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Kitchen Nightmares - how to avoid them

What to look for and what to avoid when buying a new kitchen

I recently received the following query from a disillusioned and frustrated visitor to my site.

"How can I minimize the possibility of entering the nightmare of bad installers, being abandoned by the showroom and wishing I'd never embarked on the whole kitchen thing?"

Many others view the same expedition with similar trepidation but you can avoid the stresses associated with choosing a new kitchen. Here are my tips.

The Showroom Shuffle

You are browsing the showroom nursing your ambitions to find the kitchen you've always wanted. Careful not to draw attention to yourself - after all, you have read all the horror stories, watched all the TV exposures and everywhere you go in search of your dream kitchen you feel a little like a lamb being led to the slaughter.

Have you entered the lion's den? Well no, I don't think so. The good news is that there is a wealth of knowledgeable, helpful, courteous and efficient people in a kitchen showroom near you determined to shake off the bad image generated by some of their unscrupulous counterparts.

The question is how can you distinguish a sweet-talking salesperson from a dedicated professional? The truth is - it is difficult, but with a little preparation and sound knowledge you will be in a better position to prise yourself away from the clutches of eager 'Arthur Daleys'.

Researching the market on the internet

Today the resources at your disposal mean that research is much easier. Most people own a computer and have access to the Internet where there is an abundance of consumer web sites detailing the companies and the sales methods to avoid.

There are also a growing number of sites offering good advice and discussion forums and newsgroups provide an excellent way of determining the wheat from the chaff.

The reality is that all your research can be done in the comfort of your own home whereas before you connected to the net, the only research possible was trawling the showrooms for days on end before tiring of the confusion. Many purveyors of the old method ended up buying the kitchen hastily through sheer exhaustion and desperation.

The Internet also provides a source for finding the goods you want at the best price and a host of sites are proving popular by dedicating their search engines to scour the net in search of the best deal. Indeed, kitchen appliances were once a means of generating great profit for many retailers but a growing number of competitive internet appliance sellers means that now, even trade prices of appliances are being undercut by certain web retailers.

Why should I buy your product?

Contacting manufacturers to find out why you should buy their products before you actually do is a facility most of them invite but consumers rarely choose to use it. But by doing so you strengthen their commitment to you by ensuring personal contact with the company. All companies have a web presence and most provide contact details on the site. By contacting the company prior to buying their products you're just using the tools at your disposal to ensure a satisfactory outcome.

Web retailers

Increasing amounts of buyers are finding out how useful it is to source their kitchens from web retailers and this offers the buyer the comfort of choosing their kitchen from home, avoiding the conflicting advice you invariably find from the High St.

A number of reputable net retailers now offer complete kitchens via the internet and their showrooms are their web pages but that is technological progress and it is only the dinosaurs who insist that terrestrial showrooms remain the only source for buyers. After all, the internet shops are open every minute of every day and no-one is peering over your shoulder with a look of anxiety in case you leave the showroom and look elsewhere.

The benefits of online shopping from an established and respectable site means that customers can get in-depth information about a product, read feedback from other customers and ask advice from experts who have fitted the product.

Still some manufacturers remain blinkered on "you have to touch and feel a product before you will buy it" even though recent research by a reputable appliance manufacturer told them that 39% of people canvassed on this belief said they would buy a product costing more than 500 over the internet. I wonder will they be talked about like poor old Harold Macmillan, Prime Minister in the 1960s who said "You know of course that this television thing is just a fad - it will never catch on".

There is no substitute for educating yourself on the various components available to the buyer and no shortage of resources are available to assist you. For instance certain web sites offer the potential buyer tips on what to avoid, what to look for and articles on how to install your own kitchen.

To assist in your quest you can research expert opinions and articles by entering your queries into an Internet search engine. The results will provide you with both recommendations and criticisms of the large variety of products available.

The above may sound like a blatant recommendation for using the internet as your new marketplace when seeking a kitchen, it isn't, but I don't believe that quality only exists on the High Street.

For those not impressed with the Internet there remains a wealth of excellent terrestrial retailers offering quality goods, services and web sites.

What should I ask?

Armed with a new found knowledge you can begin your buying crusade with confidence in your ability to prevent the wool being pulled over your eyes. To prevent this happening here are a few tips:

  • Check the credentials of the company you buy the kitchen from - ask for contact details of previous customers. Don't be swayed by adverts - be swayed by previous work.
     

  • To ensure longevity of your kitchen - go for quality cabinets -this will prove more cost effective- choose cabinets of 18mm/19mm width and solid backs.
     
  • Drawers should be metal-sided with solid base back (avoid hardboard in both cabinet and drawers - they will warp in time). Anti-slam drawers are an innovation currently proving popular.
     
  • Research on some facts - there is no substitute for speaking with a knowledge of the criteria you are looking for.
     
  • Try to make a personal contact within the company - who will visit at least once during the course of installation and again on completion.
     
  • Collaborate with the designer on your visions and requirements so they may be incorporated into the plans.
     
  • Avoid cold sales techniques they may end up burning you.
     
  • Verify that all kitchen items arrive undamaged before allowing commencement.
     
  • If installation is included in your package, withhold at least 20% of the fee until everything is complete - this will ensure that any missing items will be fitted before final payment is made. If a company disagrees with this don't use them.
     
  • Draw up a works schedule to ensure synchronisation - make sure everyone involved works follows this, i.e. all building works completed to a schedule before installing your kitchen.
     
  • Speak to your allocated kitchen fitter before the installation to discuss the time, date and key arrangements (if appropriate) and of course brewing facilities.
     
  • Raise any concerns with the kitchen fitter whenever they appear rather than waiting till completion

Value for your money

The core of any kitchen is formed around the three vital components, cabinets, appliances and worktops. Having the ability of identifying quality of these components is a skill I would strongly advise all buyers to acquire before embarking on their mission.

Kitchens are no different to other industries in that quality products come at greater expense but it pays to have the ability to recognise quality before handing over the money.

The important thing for you is that you receive quality goods and services at a fair cost. The important thing for most retailers is that they win your custom and you then spread the word. As the adage goes - If the services completed are of a high standard you will tell a friend or neighbour but if the standard is poor you will tell a crowd.

The message to all consumers is to 'gen up' and play a part in removing the cooks who have been spoiling the broth for so long.


  Hints and Things endeavours to provide general information which we hope you will find useful. In no circumstances should the information we provide be construed as Hints and Things providing you with specific advice in relation to your own circumstances, or on the suitability for you personally, of any product or service referred to in this article.

 

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