Volume 11, Issue 5 - June 2010


DWM Shops for a Door
by Tara Taffera

When Bryan Hovey, web developer at our offices in Stafford, Va., asked if we could purchase a new louvered door for our server room, I immediately thought such a quest would make a great “Secret Shopper” article for our magazine. Bryan requested a louvered door for this space as this room gets very hot so he wanted the computers to have a bit more “breathing” room.

Once we approved the purchase, he started looking online and found an MDF louvered door from Masonite he liked. However, we decided to start at the big-box stores and visited Lowe’s and Home Depot, both of which have locations minutes from our office.

While we didn’t see the Masonite door, The Home Depot associate informed us the store could order a similar door for us to meet our specifications. However, it didn’t carry the door in white and, while Bryan said he would paint it, this wasn’t the ideal scenario, so we continued on to Lowe’s.

The situation here was similar to that of Home Depot. Lowe’s carried the unfinished slabs, so the company would have to order it milled for the doorknob and hinges.

I then decided that if Bryan really thought the Masonite door would be best, we should look for a location from which we could make that purchase. So I followed the link on the Masonite website about “where to buy” and the closest location was approximately 40 miles away at Builders FirstSource in Elkwood, Va.

As we walked into the location, Bryan said “I sure hope they sell to the consumer,” and we soon found that although they did in our case, it doesn’t seem to be their focus.

We were greeted by a woman sitting at a desk and around her we saw offices, but no showroom. We did see a few window products around us, perhaps waiting to be picked up.

While we were waiting we saw a few magazines displayed and were thrilled to see the latest issue of DWM lying on the table.

We asked the lady at the desk if they sell to consumers and advised that we were looking for a door, and she kindly said she would find someone to help us.

A man came out (whom we later found out was named Ricky) and I introduced myself and quickly told him what we needed. He took us out to the plant area, where he showed us the louvered door Bryan had seen on the website. What he showed us was the door slab so the two started talking measurements while I listened. Ricky informed us that they could put on the hinges, door knobs, etc., and cut it to our specs but that we “better be dead on with our measurements.” Bryan said he was sure of the measurements. I think I may have made him a little nervous, questioning if he was “really sure.” So after I planted doubt in his head, Ricky suggested that we bring in the old door and he could match the new louvered slab to those specs. After finding out we were in Stafford he said, “We have trucks there all the time and can drop it off to you.”

He explained it may take a few days as the machines have to be reconfigured due to the specs of our door, but that it was no problem to do this. We really appreciated his willingness to help us. We also thought our boss would be happy to know that the price ended up being almost $100 less than it would have been from a big box.

However, the situation changed after Bryan talked to his wife, Cathy, who used to work for the Fredericksburg, Va., location of Hutting Building Products, which closed a few years ago. She assured Bryan he would be fine if we just gave the measurements so he called back with the measurements and paid for the door over the phone while I crossed my fingers that it would fit (sorry, I’m just a pessimist by nature).

(Also, see next month’s Secret Shopper for how this method failed for DWM vice president of digital services Holly Biller when she recently searched for a new entry door.)

The door arrived on a Monday and Bryan installed it shortly after.

“It fit great, looks great and I can already tell a huge difference in the temperature in there,” Bryan said a few hours after he completed the job. “It’s working just like I thought it would.”

Overall, the people at Builders FirstSource were great to work with, but I just have one piece of advice. As consumers, we searched the Masonite website for a door and were led to Builders FirstSource. Other consumers may not know they are going to a plant location, instead of a showroom. We didn’t care, as we got the door we wanted, but perhaps others might think of this as a wasted trip.

This wasn’t the case for us as our computers are now “breathing easy” due to our new louvered door.


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