Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Help Me Howard: Shudder at Shutters
If you have tried to buy hurricane shutters, you may have a story. Would you believe there are people who ordered the shutters over a year ago and still don't have them? What can they do? There is one thing -- call Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Years from now, people will call Selma one of the lucky ones, one of those people who bought her house before real estate got silly.
Selma Lewis: "My exercise area -- when I choose to. This unit was very special. It was extremely large, and the price was right at the time."
For years, Selma's townhouse was only missing one thing -- hurricane shutters -- and last year she thought she had taken care of that.
Patrick Fraser: "When did you sign a contract with them?"
Selma Lewis: "February 2006."
The company wrote they would install the accordion shutters within nine to 14 weeks. That would be May of 2006 -- it's now March of 2007.
Selma Lewis: "I have called the company so often I can't even numerate how many times I have called."
Howard says if a company you hire misses the deadline in the contract, you have options.
Howard Finkelstein: "Send them a certified letter giving them a final deadline, say two weeks, to get to work. If they don't, you can declare them in breach of contract, hire a new company, and you legally get your money back."
But since they had her $3,750 deposit, Selma did not want to upset the company.
So she kept politely calling, and they politely went through their list of excuses.
Selma Lewis: "Oh, there is always an excuse: 'Oh, give us two more weeks,' 'Give us another week,' 'Oh, we had a problem with the truck.'"
Finally, last week, they scheduled the installation for Thursday.
Selma Lewis: "And no one came or showed up."
When Selma called, they said, "We would be there on Saturday to install them."
Selma Lewis: "And Saturday no one came out or called."
And now when Selma stands in her front yard and thinks of her shutters, it makes her shudder.
Selma Lewis: "After awhile it gets really depressing, and you really feel helpless. You just get angry."
Angry enough to give up on the company and call Help Me Howard
Howard Finkelstein: "We are still getting an incredible number of complaints about shutter companies -- I wish I had a magic answer. The key is finding a good reliable company with a proven track record. To be blunt, some shutter companies are just not reliable."
When we spoke to the company's owner he came out to Selma's the next day.
He told us he had bought the firm last year and discovered a lot of problems: Communication problems, employees promising installations they can't deliver, misappropriation of funds -- all of which he has been correcting.
After he checked into Selma's shutters, he even discovered one window was not measured correctly. He did that and says her shutters will be installed within two weeks.
Giovanni Herrera: "Absolutely not only her but some clients that we still have lingering around from the previous administration and everything else. We're getting it taken care of before hurricane season comes."
After 14 months, it's finally good news for Selma -- she will get shutters like all her neighbors have -- but she will still be unique in one way. As I talked to her, I discovered she is the first person ever to be on Help Me Howard who had no idea what we do.
Patrick Fraser: "So you have never watched Help Me Howard, you've never watched it?
Selma Lewis: "I can't say that I have seen it on TV."
Patrick Fraser: "But see, we will help everybody: Fans of Help Me Howard, or people like Selma whose friends watch Help Me Howard. By the way -- give Giovanni credit for admitting he had bought a company with problems, problems he says he is fixing."
Do you shudder when you think of your problem? Don't batten down the hatches -- open up to us, and let us shine some light on your situation.
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