An EPIC tale of a new garage door
March 17, 2023 12:39 PM   Subscribe

When Home Depot's service team meets Kafka This story is very weird and funny and also very sweet. People sometimes try SO HARD to get simple things done and life is NOT EASY in service land.
posted by AnneK (31 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
posted by zamboni at 12:50 PM on March 17 [4 favorites]

I hit my head on a shelf today, and this made me laugh hard enough for my self-inflicted wound to throb painfully. Probably the author of this piece would nod in sympathy.

(I was just swapping Shitty Contractor Tales -- a popular genre -- with someone at work today, and my own garage door-opener repair guy experience came up. FTPG.)
posted by wenestvedt at 12:59 PM on March 17

When you quit the job where your MOM is a manager...."Honestly, I don't know why people hire us."
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:11 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]

That was fantastic.

My (normally highly competent) dad attempted to repair a panel on my garage door. I wasn’t there, but his description of how the the bottom panel snapped up against the one above it like the world’s largest mousetrap was scary as fuck. Hours later his ears were still ringing!
posted by Caxton1476 at 1:19 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]

In case this helps anyone, lead based paint that is intact on a building surface can be disposed of along with that building material as non hazardous waste in a normal landfill. Paint chips and dust can be hazardous for lead, but then the total volume is much lower. Lead tests are very cheap but if you don't know what you're doing it's wise to hire someone, as the author did.
posted by hypnogogue at 1:30 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]

“Yeah, that’s how he knows how shitty this company is. Honestly, I don’t know why people hire us.”

“We didn’t hire you guys,” I say. “We went with Home Depot. They assigned the installation job to you guys.”

“Fuck, that makes sense.”
This here is the truth . I can't recall all the details since it's been 20 years and I don't like to think about it, but when we bought our on demand water heater from Home Depot and opted in their installation, we definitely got the low bidder over confident crew that obviously wasn't going to make it on their own reputation. Ever since, I've done a lot of work to find a great installer, then pick a product they can install for me.
posted by advicepig at 1:35 PM on March 17 [5 favorites]

I didn't know death-by-garage-door-spring was a thing. They do look quite a bit more dangerous than your average Slinky, though.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:38 PM on March 17

That's what Big Slinky wants you to think. Last year alone 14 billion people were murdered by slinkies.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:50 PM on March 17 [12 favorites]

This sounds like my attempt to buy — and have installed — a dishwasher from Home Depot. Same deal, we went with the HD "installers." Except the dishwasher saga ended up with a $20,000 remodel to repair the water damage they left us with.

I lost count of how many trips there were involved. They (1) couldn't install it, (2) WOULDN'T install it because, although we hadn't touched it (they left it sitting in the middle of the dining room), it had a ... mark on it? (3.14) Couldn't install it, (E) couldn't get it working, (tertius) got it working then it stopped working? (?) Looked at it, said "yeah, it isn't working, we don't know why" and left, (???) couldn't REMOVE it so that we could return it, (beyond the infinite) finally got it out and "oh yeah, there's a little leak back there." By the time we realized it wasn't just a little drip it it had turned into a big problem.

The house is old... they claimed it was just our pipes, and out insurance wouldn't cover it because supposedly there was pre-existing damage... and there was no way to prove exactly whose fault it was. We had a hole in the kitchen for most of the year, before finally getting in a contractor to do the remodel (we basically told him "there might be pre-existing damage in there, so if we have to we're prepared to pay more than your estimate" and... he found no pre-existing damage and finished on budget).

Home Depot, I have been told, doesn't really have installer teams, they hire contractors who mainly do deliveries. YMMV, but I won't buy anything from them that I can't install myself, or that I can't arrange to have installed by a company I trust.
posted by kikaider01 at 1:55 PM on March 17 [9 favorites]

I actually had a fabulous experience with the Home Depot guy who installed my kitchen cabinets, so much so that I hired him privately to do a bunch of other work for me. And all the non-HD guys that I hired to do other work were horrid. The moral of the story is that we are powerless to control our destiny in a random universe.
posted by HotToddy at 2:20 PM on March 17 [42 favorites]

I didn't know death-by-garage-door-spring was a thing.

They can in fact do a scary amount of damage when they break.

This story was giving me flashbacks to our experience with the carpet installers from Lowes, who managed to mismeasure twice.
posted by thomas j wise at 2:32 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]

We got a dishwasher from Home Depot and it came with installation. I talked to their guy and he said we'd need both electrical and plumbing permits pulled even though it was just an appliance replacement. I asked if they could drop off the new one and take away the old one and they said that would work, so I pulled the old one out before I left for work and put in the new one over lunch. Dishwashers are easy once you have the basics in place.

But I did a fair amount of my own garage door work over the years and that stuff can get hairy. I've had a couple of those big springs snap on me and one of the load bearing cables rip off the base of the door. The springs have a cable running inside them so it's mostly just loud, but that cable heading into the rafters was no joke. It left the door damaged enough that I just called someone else to put in a new one. As I get older I'm getting much more comfortable with the merits of point and pay life.
posted by Cris E at 2:42 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]

I didn't know death-by-garage-door-spring was a thing. They do look quite a bit more dangerous than your average Slinky, though.

A lot depends on the type of spring the door has. If they are extension springs that run along the tracks, then they aren’t particularly dangerous as long as you approach them with a little thought. But torsion springs, which seem to be more common where I live, are pretty scary. They need to be under a lot of tension in order to work, and if you don’t know what you are doing whatever tools you use to increase or decrease the tension can easily snap back and break an arm, jaw, or whatever body part they hit. I’m a pretty confident doityourselfer, but that is something I am happy to let a pro do. And I have always called an actual garage door company, for reasons that the article makes clear.
posted by TedW at 2:45 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]

Swear to Got garage doors are Möbius loops waiting to happen.
posted by clavdivs at 3:02 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]

Home Depot's Finest failed to install a refrigerator three separate times for me. The last time it was because they weren't willing to take the door off to get it up the stairs.

I found a local company, Wickford Appliances, and they got it done first try.
posted by JDHarper at 3:11 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]

Yeah, long story short: Getting installation from a big box store sucks. They're retailers, not contractors. Once they have the money, they don't fucking care. I don't know why they don't as you'd think their reputation matters to them, but they don't.
posted by Ickster at 3:15 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]

JDHarper, Wickford Appliance actually rules, we have used them a few times now! (Hello from 02864.)
posted by wenestvedt at 3:53 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]

I heard the exact opposite regarding garage door springs.

Torsion springs, which have been the standard for residential doors for a while, are safer. Since they're coiled around a bar and they're not continually pulled and stretched, when they fail they merely break in place around the bar. Whereas when extension springs fail, only the ends are secured so they would fling wildly around.

Both kinds of springs are always under tension. They both need enough tension to counteract the entire weight of the garage door, otherwise it cannot be lifted by hand or by garage door opener.

When either type of spring inevitably fails, the door slams shut and there is nothing going to stop it. Please do not go under a moving garage door.
posted by meowzilla at 3:53 PM on March 17 [4 favorites]

This makes me thankful that I don't have a garage.
posted by mollweide at 4:21 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]

What's worse is old school garage door closers worked on a auger/ratchet type system, where they used the weight of the garage door to add power if things got stuck under them. That's why the safety stop things are required now, though garage doors are heavy but not that heavy.
posted by The_Vegetables at 4:45 PM on March 17

I had a lovely few months with a new dishwasher we bought at the end of last year. It started with an error code indicating no water supply. We checked the pipes as you would, then contacted the manufacturer to get an engineer in to fix it under warranty. Two weeks later the man turns up, runs some diagnostics, and says it's the inlet valve. He doesn't keep one in the van, of course, because he's never seen a bad inlet valve on a new machine. A further two weeks later, a different fellow arrives with the valve, fits it, turns on the machine, and the error code is gone and the dishwasher is filling. Thanks very much and goodbye. A few minutes after he left for the next job, the breaker for the kitchen sockets flipped. It turned out the dishwasher was now consistently tripping the breaker five minutes into the programme. So we emailed to let them know the machine was still kaput. The next week another engineer came round, but for whatever reason didn't ring the doorbell, and then left. So we rescheduled the visit, and the engineer who came that time confirmed that the heater was bad, and was tripping the breaker when it came on. And no, he didn't have one with him, as it's never the heater. He did replace about five other parts though - I'm not sure they needed changing, but he had them in the van. Finally, a couple more weeks passed, and yet another engineer came and replaced the presumably only remaining original piece of the dishwasher. He cursed the other engineers for idiots, stayed for a cup of tea to see that the heater was behaving itself, and headed off. We treat that dishwasher like it's glass now, I can tell you.
posted by pipeski at 5:17 PM on March 17 [4 favorites]

When a torsion spring breaks, it is indeed held captive by the rod through the middle. If only one spring breaks, the entire tension is still remaining on the other spring. If you are unfamiliar with holding the tension on that spring by the use of lever bars while loosening the set screws, you can indeed be punctured or struck by the lever bar flying off the rapidly rotating spring end coupling. The reason I am able to write this is that said bar imbedded itself into a two by four near the opposite garage wall instead of me. So, please, unless you have been trained how to do this operation, please call a professional.
posted by tronec at 8:17 PM on March 17 [6 favorites]

This reminds me of the time I tried to have Home Depot install carpet for me. I picked out the carpet, they did a site visit to measure, and then right before the installers were supposed to come out, they asked if there was any asbestos in the house. Being a scrupulously honest moron, I said yes, there's black mastic adhesive under the floor tiles and their five layers of paint that you're putting carpet on top of. That's why we're not moving the tiles.

And so of course they wanted me to do testing before they'd do anything. I'd already tested for asbestos as part of a remodel, but they wanted it done again. Just in case the black mastic had managed to jump through the tiles, become friable, and disperse its evil fibers into the air.

If the Home Depot carpet desk person had asked the asbestos question, it would have saved me 12 weeks and a non-refundable deposit. I installed a floating vinyl floor myself the next weekend and it's fine.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:32 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]

The heavy-handed and inflexible way Home Depot treats work done by contractors is completely typical of the attitude that corporate high management applies to the workers at their stores. Executive concerns are mostly increasing profits in the aggregate and limiting liability, and failing to toe that line can easily get employees fired by uncaring middle managers. This results in countless instances of stores not being able to handle customer requests because "the computer won't let me," or, "we're not supposed to do that." It's why, while you'll definitely find exceptions, like places run by petty tyrants, you'll usually get better service from a locally-owned establishment.
posted by JHarris at 1:04 AM on March 18

Except the dishwasher saga ended up with a $20,000 remodel to repair the water damage they left us with.

This validates my choices to buy any replacement appliances from a local company with their own installers. They're almost always price-competitive with Home Depot, Lowes, etc. (the dishwasher I just had put in was $100 cheaper from the local company)
posted by nathan_teske at 11:02 AM on March 18

I heard the exact opposite regarding garage door springs.

Torsion springs, which have been the standard for residential doors for a while, are safer.

While they may be safer in terms of raising and lowering the door, they are definitely more dangerous to work on and replace. And I think this article understates the risk.
posted by TedW at 11:56 AM on March 18

The garage door story is hilarious, but I also have one particularly good Home Depot install experience.

I was having an 18” dishwasher installed - my condo didn’t have one. It was scheduled for a Saturday afternoon in August which happened to be my birthday. I had no friends at the time and was excited about interacting with a person on my birthday.

The installer showed up at about 3PM. I had assumed that they would cut out the lower cabinets to install the dishwasher but he said that wasn’t part of the service. I asked if there was any way he could come back later in the day and he said he’d try.

Full of birthday adrenaline I went to Home Depot and bought me a Skil-Saw, went home and demo’d the kitchen cabinets. It was destructive and exhilarating and life-affirming all at the same time.

The installer eventually called me back and got to my house around 9PM. I was in a celebratory mood by then and chattered at him and offered him beer and pot both of which he turned down. It only took him a few minutes to install the dishwasher and then he left.
posted by bendy at 4:27 PM on March 18 [5 favorites]

We recently bought a house with a non-working dishwasher, the previous owners insisted they didn't know why they dishwasher had stopped working. So we went down to the basement to look at the panel, where the ONLY labelled switch was the one that said "dishwasher," and it was off. That fact made us nervous enough to call a plumper, who for $40 told us there was nothing wrong with the water hook-up and no reason the dishwasher wouldn't work. The problem was that over the years, the "start" button on the front panel had come off. But you could still run the dishwasher by using a pen or something to press the little nub under where the button had been! So we ran the dishwasher once using a pen and it ran perfectly and got the dishes really clean, a lot cleaner than they had ever gotten with our old dishwasher. The next time we ran the dishwasher, though, we used a knife to hit the button and it embedded in the little plastic nub where the button had been and took it off. Now we knew for sure we had a perfectly good working dishwasher, but no way to turn it on because the start button was gone.

I called an appliance company, and told them over the phone about the issue with the button, and also that I'd spent half a day online looking for a replacement electronics panel for the dishwasher but that the part wasn't being made any more and there were no second hand parts available anywhere. They assured me over the phone, no problem, we can still fix it. So the installer comes out, looks at the dishwasher, goes online to Google on their phone in our kitchen and looks for the part just like I did. It's out of stock, they can't replace it, we will need to buy a new dishwasher. Exactly as I explained to the person who took my appointment over the phone. They were nice enough to waive the fee to come out, but I ended up tipping them $20 anyway. Moral of the story, you can't trust the dispatcher / site inspector to know anything about the job.

We got a new dishwasher and dryer from a local second hand appliance store and did the install ourselves no problem, except on the dryer install, where the gas pipe got bent and was leaking. Had to hire another local company to come out and replace the gas pipe with a longer, better pipe. At the time this was a whole big saga because we didn't realize that the entire laundry room wall had been leaking for 20 years because when the previous owner DIYed the extension to the hose in 2001 they put the siding on wrong on that side. We ended up having to replace about a 12 foot section of the wall all the way down to the studs, which were rotted.

Always know someone who knows how to fix things is I guess the moral here.
posted by subdee at 11:13 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]

Oh, and keep a sense of perspective because an appliance install is, at the end of the day, just an appliance install and not a structural issue with your house.
posted by subdee at 11:20 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]

Unless it’s a load-bearing dishwasher
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:41 AM on March 19 [3 favorites]

This seems like a typical experience in having anything installed when you buy it from a big-box store. They just contract out to the lowest bidder and neither of them gives a shit because they don't really have anything to lose by providing shitty service.

Those torsion springs on garage doors really are a dangerous thing, especially because you're working on them while perched on a ladder, often squeezed in between the edge of the open door and the top of the jamb, so can't even get out of the way. I'm a person that always fixes/installs everything myself, even when it would be easier and quicker to just pay someone. But I was in our garage when one of the springs on the garage door snapped and the sheer energy that was released from that spring had me feeling like a bomb had gone off in the garage. I got on the phone and paid someone to come and install it that day. I'm not scared of many things, but have no desire to live the rest of my life being called 'lefty'. The guy that installed the new spring told me they have a duty life of around 10,000 open/close cycles. Assuming the door is opened and closed once per day or a bit less, that equates to pretty much the age of our house. I got both springs replaced, not just the one that broke.
posted by dg at 4:58 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]

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