Double glazing salesmen have not had the best reputation over the years, with some bad eggs using questionable tactics to get homeowners to part with their cash.
Much like the BBC sitcom White Gold where actors Joe Thomas and James Buckley encourage customers to spend thousands of pounds on, often unnecessary, new windows, households up and down the country have been contacted by installers doing the same.
Citizens Advice says it has dealt with 4,432 cases relating to glazing and installations in the year November 2018 to October 2019.
Some 36 per cent of these issues were about defective goods, 49 per cent were about substandard services and 3 per cent were about misleading claims/omissions.
White Gold is a BBC show about double glazing salesmen who break the rules to get a sale
Many of those targeted are vulnerable customers, including the elderly, who aren’t always able to spot a scam or familiar tactics of a hard sell.
One popular method of trying to gain business is to cold call potential customers, offering to sell them new windows or doors at a cut price.
However, there are those who genuinely want new double glazing fitted or replaced, a new front door or want a new conservatory and don’t know where to start.
To help customers feel more at ease when making what can often be an expensive purchase, This is Money has revealed how you can negotiate a reasonable price and how vulnerable people can tackle cold calling menaces.
Haggling is key
Tips for haggling
Haggling can be uncomfortable for some but it is definitely worth it to get a better deal on your windows.
– Let the salesperson know that you are receiving multiple quotes from different suppliers so they are aware that you will have some idea of average pricing.
– Make sure you do your research before speaking to salespeople in order to have a target amount you are willing to pay in mind and stick to it.
– Don’t be afraid to say no to an offer that you think sounds too pricey, even if the salesperson is being pushy.
– If possible, try and buy in December or January – you are likely to get a better offer then as demand is at its lowest.
– Sometimes offering free advertising, i.e. keeping a sign outside of your home for a month, could also get you a small percentage off your bill.
If you have been cold called with the offer of double glazing, think hard about whether it is actually something you want and have previously considered.
If not, it is likely best to decline the request as you could end up spending thousands of pounds without really wanting or needing to.
However, if you are looking to approach a double glazing salesperson, there are some things you should keep in mind.
One of the main things to ensure you do when looking to buy double glazing is to do your research.
Make sure to get a number of quotes so you can compare how much each firm is looking to charge.
Ensure that the company you are contracting is reputable – this can be checked by reading reviews and also getting recommendations from family and friends.
There are some well known national window companies, which could be a good place to start, along with reputable local companies – make sure you do your research, as quotes can vary wildly.
For instance, a national firm might quote far higher than a local firm, or vice versa.
After receiving quotes, take your time reading over them and don’t feel pressured to accept the first offer. They want your business.
Try and negotiate if you feel confident – this is when your previous quotes could come in useful.
Even though everyone understandably wants the cheapest price possible, be wary of quotes that sound unbelievably cheap – if it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.
Double glazing salesman have often been given a bad reputation thanks to dodgy sales tactics
How much should windows and doors roughly cost?
The cost of getting new windows and doors will vary dramatically depending on the size of your windows, doors, how many you need replacing and whether you have double or triple glazing, for example.
According to Safestyle, for an average two bedroom house, it suggests a minimum budget of £3,500 for double glazing.
But it did say prices could be as high as £10,000 if depending on the style, scaffolding is required, there is coloured aluminium or asbestos needs removing, for example.
Meanwhile, it revealed that a composite front door should be around £1,350 depending on the buyer’s choice of handles, side panels, decorative glass and whether they choose to get a letterbox or not.
The number of cases Citizens Advice dealt with over the past year – with 4,432 in total
Your rights if you opt for a contract
According to Which?, when you make a deal you should be given a contract which should include a description of the goods/services, the total price (inclusive of any additional charges known at the start) and when it’ll be provided.
If after this, you have decided you no longer want the double glazing either because you feel you have been ripped off or for other reasons, you should be able to cancel.
If you have opted to go for a double glazing deal and you verbally agree to the contract or sign one, under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 you have to be given a minimum of 14 days as a cooling off period within which time you can cancel.
Some companies will offer more generous cooling off periods but this would be at their own discretion and is not necessarily guaranteed.
Unfortunately, you will not have an automatic right to cancel an order if the double glazing has been made to measure or if you entered into a contract at the trader or company’s office as this is known as an ‘on-premises’ contract.
You will also not have an automatic right to cancel if the trader or salesman has discussed the contract with you at your home, and you agreed to enter into it some time later as this is also classified as an ‘on-premises’ contract.
Window sales: Cold calling is one way that double glazing salesmen target elderly people
How vulnerable people can tackle the hard sell
Unfortunately, many of the people who get stung by double glazing salespeople are vulnerable people, including the elderly.
This can be tackled in a number of ways, starting with registering with the Telephone Preference Service who will block all numbers from calling you that is already on their list.
Keep them clued up
If you have an elderly or vulnerable family member, friend or neighbour, it will be worth speaking to them about the risks that can come when buying new windows.
Remind them to be wary of accepting the first quote they receive from a salesperson and encourage them to run any quotes past family or friends first before signing a contract.
It is also worth advising them to use only reputable companies that come recommended and have good reviews – thus avoiding any unscrupulous smaller firms.
Ensure that any company you get a quote from is FENSA approved which shows they are compliant with regulation.
You can also block certain numbers from calling your landline.
Depending on who your phone provider is will depend on how you can do this, for example, BT operates Call Protect which automatically diverts calls that BT believe to be from nuisance callers to customers’ junk voicemail boxes.
It is also worth opting out of receiving unwanted mail through the Mail Preference Service.
If the vulnerable adult has access to the internet, family members could ask permission to have access to their online activity and to their bank records to ensure large sums of money have not been paid out.
In situations where this has happened and family members believe a vulnerable relative has been a victim of a scam or fraud, they can report the issue to Action Fraud who will be able to investigate.
The Mail on Sunday recently reported on the case of one elderly woman who spent over £5,000 on things she didn’t need after receiving a number of cold calls.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: ‘This story is unfortunately all too common. If you are lonely, isolated and vulnerable these calls can cause you real worry.
‘Older people can feel pressured into buying something they don’t need or face being ripped-off for something they do.
‘We urge people not to rush into making a decision on the phone or the doorstep and to do your research before making any substantial or long-lasting financial commitment.
‘Contact your phone provider about what services they can offer and consider installing a call blocking device to help reduce the number of unwanted calls.’
What are some of the common techniques?
A common technique used by windows salespeople is to cold call or visit a home saying they are ‘in the area’ having fitted a neighbours window.
The idea is that households will believe that if their neighbours are having new windows, they too could do with some new ones. However, remember, if you haven’t been thinking about getting new windows, do you really need them?
Other techniques include offering ‘new’ double glazing, that has just hit the market suggesting that the glazing you already have is outdated and due an upgrade.
Again, don’t be fooled – if your windows have never caused you any issues previously, it is unlikely they will need to be replaced.
Similarly, sellers may suggest that your windows need replacing for security reasons i.e. suggesting having new windows will be more secure and will deter burglars.
The panic tactics are used to scare people into immediate action but do your research and don’t just take a salesperson at their word.
One tactic known to be used by most salespeople is the ‘charm offensive’ – sweet talking their way into your home in order to sell you a product.
While it is better to remain polite, remember to think carefully about whether this is something you need and don’t be afraid to say no.
A common scam used by fraudsters pretending to be windows salesman is to knock on unsuspecting consumers doors and offer them a VAT-free deal as long as they pay cash in hand.
For those who fall victim to the scam, they are unlikely to ever see their money again, let alone new windows.
Another tactic used by some salesman is to initially inflate their prices to then offer customers a ‘huge discount’ – when in actual fact it is the price they would have offered in the first place.
These ‘discounts’ usually come with conditions, for example, paying now to ensure the reduction or paying cash in hand.
One of the other scams is offering a discount linked to a Government scrappage scheme.
These schemes are entirely fictitious but are used to convince households they are about to receive an actual discount.
The ‘scheme’ appears to knock thousands off the bill in exchange for old windows and doors. However, it is a complete lie.
‘I’m still waiting for my deposit’: 76 year old targeted by window firm
One family have been left frustrated after their vulnerable mother was ‘ripped off’ by a window firm who tried to charge her thousands of pounds for new double glazing.
Valerie couldn’t cash the cheque twice as the firm filled in the details incorrectly
Valerie, 76, from Cheshire, says she was cold called by a company who offered to come round and do an evaluation on her home for new windows to be fitted.
The salesman came round the next day and quoted her £12,000 for new double glazing to be installed – with the figure not even covering all of the windows, just some of them.
Valerie thought £12,000 was steep and haggled with the salesman firstly down to £6,000 and then down to £3,000 – despite the fact she did not need any new windows.
Charlotte said that when she heard about the incident, she immediately realised that something was wrong as the price had been reduced to a quarter of the original quoted amount.
Apparently the salesman claimed he could deduct the prices so significantly as there was ‘government legislation that said if your windows are 15 years or older, it is possible to get government funding to bring the price down.’
Unfortunately, as Valerie was alone without the advice of her family or a friend, she handed over a £1,200 cheque as a deposit for the work to be completed next spring.
When Charlotte and her husband found out, they immediately tried to cancel the order after discussing it with Valerie and explaining to her that they believed this was a firm taking advantage of elderly people.
Charlotte said: ‘The company did not want to accept an email cancellation, even though their contract says you can. They insisted on it being sent by post.’
Since sending the letter, a salesperson from the firm reportedly called Valerie asking her why she has cancelled the booking.
Its Facebook page was removed which Charlotte believes happened after she left a negative review of the company.
They since re-appeared on the website under a different name but this, again, disappeared after Charlotte left another negative review.
After this, Charlotte claims that the company called her mother-in-law again telling her to take down the negative review and after that they would refund her money.
This is Money contacted the firm in question who claimed that it has recently moved offices which meant their post was waylaid and their phone line wasn’t switched over at first, meaning they missed a number of calls.
The window firm has now finally sent through the cheque with no errors nearly two months after the initial contact was made to cancel the order.
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