i just shake my head and say "hmmmmmm"

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Forum topic by , posted 07-26-2011 05:18 AM 2812 views 0 times favorited 39 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2387 posts in 3572 days

07-26-2011 05:18 AM

With a look of loss and disappointment.

I have a current potential customer, i thought 90% sure i made the kitchen sale. It was one of those feelings that “we just clicked” and i am primed to close the deal. Ready to rock on a new and exciting kitchen job.

Then Sunday night they call, i am anticipating great news. They send me to one of those “cabinet direct” sites where they will ship you a 10 X 10 kitchen for like 1700.00 and free shipping. By the way, these really are nice people and this post is not meant to be any negative reflection on them. So they proceeded to drop the question, would i be willing to install those cabinets for them if they decided to buy them and also they asked my true opinion on these cabinets. Being a openly honest guy, and in this case, not much of a salesman, i responded that i have never used those cabinets and could not provide advice one way or another, which is true. I could only tell them what i could read on the site, which obviously was only positive things. I did point out that the prices listed are suspicious because those prices are typically what we have to pay for materials alone.

At this time they are still not decided that i know of.

Then today, i visit another family to provide a bid, and the husband is telling me how impressed ge was with the ikea design and cabinets they offered and especially for the asking price of their cabinets. He stated he did not care what the cabinets were made of as long as they looked nice and were “priced” right.

This past couple of days just left me wondering.

-- .

39 replies so far

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2387 posts in 3572 days

#1 posted 07-26-2011 05:24 AM

Then of course i get a call from a guy today wanting a 6’ vanity and a 2’ linen closet. I tell him 1200 – 1600 and he is ready to get started. He says he is ready to get rid of some cheap vanity that is falling apart in his bathroom that he regrets ever buying a few years ago.

-- .

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3094 days

#2 posted 07-26-2011 05:49 AM

I just got a new job from a long time customer (and friend) who bought a condo a couple of years ago. She had me build several pieces for her (dining room table, room divider, entertainment center, home office), but cheaped out on her bedroom. She bought a three piece dresser set and started complaining about it within a week. I just smiled and said “Told ya”.

I’m doing some other small jobs for her and she told me that she wants me to build her some new bedroom furniture.

Sometimes, you just gotta wait them out. – lol

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4340 days

#3 posted 07-26-2011 05:50 AM

Yep I installed some knock together boxes from China. I won’t even call them cabinets. Then they put granite tops on them. Not once, or even twice, but three times for two different outfits. Too many houses are built as investments and not enough built as homes.

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2387 posts in 3572 days

#4 posted 07-26-2011 06:06 AM

Yeah i will wait them out, i do think i will make the sale. The one reason is they want to do this right and they express that they do not want to have regrets.

I am planning a meeting with them armed with some selling points in our favor. The boxes listed are 1/2” and butt jointed and so i anticipate they will have squaring issues that might affect reveals between doors and drawer faces giving a “cheap quality” appearance. I will also adv them my opinion that the cheaper line may deteriate and leave them with multiple kitchen repairs and back in the kitchen renovation market again sooner then they hope.

-- .

View rrdesigns's profile


531 posts in 3211 days

#5 posted 07-26-2011 06:10 AM

Sadly, sometimes the good guy doesn’t win. Brought in to provide a painting bid, I recently opened a client’s mind with my suggestions on how to improve her master and guest bathrooms . She loved my ideas but wanted to bounce them off her interior decorator before making her final decisions. Enter the decorator, with her own carpenter in tow. Next thing you know, the carpenter gets the rebuild using my ideas. I get to follow his work with paint. Oh boy. And to add insult to injury, on my way out the door, the client’s husband says “You come highly recommended to us. And we really love the work you show on your website”. Go figure.

As to your original post, what most potential clients don’t realize is that the reason those cabinets are so inexpensive is that they are nothing more than particle board with the thinnest veneer skin imaginable attached to their faces. The first time they get scratched, or wet, they get a rude awakening.

-- Beth, Oklahoma, Rambling Road Designs

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2876 days

#6 posted 07-26-2011 06:19 AM

Here’s some armament: “A cabinet is only as good as its moving parts—hinges and drawer slides. We’re seeing a lot of imported hardware these days, and it just doesn’t hold up, and that’s why I don’t use it.”

If they try to pin you down on installing the low grade stuff, consider something like this:

“A bad installation job can make a good cabinet worse. A great installation job will not improve a substandard cabinet. I would really like to be of help to you, but I want my name to be attached to the products I make and install, not on my efforts to install others’ work.”

And then there’s always the John Ruskin quotes:

“There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse, and sell a little more cheaply. The person who buys on price alone is this man’s lawful prey.”


“It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When
you pay too much, you lose a little money – that’s all. When you pay
too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you
bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The
common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a
lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well
to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will
have enough to pay for something better.”
— John Ruskin

Just a couple of suggestions. Comments welcomed!



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3673 days

#7 posted 07-26-2011 06:21 AM

Cheep melamine is not thermally fused, for one – which you folks
probably know but the client may not. It also has more crumble-ability
to the particleboard underneath than some of the better melamine,
which is really pretty robust if you use it right.

If you’re sweating over these jobs, you’re not doing enough marketing.
A relatively fixed percentage of people will pay for quality and value -
I learned to plan on not closing the majority of deals a long time
ago, just the good ones. Put enough leads in your sales funnel and
you’ll close enough good deals to keep you busy.

I don’t mean to downplay the disapointment of losing a kitchen job –
but if they’re thinking they like melamine it’s almost always because
they are pinching pennies and you’re on thin ice anyway and they’ll
be looking at big-box options, slicing and dicing bids, weighing trust
factors and scratching their heads at how a mail-order outfit can undercut
a local shop by such a big margin.

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 3572 days

#8 posted 07-26-2011 06:35 AM

Great comments Lee. I love the quotes.

And Loren, your comments are welcome and wise. I agree. We really just opened shop full time 13 months ago and so i truley have a long learning curve ahead, especially with regard to marketing. So far we have struggled by with CL.

But through word of mouth we got on with a owner builder working with help u build. They loved our work and wrote a testimonial and encouraged help u build to add us to their contractors list which they just did last week free of charge.

And, we are getting ready to sign with BBB. But that will cost us 525.00 so i hope we get something for that investment. I think one upside to BBB is here in San Antonio we will only be the 5th shop listed for S.A. area. I think that gives us better then good odds.

So Loren, do you have any advice about joining BBB.

-- .

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 2996 days

#9 posted 07-26-2011 07:10 AM

I haven’t checked them out, but I just heard an ad today for Cabinets Direct. They claimed solid wood construction, dovetail joinery at drawer fronts and backs, Automatic closing, under mounted glides. For this they said top and bottoms cabinets for about $995 per 10 ft.

Is this possible? What’s the catch?

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 3572 days

#10 posted 07-26-2011 07:13 AM

I am really not sure, it is the same as i read with my customer. The one thing i am confident is the quality will be lacking.

-- .

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3673 days

#11 posted 07-26-2011 07:40 AM

I would say don’t.

The BBB is a for-profit scheme and I believe the recruiters are basically
commissioned salespeople selling memberships. I don’t know the
whole scoop on the BBB, but I’d say your five hundred bucks
is better invested in other ways. That said, the effectiveness of BBB
and Chamber of Commerce marketing will vary from place to place.

A few ways to get talking to the right people, if you have a few bucks
to spend on marketing – are using direct mail to contact designers and
architects, and flyering affluent neighborhoods door to door.

Craigslist is free so keep using it, but it does not target the mass-affluent
market you should be going after.

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3673 days

#12 posted 07-26-2011 07:46 AM

You can’t beat the bad guys for overlay doors and drawer fronts –
but they can’t beat a small shop for doing nice inset face frame

That said, cabinets are more a commodity today than they have
ever been, so you need to find ways to expand what you offer
if you don’t want to be constantly busted-up by clients price-shopping
your stuff against big retailers. What those mail order shops can’t
deliver is artful installation – and I’d recommend you don’t install
work from other shops, but if you do, mark it up to do it right since
the customer slashed your profit by sourcing the cabinets elsewhere.

You’ve got to take a stand in your market on price. It isn’t always
easy, but nobody really wants to get the cheapest guy to do the
work…except the people who can only afford the cheapest work.

View rusty2010's profile


150 posts in 2583 days

#13 posted 07-26-2011 02:04 PM

My advice is to listen to Loren. The BBB is a waste of money. Nobody uses them as a referral. I own a design/build company. We installed and purchased about 80 to 100 kitchens. Two of my customers insisted on an private cabinet maker. The results where negative and I’m being kind to them. We buy either Kraftmaid or Medallion cabinets. I been to several shops and seen many cabinets built by individuals and none compares to these except one shop here locally. Your in a competative and demanding business. I’m not saying give up or your work is bad. What I am saying is to set yourself apart from others by design, service and great detail to the customers needs. Emphasize your unique designs and custom craftmanship, offer them something no one else has. It’s worked for me. Good luck

-- check, recheck then check again

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4244 days

#14 posted 07-26-2011 03:30 PM

Some great advice has been given. I especially like Lee’s suggestion about refusing to do the install of the cheap cabinets because you don’t want your name associated with that kind of product. It might cost you the install, but it might also be convincing enough to have them rethink their position.

I have to disagree with Loren and Rusty about the BBB. Maybe it varies by region, but here in South Louisiana, most people I know, myself included, wont hire a company without a satisfactory or better BBB rating.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Puzzleman's profile


417 posts in 2969 days

#15 posted 07-26-2011 07:23 PM

I think that Rusty has a good plan. Spend your time and billable hours on what sets you apart. Such as custom work, service, planning and installation. More people will be impressed with the design and layout of the kitchen.

When most people visit someone’s home, they do not look inside the cabinets to see what kind of construction or what kind of closers are used. Many companies can build cabinets that all look similar but you can be different by working with the customer to find out their needs, plans and special needs. Take all of this information, add your product knowledge, stir in some vision for their future needs and come up with a plan that will impress them and their friends. Again, I don’t think their friends will look inside the cabinets to see the construction. They will be impressed with the floor plan, the bells and whistles and the convenience factors that you designed in. That is what can lead to referrals.

I am not suggesting that you stop making custom cabinets. I am suggesting that you also include pre-made cabinets in your product offerings to add in a wider price range to capture sales from the people who don’t quite as much money as other customers.

By expanding your price offerings and services, you have a larger pool of potential customers.

-- Jim Beachler, Chief Puzzler,

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