Setting the standard for professional
flat pack furniture assembly services

Examples of Poor Quality Service and Assembly

This is the motivation behind this website, so I can try to put an end to this happening.

 


 

1 Surrey:

 

We were undercut on price by another tradesman listed by one of these companies who claim to have checked and vetted all their tradesmen. The job was to build a wardrobe, a chest of drawers and put some shelves up. We had quoted 3 hours and £122 to do the work, to some people this may seem a lot for 3 hours work, but we know what we are doing, get it right first time and do the work far more quickly than other people who aren't as proficient as us.

The tradesman who turned up quoted £70 and managed to “sort of build” the wardrobe in 8 hours. At which point he declared he'd done enough for the amount he had quoted, insisted he got paid and left.

The customer contacted us and sent us some horrendous photos. She agreed to pay us the original amount quoted and we went to sort it out for her.

When we arrived we found:

  • the minifix fittings had been damaged and misused,
  • gaps of almost 20mm (yes 20mm!) between some panels that should have been flush;
  • and a poorly fitting back panel.

A slight push would have cause the item to collapse. Remember, this wardrobe was for an 8 year old boy in his bedroom. It could have killed him!

Fortunately, our customer had enough sense to ban her son from his bedroom until we came to sort it out for her. Obviously this is horrendous in terms of service and no way to treat anyone, let alone a customer who is paying you. We provided all the information necessary and urged the customer to formally complain, however she was reluctant to. It was a bad experience which had been sorted out and she did not like the thought of an angry tradesmen coming round if she dared make a complaint.

This scenario tells you a lot about what is happening:-

      Despite all the mechanisms in place, people are still reluctant to complain properly for fear of reprisals, and just want to put a bad experience behind them. This is sily because it does not help the next person falling foul of it, however you have to respect people's individual decisions.
      I doubt the tradesman concerned deliberately went there to cause a problem. He thought flat pack was easy, and he could make a few quid. Although his subsequent behaviour was abominable. The motivation for this is almost certainly poverty.
      The wardrobe in question was from Argos and uses the expanding minifix fittings. These are widely used by Next on their "Next to no time" products, which provide us with a steady stream of "jobs to put right". When used properly, they work very well, however if you do not understand the principle properly of how they work, you can easily make a hash of it. Whilst the instructions are clear, many people get it wrong.

"Flat pack is easy, you don't need training"

This whole situation could have been avoided, had the tradesmen been trained in how these fittings worked, ie he knew what he was doing. We explain how these fittings work on our training course and highlight where the problems occur with them and how to avoid these problems.

 


 

2 Bedfordshire:

 

This story is quite a common one I come across, where people have used these "checked and vetted / trusted trade" style websites to find someone to build their furniture. It happens like this, the first guy never turns up, the second guy makes some lame excuse about it being a two man job never to return and the third guy gives up or makes a mess of it.

This is what happened with this unhappy customer, a third tradesman was sourced from one of these websites, he arrived and built one of the wardrobes in 3 times the time he had estimated. As he finished he drilled holes for the handles in the wrong place so that on one door they were 3 inches higher than the other door. Maybe he had simply drilled both door handles in the same place assuming he had measured it half way.

At this point the customer asked him to stop, and in turn called us in to sort the mess out. We rebuilt the wardrobe as the back had not been fitted properly and would fail. We drilled handle holes for a replacement door and build the other items he had not had time to do.

In this case the mistakes made by the tradesmen were simply down to a lack of familiarity with the product. He had not put the back on properly and failed to level the wardrobe. Someone who specialises in doing this all the time, woud not make these errors. No doubt he got flustered towards the end due to time pressure, perhaps he needed to get home or be at another job, and mistakenly drilled handle holes for two left handed doors.

Again the customer paid the guy to get rid of him, before calling us in.

"Flat pack is easy, you don't need training"

A little training in how to build wardrobes quickly and correctly so they are level and the importance of levelling them would have resolved this. Guess what?: We explain how to do this on our training course with tips and tricks to consistently build right first time with the minimum of fuss. We also have a fail proof method of preventing holes being drilled incorrectly like this.

 


 

3 Hertfordshire:

 

A woman who lived on her own sourced a furniture assembler from a website recommended by the retailer as their preferred suppliers. As far as I am aware they also own the website indirectly, so the assembly and service should be spot on, right?

She told me that the job got off to a bad start when he was 2 hours late, and suggested she was lucky that someone in London would come all the way out to Watford to do this job for her (it's on the London undeground!) hardly the Outer Hebrides but that is the unfortunate attitude of some people in London.

She wasn't happy about the first item he build so she asked him to stop before he damaged any more of her furniture. When I saw what he had done, the damage he had caused was down to clumsiness and inexperience, possibly irritation on his part because he was running late.

The guy demanded payment in full for both the item he had built and the ones she would not let him build. On top of this he would not leave her apartment unless she agreed to give him a lift in her car to Watford tube station because it was too far for him to walk! Words fail me on this one.

This time the customer did complain and got all her money back from the high street retailer. Again, I think the motivation for the guys behaviour, isn't anything more than he desperately needed the money.

"Flat pack is easy, you don't need training"

Training in how to build furniture properly and quickly would have resolved this. Guess what?: We explain how to do this on our training course with tips and tricks to consistently build right first time with the minimum of fuss.

 


 

4 Essex:

 

As a courtesy to a customer to address a complaint over a late delivery, a major high street chain offered to assemble the wardrobe (as part of a much larger order) for this customer. There are seven intermediaries across the UK who provide furniture repair services to the major retailers, this ranges from damage repair, scratch removal on polished wood to upholstery repairs. All seen of these companies struggle to find reliable furniture assemblers. In this case the retailer used two of these companies. In total, they arranged three times for three separate assemblers to build the wardrobe for her.

  • Assembly Guy 1: turned up on time, ruined several wardrobe panels by using the wrong fittings for the wrong panels. To be fair to him although the mini fix fittings varied, they looked very very similar, but he spent almost 6 hours struggling with it. It's something an experienced assembler would spot immediately. He left blaming the product, saying it had been supplied with the wrong parts.
  • Assembly Guy 2: turned up took one look at it and declared the product was too badly damaged to be assembled and a replacement was required. As a result the retailer sent out a replacement wardrobe and arranged a third new assembler.
  • Assembly Guy 2: turned up late on a hot Friday afternoon, no doubt dreaming of an ice cold lager, decided it was a two man job and he could not do it on his own.

At this point the retailer asked the customer to source an assembly company herself and they would foot the bill, which is when we were contacted. We arrived built the wardrobe properly in 90 minutes and took our payment of £70, leaving an invoice for the customer to recover it from the retailer. I have to say I was flabbergasted considering what the customer had been through, that on our customer feedback form, she stated she thought we were very expensive and that our assemblers must be earning £70,000 a year! We are running a business and all businesses have costs, the amount you pay to is not pure income that goes in our pockets.

"Flat pack is easy, you don't need training"

Again training in how mini fix fittings differ and work would have esured that this job was done easily in the first place. Guess what?: We explain how to do this on our training course!

Summary

Hopefully, after reading the above examples of typcial problems we find consumers regularly have is that assembling flat pack furniture isn't always that easy. It's not just the complexity of building why customers use tradesmen, it is also the weight and time involved.

Additionally, tradesmen themselves can get into a mess due to time and financial pressure. Ultimately there are only so many hours in the week, and any time lost, whether it is a job taking too long, or not getting paid for your time, it has a massive impact on whether they can put food on the table. These financial pressures cause people to behave in a bad way. It does not excuse it though, but suggests proper training made widely available is needed.

Safety is of paramount importance as well, whether an item is correctly built or attached to the wall when it needs to be (You can find out more about this here). Children are being killed and seriously injured in this country every year, although ROSPA could not provide me with detailed figues when I asked them.

The advice from ROSPA and the suppliers of furniture is that you should always follow the instructions and attach items to the wall where it is stipulated. However in my experience, assembly instructions are sometimes very poor. They tell you to do things in stupid ways which are hazzardous and can make it more difficult, companies like Argos, Ikea, John Lewis, Made, Next, Very, Wayfair and many more are all guilty of this. If you are providing this service professionally, as it stands you can only learn by making mistakes as there is no suitable training until now.

It is clear to me that there is a desperate need for training in this sector, especially as more and more people move away from doing it themselves, and get someone in. I hope the experience I have gained over the last 16 years and research I have done in putting this system together can help professional assemblers become better at what they do and those that are good can distinguish themselves from those that aren't.