On Feb. 16, Jeff Socolow paid $3,825 in cash as a 50 percent deposit for a new retractable awning to cover the huge seaside deck on his family’s rental property in Gloucester.
That was four-and-a-half months before the first renters were scheduled to arrive in late June for a sun-drenched (let’s hope) stay in an idyllic neighborhood of multimillion-dollar homes tucked between two of the best beaches on the New England coastline (Good Harbor and Long).
Socolow, a project manager for a Lexington-based biotech firm, at first accepted the assurances of Atlantic Awning of Melrose that the company would install the awning in time for summer.
But then began the excuses, about the weather and shifting deadlines, and the revelation that the awning was not actually ordered until April — two months after he turned over his deposit.
The first day of summer was last Friday. Still no awning.
Socolow and his two brothers, who inherited the house from their parents, have poured tens of thousands of dollars into it in the last few years, including tearing out the old, worn out awning.
The deck is spacious and spectacular, running 30 feet long and 12 feet wide, built off the second-floor living room and on stilts 15 feet above the ground. Vacationers enjoy splendid views, the sound of the ocean, and the scent of salt air.
The description of the house Socolow uses for prospective renters includes prominent mention of the crank-operated awning, which is needed when a blazing hot sun rises high in the sky.
The first hint of trouble came when Atlantic Awning wouldn’t commit to a firm delivery date. Socolow was told that installation “should” happen in May, though approval was still needed from the “production team.”
“Weasel words,” said Socolow, when we met recently on the deck.
As Socolow continued to prod, the Atlantic representatives blamed rainy weather for causing the delays.
“April really pushed our schedule out with all the rain, so we are trying to get back on target,” one rep wrote to him.
All the talk of bad weather made Socolow assume the awning had already been fabricated and shipped to Atlantic by the manufacturer and all that was needed was one clear afternoon for it to be installed.
To be sure, Socolow said he asked directly, “Is my awning already in your shop?”
Socolow said multiple Atlantic personnel repeatedly gave him the same reply: “Oh, yeah, we have it right here.”
Still waiting for installation, in late May, Socolow made the first of two very shrewd moves: He told Atlantic he was coming to their shop to take a look at the awning.
That prompted Mark Horton, Atlantic’s owner, to apologize and say that the awning actually hadn’t yet arrived at the Melrose shop, according to Socolow.
Horton blamed a mix-up and miscommunication among Atlantic personnel.
Still not satisfied, on June 12, Socolow decided to circumvent Atlantic by calling the manufacturer of the awning to see if he could get it expedited. After some further discussion, the awning was promised by July 4.
But in his dealings with the manufacturer, Socolow discovered that Atlantic, which took his order (and sizable deposit) on Feb. 16, hadn’t actually placed it with the manufacturer until April.
Socolow enlisted my help. I called and e-mailed Horton asking why it delayed placing Socolow’s order, which in the best case scenario meant the first of Socolow’s weekly renters would be without an awning for most of their stay and then interrupted by the installation.
Horton did not respond to me.
But as I read through Horton’s earlier e-mails to Socolow, I noticed that he had blamed the manufacturer for being “behind” in handling orders. I wondered if this, like bad weather, was a phony excuse.
So I called the manufacturer, which said it had not gotten “behind.” The real issue was that Atlantic initially had failed to pay upfront when ordering the awning, according to the manufacturer.
The order wasn’t actually accepted until mid-June, after Socolow’s call to the manufacturer prompted belated payment from Atlantic.
A representative of the manufacturer later e-mailed me that the awning is now ahead of schedule and may actually be shipped in time for installation before the first vacationers arrive on June 29.
Summer, perhaps, is saved.
* * *
The saga in Scarborough, Maine, continues. Home Depot recently paid $5,000 to settle a claim by a homeowner whose washer and dryer were removed and not replaced in a case of mistaken delivery.
The appliances went to the wrong O’Connor family on the same street. Once Home Depot realized its delivery mistake, it quickly removed the new appliances but did not replace the perfectly good ones it had taken out.
Homeowner Kevin O’Connor demanded compensation for the appliances removed by Home Depot, but the giant home improvement chain offered only $600 for appliances that would cost $1,200 to replace. After more missteps, Home Depot finally paid $5,000, which included compensation for time and aggravation.
But now it turns out, O’Connor’s next-door neighbor, Mary O’Connor, who had actually ordered the new appliances, says Home Depot left her in the lurch, too.
When she called to say her new appliances never arrived, Home Depot offered little assistance beyond giving her the telephone number of its delivery company, said Ken Pierce, the lawyer (and brother-in-law) of Kevin O’Connor, who said he has now taken on Mary O’Connor’s case.
“She felt intimidated and abused by Home Depot,” Pierce said.