July/August 2003

Secret Shopper

No Problem
Part III: The Adventure Concludes
by Debra Levy

Editor's Note: This is the third part of a three-part series (see May SHELTER, page 48, and June SHELTER, page 26).

Steve Price should have been named Steve Prince. That surname would have fit the owner of Furniture Doctor of King George in Virginia just fine. When last we left Price, who also owns a remodeling company, he had promised to give up his Saturday night a few weeks prior to Christmas to help a virtual stranger board up her house after robbers had destroyed an antique door and made off with a television from Wal-Mart. The television had cost a bit more than $200. Replacing the door would end up costing more than that.

The virtual stranger was yours truly. I had spent most of the blistery afternoon attempting to extricate a door from the nearest Home Depot. I say extricate because, while what I really wanted to do was buy a door, it didn’t seem that said Home Depot was that anxious to sell it. 

Eventually I had returned to the scene of the crime with the door and called Mr. Price to help me install it. 

You may remember that Steve had stopped by in the morning to give me an estimate about what it would take to refinish an old wooden staircase. Since he and I came upon the crime scene at the same time, he’d offered to install the door for me.

The door, now in pieces, had had a charm to it. It looked to be original, about 70 years old, a true divided-lite prehistoric French door. It had been quaint and matched the house perfectly. Now it was a pile of fire wood and broken glass.

Its frame had been in place just as long. Price knew installing the new door and frame would destroy the look. “We will just remove the new door from its frame and attach it to the existing frame,” said Price. “Shouldn’t take too long at all—no problem.”

Now I have been both alive and in business for a long time. There are no two words that make me shudder more than the dreaded words “no problem.” “No problem” is what people say when they are trying to convince themselves that a problematic situation is not exactly that. Saying “no problem” is a very big problem.

Price had also added the ominous “shouldn’t take very long” which my brain interprets as meaning “put on another pot of coffee.”

I went in the other room to sweat. It took Price nearly three hours to finish. He ran into complications when the brand-new door started to declad, in that the wood cladding started to separate from the rest of the door. 

Price recovered nicely and made it work. It was done and it looked great. 

At one point, he suggested leaving the door up for the weekend and letting him remove it Monday to take it back to the store and get a replacement. Then he offered to pay for the door because it had declad while he was working on it and he wanted to make it right. No way my conscience could let him do that.

Needless to say, Steve Prince, I mean Price, wouldn’t take any payment. It was only when I offered a donation to his church that he finally acquiesced and told me I could send them something if I wanted.

The story has a relatively happy ending. Mr. Price did eventually do the refinish work on the stairs, and he did a great job. I called Home Depot about the door, but the person I talked to didn’t even understand what I meant about the door’s problem. “Oh, you’ll have to contact the manufacturer,” the operator said. The insurance company waived my deductible because I (really Steve) had done the labor myself and saved them hundreds of dollars. The local alarm company got some new business.

And I learned a good lesson about the importance of locally-owned, independent businesses. 
If you remember, I had called the local building supply house that Saturday afternoon in search of a door. It closed at noon on Saturdays, but I did leave a message detailing the type of door I had been seeking. The owner called me back that Monday.

“Mrs. Levy, we have just the type of door you want. You can pick it up today,” he said. I was incredulous. “How could you possibly have this old door in stock?” I asked. “Well, ma’am,” he said, “there are a good lot of homes in this immediate area that were built around the same time, so we stock a lot of items those houses need. I have few doors and windows that could pass for the originals. Do you want to pick one up?”

“No,” I said sadly. “I had to get the house closed up so I got a different one from Home Depot on Saturday.”

“Oh that must have been quite a project,” the store manager chuckled.

“Oh no,” I said, “no problem.”

Debra Levy is the president of Key Communications Inc., publisher of SHELTER magazine.


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