The costly problem of faulty products

Dave Jarvis, the owner of Albion Bathrooms, Kitchens and Electricals in Burton on Trent, talks about the impact of faulty products on retailers. What is the real cost of products that aren’t fit for purpose and, more significantly, why the onus generally falls to the retailer to sort any issues out

Dave Jarvis, owner of Albion BKE

Although I have owned and run my own retail bathroom and kitchen showroom for the past 17 years, my early years were spent as a supplier/manufacturer representative, selling goods to bathroom showrooms.

One of the earliest lessons I received from my boss was that you never actually admit that you are selling a product that may have a few flaws in it. Why? Because it opens the floodgates to lots of refitting charge claims.

So, armed with this information, I went out into the world and successfully sold products to lots of bathroom and kitchen studios. In those days, the representative went to end users’ homes on the request of the retailer to inspect a suspected faulty product.

Now the tables are turned and I find myself on the other end of the attitude that says: “We have no issues with this product, so it must be… abuse by the end user, it was fitted incorrectly by the installer or was damaged before it was installed but not noticed.” I find myself having to jump through time-consuming hoops with the supplier trying to justify why the product hasn’t been abused by the end user or fitted incorrectly and that it just may be, heaven forbid, a faulty product and that there will be a refitting charge.

Most of the time, I lose and end up either paying the refitting charge or calling in a ‘favour’ from one of our partnered installers.

The best suppliers we have will at least look at refitting charges, but only after we have returned the faulty items to them, so we’ve paid out and are at the mercy of their decision. They very, very rarely send a representative to have a look at the issue and rely solely on photos provided by the retailer.


Having been on both sides of the fence – and what a thorny fence it is – it seems to me that suppliers should have more trust in the retailer’s judgement.

For retailers, it isn’t blithely saying, “sure we’ll replace it and fit it for you free of charge”. To visit an ‘issue’ takes time, so lost sales for us, arranging to visit the customer, take photos, make a judgement as to whether the customer’s small child has left the taps running and flooded the bathroom or whether the product really is failing – or a host of other items and reasons – or whether it has been fitted incorrectly.

Then there’s having to send through that information to the supplier, after trawling through their invoices to find the one the product was supplied on, progressing it, in some cases filling in forms – all in probably over three hours’ work – only to have a one-line email back saying, “we believe it’s water ingress” or “the product has failed because it came into contact with water”.

Really! It’s in a bathroom where water is ever present. So, shouldn’t your products stand up to the environment they were designed to go into?

The supplier has made a judgement based solely on a few photos and doesn’t take into account the retailer saying that this is a genuine complaint for what seems to be a faulty product and that thorny subject of the cost of refitting.

Some suppliers are very magnanimous and will offer a free replacement item as a gesture of goodwill, which means they don’t have to admit it’s faulty, but nowadays the cost of fitting is sometimes nearly as much as the replacement item.

What’s the alternative, you ask? In my opinion, short of suppliers employing someone who is qualified to make a judgement to visit the end user if there is a doubt as to whether the product is at fault, let trusted retailers make the call, pay reasonable installation charges, or contribute to the charges, and monitor the items that are returned.

If a supplier has been ‘swinging the lead’ to cover for faulty installation, then take them off the ‘trusted’ list. It will require a bit of monitoring, but everyone wins, with the possible exception of whoever manufactured the faulty goods.

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