Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wellington Windows: Total Window Failure, Part 3 (Almost)

By now it's early February in Minnesota. Not exactly the best time to be having someone taking windows in and out of your house. It was especially annoying for us, seeing as we bought the windows in August to avoid this exact kind of problem.

As promised, two weeks went by and the new batch of windows arrived -- the windows that were replacing the last set of replacements that completely failed that were replacing the first set that completely failed.

And what do you know? There were problems right from the beginning. One of the windows arrived broken. Four other windows were missing from the order. (Ironic, seeing as this is now the third time they had to build them.) Another issue is that even though we were told we would be getting total window replacements including the sashes, this set of windows came in exactly like the last set -- window replacements to be put into the old frames.

It had just been two weeks earlier when the installer told us it was impossible to put the replacement windows into the old frames without them cracking, yet here they were to try it again, and take a guess what happened? The frames cracked when they put the new glass into the old frames, exactly like it happened before. Only this time, they were partially successful. They were able to put six or seven windows in, but the remaining 18 windows were going to have to be remade a fourth time.

When we called Wellington to confirm this time the windows would get remade as a full sash replacement, we were promised two things:

1) The windows would be done as full sash replacements.

2) The windows would be made that same week and installed the following week, two weeks at the very latest. This they made specific point of "promising" us this would happen and finally be right.

So Wellington needed four tries to make one set of properly fitting and properly installed windows? And they needed six months to complete the job? As always, all we wanted was our windows. The sooner we could be done with the constant calls and emails trying to get this done correctly, the better. If all it would take was two more weeks to be done with this nightmare, we were all for it.

As you shall soon see, four attempts over six months is just not enough time for Wellington Windows to get it right.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wellington Windows: Total Window Failure, Part 2

So five months went by and Wellington Windows finally arrived to reinstall every window that failed the first time, but of course there were issues right away. As they went to unload the truck they found that on arrival, eight of the windows were already broken. So that's a pretty good percentage of failure right from the start. The second problem is that we assumed that we would be getting all new windows, including the sashes, but it turns out they were just going to install new glass in the sashes we already have. One problem, though. Each time they tried to remove the old failed glass from the old sash frames, the frames cracked. Not once, not twice, but every single time they tried.

After about the forth or fifth window the installer gave up! There was no way he could install the new glass in the old sashes without the frames cracking, he said. Why was this happening? we asked. He didn't know. Had this happened to him before? Not ever. The only thing he could suggest is that all the windows would need to be remade a *third* time in order to get them installed properly, and this time they would have to make new glass and new sashes in order to get it right.

While at our house we learned a few other things. It seems as if everyone in Minnesota, for six months or more, had been given faulty windows from Wellington. There had been an error in their manufacturing process, which went unnoticed for months, and every window purchased and installed in that time period might need to be replaced. From what we were told, a letter went out to all the homeowners about this problem -- a letter which we never got. The only good news is that someone got fired over the problem. And were told that things were going to change.

So what was there to do? Just sit back and wait for Wellington to make us a third set of windows in a five month period. Two weeks we were promised. Two weeks and the windows would be installed once and for all. But this time they would get it right, don't you think? The third time's a charm, isn't that what they say? But this is Wellington Windows we're talking about. And our disgust with the service and support from Wellington hadn't even come close to peaking.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Wellington Windows: The Christmas Day Surprise

So we heard the news that the second batch of windows, to replace the first faulty set, would be made before Christmas, right around the third week of December. So we waited. For three more weeks we waited. And surprise, no one called us to say they were done. So we, as always, had to call them. They were done, they told us. When would they be installed, we asked. Probably mid January we were told.

What? Three more weeks? The windows were finished, sitting in a factory somewhere in Minnesota, but they couldn't spare the crew to bring them out until January? So again, rather than get angry with the first person I talked to on the phone, I demanded to speak with someone in charge right away. If we waited until January, we will have waited nearly five months to get our windows. Who did I need to talk to to get this resolved?

I waited an hour for a call back, and then two hours, and then three. Nothing. Finally I called them again. I talked to the first person on the phone who said they couldn't help me. They passed me on to my salesperson, who I already knew couldn't help me. He said someone else would call me back right away. And then another hour passed before I finally got the call.

It turned out the windows were done, but they didn't have any available crews to install them before Christmas. And they were shutting down the plant until after the new year. The soonest possible time to get them in would be the second week in January. No exceptions.

At this point I unloaded a little: Five months of waiting. 100% failure rate. $15,000 and nothing to show for it. No one calls us back. No one tells us what's going on. And the person on the other end of the phone listened, said it was a bad situation, but there was nothing he could do. Either wait to get them installed in January or not get them at all. It was finally at this point that someone at Wellington Windows let us know that it wasn't just us that had bad windows, but every single window they installed for the last six months had similar failures. Someone at the factory had fallen asleep at the switch and the windows hadn't been constructed correctly for months, but no one had caught the error. Lucky us, and lucky everyone else who made the mistake of buying windows from Wellington during that six month period.

So what could we do? If waiting three more weeks meant we would finally get our windows installed properly, once and for all, we would wait. Five months of waiting for one set of well-built windows wasn't too much in the big scheme of things, was it? As we were soon to learn, the second time isn't always the charm.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Wellington Windows: Waiting on Wellington

So let's say you're Wellington Windows and someone pays you $15,000 to put in windows. And lets say (as you've read below) that every single one of those windows had malfunctioned. What would your response be? How quick would you work to resolve the situation? Well, the correct answer is (according to Wellington, at least): two months.

After we discovered all the windows installed were faulty, we were assured that the new windows would be made as soon as possible. About a week later, I got curious. How long did that actually mean? I called Wellington to ask. It was the last week in November. Winter had arrived in Minnesota. I was pretty sure the "new" new windows would be in before Christmas. The person who I talked to, who was in charge of scheduling, was hesitant to give a straight answer. They were busy, she said, it would be hard to pin down a day. Give me an estimate, then, I said. Her best estimate to when the windows would get made would be mid to late January -- two months away!

I was shocked. I told her that it only took one month to make the first batch of windows AND get them installed, but now it seemed it would take them two months just to get a new set made.

Why was it going to take so long, I asked? No answer given.

Was there anything I could do to speed up the process? No, I was told.

At this point I was pretty upset, but I realize I was more than likely getting upset with the wrong person. Who could I talk to to get this taken care of, I asked. She would look into it, she said, and get back to me.

And then four days went by, without hearing a thing. And so I called back. It seems that now they could make our windows before mid to late January. And in fact we would have them made by mid-December. Why no one called to explain this to me, I have no idea, but I was relieved. It seemed as if the ordeal with Wellington and trying to get the windows we had paid for months before was finally coming to a close. But Wellington had many more surprises in store for us, including one of the infuriating Christmas presents ever.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Wellington Windows: Total Window Failure, Part 1

About two months after installation is when everything went wrong. Fall ended and winter had just begun. Snow would be in Minnesota soon. And so it was one Saturday afternoon as I looked out our new windows that I saw what seemed to be condensation on the outside of the window, as if it had just rained. But it hadn't rained. And the closer I looked, I noticed it wasn't condensation on the outside of the window, but between the panes of glass. Most probable cause, window seal failure. It was something I was aware could happen, as it happened to the friend of mine who also had Wellington Windows. But then I noticed the window right next to it also had condensation between the panes, as well as the window next to that one.

And then the search began, checking window to window, and sure enough, every single window in our house, as well as the sliding patio door they installed, had the condensation between the glass. In other words, 100% failure.

I bet you can guess what we did next: Called the salesperson, who called the installer. We were prepared for some kind of shock on their end. Or perhaps they would have someone come out to check the window. But it was strange. They believed us, no questions asked. Wellington would build replacement windows, no questions asked. At first, we thought it was terrific service, but what we would soon learn, is that perhaps we weren't the only family whose windows that had a 100% failure rate. It seems as if Wellington Windows had been installing improperly constructed windows, all across Minnesota, for more than six months, and were apparently just waiting for them to fail. But it would take another two months for us to get to the bottom of the problem.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wellington Windows: Revenge of the Screens

On day two of the installation, most of the windows had been put in, along with the new screens. But there was a problem: they didn't actually fit in their frames.

From a distance, it looked okay, but when you were up close, you could see the screes were warped in the middle and bulged out away from the frame. So even though the screens were installed on the sides and along the bottom, there was a large open pocket between the screen frame and the window frame. In Minnesota, the land of mosquitoes, having a screen that didn't fit perfectly, wasn't a whole lot better than having no screen at all. And it wasn't just one window that had this problem, but all the bedroom windows.

So there we were, in the last nice days of Minnesota weather in the fall, but we were unable to keep our windows open for fear of bug infestation. So what did we do? We called the salesperson, who connected us to the installer, who made a trip out to check on the screens. We were told then the next day that the screens hadn't been measured properly and would have to be completely remade from scratch. The time it would take to do this? Four weeks. So the same company that needed four weeks to not only build the screens, but every single window in our house, would now need an additional four weeks just to build a few replacement screens. We weren't happy, but what could we do?

Well, here's what we did: Wait four weeks. But we heard nothing. No calls, no updates. Nothing at all. So we finally broke down at about four and a half weeks and called them. When we called, we were told the screens were ready and could be installed next week (5 weeks after the initial installation). And imagine our surprise when they arrived the following week with the replacement screens and . . . they didn't fit yet again.

Turns out they had mis-measured yet again and the screens would have to be remade yet again. So we called the salesperson, who talked to the installer, who then called us back. But this time we got lucky. This time it would only take one week to remake the screens and get them installed.

And so finally, at about week six, we finally got screens for our windows. By this time, though, it was late fall and winter was approaching and we no longer wanted our windows open. But at last our ordeal was over. Or so we thought. Because it was right around this time that the windows began to fail, and not one or two of the windows, but every single one of them.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wellington Windows and the Attack of the Ill-Fitting Blinds

Installation day came as promised, about 4-5 weeks past the date of our order. We were scheduled a three-day install, due to the amount of windows we were having installed. My wife got house-sitting duty while the installers were at our home, and I got to hide out at work and call and email for updates.

As I said before, the installers themselves were hard workers and polite. By the end of the first day, they were completely on schedule. That night, though, we ran into our first problem. We had been told that our old blinds would fit into the frames of the new windows. When we tried to install them on the windows they had finished, we found the window frames they installed were too narrow by anywhere between 1/2" to a ful inch. Up until that day (when my wife told me) I had no idea how much a set of window blinds could cost, let alone buying new blinds for every window in our house.

So we called our salesperson, who passed us onto the installer, who said that he didn't doubt the blinds might not fit the frames, but that he would come out the second day and make sure they did. On the second day, he did successfully install one set of blinds by adjusting the frame, and assured us that the rest would fit. That night we discovered that other than the one he did, none of them fit.

So we called our salesperson, who passed us onto the installer (note the pattern, you'll get used to it), who said there was probably a chance that all the installed frames had been measured wrong, and that they would all need to be rebuilt. He was so sure of this, he was going to send the installing crew an entirely new set of lumber to build the new frames to get the blinds to fit. The next day, though, it turned out the extra wood wasn't needed. Using a large hammer and a fair bit of force, they were able to pound all of their frames further in, widening the space to fit the blinds.

So in the end we got the frames we asked for -- ones that fit the blinds we had -- but it took the following effort:

2 initial phone calls to the salesperson
2 return calls from the installer
2 separate visits to return and redo the work they had already completed

This may not seems like a hardship, but remember that we're now only 2 days into the project. So, we were a little bit annoyed, and slightly inconvenienced, but at least they fixed what went wrong. So why all my complaining? Well it turns out the real problems had only just begun.