Contributed                                Knuckle rollers at foot of sliding patio doors.

Contributed Knuckle rollers at foot of sliding patio doors.

ALONG THE FRASER: A lesson about ‘knuckle rollers’

While he worked, I did homework I should have done before.

Caveat emptor – buyer beware.

The patio door wouldn’t move. The ‘knuckle rollers’ were shot.

I found a number on line.

“How much to have somebody fix a sliding door?” I asked.

“Forty dollars to send a technician. Rollers are $80 and up. Could have a technician there in an hour.”

Rollers are two small pieces of metal with wheels.

“Seems a lot,” I said.

But, a bill of roughly $140 seemed reasonable.

The repair asked what I did for work.

“I’m a writer,” I said. “Newspaper. If I criticize Trudeau, he won’t put me in jail.”

I went back to my computer. I was writing a column about friends affected by fire in Clinton, had to drive a family member to work soon, wanted a leisurely drive with my pal, Parker, a 1991 Buick Park Avenue.

“Sir,” said the door repair guy. “Can you come?”

He had the door off and was holding knuckle rollers.

“For this door, they are $360.”

“You’re joking,” I gasped. “Won’t any cheaper ones work?”

“No,” he said. “But, that’s for everything.”

I asked for a breakdown of costs – parts, labor.

“They don’t tell me. I just fix doors.”

If I told him to stop work, I’d probably be stuck for his time, and costs for somebody else. Until then, I’d have an open patio door.

“Okay,” I said, “but, I think you’re charging a lot more than the rollers cost.”

While he worked, I did homework I should have done before. The company wasn’t accredited by the Better Business Bureau. There were negative on-line reviews. I figured I’d be adding another.

I called the firm’s office again, saying I wanted a breakdown of costs on a receipt, and left a message with a competitor who’d call the next day to say I’d been quoted the going rate.

I told the repair guy to leave my old rollers. As I handed him a cheque, he got a call from his supervisor. I took the phone and asked him for the cost breakdown.

“Why do you want that information, my friend,” he said. “That’s for us to know.”

I didn’t like the ‘my friend.’

“Because I think you’re charging much too much for the parts,” I said. “I want to check the cost before I add to your reviews. They don’t seem very good.”

“So, you’re threatening me?”

The rest of the conversation didn’t go well.

A bit later, the repair guy – after talking to his supervisor, again – asked for a new cheque made out to a different company. I was upstairs doing that when the doorbell rang.

“My supervisor says don’t take any money from that guy.”

“Why?” I asked.

“He didn’t say.”

Ten minutes later my phone rang. It was the “overall manager” of the company.

“I hear there’s a problem, Jack,” he said. “What happened?”

“I asked for a breakdown of costs, parts and labor, and your supervisor became belligerent.”

“I’m very sorry about that. Could you write a new check for $120 and just put the repair guy’s name at the top?”

“Sure,” I said.

It seemed reasonable. The door worked.

The next morning, I investigated knuckle rollers.

“Generic ones, last 25 years,” one company told me. “They’re $24.95. We charge $90 an hour for installation. About 45 minutes.”

I told him about the sliding door repair company.

“That’s crazy. It’s a couple of screws.”

“We replace hundreds of those,” said another, estimating $116 for a tech to replace mine.

“How much for rollers?”

“They’re $11.95 each,” the desk girl said.

Shop locally.

Do your homework.

Lesson learned.

Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.