I Found "It"

Christina Lewellen
April 1, 2007
COLUMN : Talking to Dealers | Channels

 

I may have a new favorite pastime. It’s window shopping—but not the girlie kind where one would drool over an obscenely expensive pair of shoes or purse from the wrong side of a piece of security glass. I’m talking about shopping for actual fill-a-hole-in-your-house windows.

And my dealer of choice for this obsession, which is likely to last as long as a New Year’s resolution, is eBay. I’ve been keeping an eye on the online auction site for a while now, wondering if the day would come that I could anonymously peruse the fenestration merchandise without salesperson pressure or in-home obligations, and while wearing slippers and an old college sweatshirt. Well, as fast as I can type “window” in the search box, I can now have hundreds of products at my fingertips.

Granted, finding the right product is equivalent to finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. But, with a little bit of knowledge and a healthy dose of patience, I could probably find a bargain worthy of cocktail reception fodder. There are even sellers who have established eBay stores dedicated to windows and doors, making the process a little easier.

Wave it off if you will, oh dealers and distributors, but perhaps there’s a new competitor you should keep on your radar. If consumers are willing to buy big-ticket items like electronics, cars and even houses on eBay, what will stop them from snagging a $1,500 bay window unit, new in its packaging, for $899?

One category of “sellers” seems to be everyday folks who either bought the wrong window or decided for some reason not to install the products they had originally intended for a given project. This class of auction is usually “pick-up only” as the product is likely sitting in the seller’s garage and he has no intention of crate shipping it. The explanation of why the product is for sale is usually borderline-amusing and I assume the buyer is taking a chance on the validity of the specs of the item, as well as its condition. Having said that, this is the category in which bargains abound.

Now by the time you read this, these auctions will have long since expired, but let me present a few examples in the way of food for thought. A listing originating in New Jersey states (I’ve kept the author’s emphatic use of capital letters and punctuation so you get the true flavor):

“Here is the ‘HISTORY’ of this ANDERSEN CASEMENT WINDOW...my neighbors (of 30+ years) had some MAJOR RENOVATIONS done to their home. There was a ‘miscommunication/mistake’ by the CONTRACTOR and he ‘INSTALLED’ the WRONG WINDOW!! and WOULD NOT take it back!!! The window was ‘INSTALLED’ for only ONE (1) WEEK (until the ‘REPLACEMENT window came in)!! THIS WINDOW COST MY NEIGHBOR $1210.52 (I have a copy of the receipt!!)”

So one healthy dose of empathy (evil contractor!) plus a bargain price of $395 for an 8-foot wide combination unit may equal an eBay buyer.

Or, how about this one—a verbose explanation of the lot of four windows:

• New Pella windows 4 pc
• plast, white
• sliding window
• vent/fixed
• low E / clear
• argon gas
• net
• 24” x 30” x 3”

Not very exciting in its description, but the lot’s opening bid is $1.99. Yes, you read right. Windows for less than two bucks.

For buyers looking for the reassurance of a little more structure, there are eBay stores that specialize in building products, and specifically windows and doors. One such store’s site explains its agreement with a local manufacturer:

“We have a special relationship with Rivco to sell their excess inventory. Most of it is custom-built inventory that was returned for whatever reason (wrong color, customer or store error, wrong size, etc). There are also some showroom display items that are in good shape and items with minor defects that can’t be sold as new.”

Another store offers bundled products—10 vinyl replacement windows in a lot for $1,250 or 15 aluminum storm doors for $750. Another focuses on installation materials like flashing tape. And another offers replacement screens and hardware. You’re getting the point, right?

Some auctions even seem to show products photographed on a warehouse floor or in a docking area. I would venture to guess that some dealers and distributors are playing the eBay game to move excess or incorrect inventory.

Obviously, a homeowner looking for a whole-house replacement or a builder executing specific plans would have to be pretty inspired to put in the time and effort to find “IT” on eBay. But if a browser were looking for one specific product for a renovation or an addition on a house, the deals might be pretty enticing.

I myself am not in the market for windows at the moment, but I had a fun couple of hours “window shopping.” Even though I didn’t net a bargain to add to my arsenal of cocktail party stories, I didn’t necessarily leave the online auction site empty handed—I still hardly believe this myself, but I found for sale the actual window and frame allegedly from which John F. Kennedy was shot. After 188 bids, the window sold February 16 for more than $3 million. Not surprisingly, the item was “pick-up only.” Man, you really can find anything on eBay.

Contact Christina Lewellen, senior editor, at clewellen@glass.org.