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Old 03-20-2017, 11:48 PM
Tracedfar Tracedfar is offline
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Location: Balko, OK
Posts: 133
Default Customer Issues

So, I built 27 linear feet of shaker style cabinets plus a 7 ft. island for a customer who is a distant relative. Several issues have sprung up:

1. They aren't happy with 12" outer depth of uppers since their old ones (which I never knew about) were deeper.
2. They tried to "help out" and install some lowers over the weekend. They must have pulled them out of square because the drawers are hanging when they weren't before installation but guess who is getting blamed?
3. They tried to re-stain the face frames to make them darker after I had finished them and now their 'blotchy'. I'm getting blamed for that, too.
4. They didn't realize that a 24" wide drawer cabinet will not have a 24" wide opening. So, some of the drawers are too narrow and it's my fault.
5. They thought the carcasses (which can't even be seen) would be oak like the face frames, doors and drawer fronts. Since, I used birch plywood (domestic) they think I over charged.
6. This one set me off: even when I showed that the walls weren't straight and that the room even falls 1.75" in 12', they still say my cabinets aren't square!

Yes, a lot of communication in the front end might have saved most of the confusion. Nevertheless, the question is: how do I deal with this? I offered my labor if they would provide the extra material to redo the pieces they didn't like. I already rebuilt the sink cabinet and adjoining corner cabinet to accommodate an oversized apron sink they sprung on me.

What else can I do? Most likely, there is no way to salvage the situation but I have to ask.

Last edited by Tracedfar; 03-20-2017 at 11:50 PM.
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  #2  
Old 03-21-2017, 08:15 AM
bumpnstump bumpnstump is offline
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Kerrville, Tx.
Posts: 819
Default

bummer.... for sure....

No easy answer. I've had more than my share of similar situations. In the early days, I would 'duke' it out with the client to 'prove my rightness; prove their wrongness'. Never a good end result. In the later days, I learned to just 'take it on the chin'.

Knowing there would be no peaceful resolution for me, or for the client, I looked for the shortest path to eliminate the pain (for both parties). If there was no obvious change in the product that could be made to rectify an issue, at some point in the ordeal, I would completely own the entire mess, and then remove everything, w/much apologies, and depart ASAP. That, or, offer to donate my time spent, if they would cover the materials. All the while, suggesting that they call a 'competent' person to give them satisfactory service. The more I emphasized my 'incompetence' and owned the entire 'botched-ness' of the job, the more peaceful the atmosphere became. One thing I didn't do, tho, is to keep making changes that gave them more issues to complain about- it's usually not about the product, but about them feeling 'victimized'- no surface changes to the product will fix that issue.

Not sure what to suggest, other than it's not worth it, short-term or long-term, to prolong the agony; I'd look for the exit door and aim for it at hyper-speed.

Sorry for the hassle of it all; hope you find a way thru that leaves a few feathers unsinged......
Rick
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Old 03-21-2017, 01:31 PM
TooManyToys TooManyToys is offline
 
Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: Jersey Shore (Not Seaside!)
Posts: 177
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I've had a similar issue long ago on a different subject matter.

You have a customer who is naive about certain mechanical aspects of the job, level and straight for instance. Standard sizing for another.

They have no objection to fix their perception of your products faults without your approval, with future complaints expected and need to be corrected by you. This can become limitless. You no longer are in control of the project; this is not a we hired a contractor to build a kitchen, it has become we are building a kitchen with a contractors help and we are improving his work.

Maybe a deeper explanation of things at the quoting point of the job could have helped, but sometimes there is an appearance of knowledge that's turns out to be something else, distant relative respective.

I would vacate the job with materials with a full refund of monies given. The cabinets may be useful to someone either in a kitchen or garage to recoup costs. It is a no win with exponential losses in the future with possible legal involvement, and may not be avoided with any pullback (loss of prior cabinets). It's just not worth it and agree with Rick's assessment.

Pulling out is the tricky part. Getting them to agree that no matter what you do it will not be up to their standards or situation, without opening yourself to future entanglements. I would consult an attorney on the best way of bailing as to not cause future financial hurt. Contractor laws vary state to state and some can be very punitive despite what is perceived at the point of separation.
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Last edited by TooManyToys; 03-21-2017 at 01:34 PM.
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Old 03-21-2017, 10:48 PM
Tracedfar Tracedfar is offline
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Location: Balko, OK
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Hey guys, thanks for the advice and benefit of your experience!

Toomanytoys, I think you nailed it. I lost control of the project. Rick, being the most apologetic person in the room actually did relieve some of the tension.

Anyway, they decided to go with the cabinets. I leveled the cabinet with hanging drawers and magically the drawers don't hang anymore. I offered to double the face frames of the uppers which will increase their depth by .75". That and a 10% discount seemed appease them.

I'll never get a referral. It's not something I'll be using to advertise my work. And I doubt I'll bother attending my wife's next family reunion but least I can wrap this job up and put it behind me. I was prepared to remove them and refund most of the price, but I wasn't sure how I was going to survive a loss of several $K's. I've taken a loss a few times but this would have been the biggest by far.

It's my largest cabinet job to date. I really enjoyed building them and thought I'd use it to break into the "next level" in my burgeoning business but now I'm not so sure. Live and learn.
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Old 03-22-2017, 10:30 AM
TooManyToys TooManyToys is offline
 
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Location: Jersey Shore (Not Seaside!)
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I'm glad to hear there was a way forward. At finish I would think of a way to get a signoff on the project. I've never been involved in a legal battle from either side, but my corporate life entailed a lot of risk management so I do get hyper on self protection.

I don't think this adventure should curtail your ambitions, but I think every job to the day you stop is a learning experience as there are always new surprises, both on the work and people side. The fact that you found a way should bolster your confidence in solving problems. Any work has a people side unless you're working in a cave.

Take what you learned here so you can approach the next job with more information on expectations of the people involved, and explorer the faults of the job (floor level, etc) so you can explain the problems of the job. This should get the unfamiliar customer a better understanding not only of the why's but if your cost is higher. A customer the sees your looking for pitfalls so there are no surprise costs should give you more credence in a competitive bid environment, and that you're more on top of your game then the other guy.

And of course explain that a helping customer can create more unforeseen problems and corrections.
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Old 03-22-2017, 01:22 PM
sean9c sean9c is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 1,153
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Seems like you just had a crash course in the value of customer communication and understanding their expectations. I'm sure the lessons learned will go a long way in making future projects go smoother. Good luck and stay positive.

Not that it means anything but I've found that a lot of dinner plates won't fit in a 12" upper cabinet, to a lot of peoples surprise. I do 14" deep uppers and then make the gap between uppers and countertop a few inches larger so it doesn't feel like the upper is hulking over the countertop.
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Old 03-24-2017, 05:41 PM
Tracedfar Tracedfar is offline
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Location: Balko, OK
Posts: 133
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Yeah, I've thought long and hard about the cabinet depth issue. It's the one thing where I really can only blame myself.

I'm going to start making them deeper. Doing the math, it seems 14" OD is about as deep as you can get without using a lot more material and significantly running up costs. Am I right?
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