Monday, October 18, 2010

Love our Bianco Antico granite - Hate the IKEA service.

We drove to New jersey to "select the slab" (this is the name given by stone dealers to this part of the kitchen counter process. It is also a phrase that will resonate with anyone who has ever walked the halls of a bath house.) We purchased the granite through IKEA when we got the cabinetry. We did this because they throw in the sink for free if you buy at least 25 sq feet of counter top. (And the sink you get is a higher grade stainless than the weak and thin stainless that IKEA sells.) If we got to that threshold with our small galley kitchen, I can't imagine anyone else having a problem with this requirement. IKEA had a good selection of stone, some of which I recognized, including Bianco Antico which has a blend of whites, blacks, browns, blueish and smokey quartz and flashes of mica in undulating veins. Nice harmonizer to the stainless steel appliances, gloss white cabs and black granite floor. IKEA warns you that one downside to buying a stone countertop through them is that you will not be allowed to select the slab. Because I am not easily convinced that any policy established in this world is honorable or upheld or not circumventable with ease, I called the dealership that contracts with IKEA and set up an appointment to select the slab. When we got to the warehouse in New jersey, we found we had the option of picking out any stone we wanted, not just Bianco Antico (without forfeiting the free sink!). We spent a half hour looking at dozens of options, one or two of which would have meant an upcharge. When we settled on our original choice, the staff asked if we wanted to see the several slabs of that variety before picking one. We did! Amazingly, overhead rolling cranes and huge grippers on chains carried slabs above the shoppers. I crouched once or twice as a huge piece of Brazilian riverbed passed overhead.

A week later, I received a call saying that our chosen slab had been delivered from the warehouse to the shop. Time to schedule the making of the template. Two guys with many years of experience and glue guns showed up at the appointed time and had the templates done in an hour.

A week later I got a call from the stone dealer that made me begin to regret having made this purchase through IKEA. The dealer would not cut the slab until IKEA responded to them with the go-ahead. (The dealer had sent IKEA the exact number of square feet which is always slightly different from the estimate made at the time of purchase.) I made innumerable calls to IKEA about this and got a variety of answers from a variety of worthless people, some of whom claimed to be post-purchase customer service specialists. I got a call back from a guy who said my paperwork was lost. This call came one hour after I got a call from a lady who said she had my file and was ready to help me complete the transaction. I was finally able to pay the balance and then it took many more calls to get IKEA to give the green light to the dealer in Jersey. I advise you not to buy your counter top through IKEA.

Back on the phone with the dealer, I asked her if I could identify some sections of the slab that I really liked and one section that I did not like, so that the stone cutter could choose and avoid those sections. She said I would have to come to Jersey again to do this but reminded me that ordinarily this is not allowed because they have to cut the stone in the least wasteful way possible. I said that I understood this and that I had taken pictures of the slab and could send an email showing the parts I liked and the parts I didn't like. She told me that this would not be allowed, but I sent her the following two pictures. I kept the grammar simple because my interaction with the dealers at the warehouse, with the template makers, and eventually with the installers meant working with skilled people with limited English.

When I called her to ask if she had gotten my photos, she said "Yes, but I cannot do anything with them for the reasons I mentioned. You will have to take what you get or tell me not to cut the stone." I responded that I understood the policy and would accept the results. Just as I suspected, when the counters arrived, the cutters had honored my preferences exactly, proving that if you use just the right tone and approach to any negotiation, you will get what you want a percentage of the time even when stated policy gives you no control at all.


Anonymous said...

Very nice... would you mind telling us how much the cabinets and countertop cost you?

Tony Adams said...

Dear Anonymous,
The IKEA website is helpful in estimating costs (even if their service is not helpful). Maybe they design it that way knowing that their staff is not reliable. We went with the "Akurum" cabinets with "Abstrakt" doors in gloss white. The stone prices vary. Ours was about $95 per square foot. There are less expensive options but stone is something you buy for pleasure as well as practicality so it is one area of the project in which I did not mind spending a bit more.

Peter Maria said...

You know, I have a terrible ability for measuring large distances (anything under 12 inches is a different matter - ha ha ha). I would have never believed that a NYC galley kitchen could have 25+ ft of counter space!

You sound a lot like my partner: he can negotiate anything and deal with any customer service or manager person. I hate confrontation too much to ever say a thing, but he takes charge and can even make ME feel sorry for the person on the other end of the phone. Meanwhile, I do all the research and find the best deal for things. Isn't it great how guys can compliment each other?

Thanks for your info re: IKEA's customer service. I will keep this entire post in mind when we (hopefully) re-do our kitchen next year. Their stores are a joy to explore, tho, wouldn't you agree?

Your pix are great, by the way; so to the point and yet artful. Can't wait to see the finished work! And I'm sure you and yours are feeling the same way!

Tony Adams said...

Dear Peter Maria,
Countertops are relatively easy to estimate because they are usually two feet deep with a four inch backsplash.

Actually, I was all set to hire the contractor who did our bathroom but he was busy doing a dance studio in midtown and he broke two appointments giving me time to think about the project and to decide that I could do it myself with the assistance of a plumber and an electrician (both recommended by the super which is an important element of success because I suspect the super got some "thanks" from them and because the guys he recommended have experience with our building. They know what's in the walls. The electrician, for instance knew that there were embedded pipes leading to ceiling fixtures so he was able to rewire with a minimum of channeling into the concrete.If I were not retired and able to be here while their work was being done and whenever deliveries were made, the project would have been the more typical nightmare. Also, one learns to avoid Friday afternoons when the super wants to leave early to go to his country home. All deliveries and work should be scheduled on other days.

Blockmeister in St Louis said...

Have enjoyed your kitchen renovation very much. In the middle of buying a building, and I'll have to do some of that, as well. You give me hope that I can do most of it myself.
Thanks for posting!

Tate said...

I am impressed. Very nice choices, and a job well done!

Mark said...


I learned the hard way that "customer service" is non-existent these days when I ordered our various flooring products from Home Depot...a nightmare I will never repeat, even though I was happy with the results. I had much less trouble with IKEA...sorry that you did! It definitely looks like it was worth the trouble in the end.


kitchenbeard said...

Lovely stuff. Next time I'm in town can I come and make a mess in it?

Will said...

You are SO suave -- but we've always known that. :-)

We build our own IKEA cabinets, 18 of them, some with sandblasted glass doors, saving a number of thousands of dollars over commercially manufactured ones of the same or lesser quality. We spent almost an hour on the first cabinet as we learned IKEA's system and hardware, and were soon knocking them out every 17 minutes.

Our wonderful stone counter tops came from a totally different vendor, however, and now that I hear your story, I'm doubly happy we went that route.

tornwordo said...

Looks great! Sorry, but you are a pain in the ass customer. (Somebody had to say it)

Tony Adams said...

Dear Torn! I'll beg to differ. The pain in the ass customer is not so much the one who asks for something as the one with unreasonable demands. I'll always make clear what I want but I know when to give up trying to control the deliverable.

Susie said...

I was thinking about using black granite flooring in my kitchen, but was afraid they would be too slippery. Have you had any problems with yours? Would you make the same decision again?

Tony Adams said...

Dear Susie,
The only problem I have found with my choice of jet black granite is that every speck of dust shows up. I have to clean the kitchen floor much more than ever before. It is not too slippery.

William said...

Love the Antico. I'm getting the Bianco Venus to use with my IKEA cabinets. I found a place here in Michigan that is giving me 40 sq ft, 40/60 sink, cooktop cutout, window sill, and cutting board for $2100.

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Unknown said...

Hi Tony - I came across your site doing some research on Ikea cabinets
( I have a deal for the granite ) but was wondering how the cabinets have held up over time?
I know in the furniture department sometimes the doors can end up a little " off " over time ( that would be my main concern ) would love to hear back from you on that!!!
Many many thanks - and hugs from a stranger in Montreal
Simply Suzan
( now excuse me I have to go fight with comment moderation to get this comment published LMHO )

Tony Adams said...

Dear Suzan,
I am well pleased with the IKEA cabinets.
I would say that I use my kitchen much more than the average New Yorker, sothey get a lot of usage. On the other hand, households with kids probably are harder on cabinets than are we.
Yes, I would get them again.

Will said...

Suzan, my husband and I built 18 IKEA cabinets, some with glass doors, all with solid wood doors, in the winter of 2007/8. The cabinets, both wall mounted and floor mounted as well as two set on a rolling frame as out kitchen island, are in great shape. We entertain a lot, cook and bake constantly and love the kitchen we created. The cabinets are in great shape, we've had no problems of any kind. We were advised that when assembling them, we would be much happier long term if we used carpenter's glue on the joints instead of just the IKEA locking hardware. We did so, and everything is solid as a rock -- hope this helps!

Tony Adams said...

Interesting, Will. Nothing has pulled apart on mine, but carpenter's glue for an extra ounce of prevention is probably not a bad idea! If you choose the shiny surface, take seriously their washing directions because you don't want to scratch or dull the surfaces. Also, don't park a coffee maker directly under a wall mounted cabinet. The steam will curl the edges of the cabinet doors' synthetic surface!

Will said...

Tony, that's one of the many reasons I chose the solid wood doors -- I didn't want to have any truck with veneers, no matter what kind. The doors are as beautiful as the day we sorted and unpacked 125 boxes of components and began to assemble! :-)

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