IKEA: Satisfaction guaranteed?

Searle and Taylor’s MD, Darren Taylor, appears on the BBC’s Watchdog to talk about Ikea’s 25-year guarantee after a spate of complaints from the programme’s viewers

I was recently invited on the BBC Watchdog programme to discuss the subject of guarantees in kitchens, with a focus on Ikea’s 25-year guarantee for its kitchen offer. I wasn’t their first choice, mind you. They had originally asked my friend Tony Marshall from Two Guys Kitchens in Basingstoke, but he was unavailable at the last minute and suggested me. The BBC did its research, and looked up my profile on LinkedIn before contacting me. I was only too pleased to oblige.

The interview experience was a positive one, because I was thankfully on the right side of the interviewer’s questions, as an ‘industry expert’ and not the one being investigated. The Watchdog team comprises a fantastically dedicated group of researchers and journalists and they were quick to put me at ease – not something I imagine they would do if Matt Allwright was chasing behind you with a camera crew and sound engineer in tow.

I was interviewed by regular presenter Nikki Fox, who was charming, friendly and a consummate professional.

In order to prepare in advance, I took a look at a few websites to see what mainstream kitchen retailers offer as a general guarantee. There was remarkably little information online.

I also looked at Ikea’s guarantee – the subject of the programme, and found that somewhat confusing.

So, here’s the thing – I think Ikea is an amazing brand. At some point in all our early adult lives, we are going to own an item from Ikea, and probably later on, too. One of the reasons people love the brand is because its products are really well-designed and very affordable, thus making them quite dispensable when they wear out. However, this is not the case for a kitchen, which is, on the whole, not that dispensable, and neither should the consumer consider it so, particularly if it comes with a 25-year guarantee.

At Searle and Taylor, for any bespoke kitchen, we guarantee the cabinetry for 10 years. For any of our Intuo or Ewe contemporary kitchens, the cabinetry is guaranteed for five years – in accordance with the terms stated by the Austrian manufacturer. All worktops, taps, appliances and components come with their own guarantee offers and these vary from one year to five years.

As an independent retailer, we will always try to go the extra mile for our clients in terms of after-sales service, and we keep every piece of paperwork – going back 27 years. We will always aim to deal with any remedial issues initially, as ‘the retailer’, before involving manufacturers.

This is always a sticky aspect for any retailer, as clients have bought their entire kitchen from me, and my name is above the door, so the initial buck stops with me – even though I didn’t make the oven, I just sold it in good faith.

However, the customer doesn’t always see it that way, which is why it is imperative that retailers – and their suppliers – offer excellent after-sales service. More than anything else, it will also be the reason why a retailer will de-list a manufacturer from their books – and retailers tend to have very long memories.

So, back to the subject at hand – that of the 25-year guarantee from Ikea. It guarantees all cabinetry from its Metod kitchen system, including fronts. However, further down in the terms, there is a long list of products that are not covered by the guarantee. Then, even further down, it gets very confusing. Its two-year after-sales service that states that Ikea changes its ranges every year and will only keep parts, such as door and drawer fronts, from discontinued ranges, for a further two years.

This was even mentioned by Nikki on Watchdog. What happens if something goes wrong with the kitchen after the products are no longer available, but are still within the 25-year time frame? Would you have to have a totally different door front added to the rest of your lovely streamlined fitted kitchen? No one from Ikea seemed prepared to go on the programme to answer this, and I am still confused.

Industry standard

As I mentioned earlier, I looked on a number of websites for the kitchen multiples and there was scant information about guarantees of workmanship on any of them.

Could this be an opportunity for independents to create an industry standard for guarantees, particularly for bespoke kitchens? It is a sad reality that competing on price has become much more of an issue since the Brexit vote because, like it or not, what came with that was a major knock to consumer confidence at all tiers of the market.

Now, many of us independents are competing for orders from customers who visit our showrooms for design inspiration and then buy from the multiples, believing their design is still going to be ‘bespoke’ and not just ‘made to measure’.

I mentioned all of this to Nikki Fox in my interview, which lasted about 40 minutes, but it was cut down to just a minute or two of air time to include all the most relevant aspects about the Ikea offer. I believe that my friend Tony Marshall would have said the same thing, as while we independents compete, we are all in this together. It is always more palatable to lose an order to a respected competitor.

Since my first foray into TV, I have much greater respect for presenters, as it is quite a nerve-racking experience. But, now I am thinking that with a bit of practice, I could maybe have a series of my own. Everyone’s heard of Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares – my programme could be Taylor’s Kitchen Dreams. In my dreams, I think…

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