06/08/2012 by


tea cup 01

I bought my own flat in London about 6 years ago. It’s a simple one-bedroom place on the 9th floor of an old building. It is perfect for me. The only problem when I moved in was that there was no oven, and the kitchen needed to be replaced. My Dad said to me “Don’t leave it too long before you get a new kitchen. It’ll be fantastic to have a smart new kitchen.” “Ok Dad” I replied, “I’ll get a new kitchen sorted out soon!” 6 years later I am now finally in the process of having a new kitchen installed. I know what you’re thinking, “How did you survive for 6 years without an oven Luke?” Well, the local take-away curry place knows me by name and all I need to do when I’m hungry is call them and say “Hi, it’s Luke. Can I have the usual please?” 15 minutes later a curry is delivered to my door...

Recently though, I’ve been fed up with take-away food and I decided last year to get a new kitchen installed. I was always reluctant to go through all the hassle of getting a new kitchen. I knew about the inconvenience, the hidden costs, the delays and the unreliable companies. I just didn’t want the fuss or the bother. However, at the beginning of the year I decided to put my doubts to one side and get a new kitchen.

In the UK, delivery men, plumbers, fitters and electricians have a bad reputation for being unreliable, late and expensive. I was not looking forward to having to deal with them. I decided to shop around and get a good price. I prepared myself for frustration and disappointment. It wasn’t long before I experienced both of those feelings. The first company I approached was Homebase, a well-known home store which sells and installs kitchens. They disappointed me from the very beginning. In fact, my first impression was so bad that I felt like walking out of the shop there and then. I should have done that.

I walked into the store on a Wednesday morning. The place was virtually empty. I walked around the kitchens section and looked at their designs. I had a couple of questions so I tried to find a member of staff. There was no-one around. It was like a ghost-shop, but a lot more boring. Eventually I found some members of staff. They were all standing behind the information counter. There was a queue of about 6 customers. Every single customer was queuing up with a complaint of some kind. “I was promised that the tiles would be delivered by last Friday. I still do not have my tiles. I have taken 3 days off work because of this”, “This shower head leaks”, “This paint is not white”, “This fitting was broken when I opened the package”, “I’m still waiting for my sofa to be delivered”. The complaints went on and on. The staff didn’t seem to be bothered. I remembered getting bad vibes from the whole place. It seemed that the staff didn’t care. Behind the point-of-sale displays, the logos and the shelves of paint there seemed to be a total lack of care. Still, I decided to continue with my kitchen enquiry. Eventually I got to the counter and spoke to a staff member. “Hi, I’d like to arrange a kitchen consultation please”, “Yeah, you need to go to the kitchens area”, “Yes, I’ve already been there but there were no members of staff”. The ‘sales assistant’ turned away from me “Yo, where’s Rashid man?” he asked. It turned out that Rashid was in the kitchens area. He was sitting on a sofa, hidden from view.

I spoke to Rashid and we talked about my kitchen. We arranged for someone from Homebase to come to my apartment the following Monday. I arranged my diary so I had nothing to do that evening. I had to cancel several engagements. On Monday evening I waited, and waited, and continued to wait. No-one from Homebase came. Understandably, I was frustrated. Finally Homebase called me. “Mr Thompson, this is about your kitchen consultation”, “Yes, where are you?” I asked, annoyed. “Well sir, you were supposed to come to the store for the consultation”. Rashid had got it wrong. He had clearly arranged for someone to visit me, but in actual fact I was supposed to go there. We arranged another date for the consultation. I took another evening out of my busy schedule. This time I took measurements of the kitchen, but I am not a professional and I knew the measurements were not perfect. Nevertheless, I took them to the consultation. During the meeting with Rashid I explained that the measurements were not perfect. He still attempted to make a design from my plans though. Of course, after half an hour he decided that it was not possible to use my basic design, because they were “not exactly perfect”. He needed to come to my flat to measure it himself. I just sighed and looked at Rashid. He avoided eye contact.

Again, I took an evening from my busy schedule and arranged for Rashid to come and measure my kitchen. I cleaned up the kitchen and waited patiently. Nothing happened. No knock on the door. No telephone call. No email. Rashid simply didn’t turn up. I received no contact at all. In fact, 3 months later I have not heard anything from Homebase, just total silence on all fronts. I shouldn’t have bothered with them in the first place.

After getting quotes from several other companies I have now decided to go with Ikea. I know these big corporate companies are expensive, but I don’t have time to interview lots of independent kitchen fitters. I need a quick and well organized solution. Already the costs have gone beyond my budget and the kitchen hasn’t even been installed yet! I don’t know why these things are so complex in this country. Everyone involved seems to want to do the least amount of work for the most amount of money.

Is this just a British thing, or are plumbers/fitters/electricians as unreliable in other countries? Leave a comment to let us know of your experiences of attempting to have work done on your house, and wish me luck for my kitchen installation. It is due to start on Monday. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

By Luke

Glossary

fed up (adj.) – annoyed, unhappy

reluctant (adj.) – unwilling to do something, don’t want to do something, not motivated towards doing something

hassle (n.) - inconvenience

fuss (n.) - inconvenience

bother (n.) - inconvenience

put my doubts to one side (exp.) – forget about the things which I’m worried about

shop around (phrasal verb) – go to lots of shops to find the best price

leaks (v.) – lets water come out of it

bad vibes (n.) – a bad atmosphere

point-of-sale displays (n.) – advertising or marketing displays which are presented in the shop

sighed (v.) – breathed out loudly because I was annoyed

turn up (phrasal verb) - arrive

quotes  (n.) – predicted prices

keeping my fingers crossed (exp.) – hoping (crossing your fingers is a superstition in the UK and we do it for good luck)


Categories: British Culture

Watch Our Videos

Language blog and tips

Use our Language Talk page to help build your vocabulary, skills and knowledge.

Language talk