The windows were 15 years old. The tracking was off and the locks were shot. Two were fogged over. Seal failure.

The homeowner began his search for new windows at a table outside The Home Depot. Yes, he was told, someone could come out today. Forty-five minutes before the appointment, the estimator called to say he couldn't make it. He phoned two days later to say he'd be there on Saturday. Saturday came, no estimator.

Neighbors recommended several small contractors they'd used. The two who the homeowner talked with had reasonable prices but offered only a manufacturer warranty. Being a lawyer, the homeowner read the warranties and found them wanting. For instance, seal failure wasn't covered.

Next, he called a home improvement company he'd often seen advertised. The company sent out two guys. They explained that they were managers, not salesmen; the company's salesforce was away attending a conference.

The managers flipped open the pitch book and began. The prospect looked at his watch, looked at the pitch book, and interrupted to say that he knew about windows because he'd rehabbed his previous residence.

An hour later, the managers presented two options: five superfine windows for $7,200, or five almost superfine windows for $6,300.

“No way,” the homeowner said.

Then, since they were managers, they said they could knock off the 10% commission.

The homeowner said he could get a similar product for much less.

The managers began talking to each other as if the prospect was invisible. “We don't have a lot of jobs in this area,” said one. “That's true,” said the other. And so on. Finally, they offered a job-sign discount.

“Still too much,” the prospect said.

“Well,” they asked, “what were you expecting to pay?”

“Between $400 and $500 per window,” responded the homeowner.

One of the managers called someone on his cell phone, described the specifics of the job, then wrote down: $2,750 for five windows.

And having held out for price, and gotten longevity and warranty in the bargain, the homeowner bought them. But his connection to the company is tenuous. He bought the windows in spite of its sales methods, not because of them. And no matter how well those windows hold up, it's hard to imagine he'd send anyone else to that company to do business.

Jim Cory, Editor