More kitchen appliance shopping – death of a salesman 2012

I ordered all of our new kitchen appliances on the Internet.

And though I’m thrilled to be finished with this dentist-visit-like step in the kitchen remodeling process, I feel bad about it.

I passed on the three retailers I mentioned in the previous post. It’s hard to buy something from a store when you’re not approached by anyone. I do, however, give Sears some props because when I tweeted about it they were concerned and wanted to know more about the experience. And Lowes tweeted too.

But that’s not why I feel bad.

Here’s a sample kitchen we like. It’s a lot of fun trying to pick the right shade of green. Almost as fun as sticking your hand in a running garbage disposal.

Our contractor gave us a tip on a family owned appliance business here in the valley. I called the store and spoke to a very helpful and knowledgeable salesperson. Tom, we’ll call him for this post. He gave me a good price on the appliances I wanted and was responsive by phone and email. I did the math and they were around $400 more than what the appliances would cost me on the Internet, figuring in no tax, but higher shipping costs.

My wife and I discussed it and decided it was worth it to buy locally and have better peace of mind should one of the appliances break down.

After looking at tile and more granite (don’t ask), and quartz, we went to the appliance store and met Tom. Again, super nice. And I had my credit card out and ready to go. But the stove I picked out didn’t have the hood style we liked and back in my wallet went the AMEX card. We drove home to research generic range covers and new stoves, telling Tom we would be back the next day to purchase the appliances.

I spent more hours Saturday night looking at stoves and reading reviews, which by the way was a killer, going back again – how many stoves and stove reviews can one wade through? Food for thought: angry people always take the time to leave negative reviews. And they always tell people not to buy anything from the brand they’re upset with. I soldiered past these.

Sample number 2 with green and white.

Up early Sunday morning, I continued reading and researching, wading through comments to sort out key points, like if a stove had a fan noise problem, or the dials melted (some do), or if the LED displays petered out over time. My OCD comes in quite handy at these moments.

Finally, I upgraded the stove, which made my wife happy because it’s all silver, no black, has a griddle feature, which made my daughter thrilled for the future pancakes she’ll try to flip but miss, turning them into taco shells.

This is the most I’ve ever spent on an appliance. It better cook like a charm and come with a personal chef to make me my McGriddles each morning.

I looked up the price of everything on the Internet. The local store doesn’t match internet prices. And the difference was at least $900, with 2/3 of that tax. I thought about calling the local store and seeing if they would match them, but I didn’t, as they told me the day before they didn’t match online-only prices. So, I ordered them off the Internet. And I felt very bad, but was thankful the Internet wasn’t around when I was a salesperson, which leads me to a question that may seem anti-American.

How are brick and mortar retailers supposed to compete with no-tax internet retailers?

It doesn’t seem fair that I can order a Whirlpool refrigerator from ABT and save sales tax, but if I order it online from Sears I pay tax for my state. I understand the early argument about wanting the internet to succeed in its infancy. But it seems well established now. I also understand why sales people stand around in these stores. They’re tired of spending time with customers who are milking them for research, then purchasing the items off of the internet – ask Best Buy how this is working out for them.

We’ve now moved to the “picking out countertops and backsplashes” stage. It’s even more painful, but in a different way. There are a lot of moving pieces. And I now understand why people resort to white subway tile backsplashes – simple, easy choice, and less chance of a mistake.

I wish it were that simple for us, but we like making things in life more difficult than they have to be. And we’re really good at it.

We are “paint-grade” people

We’re done with our kitchen. After 16 years of Home Depot cabinets with sagging shelves and broken drawers, a tile countertop with missing grout and a stove fan that circulates air into the kitchen, we are ready to upgrade – to experience the good life of smooth granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and glass-tile backsplashes.

Nothing like standing in front of the stove while it blows the fumes right at your face. Great design. I am personally going to smash this with a sledge-hammer when we demo the kitchen.

We are ready to stop lying to friends who visit: “we’re planning on re-doing this whole thing soon.”

We are ready for an adult kitchen.

Or we thought we were.

What we believed would be a fun and exciting transformation has a been a self-esteem roller-coaster. And it has to do with living in Los Angeles, where it’s damn easy to feel poor every day.

Yes, interviewing contractors delivered the harsh message: we are “paint-grade” people.

Paint-grade people.

We are the people who don’t choose the stained, hand-picked maple cabinets or the stone mined in a remote area of Brazil, polished with coca leaves, and hauled by donkey to the United States.

We are the people who don’t have the unlimited funds to give the contractor a platinum American Express card and instructions to “go wild.”

Could we afford the maply-goodness of stained cabinets? Probably, it’s all home equity. But it’s still our money, the money we worked for. And we elect to save it for a rainy day. Four-thousand dollars to us is not a trivial amount. We’d like our daughter to get a good education. And 4K in her college fund today may be a big deal to her in eight years. Or we hope it will.

So the contractors have come and left their bids and stories of larger, better jobs in larger, better cities – Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Encino. “We’re doing a 30-million dollar remodel in Century City. Some computer-guy and his wife. You’re much happier than they are though. They agonize over every detail. They love to micro-manage.”

(Translation: Money will buy you a great kitchen, but it won’t make you happy? I have my doubts.)

Or this gem, “It’s good to see construction here in the Valley picking up. That’s a good sign for the economy. It never went away in Brentwood and Beverly Hills. You couldn’t drive down a street there without construction.”

(Translation: The 1% did okay while the rest of the country was hurting, but they weren’t enough to create the jobs for the many. The middle class is needed for that.)

The paint-grade people are needed to get the party started.

So, the search continues for the right contractor, the one who walks into our kitchen and doesn’t tell me romantic stories of past million-dollar remodels and 30K custom-built dining-room tables. Who doesn’t feel the best jobs are in high-income zip codes. A contractor who doesn’t frown when you tell him you want painted white cabinets.

Yep, when I find that guy or gal, I’ll write the check. Until then, life in our paint-grade world goes on. And it’s a good, happy world to be in.*

[*Exception: when remodeling a kitchen.]