Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Why NOT to Purchase Your Granite From a Big Box Store

Recently I had a client come in that had been to one of the big box stores that we all shop at.  She had selected a granite color there off of the small samples and was ready to hire them to put in her granite countertops.
She was smart and decided to do her homework first though.  She went home and found images online of kitchens with the granite she had selected.  Every kitchen looked totally different from what she imagined they'd look like based on the sample she selected.  She got nervous and called the big box store and asked if she could select her exact slabs since this was a granite that changed so much from bundle to bundle.
They told her no, they only allow their customers to select off of the samples in the store.
While looking online for pictures of that granite she came across our blog.  She stopped by our showroom, was able to select her exact slabs AND we were easily less money than her big box store bid!
She was so surprised that we were less money.  I think we all assume that by purchasing things from these types of stores we are getting the best deal.  I've done it myself on several different occasions.
Yes, I still shop at the big box home improvement stores, but I now try to work directly with the local companies whenever I need a service.  I've found I get a better product, better customer service and I save money.
Here are my reasons as to why you shouldn't buy your countertops (or cabinets or carpet, etc) from a big box store...
  • You aren't getting the best deal.  The big box store hire a fabricator (just like us here at MGS) to fabricate & install the countertops.  You are actually paying more because both the fabricator and the big box store have to make money off of your purchase.  If you go directly through the fabricator you don't have to pay for the big box stores cut.
  • You have less options.  There are a ton of granite colors out there.  Pun intended. :)  Most big box stores will offer only 10-20 colors that are "popular" in your area.  By working directly with your local fabricator you will have every color option available to you.
  • You most likely won't be able to select your exact slabs.  This is soooo important in my opinion.  Granite is a natural stone, colors and patterns can change dramatically from bundle to bundle.  I'll give you an example.  I worked at a slab yard years ago.  We sold granite to the fabricator that one of the big box stores used for their countertops.  They had a 30-something bachelor come into the store and select Giallo Veneziano for the countertops in his newly renovated bachelor pad.  Based on the small sample that he saw in the store he thought he was a getting a nice, tan, countertop.  After the countertops were installed he about died.  The granite was pink!  Not even sorta pink...they were really pink.  As anyone in the stone industry can tell you, Giallo Veneziano can go either way.  Needless to say this guy was quite upset.  Pink countertops weren't the vibe he wanted for his bachelor pad.
  • You aren't going to get the knowledge and service that a stone fabricator will provide you.  There is a lot to know about stone.  Working directly with a fabricator will benefit you not only with the knowledge we can provide but the customer service as well.
  • The warranty is questionable.  This is something I learned from my own experience.  I purchased my carpet through a big box retailer.  The installer came out and installed 95% of my carpet.  There were some finish details that needed to be done after my tile was installed though.  So he said just to call the store and they would arrange to have him come back out and finish up when I was ready.  I had pre-paid the store for these finish details to be done.  When I called the store to have this set up they said they no longer used this installer and they couldn't arrange to have someone else come out because the guy who installed in the first place shouldn't have left anything undone.  They didn't care that I had already paid for it.  I had to call an independent carpet installer and have him come out and finish two hours of work....yes, I had to pay for it again.  So I wonder, if you have warranty issues with your countertops and the store has started using a different fabricator would you have this same issue?
I think big box stores have their place and are a fantastic source for a lot of things.  Granite countertops are just not one of them.  Do me a favor and at least get a bid from a local, reputable fabricator before committing to a big box store for your countertops.

Anyway, you can't tell me you'd get a kitchen like this from a big box store...
Kitchen by MGS by Design.  Photo courtesy of deep thoughts by cynthia.


Cindy said...

I do flooring and my biggest competitors are the big box stores. I don't get it! I can offer better pricing, better quality flooring, more knowledgeable sales staff & a better warranty. Thanks for this article, even though it's about countertops it applies to my company as well and I'll be passing this around.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I really would assume that the big box stores would be less money. Volume is why. Thanks for posting this, I've learned a valuable lesson today!

kurt said...

Other reasons for buying from a fabricator: If you only need a modest amount of granite you can dig through a fabricator's remnants and often get a great deal and sometimes even a better granite than you thought you could afford. This can hold true for more than just small pieces as well, when I needed a small kitchen fabricated under a tight budget, my fabricator (MGS!) called their slab supplier to see if they had any orphaned slabs they'd let go cheap [because most kitchens take more than 1 slab of granite and because most stone will have a fair amount of variation from bundle to bundle, a single slab of stone can sit for a while]. Needless to say, they did.
Also, when you're buying your granite in a big box store you're probably dealing with someone with little to no experience in actual fabrication. If you want something beyond the basic fabrication and install, they may be in over their head.

Steph@TheGraniteGurus said...

Thanks Kurt! I didn't even think to mention those things.

Janet said...

Big Box Stores have their place... Like for 50 gallon drums of cheese-puffs! :)

We learned really quickly that buying directly from a great fabricator is THE WAY to go. We made the mistake once (and didn't make it again) after the carpeting contractor hired by Lowe's told us that he would have done better on price, had we contacted him directly. Being new to the state, (from California to North Carolina) we didn't know whom in our new city to trust so we went through Lowe's.

Buying directly from a fabricator is absolutely the way to go for counter tops. Especially if you only need a small piece of granite or marble since remnant prices CANNOT be beat!

Having said that, we did get a great deal on our Corian counter tops through Costco's counter top program. However, the wheels fell off the deal after their vendor/contrator forged my signature on the completion document (saying I was satisfied) they submitted to Costco to get paid. Of course, I did not allow that to stand and fought them every step of the way - Eventualy providing proof to Costco that my signature was forged. In the end, Costco stood behind me and not only made their vendor/contractor come back to take care of all the fabrication/install issues, they also invited me to "name my price" in terms of the refund they would issue for the trouble their vendor caused.

In hindsight, I regret not asking for a full refund for the fraud that was attempted; however, not wanting to appear unreasonable, and requesting only $800.00 (on a $3,200 job) lets me rest at night knowing I was the better person!

Had I not had Costco to lean on, I don't even want to think about what might have happened had I chosen to work with that contractor on my own... Having said that, I would never buy countertops or cabinets from any of the big-box home improvement stores - I've heard other horror stories like mine but of all the stories I've heard, I remain the only one capable of saying I received monetary compensation for my trouble.

Great post (as always!)

Steph@TheGraniteGurus said...

Wow Janet, that's a crazy story with your Corian. I can't believe they forged your signature!
Thanks for sharing!

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