the best products we’re aware of and we’ll continue to do that as long as we’re in charge around here.

So what’s the bottom line?

We carry the best replacement windows that we know of.  If we find better products we’ll carry those.  If we knew of better products and didn’t at least offer them we’d be doing our customers a great disservice.  That’s what you would want from any professional company, isn’t it?

The Large Order Discount and Other Tricks

This one made us chuckle.  It’s a combination of the “you’re getting a special deal” and the “you need to order right now to save”.  That combination is a bit of a work of art in the sales business and can be a pretty deadly combination.  We wouldn’t be surprised if this one was more successful than we know.  Here’s how it works:

You’re getting a free quote to replace the windows in your home.  When the salesperson is presenting the prices and going through all of the discounts and promotions you tell him you want to get a couple of quotes to compare.

Of course he knows that if you get other quotes you’ll see that his “special” deal is not very good at all.  What does he do?  He’ll tell you that another customer of his just placed a very large order.  Maybe it was 200 windows for an apartment building.  It just so happens that they will be placing that order tomorrow and if you act now he can put your windows on that same order which will qualify you for a volume discount.  You’ll get pricing as if you ordered 200+ windows, but you’re really only ordering 10 windows.  That sounds like a pretty fantastic deal right?  Except it’s completely not true.

Years ago I worked in one of the largest replacement window plants on the east coast.  We produced around 4,000 replacement windows per day.  That’s 20,000 windows per week, 80,000 windows per month, you get the idea.  Based on that scale, even if there really was another order from this local company (which there certainly isn’t), the plant doesn’t offer a volume discount.  Even if the plant did offer a volume discount it would be something like $10 per window, or $100 total for your 10 window project.

Once you get an idea of the scale involved in manufacturing this trick seems sillier and sillier, but most folks have no idea.

The thought of getting your windows at a special discount just because you had the good fortune to get a quote on the same day as they were going to enter a large order is just too much for some folks to resist.  Of course the discount offered is likely thousands of dollars which is necessary to get you to make a rash decision.

You can be sure that the salespeople sign up customers using this tactic all the time.  They then meet up with each other a joke about the sales they made that day.  You don’t want to be one of the people they’re joking about.

Find more info on replacement window sales tactics here and you can find our thoughts on using Angie’s List to find a reputable local contractor right here.

Have fun!

If you’re looking for a window company right now, the best advice we have is to join Angie’s List.  For just a couple bucks you can get a 1-month membership and it’ll be worth much more than a caramel macchiato in the long run.  You can find the best pricing for Angie’s List on the internet right here

If you’re already a member of Angie’s List or if you’re just not going to join (despite my ringing endorsement), you can find our suggestions for the best companies in your area right here.

Replacement Window Trade-In Program

If you’ve been shopping for replacement windows you may have seen this ad running in your town.  “Trade in your old windows and SAVE!”

I may not have told you much about my background, but I did sell cars in college and I think that’s an experience anyone who wants to work in business should have.  You learn more about people in 6 months on a car lot than you will doing about anything else.  This replacement window promo always reminds me of the old days selling cars in Lafayette, IN.

I guess it works because the idea of trading something in sounds a little nicer that throwing it out.  It really does sound nicer.  You wouldn’t throw out your old car, you trade it in for a nicer model.  It’s pretty easy to see what happens to your old car after you traded it in.  Just swing by the dealers lot a week later and you’ll see it looking all shine with balloons ties to it and a SALE sign in the windshield.

What happens to your old windows after you’ve traded them in?  They go to the dump.  It is completely impossible to reuse them for anything other than an art project and it’s pretty darn tough to recycle them (although we have an upcoming post on recycling building products). You can be sure they’ll never be used as windows again.

Why then do companies pay thousands of dollars to run ads referring to a window trade-in program?  Generally it’s because the window business is pretty competitive and they’re looking for a way to attract your attention.  Does that make them bad companies, no.  This one is a little different than some of the other window sales tactics we’ve outlined.

It sure does make their ads silly and it might make them deceptive if they’re telling you that your old windows really are going somewhere other than the trash heap.

Some lucky highschooler might be thrilled to drive your old car, but there is nobody who wants your junky old windows.

Learn more about replacement window sales tricks here and find our in-depth reviews of all major replacement windows right here.

Have fun!

If you’re looking for a window company right now, the best advice we have is to join Angie’s List.  For just a couple bucks you can get a 1-month membership and it’ll be worth much more than a caramel macchiato in the long run.  You can find the best pricing for Angie’s List on the internet right here

If you’re already a member of Angie’s List or if you’re just not going to join (despite my ringing endorsement), you can find our suggestions for the best companies in your area right here.

Buy 2 Get 1 Free Replacement Window Sale!

We see ads like this running all over the country.  Sometimes it’s a buy 2 get 1, sometimes it’s buy 3 get 1 or even buy 5 get 1.  Maybe some discount levels seem more plausible to folks which is why they would vary the amount.  While that would be an interesting psychology experiment, it’s a silly way to shop for replacement windows.

If you remember anything from this site, remember that nothing in the window business changes every day or every week or every month.  If the company charges prices that are high enough to allow them to run a buy 2 get 1 free sale then they were charging people way too much before that sale started.  Do you want to work with a company that charges folks way more than they need to?  I hope not.

Ads like this are designed to instill a sense of urgency.  To reinforce the idea that you’d better buy now or you’ll miss the boat on this great deal.  We know you’ll see ads like this for shoes or pizzas, but replacement windows are a different animal.  Notice the great pizza ad at the top of the page, makes me hungry.

Consider that you’ll buy windows for your home once.  They’ll likely last 30 years or more and the typical contract price will be $7,000 or so.  That makes windows different than a pizza.  The proprietor of the local pizza shop may offer a real sale that will eat into his profits on the order because he knows you’ll be impressed with his work and you’ll come back for more.

If the window company does a great job your windows will be done and you won’t be coming back for any more.  Sure you may tell your friends or you may order something else in the future, but if you do you’ll just tell them about the great sale and they’ll never buy at full price.

Here’s how this really works.  Many window companies will operate on hugely inflated starting prices.  They call these list prices.  For a typical vinyl window they’ll tell you the list price is around $1,200 – $1,500.  Then when they come to give you your quote they’ll say, “sure if you buy 2 at list price you get one free.”

We’ll do the math for you.  That’s 2 windows at $1,200 each so $2,400 and they’ll give you another free.  They’ll be installing 3 windows for $2,400 or $800 per window.  That’s a horrible deal.

All of the sudden your fantastic savings has turned into a pretty bad deal, but they’re not done.  You’ll soon hear about their appointment saver discounts or time management discounts which are designed to push you into signing up on the spot.  Now if you don’t buy today you’ll lose the appointment saver discount and the buy 2 get 1 free sale ends tomorrow.  You wouldn’t want to let those savings get away would you?

C’mon, this is one of the silliest tricks in the book, but companies use it every day.  We know, you’re probably saying. “oh I would never fall for that”.  We know, everyone says that, but these companies do millions of dollars in business every year.  Someone is falling for it every single day.  Don’t let it be you!

You can find more info on replacement window sales scams and our in-depth reviews of replacement windows here.

If you have a copy of an ad showing a discount like this we’d appreciate it if you can send it over.  We’ll be posting them as example for folks.

Have fun!

Time Management Discounts

We have to say this is one of the silliest names for a sales tactic we’ve ever heard.  About a month ago our company participated in a home and garden show in Richmond, VA.  After the shows we typically have around 100 appointments with potential customers looking for quotes to replace their windows or doors.

Interestingly, all of the folks who come to a show to get info on windows end up getting quotes from a few companies who were at the show so we end up competing with the same companies over and over again for about two weeks.

As is typical we found about 90% of the folks we met with ended up working with us, but with these customers we heard a new one.  we repeatedly had folks asking us if we had a time management discount.  We’d never heard that one before, but it turns out it’s another way to phrase the old “appointment saver” discount.

Remember that companies will always be looking for a reasonable sounding way to convince you to sign up on the spot without comparing their options.  Companies that operate this way know full well that they’re not offering a great deal relative to their competitors.  If they said, “please buy from me without exploring your options because I need to pay my bills and if you shop around you’ll figure out this is a bad deal and you won’t give me your money. If you do that I won’t make any money, so please just buy from me right now without thinking it over.”

Of course, that’s not a convincing sales pitch, so they justify in any way they can.  In this case they’re telling folks that if they need to meet with you to give you a quote, then meet with you again later to sign up the paperwork they’ll lose a lot of money by making two visits.  Of course this explains the very practical reason they need to offer a time management discount.  Ha!

The business person in me would quickly respond with all sorts of info about bottle necks and constraints, but the simplest answer is this is just a bunch of junk.  They have plenty of time in the day to meet with you.

If you hear about time management discounts, do your self a favor and cancel the appointment.  If you area  gluten for punishment go ahead with it and post your experiences here.

In the meantime you can find more info on tricky sales tactics here and you can find our thoughts on using Angie’s List to find a more reputable local contractor.

Have fun!

If you’re looking for a window company right now, the best advice we have is to join Angie’s List.  For just a couple bucks you can get a 1-month membership and it’ll be worth much more than a caramel macchiato in the long run.  You can find the best pricing for Angie’s List on the internet right here

If you’re already a member of Angie’s List or if you’re just not going to join (despite my ringing endorsement), you can find our suggestions for the best companies in your area right here.

All Window Warranties are NOT Created Equal

It’s easy for folks to hear salesperson after salesperson say their windows have a “lifetime” warranty.  You can get used to hearing it and you might start to think that they’re all the same.

best replacement windows of 2015

On the other hand, companies that offer more limited warranties will try to explain why a shorter warranty is better.  They’ll say that a lifetime warranty is actually only good for a few years (which is not true and they probably know it).  Why would they do this?  Because nobody would buy their products if they couldn’t explain why the warranty was so short.  Renewal by Andersen is a great example of this one.

Renewal by Andersen Limited Warranty
Here you can see the very short warranty offered by Renewal by Andersen. Why would they offer a warranty this short?

This is a 2 year warranty on installation, 10 years on the oh so fancy Fibrex frames.  That is a REALLY short warranty.

We also hear from customers that they don’t want to depend on a warranty so they want to pick a quality product that they think will hold up.  Of course picking a quality product is a great strategy, but in discounting the warranty they’re ignoring a crucial data point indicating the quality and anticipated lifespan of the product.

Here’s the deal.  Brochures and flyers are written by salespeople.  Warranties are written by lawyers and engineers.  There’s a big difference.

The warranty on any window or door product is a direct indication of how long the manufacturer actually expects the product to hold up.  If they offer a long and comprehensive warranty they’re telling you they are confident that the windows will last.  If they offer a shorter or more limited warranty they are directly saying that they think the product may fail after that point.

Think about it this way:  a shorter warranty will absolutely result in fewer sales.  The manufacturer knows that some percentage of their potential customers will thoroughly read the warranty and if it isn’t as good as their competitor the customer will buy elsewhere.  Why then would one company offer a warranty that is more limited than their competitor?  Remember, they know doing this will result in lower sales.  They do it because they have to.  They do it because they know that some percentage of their products will fail after those limitations run out and they don’t want to be on the hook for the repairs.

So what are the differences between different window warranties?

You’ve probably seen that most decent replacement windows offer some type of “lifetime” warranty.  That’s absolutely true, but as with most things, the difference is in the details.  When it comes to warranties the differences can be huge.

Here are 5 common differences:

Labor coverage – You’ll see a lot of “lifetime” warranties, but when you actually read them the labor is only covered for a limited period.

There are also 2 types of labor to consider.  There is the labor of the installer who did the initial work, and then there’s the labor of the service technician who comes out to replace a defective part.  Are they both covered?  Is one limited to 1 year or even completely excluded?  They may be.  If the service labor is limited who is going to repair a broken window or replace a damaged balance?  How much will it cost?

Remember the Renewal by Andersen example above.  2 years of warranty on installation.  Many companies cover these items for as long as you own the home.  That’s a BIG difference.

Glass breakage coverage – Do you know how much it can cost to replace an insulated glass unit?  Remember, these aren’t the old single pane windows you might have had growing up.  A new sealed glass unit can easily run $100 – $200 for a typical replacement window and the labor can double the total cost.  We recently got a quote to repair a broken window from a local competitor to make sure we knew what the competition was charging.  It was over $400 for one piece of glass in a typical double pane window.  That’s real money.

Here is a clip from the Simonton Prism window warranty.  You can see the insulated glass warranty is prorated overtime, but the glass breakage warranty is solid for 25 years.

Simonton Prism Window Warranty
This is the warranty for the Simonton Prism line. Their other lines have different warranties so be sure you know what you’re getting.

Some companies offer a glass breakage warranty to everyone they do business with.  Some offer it at an additional cost and others don’t offer it at all.  When you’re considering a window project it’s important to know what you’re getting.

When you hear that baseball go through the window you’ll be glad you know what you picked!

Hardware & moving parts – As you get a few quotes and look at window samples you’ll quickly see that there are hundreds of choices and they all use slightly different bits and pieces.  That’s not a problem, except when you need a new lock 10 years down the road.  How will you get one that matches the rest of the windows in your home?

Some companies cover the hardware, balances and all moving parts for as long as you own the home and some limit that coverage to just a few years.  This is an important distinction.

Screen coverage – We frequently see warranties that exclude screens.  Screens aren’t expensive, but the frames tend to be proprietary so you may have trouble getting a replacement down the road.

Screens are really easy to fix or replace so any company interested in taking care of their customers after the sale will have no problem covering screens.  A company that excludes screens is telling you that they don’t want to hear from you once your check clears.

Coastal coverage – This one can be important.  We recently read a window warranty from Ideal Windows that defined coastal as being within 1 mile of any tidal body of water.  Right now I’m easily a 2 hour drive from the beach, but I’m less than a mile from a tidal river.  I grew up in Chicago, less than a mile from Lake Michigan, which has tides.  Both of these locations would be considered coastal under that definition and as a result the warranty would be extremely limited.

Ideal Windows Warranty
This is a clip from the Ideal Windows warranty. Is your home “coastal” under this definition? It might be.

I can guarantee you my family in Chicago doesn’t consider their home to be near the coast.  Someone in that position might skip right over a section on coastal coverage and they would be out of luck if they have a problem down the road.  Maybe I like reading these because I have several lawyers in my family, but the devil is in the details.

As you can see from these basic examples (we could go on all day) there are HUGE differences in the warranties of replacement windows.  We know it is REALLY dull to read the fine print of a window warranty.  It only takes a few minutes and we can guarantee you it will be time well spent.

If you remember any one thing remember that a more limited warranty results in lower sales.  Why would a company offer a warranty that results in lower sales?  Because they have to.  Because they know their products won’t stand the test of time.

This is a HUGE data point and you’ll be remiss to overlook it.

Have a question about a specific window warranty?  Post it here and we’ll dig into the details.  We really do love this stuff.

The Appointment Saver Discount & Other Remodeling Scams

You signed up for a free in-home quote for a remodeling project and as things are wrapping up the salesperson hits you with a “special” discount if you would just sign on the dotted line right now.

You remember very clearly that they told you the prices would be guaranteed for a year, but all of the sudden the high price is good for a year and the lower price is going to expire when she walks out the door.  What’s the deal with that?

best replacement windows of 2015

If you remember noting else, remember that this type of pricing scheme is a sure sign that you’re getting a bad deal.

Think about it this way: this salesperson does this for a living and she knows much more about the pricing than you do.  If she was sure that what she was offering was such a great deal then she would be confident that you could think it over and you would certainly call her back to get this great deal.  Why would she come up with a strategy to get you to sign up without considering your options?  Because she knows it’s not a good deal.

Of course she can’t tell you it’s not a good deal because she gets paid commission and that would be a bad strategy.  So what does she do?  She comes up with a way to justify this short term discount.

The appointment saver discount is nothing more than a justification for manipulative pricing.  She will tell you that if you buy now while she’s already there it will save her the trip back to sign paperwork later.  She’ll tell you all of her customers call her back because she’s got the best deal in town and she ends up visiting everyone twice.

She might tell you that her accountant told her that if she could only visit each customer one time it would allow her to meet with twice as many people which would double the size of her business.  It would be worth offering a substantial discount to double the size of her business right?  Wrong.

This is a complete bunch of junk, but believe us when we tell you there are companies out there telling this story to unsuspecting homeowners all across the country tonight.

Remember when you’re hearing all of this that they explain these stories for a living.  She does this every day so she’s probably pretty good at it.  She’ll have an answer for everything and she’ll sound reasonable.  That’s her job.

If you tell her you’ll fax the paperwork after you think it over she’ll say she needs the originals.

If you tell her you’ll mail the originals in a week or two when you’re ready she’ll say the rebate ends today.

If you tell her you’ll drop the forms off at her office she’ll tell you they need your order today to meet their quota.  Next week will be too late.  Of course she may not have an office, but that’s a story for another day.

As you’re hearing all of this remember that nothing in the window business changes on a daily basis.  The ONLY reason they create pricing schemes like this is to separate you from your money.

Do you really think that if you call her up next month and tell her you want to go ahead with the project she will tell you tough luck?  Of course she won’t.  She’ll probably be pretty surprised as nobody ever calls her back, but you won’t either after you get a few more quotes.

We know getting quotes for remodeling projects can be a hassle and you may just want to be done with the process.  We have seen folks pay $5,000 – $10,000 more for a project than they needed to because the salesperson told them they needed to sign up right now to get a great deal.

Everyone says, “oh, I’d never fall for that”, but these companies do millions of dollars per year in business.  Someone does fall for it each and every day.

If you hear about an appointment saver discount, or a manufactures rebate, or a quota, or a managers special, just thank them for their time and call the next company on your list.

You may want to check out Angie’s List to get an idea of which companies will treat you fairly.  We know it costs a few dollars, but you’ll probably find coupons on the site that will more than offset the membership cost and the savings in headaches will be worth much more than a 2-year membership.   You can find our thoughts on Angie’s List from a contractors perspective here.

If you’re already a member of Angie’s List or if you’re just not going to join (despite my ringing endorsement), you can find our suggestions for the best companies in your area right here.