So upset! Should I bail on this place?? (countertop drama)

CallMeJaneSeptember 16, 2013

Ive spent the last 4 hours in quite an emotional state. My face is still hot, but my chest is less tight than before. By principle, I feel like I should bail on these people. What should I do?
My kitchen design place has been handling my countertops. I was sent to a stoneyard in NJ, about 5 hrs round trip from where I live in PA. I was told I would need 3 slabs. The stoneyard was only willing to show me 2 of the 16 slabs of the white macaubus they had, which by the way had circular brown coffee stain looking deposits on them (I posted pics previously). Disappointed with that experience, I told my KD, and he was going to send me to another stone supplier. At that point however, I was told that my job would only need 2 slabs.
In the mean time, I discovered Corteccia quartzite/marble, and asked my KD the pricing. He said his fabricator didnt have a supplier with that stone. I found a fabricator in NJ willing to come out to where I live and put it in. This guy was going to do everything with an ogee edge in the Corteccia for the same price as I was quoted the WM by my KD. Corteccia is about 15+- sq ft more expensive than WM.
If I went with the fabricator I found I would have to pay out of pocket. If I went with my KDs fabricator, it would be taken from my allowance. I didnt want to pay that much out of pocket, since we've already done so much outside...and I decide to let go of the Corteccia.
I went to the other stone supplier my KD said to go to, chose my slabs of WM.
I emailed my KD this morning, as, now that one of my islands is in, I wanted a little more overhang, and an ogee edge. I had also asked him that he initially said my job would take 3 slabs then he said it would take 2 slabs, but there was no adjustment in price...if he could explain that.
My understanding was, I pay for the slabs, the templating/fabrication, and installation. By default, if I am using less slabs, I should be paying less. At this point, I was just trying to get my edge and extra overhang in the price of the extra slab. I also mentioned the other fabricator that was going to do the edging on the pricer stone for just as much. I offered to talk to his fabricator, as I didnt want him bargaining for me or put him in an awkward position.
This is the reply I get:
'Regarding the kitchen tops, please print and sign the attached change order that will amend our contract by stating that ____ will not be selling you the countertops. At this point I need to cut my losses and tell you “good luck with the outfit in New Jersey.” I’ve already got too much time invested in something that clearly will not be profitable for our company.....We make very slim margins on selling stone tops to our customers; we generally do so only to make the process convenient for our customers. It takes time and resources to do this and my time and effort must have value [as well as everyone at (fabricator) and the distributors I’ve been contacting for you]; that is not the case here, so ___ will not be involved in providing you counter tops.'

I really am livid. What should I do? Should I fork over the money and go elsewhere, or should I just have someone else to handle things? Going out of pocket is decent money, which I can do...but would rather not. At this point though, Im not sure if its just a matter of principle.


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It sounds like you are wasting his precious minutes with ordinary business, so I would go elsewhere. I would worry if there should be any problems with the order/install. People who are stingy with their time often do not deliver the same results as those who do what it takes to get the job done well, as their foremost and primary interest is their own. There could be mistakes and oversights, on a no time, no money budget. Get the stone you really want and be done with it. These type issues will probably come up again if you don't.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 3:17PM
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Ah, you caught him in his own game -:) You're smarter than he would like. Be rid of him!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 3:38PM
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My general rule is base your decisions on principle, or you'll wish you had. There's no worse feeling then staying the course with someone your gut told you to get rid of and then them finishing badly. He doesn't seem to want your business and won't put in a good effort for you.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 3:47PM
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So, did it turn out that he was selling you two stones for the price of three? And the stone was more expensive than a higher grade elsewhere. Yet he is making no money on it. Especially if he can't charge you for an extra slab you don't use! If that is true, I would not do any business with him. He does seem to be lying to you when caught in his "game", saying he doesn't even make money on the whole thing, when in fact he is charging you excessively for nothing. I would run like he!! from doing any business at all with him.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 3:49PM
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I'm not understanding why you are upset that this won't be part of the "allowance". You end up paying the costs (or over or under) either way. What difference does it make what route the money goes to to get out of your pocket?

In some stones, you may need 2 slabs, while in others, it will take 3 to get the best match on seams. A stone with a lot of directional movement will need more square footage to be able to properly match the directionality of that movement around the corners. Granite varies in price by yard.

In some yards, Yellow River is a medium priced granite, say $20 a square foot. In others, it will be a luxury granite @ $40 a square foot. Fabrication costs for the cheaper stones are cheaper per square foot, and the more expensive stones are more per square foot. So, buying Yellow River from one yard might get you it at $60 a square foot fabricated, while another yard might charge you $90 a square foot.

But, it's not all about price. My fabricator isn't the cheapest guy in town, nor does he buy from the cheapest distributor. They offer good service and a quality product for a reasonable, but not cheap price. Yeah, I've had people tell me that they could get Yellow River from Jones Bros. Fabricator shop (who uses Stone LTD as their supplier) for less than we charge. My response to that is usually similar to what your KD sent to you. Great! Go buy it from them, and good luck!

I'm not here to sell you the cheapest thing going. I'm here to sell you the services of someone who won't trash your home and give you a 1/4" chipped seam. If price is what you want to shop, then quality has no value to you.

I also only offer counters as "customer service" to those who are buying cabinets. There is almost no markup in counters. Which usually means that if I have to track down something at one of the 6 local stone yards, I've lost money on the counter portion of the job. How much I'm willing to lose on counters varies with how much the customer has spent on the cabinet portion of the job. For a kitchen where I end up only netting 2K (or much,much less if it's a budget kitchen), a week long search for a customer for some "perfect" item is likely to lose me money on the whole job. That 2K won't keep the lights on and the salaries paid for the week.

Services of any variety aren't free or unlimited. They have to be paid for in one way or another. When a transaction ceases to be profitable, it's best to cut your losses.

The only thing I fault your KD for here is not enough communication on the front end, and through the process. If he had told you that he could spend X number of hours assisting you with choosing a counter, and reminded you where you were on that clock, then the severance letter would have been less of a shock.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 3:54PM
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"I'm not here to sell you the cheapest thing going. I'm here to sell you the services of someone who won't trash your home and give you a 1/4" chipped seam. If price is what you want to shop, then quality has no value to you. "

This is not necessarily true. You can go with the high bidder, seemingly reputable company/store and still end up with people trashing your home and trashing the job. You just never know until you're in up to your eyeballs. Now if you do buy cheap, the odds go up.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 4:06PM
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Can you explain the whole allowance/out-of-pocket thing? I've never been party to a contract that had allowances (we've always just bought our own materials, and sometimes contracted for individual items like carpet/installation, granite/fabrication/installation) so I don't understand how it works.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 4:20PM
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Can you explain the whole allowance/out-of-pocket thing? I've never been party to a contract that had allowances (we've always just bought our own materials, and sometimes contracted for individual items like carpet/installation, granite/fabrication/installation) so I don't understand how it works.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 4:30PM
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Yeah, did you pay them a full amount for your remodel INCLUDING the countertop? If so, the allowance is the amount allocated to the counter. If he's not going to do the counter for you then you should get a refund on that amount. He can't just walk away from the contract. DON'T SIGN THE THING HE SENT YOU.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 4:32PM
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I second sj's question. Would you pay the KD for counters regardless of if he provided them? That doesn't make sense to me. Also, is the KD trying to back out of the rest of the project or just the counter piece?

If just the countertop, to LWO's point he has spent time on this and I think it would be fair to offer him payment for his services even though in the end you didn't use his guy. I also see LWO's point about using "his" fabricator - presumably he uses someone who he trusts will do quality work and whose work he will stand behind.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 4:34PM
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So, its not a renovation, its new construction.
Within the cost to build the house are allowances that I have to spend on whatever (plumbing, electrical, cabinetry (including kitchen cabs, vanities, and all countertops)). If I buy from my builder's suppliers or with whom he has an account, the builder pays, as it comes out of what we have mortgaged. If I chose not to buy from his places, I payout of pocket. I have done this with quite a bit, as somethings I could get cheaper, and others I could get better quality. I opted to go with my builder's kitchen person, as they offer quality and would stand behind their work...and my builder would stand behind his work as well.
The kitchen place uses a separate fabricator. And again, in using them, I am not paying directly, it all comes out of my allowance.

While I signed an order sheet, it was a single sheet with my cabinet order and for countertops. Since the countertops dont come from the KD place, I am not bound to them, verified by both the kitchen place and my builder.

I was taken aback by the level of unprofessionalism by someone I am paying via purchasing their product. I offered to talk to the fabricator. If he is going to put himself in the middle, then phone calls are part of the gig. They decided to deal with countertops, Im sure they get a cut. I dont concern those who I deal with in my line of work with stuff I have to do to make sure ppl are getting what they need.

I asked for a breakdown for what I was paying for as I was just given a total cost for countertops. If that requires a phone call because he chooses to keep himself in the middle of the fabricator and client, why is that a point to contend with me?
At this point, I am not committed. He is not the owner of this facility. I am unsure if I want to deal with someone else who is able to give me a breakdown and have the cost not come directly out of my pocket (via my allowance), or go ahead and pay out of pocket and go elsewhere on my own without my builder backing it up.

Thanks for the response.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 6:43PM
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I think you are still missing something. If you do not go through your builder and pay out of pocket, then the builder should give you a credit for the allowance he would have given you to buy through him - otherwise you're paying twice for the same item. I'm not sure you understand that.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 6:57PM
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I read it as not a matter of paying twice but being able to wrap it into the mortgage. Am I correct, Jane (if I may call you that)?

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 7:27PM
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Yes, youre right. While I will get the money back, it wont be until everything is said and done, so not until early next year.

Maybe its not that big of a deal. I dont know.

This post was edited by CallMeJane on Mon, Sep 16, 13 at 20:14

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 7:29PM
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Sophie Wheeler

If you don't like the slabs you've been shown, then pick slabs elsewhere. If you don't like the fabricator's policies that you've been dealing with, then pick another fabricator. Caveat emptor though.

The reason your builder chooses to do business with the KD and the fabricator you've been dealing with is they don't give him headaches. That's VERY important to a builder. Delays and mismeasures cost him money and you aggravation. If they didn't do a good job, he'd use someone else.

A lot of builders wouldn't allow you to go elsewhere, so if yours does, then you have someone fairly flexible as far as your allowances go. However, your allowance may not go as far with someone else as it does with his people, as he may have negotiated prices with them that are lower than someone else would charge you. If that doesn't seem to be the case, then it very well could be a case of apples to oranges as far as quality of stone, and certainly quality of fabrication. Just because you can find a stone at multiple yards doesn't mean that it's equal in structural integrity or in desirability for it's uniqueness. Some stone yards have better wholesale wranglers in the field to snatch up the better stone, leaving the dreck to the rest. And no, the less desirable won't cost as much as the prettier stuff.

If you choose to not use "his" people for products or services, be it stone or flooring, then it's up to you to vet both the product that you choose and any trade that you might choose to use yourself. That means interviewing them and viewing their work and doing all of the due diligence that your builder has already done with his people. And, anyone that you hire direct will not work "for" the builder. They will be your responsibility to deal with if they screw up your stone. Or drop it on your new cabinets. Or your floor. Your builder won't be responsible for the suitability of your product choices or your direct hire's actions. That's the risk you take when you hire trades people directly.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 9:56PM
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It's really not that hard to find quality stones and great fabricators if you live in a large enough city. Not so much if a small town.

My GC gave me an allowance and the name of his fabricator. I drove out to meet the gentlemen and came away with a bad impression: very few active projects in a run down building. Frankly, I was surprised my GC had recommended him. I couldn't even get to look at a piece he had done.

As we have plenty of stone here, it was easy to find the great fabricators: online blogs, word and sight of work, verify he/she is a member of recognized fabricators (contrary to above, I think this is important) and visit. I found a perfect stone and perfect fabricator and came in for 46 sq feet at $3600 installed with full bull nose edge and sink installation. My GC credited everything but their sink installation.

I'd move along if possible, but only after I fully understood and modified by writing on that paperwork and initialing areas you wish to change. It's a two way process but remember, you're doing the paying! Good luck to you.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 10:05PM
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I think he wants you to work thru him. What I don't know is if his motivation is $ (his % of the granite and the fabricator's charge) or if it is a way that he can guarantee the quality of work.

I can certainly understand why you are upset. my best to you

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 10:08PM
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Personally, I don't see why the confusion. He literally told you in his email, he doesn't want to do your counters. I would move on. Why give business to someone who doesn't want it. Maybe to him that is a good way to do business. For me it is not. (I am NOT in this line of business) I do everything to make sure my client is happy. Some jobs are not as profitable, that's life. As long as the client is happy, more work will come.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2013 at 12:52PM
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fyi - some places charge by the square footage used, not by the number of slabs - some places do make you pay for the full slabs - what you need to do is compare total cost of job, not the individual components.

I agree - don't get upset - as long as you're not paying him for the counters, get exactly what you want from someone else.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2013 at 1:00PM
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The KD emailed me last night. He apologized as he 'did not mean to offend me', but could see that I was. He went on to explain that in fact I had offended him. Hmmmm...
DH was quite upset with this whole ordeal and is really pushing to go with someone else. He called the builder and relayed his concern about the KD walking out at this point, how do we know he wont walk out or stand behind his work shortly after install.
The owner of the shop called me today. Nice guy. He explained to me the KD had misconstrued my tone. I explained, I didnt understand how my very objective email, asking for pricing breakdown and special edging, needed to be written with a tone let alone have a tone misconstrued. He heard me out. I did praise the KD as he has done a nice job with the kitchen, but to come undone at this stage was quite unprofessional. He reassured me of the his reputation and willingness to standby his work (which I believe, as our builder wouldnt go with a sub-reputed sub) and of course he relies on word-of-mouth, as we are in a small town.
You guys bring up several valid points. The biggest one is how countertop cost was calculated. It is, in this case, done with sq footage, not per slab. I told the owner had I known this, I had nothing to question, and this whole fiasco could have been avoided. Maybe something the KD should explain from the get go. Given the conversation with the owner, and all of MY time invested, I think its wise from most fronts to stick with them. I havent had anyone work on the house that wasnt contracted via the builder. The builder is known to have reputed subs. Everything I have done on my own was in terms of supplying material.
I appreciate all the view points, and very valuable insight all of you have provided.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2013 at 6:55PM
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Good job on getting this resolved. It sounds like the owner is committed to making sure you will be satisfied. You also cleared up the pricing issue. It's hard to have a good working relationship when you think you are getting ripped off.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2013 at 11:39PM
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Good luck with this situation.Will be interested to hear how things play out when your project is complete.The KD 's request was stunningly unprofessional and certainly did not inspire trust.

For cabinets, we did not use the contractor KD because he couldn't get us what we wanted - and seemed to continually want things his way not ours. He also said some things just were not possilbe etc etc. We went down the street to Lowes - and our experience with their KD was great. It was well worth paying out of pocket verus the allowance.

Despite concerns, we did use the contractor's KD for countertop partly because of timing, being so far away, and contractor guarentee ...but really we should have just gone straight to a fabricator or to some other retailer. I'm sure it would have been cheaper and far less frustrating.

The whole allownance thing was pretty vague - and we found that everytime we picked something out it was "above the allowance amount". If I did it again - I would insist on nailing the allowance down with more specific information.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2013 at 10:38AM
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When I replaced my countertops years ago, the company was difficult to work with (wouldn't call me back, etc.). I had a bad feeling about them, but I did like the items I'd chosen, and their price was good . . . so I told myself I could accept a bit of poor customer service, put up with a bit of trouble in exchange for a low price. I was sure it'd all work out fine in the long run.


As time went on, their service went downhill, and later when I had an issue with the countertops, they were not helpful.

My advice: RUN. RUN NOW. RUN FAST.

You've heard that saying, the bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of low price has been forgotten? It's true.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2013 at 11:47AM
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