Friday, 18 March 2011

Buying a Door

I have always been a DIY sort of person so it arose that today I needed a door. Not a fancy certified insulated door or a sexy hardwood door with coloured glass panels or a door with argon filled double glazing. Just a simple softwood door with frame to go in a garage side wall, the only essential design criteria being it should be cheap, keep the outside out, be as wide as possible and not have a step.

I started with B&Q and Wickes and similar places and discovered that ordinary old fashioned doors seem to have ceased to exist at a reasonable price. Wickes has one at about £80 ready glazed, which is OK but then they want another 60quid for a hardwood frame and the website doesn’t suggest if they are available in store. B&Q don’t seem to stock more than one frame size, the wrong one for my purpose and also hardwood, so no use either.

Next, at the suggestion of the builder, I take myself to a large local trade supplier. They have doors, loads of doors, a warehouse of doors in fact plus a huge glossy brochure and a helpful person on the enquiry desk, but they can’t tell me how much they cost! Apparently their retail prices are astronomic and they can't provide a real price unless they know whose account it is going on. So I give them the builder’s name and they immediately phone him, but he is building my wall and the phone’s in his van. No answer no prices! So I take my money away. I can understand discounts for trade account holders but how can a company afford to make it impossible for an ordinary person to choose a product by having a ludicrously inflated retail price and charge according to a secret price structure?

I try another large national joinery merchant. Onto the website, very glossy and flash, but all it appears to advertise are kitchens. Ok, nice kitchens, but I need a door. Eventually I see a tiny word ‘trade’ on the page, click it and have to pretend to be a tradesman. At last! Doors, windows, hardware, all the joinery stuff that I or any DIY freak might need. Exactly the door I want and in a range of 5 sizes. But no prices! You can only get those if you have an account and ask for a quote. In the event I rang the local depot, luckily found a sensible member of counter staff, and drove to get what I needed, and it cost considerably less than a DIY store - but that was only down to having a sensible counter assistant, no thanks to the company strategy which would have lost the sale.

The thing is that we all know the building trade is in serious recession. Customers need maximum value and I am not interested in employing a skilled builder at an ungodly hourly rate to run round all day getting options, brochures and prices for me to decide ‘second hand’ what I want. I can easily and better do that myself. 

Then the other lot, why hide most of their products from the public and pretend they only sell kitchens?  Is it to create a mystique that home maintenance is impossible except for specific sizes and types of items sold at DIY superstores? Are they ashamed to sell actual real old fashioned useful stuff?  Don't they want customers? It’s a bizarre managerial attitude to potential customers and also shows a complete lack of understanding of how to use the Web.

Next week I want a basic simple cheap window, that will be fun.

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