In July, they ordered seven new windows and half-screens from Castle Windows of Mount Laurel. They signed a contract and gave a down payment of $1,500; the balance was due upon completion of the job.
It’s now October, and the job isn’t complete. A combination of communication lapses, a manufacturing holdup and what the Cooks call a “rude” manager has left the couple less than satisfied.
“My husband and I are very reasonable people. We understand that mistakes can be made,” Claire Cook said.
This is a tale about how it doesn’t take much for a customer experience to go very, very wrong.
After the Cooks signed the contract, things moved quickly. The windows arrived two to four weeks earlier than expected. The couple received a call Aug. 10, and installation was scheduled for the following day.
She said she was told to get a bank or certified check, so she did.
John Cook took the day off to meet the installers. When the job was near complete, he was told the screens would arrive in a separate shipment in two days. Cook said they’d pay the balance for the job when the screens came in.
That’s when it got ugly, according to the Cooks.
Claire Cook, who was at work, called the office and spoke to installation manager John Belamonte.
“He explained to me that the screens were ordered from a different manufacturer because they are not white,’’ she said. “He said they didn’t realize until this morning that they didn’t have them.”
Claire Cook said the company should have told her the screens weren’t in.
“It was 95 degrees that week so I would have said, ‘No, don’t install until you have the screens,’ ” she said. “I don’t have central air so I need to open my windows.”
The conversation turned to payment. Claire Cook said Belmonte asked if they’d pay most of the balance, but withhold a small portion until the screens were delivered.
“I told him if I wasn’t instructed by one of their customer service representatives to get a bank check I would have considered giving them another third of the amount, but since I had a bank check for the total amount due, I couldn’t split that,” she said.
She said Belmonte said they don’t require bank checks, but Cook maintains that’s what she was originally told.
Back at the Cook home, the installer called another manager, and soon John Cook was retelling the story.
“At that point, the manager on the phone got very angry and threatened my husband by saying they would ‘rip out the new windows’ if they had to and it would be our problem to secure our home if they couldn’t put back the old windows,” Claire Cook said. “My husband then asked the installer to leave our property.”
After taking a day to cool off, Claire Cook called the office. They didn’t have a delivery date for the screens. So the Cooks waited. And waited. A month later, they got word the screens were in.
They scheduled installation for Sept. 18, and John Cook took another day off. At 4:10 p.m. that day, Castle called, saying the installer was on the way with five of the seven screens.
“I told them to stop the installer from coming to my house and that I would only take delivery of all seven screens,’’ Claire Cook said. “I didn’t want my husband to get into a confrontation again with anyone.”
The last the Cooks heard, there was an Oct. 1 delivery date set for the screens. In the meantime, Claire Cook went to a hardware store and purchased temporary screens so she could open her new windows.
Then she contacted Bamboozled.
Bamboozled contacted Castle Windows to get the lowdown on the missing screens.
Director of operations Ed Jones said the Cooks probably should have been notified that the screens were not in.
Installation manager John Belmonte explained all window orders stay wrapped until they’re at the installation site to avoid damage, so the company didn’t know they weren’t with the order. By that time, the Cooks’ old windows were already removed.
Belmonte said the couple wouldn’t be pressured to pay until the job was complete, and he’s offered to pay for the temporary screens the Cooks purchased.
That’s all great news.
But what about the Cooks’ claim that the other manager threatened to take out the new windows unless they paid?
“If someone did that I imagine he’d be arrested before he got back in the truck,” Belamonte said.
Belmonte said he talked to the manager, who said he didn’t remember the job at all. Owner Rod Arsey said he also talked to the manager, and “he absolutely didn’t say that.”
“I can’t rip windows out of a house and leave a house exposed. That is insanity and probably borderline illegal,” Arsey said.
Bamboozled didn’t witness the conversation, so rather than play out the “he said, she said,” we turned to the Better Business Bureau to see how Castle Windows stacks up.
Castle Windows is a BBB-Accredited business with a grade of “B-.” In the past 36 months, BBB reports 126 complaints against company, and the majority were resolved to the customer’s satisfaction.
Owner Arsey said in three years, the company probably had between 18,000 and 20,000 customers. That means the BBB complaints were just a small fraction of the company’s business.
Castle Windows seems to be on the way to doing the right thing. It’s reimbursing the Cooks for their temporary screens and it doesn’t plan a pressure-play for payment until all seven screens are in.
We’re still not sure when that will be. At the time of publication, the Cooks were still waiting with their Aug. 10 dated bank check in hand.
“I think my frustration is more with the way they handled the situation rather than the fact that the screens were missing from the order,” Claire Cook said. “They did do a good job on the installation.”
To all you businesses out there: communicate with your customers. They’re more likely to understand delays if you keep them posted.