Yorktowne Cabinet Review Corrupt Sales Practices?

touro123October 17, 2011

I'm remodeling my kitchen. I am looking at cabinets. The salesman at the showroom is really pushing Yorktowne on me. I like the dealer (I have seen other kitchens he has done for friends although they are not Yorktowne) but as I have educated myself I have developed real reservations about the cabinet company. I have seen a couple of displays and samples. The quality doesn't seem to be that good. Especially the finish. The wood doesn�t seem that great either, lots of little pieces glued together that are different colors. The price seems to be really high for flake board construction with vinyl paper interiors and exposed sides (he said it was more than 14% for plywood). The salesperson gets real dodgey and evasive when I ask about other cabinet companies they sell in the showroom. Today I decided to visit another dealer. This dealer told me that Yorktowne is bad, has lots of finish problems, labor and union problems, and factory closings and on and on. No surprise there, I had already heard about this and Yorktownes reputation for poor quality online and here at garden web. So why the big push for this brand?? He told me the salesperson in the other showroom was pressuring me to buy Yorktowne because Yorktowne pays the salesperson "spiff" money under the table. He said that Yorktowne routinely paid sales people money for every cabinet they sold. He said my salesperson could not possibly be fair-minded or objective so long as he was taking money from the manufacturer. He called it "kitchen cabinet kick backs" and reassured me that neither he or his sales people were taking kick backs from the cabinet companies they sold. That would explain the salesperson at the first dealership pushing Yorktowne and not showing me better quality/value cabinets. This is a once in a lifetime purchase. I need to get fair objective unbiased advice from people who have my best interests at heart and not be steered into a company because the salesperson is getting paid a per box kick back from the manufacturer to steer people into a higher priced inferior product. If it's true then I feel like a fool for wasting my time and misplacing my trust. I want to confront the salesperson and owner and tell them why I am not buying from them. Does anyone know about this? Does Yorktowne pay kitchen designers/sales people a per cabinet box "spiff" kick back to sell their cabinets??

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I will have to say if you emphasized budget and meeting a certain low number, it's not surprising that a budget line was being shown you. It sounds as though you have decided against this line and KD anyway, so what does it matter how he receives his pay? Commissions on cabinetry is how most KD's get paid. Spiffs are just a bit on top of the commission. It's a normal business practice for many companies, but not all. Calling that corrupt is insulting to thousands of professionals. One can receive compensation from sales without being unduly influenced to steer customers to one brand or another. The number that makes the most impact in any design is the customer's bottom line, not the dollars that they will receive from a sale.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 10:27PM
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Hi, Thanks for helping me sort through this. So you have first-hand knowledge that this manufacturer engages in these types of sales practices? I work in the healthcare industry. I certainly did not mean any insult anyone in your industry, nor do I care how much I designer or dealer is making on my project. I want any salesperson I deal with to be well compensated by his employer. I want any company I deal with to charge mark up sufficient to keep them in business and servicing me over the long term. I expect my designer salesperson to be objective and free from outside influences, and if he is accepting money from a manufacturer or other third-party to disclose it to me so that, armed with all the facts I can make an informed decision. I certainly did not mean to insult however in many industries for example pharmacutical industry the type of "spiff" kickbacks you are describing and defending are a corrupt and indeed illegal practice. Would you want your Doctor to perscribe one inferior medication over a superior one, simply because completely unknown to you, and quite possibly behind his employers back, is getting a couple of dollars per script from Phizer?? I wouldn't like it one bit and I would venture a guess that you wouldn't
either, (especally if it made you sick) but that is exactly what this sales person and manufacturer are doing!! I would give odds that the national home centers forbid their employees from engaging in these underhanded schemes. I guess I am at a loss to understand your logic. If the salesperson has two products to sell and one manufacturer is giving him payola, and the other one is not, isn't he going to sell the manufacturer who is giving him graft even if it is against his customers and employers best interest. In my case it certainly seems that way. I really wanted to buy my kitchen from this dealer. However, the designer/salesperson was acting very fishy, and was hell-bent on selling me this brand even when I pointed out my quality concerns and shared with him the many poor online reviews, and asked to look at other lines in the store. The bottom line price for this project was never at issue for me. But I think you need to ask yourself: Why wouldn't the manufacturer offer additional discounts directly to the consumer or directly to the dealer who could pass the savings through to the consumer? Why would a manufacturer try to circumvent the employee, employer, customer relationship by paying anothers employee directly? Shouldn't the designer/salesperson disclose to his client that he is being paid by a third party to promote that particular line??? You have validated my suspicions. Since this dealer will lose the sale I will share with him my concerns and experience. I wonder if he even knows employee is getting paid under the table?? I really respect the second dealer for educating me. Since this type of business practice is illegal in my industry at first I really did not believe him. I really respect his stand on not allowing "kitchen cabinet kick backs" in his showroom. I will almost definitely buy from him. Thanks again!!

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 12:06AM
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Paragraphs are your friend.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 12:36AM
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I'd never heard of Yorktowne, and I know nothing of their promotional practices. I only know that spiffs are not an uncommon industry practice. It isn't big money we're talking about here. Maybe $20 per box from some makers? So, if you have a big kitchen, maybe $400? It's not enough to make someone recommend a cheap line over a more expensive line just because they are gonna get a bit extra for their pocketbook. Going with a more expensive line will more likely net them more than that extra $400 in commissions. And really, how someone is compensated is not any of your business unless they choose to make it so. Do you want someone sticking their nose in your financial business and telling you what they think you should be paid and how it should be paid to you? And insult you while they are nosing around?

I repeat that the reason you were probably pushed towards the cheap line is that you expressed a certain budget. If you tell me that your budget is 10K for cabinets, I'm not going to even bother with telling you about a line where the quote would come back at 40K. I might tell you about what you'd get as upgrades if you chose the 15K line, but again, if you strongly emphasized budget, that's what you'd get.

You are severely overthinking this as well as being overly emotional on the subject. If you don't want to give this person your business, fine, don't. Find someone else. But, I can tell you that I personally would trust the 2nd KD far less than the first one. Pretending you have inside information about a line you don't rep and agreeing with your customer's prejudices so that you seem more knowledgeable is manipulative and offensive.

So, do more research about cabinet lines and find one you like. But, don't expect a quality line to come in at a low budget. You can't get something for nothing. And don't expect that the KD that you work with will kick in his commissions in order to get your business. He needs to eat too.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 12:40AM
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Absolutely over thinking it. At my store we sell 7 or so brands of cabinetry, and right now 6 of them have designer spiffs available. This practice runs through all facets of home improvement products as well. I know that it will never cloud my judgement, as I am an ethical person. If your KD is not ethical than you have a whole other set of problems. Most of these companies are also offering promos on the material that benefits the end user (free glaze, 10% off certain doors, 50% off plywood construction). Things are certainly a little more serious in your line of work , so I understand your opinion, this is just the way it is.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 10:15AM
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I have been to several doctors where I received free samples and then later was prescribed that drug when it worked. Did that skew me toward trying that drug? Sure it did. On other occasions, the drug didn't work, so that saved me a big co-pay for something I would have mostly thrown away.

I had no problem with this practice. But I don't think the health care industry is without its kickbacks and influences.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 5:07PM
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I agree that the OP is being overly emotional. Spiffs are fairly common in the home design industry. Whether it's cabinets or flooring or lighting. I know that friends who sell flooring don't let the spiff influence what products they sell, but will let it push the timeline. Let's say a spiff is being run during October, they might meet with the clients more often to record the sale before the end of the month, but not try to change their mind regarding the products.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 10:43AM
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I work in flooring, and I agree that spifs are very common in this industry. I also agree that spifs are often extremely low, and we don't push/sell much product based on spifs alone, because honestly, the $200 we might make on spifs isn't worth the energy most of the time.

I do agree with laxsupermom that we push the timelines sometimes if customers choose products with a time-sensitive spif, but we don't push one product (especially a low quality one) based on that.

If the OP doesn't like the cabinets, there are plenty of other cabinet lines out there, and most of those probably offer spifs from time to time as well. It's accepted, normal industry practice.


    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 12:13PM
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I am not here to argue about if spiffs are ethical. Bottom line, it's your SALESPERSON who will be ethical or unethical.

I have been in the industry since 1985 and have received lots of spiffs over the years. In my experience, lower priced cabinetry does not offer them at all. Semi-custom cabinets generally offer $1 to $5 per cabinet. I've seen one custom line offer $10 per cabinet ONCE. The $20 to $40 spiff NEVER even crosses my mind when I'm working with a homeowner. I'm trying to find the best fit for each client based on their needs (style and budget!)...not an extra $20 bucks in my pocket! If I make my customer happy, they may return someday, or recommend us to their friends and relatives. THIS is how I get my real "spiffs"...by getting repeat customers and referrals!

So don't worry if your salesperson is receiving $20 or so from your order. If they are unethical, they would be that way regardless of spiffs! They might find OTHER ways.

And I have to agree once again with Live_wire....the second KD raised a huge red flag by bad mouthing the other company...etc. It sounded really slimy that s/he was LOOKING to find a way to bad mouth them...mentioned the spiff and then jumped on your bandwagon when they sensed "they had you in their corner!" This IS manipulative and conniving!

As a KD, I could care less if my manufacturer offers spiffs. I have a business to run and customers to make happy. Cabinet manufacturers have had a tough 3 years and they all, pretty much, are offering consumer promotions! They are trying their best to keep their piece of the market...so I can't fault them for offering spiffs as a way to help them keep their heads above water.

I have one idea as to why this salesperson might be pushing Yorktowne. How new are they to being a KD? If new, they might just be comfortable with that line. If that's the case, then I don't blame you if you look elsewhere. A well round KD needs to be fluent in 3 to 4 lines. I have even known longtime KD's that only stuck to one line. I don't know why...comfort zone? laziness? I don't know, but just wanted to put that other reason out for you to consider.


Ps. My manufacturers also send me gift baskets every year for Christmas. Is that unethical? It's a gift. Think of the spiff as a "gift" too...maybe then you can get over your anger towards it. :-)

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 3:04PM
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Fori is not pleased

Touro, you didn't mention budget so I'm not sure why you're being told you only got shown the crummy line because you're po'. :\

The first guy was a jerk for not showing you what you wanted to see. The second one was also a turd, but smoother.

I'd suggest for now just going to cabinet shops and collecting brochures and always answering "just browsing at this point". Check out the cheap ones and the expensive ones because you can get ideas from both.

There's nothing wrong with telling the dealer why you didn't like his salesman. The guy wouldn't show you stuff. It may or may not be spif-related (sounds like spif is too small to be a factor). Point is, he stunk at his job and annoyed the customer.

You aren't being overemotional. You don't like being treated like carp. I don't either.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 5:47PM
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Spiffs, commissions can happen anywhere, when you are shopping for a tv, sound system, a telephone system, a copier, software, windows for your new house and yes I believe even for pharmaceuticals.

If you dont think the personality of the rep, their knowledge of the competition or the doughnuts they just brought into the office doesnt have an effect (even subconsciously on the doctor) on what he prescribes.....well...dont the two ED drugs have the same outcome? why does he prescribe one over the other? Sure, the doctor isnt getting a spiff (like they did in the old days, fancy dinners out, etc), but he is still being affected by the salesperson. I'm not talking about every doctor but there is so much knowledge, benefits and adverse effects to know about each and every drug out there, can each doctor possibly know about every detail of every drug or do they rely on their pharma rep to help them? Isnt that pharma rep being paid by the pharma company and isnt their compensation tied to how many scripts are written in the course of a quarter or a year in their district?

More simply, arent you getting a spiff when you go to the grocery store and you choose Hunts tomatoe sauce because it is offering 2 for 1 but you pass up the Red Gold because it is full price?

Isnt the second salesperson you met going to try and sell you the cabinets in his showroom rather than the cabinets from another showroom down the street? How can you trust him -- he only wants to sell you the cabinets in his showroom.

This is where your due diligence comes into play and how you were treated and how well you get along with the person you are going to be working with, etc

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 7:26PM
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If spiffs do not influence designers why do manufacturers pay them? Altruism? Generosity?

Just because a practice is widespread in an industry does not make it ethical. Your stockbroker is also offering you investments influenced by commissions and other payments. That certainly doesn't make Wall Street ethical.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 8:42PM
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Manufacturers offer them in hopes to influence designers, obviously. I'm sure they do influence some, but not all.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 2:20PM
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Yorktowne cabinets and Medallion cabinets are both Elkay companies. As a former dealer I would like to separate some fact from fiction.

Fact the most recent Yorktowne/Medallion spiff promotion that ended October 16 featured up to a $30 per cabinet spiff. Hardly small money.

Fact companies offer spiffs to dealership salespeople so that they steer you, the unsuspecting consumer, into purchasing an overpriced undervalued product.

Fact these two companies have continuously run spiffs withoutinteruption for the last three years.

Fact you the consumer are overpaying for any product that offers a spiff of this magnitude.

Fact on kitchen consisting of 25 cabinets the current Yorktown/Medallion promotion is a $750 graft payment to your cabinet salesperson. That could've been deducted from the net cost of your cabinets.

Fact in the example above it really is more than a $750 overcharge to you the unsuspecting consumer. The average dealer markup is 65%. A $750 deduction in the cost of your cabinets would net you a total savings of $1237.50.

Fact this manufacturer in particular finds it more effective to engage in corporate bribery and graft to promote themselves rather than offering legitimate product discounts to you the consumer.

Fact a kitchen cabinet salesperson selling one kitchen per week consisting of 20 cabinets with just a $10 per cabinet spiff would earn over $10,400 per year in kickbacks. I am amazed that the complete lack of basic math skills of some of the previous posters.

Fact no reputable business will allow spiffs or as one poster put it cabinet kickbacks in their showroom.

Lowe's bans the practice as they consider it illegal and unethical.

Home Depot bans the practice as they consider it illegal and unethical.

Fact if you are a small family owned dealership these practices will run you out of business. It makes you overpriced compared to home centers and other dealers who don't allow graft in their showrooms. It adds to your top line price and makes you overpriced compared to other people who don't offer them.

I completely agree with the poster from Showplace kitchens. Spiffs are BAD for consumers. Spiffs are even worse for small business owners like myself.

Before I got wise to this corrupt, unethical and possibly illegal business practice I would struggle monthly to pay my bills. Struggling to send checks out the front door, while at the same time these unscrupulous underhanded manufacturers were sending 1000s of dollars in kickback checks to my employees through the back door.Fact if you are a small family owned dealership these practices will run you out of business. It makes you overpriced compared to home centers and other dealers who don't allow graft in their showrooms. It adds to your top line price and makes you overpriced compared to other people who don't offer them.

I completely agree with the poster from Showplace kitchens. Spiffs are BAD for consumers. Spiffs are even worse for small business owners like myself.

Before I got wise to this corrupt, unethical and possibly illegal business practice I would struggle monthly to pay my bills. Struggling to pay for my cabinets and send checks out the front door, while at the same time these unscrupulous underhanded manufacturers were sending checks to my employees through the back door.

Fact my business survives and grows because of service to you the consumer. These underhanded backdoor bribery graft payments undermine the integrity of my employees and the designer client relationship.

Yorktowne/Medallion are among the worst offenders offering outragously high spiffs to move their overpriced undervalued cabinets. , to a much lesser degree all of the Master Brands Companies (Schrock Diamond Kemper Homecrest,) Kraftmaid offer much smaller spiffs. BUT NEVER AT NATIONAL HOME CENTERS. Ask your designer if he is accepting bribery payments from the cabinet line he is trying to sell you!!!!

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 6:20PM
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Wow... well that was an interesting rant.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 7:30PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Sounds like "former" dealer swallowed some incredibly sour grapes when his business went under and wants to play the blame game.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 8:43PM
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Fact my business is doing better than ever once I cleared all of the rats out of my ship. So please don't create fictions to justify your point of view.

No sour grapes from me. Just disgusted by what the original poster correctly called corrupt business practices.

No one gave her a straight answer to her question.

She was right on!!

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 9:22PM
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If it is an undisclosed perk to the salesperson, then it is unethical even if it were legal. There is no soft bias, such as a gift basket or some free pens and paper. Tying the kickback to cash per cabinet sold is pushing the salesperson to be overly aggressive in pushing this cab line, despite the consumer's protestations. If this was just recommended by the salesperson, that would have been one thing, but to cling to that one line despite the potential buyer's misgivings shows just how powerful the spiff is. It also shows a stupid salesperson because they did not read the buyer's mindset and cut off their own nose. Their boss would probably love to know about the spiff that cost his store the sale....
If the cabinet line offered the incentive to the buyer, that would be more honest. Then they'd be competing with other cab companies on an even footing. A hidden incentive is bound to push many salespeople over the line.
I also wonder how many pay taxes on the spiffs?

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 12:21AM
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I also work in healthcare and I also think this sounds shady.

@colorfast - kickbacks in the healthcare industry have come under very heavy scrutiny in recent years. In Minnesota, money paid to doctors by Pharma has to be disclosed and is public information. Limits have also been imposed. I have no doubts that there are dirty dealings still going on, but at least the effort for transparency has been made. Most large health systems, mine included, have banned samples from physician offices for a few reasons. Which companies have incentives to provide free samples? The ones that are marketing a product that has a cheaper alternative available. If your product is truly a high value product, it will stand on its own and most insurance companies will cover it. The product might work just fine, but that doesn't mean there aren't other products that work just as well for much less money. Giving samples to people who cannot afford to continue that therapy is not doing a service to anyone.

I don't see how this is much different. I agree that the salespeople and designers should have fair compensation. But, they should not be dependent on kickbacks to eat. A percentage of the overall cost makes much more sense and makes me feel more comfortable as a consumer than a "spiff".

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 4:07AM
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Every cabinet manufacturer in my showroom offers a spiff. What makes me want to sell one cabinet more than another, is the desire to have a happy client. Usually when a spiff is running there is also a customer promotion, free glaze, 1/2 off of this or that- does that influence you to buy a particular cabinet? Kinda seems the same to me.

I am a medallion dealer, the $30 spiff lasted for 2 weeks of the year. Otherwise the top pay for the platinum line of cabinetry was $15 for the other 50 weeks of the year.

Home depot and Lowes do their own spiffs in house. I've worked there. Meet a sales goal get a reward. Sounds just like a bonus right? Even it happens every week? It may not steer you to a particular brand, but what if they try to get you to buy a kitchen, just so they can get their bonus?

Everyone who receives a spiff pays tax on it, you get a 1099 at the end of the year. The business will report it a non employee wages.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 11:42AM
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Circus Peanut

Kompy: "Manufacturers offer them in hopes to influence designers, obviously. I'm sure they do influence some, but not all."

Not the ethical ones, right? Who, I'm sure, refuse to accept the spiff in the first place, to avoid the appearance of bribery. But as evidenced by the OP's post, how on earth is a consumer supposed to sort this out?

I've said it before: I really wish designers would get out of cabinet sales, which turns them into glorified sleazy auto salesmen, and focus on design, which is what the consumer is paying them to excel at in the first place.

If the career does not pay enough as is, then that's a sign: whether it's the need to thin the professional herd, standardize salaries, or unionize, sounds like change needs to happen. But allowing unethical compensation practices to grow into a 'norm' can't be the best solution for anyone.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 1:42PM
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Since I never entirely trust a salesman, these practices don't really surprise me. Whether they are ethical or not, as many of you are contending, is another question entirely.

Threegraces--I agree with your post. I mainly posted because the original poster acted like his field was above kickbacks.

I will disagree with you a bit on the free samples: Sometimes the health insurance "picks" a preferred branded drug that they will charge less for. They have cut a deal with Eli Lilly or whoever, and not the competitor. And we have tried the Eli Lilly drug first, it didn't work for the complaint and so now we want the Merck one. It would be nice to try it before committing the full extra $$. There are certain drugs like migraine medicines where a slight change in formulation can make a big difference whether the drug is effective or not. Other kickbacks in the medical field concern me much more because they are, as you say, less transparent.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 3:18PM
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@colofast - I am a pharmacist who has worked for an insurance company and you're right, that's a big part of why one brand is picked over another. I was more referring a branded drug when a generic therapeutic equivalent is available.

Ok, now I'll stop talking OT. :)

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 4:42PM
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I want to thank valer0928 for a post that is informative and ethically astute.

As several folks have noted, spiffs wouldn't be paid if they didn't work.

My only caution to the OP is that "fair objective unbiased advice from people who have my best interests at heart" ... is not gonna happen no matter how transparent the compensation structure. The incentives do not align. You *have* to triangulate, get multiple views, and figure it out for yourself -- as it sounds like you're doing.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2011 at 2:45PM
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I have sold the Yorktowne line for over 10 years. The company is anything but corrupt. I have had wonderful customer service and follow up from the company. I also have many happy customers. I have 5 cabinet lines and all of the lines... but one (which is a entry level contractor grade) offers incentives. I have never sold the Yorktowne line based on the spiffs. They really amount to very little over the course of a year and would not be worth the aggravation if the line were a line that was not worth selling. As a professional I look at the cabinet lines history not whether they have spiffs. The quality of the cabinet and the lack of issues from a cabinet line are the selling point for me. If your cabinet person is selling based on a small spiff you may be dealing with the wrong person. To post that a company is Corrupt based on the fact that they offer spiffs in an industry that most do...is somewhat irresponsible. The internet is a great tool for making people aware of issues and it can also do great damage if you are not educated before posting.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 10:12AM
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Is the previous poster kidding or a corporate schill "Quality of the cabinet and lack of issues". You can't possibly use the word quality and Yorktowne in the same sentence.

This is the worst rated cabinet in the biz. Management could not "spiff" their way out of years of declining sales due to mismanagement. The Parent company Elkay pulled the plug and shut down two more Yorktowne factories in Virginia and PA due to ever declining sales caused by mismanagement and constant and unrelenting quality problems. Outsized spiffs could not compensate for an overpriced product riddled with years of nonstop quality issues.
As far as spiffs go. Run if a sales person tries to sell you any Elkay cabinet (Lowes and Home Depot forbid this sort of retail graft and chicanery). It appears to those of us in the industy that Elkay management's go to market strategy is nothing short of bribe the retail salesperson.

On the do not buy list: Medallion aka Spiffdallion, Design Craft aka Design Graft, and Yorktowne aka Bribetowne.

How's that for educating the consumer!

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 12:40PM
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This is @ the dealer who is against spiffs.

Do you or do you not offer bank financing? You know as well as I, if you are hooked up with financing, you receive a spiff just for pointing someone towards a certain bank. If you write the paper for the financing, you receive a larger spiff from the bank.

So do you offer your customers a discount if you write the paper for financing?

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 5:24PM
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And here I am, caught up in a thread almost 2 years old!

I hate it when that happens :)

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 6:30PM
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We found some cabinets we like at a dealer my contractor had sent me to. I was quoted a price for Yorktowne cabinets by my contractor. We also chose a quartz countertop from the same dealer. The contractor told us the prices for both. The cabinets seemed ok (I had nothing to compare it to) but the quartz countertop was $11k for only 60 sq ft. This works out to be $183 per sq ft. I later found the same quartz countertop at Home Depot for $75 sq ft. I am going with a different contractor for other reasons now and was wondering if the cabinet dealer would give me a discount if I purchased the cabinets rather then it going thru the contractor. I suspect that the original contractor was bumping up the dealer prices on everything. Is that common practice and should I get a better price if I purchase the cabinets?

    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 5:48PM
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One can receive compensation from sales without being unduly influenced to steer customers to one brand or another.

It's okay to receive compensation such as this. However, this arrangement needs to be disclosed to the buyer.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 6:29PM
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