How many trips to a major home center does it take for an experienced remodeling editor to buy a door? Four: two for me, two for my contractor - which, by any reckoning, is three too many. My goal was simple: Spend no more than $700 on a standard-size, prehung wood or fiberglass French door with insulated glass. So what were the problems? Misinformation and miscommunication top the list. Here's how to make your next home-center shopping experience less of a hassle. Shop at the quietest times. Call ahead and ask the manager when the store is least crowded. Clerks won't be so rushed and other customers won't be surly if you ask what they consider to be too many questions. And whatever you do, don't show up 10 minutes before a shift change. Although clerks might still be physically on the job, they're mentally out the door. Take down names. Don't just note product names but also those of the clerks who help you. It's much easier than asking for "the guy with the red hair and mustache who worked at the special-order desk last Tuesday night." If your contractor visits the home center separately to follow through on the order, he can ask for the same clerk. And be sure to get the product literature with the model numbers and the manufacturer's toll-free number for additional technical help. Shop with your contractor. If a pro is installing what you buy, meet your contractor at the home center - even if it means paying for his time. You'll avoid the "he said, she said" syndrome. And your contractor might have insights about products home-center employees don't.