May 24, 2009

The case against being taken for granted by Jordanian establishments (First Installment): Tahboub Kitchens

My frustration with the way Jordanian companies and services providers take their customers for granted and generally sport a laid-back attitudes was dramatized with a recent skirmish I had with the said establishment.

I have taken it upon myself to write (and speak) about every similar occasion with explicit reference to the establishment’s name, despite having almost deserted my blog, but the power of search engines and aggregation of knowledge and sharing experiences is huge, take me for instance:

Before I went to Tahboub (Tahboob, مطابخ طهبوب) Kitchens, I typed their name into Google, and I came across fellow blogger
Roba’s incident with the said company and what she considered as (and I’m paraphrasing here) “the curse of half-completed jobs”.

But it is Tahboub Kitchens after all, this might’ve been an isolated mistake; they are arguably the most reputable Kitchen Company in town, my late father opted for them when he built his house 7 years ago, why shouldn’t I?

So I get my wife to liaison with them for the design, material and what have you. Once all is set, contract signing and payment time comes, I find out that I had to make 50% down payment (which is fine by me) and 50% balance payment 10 days BEFORE delivery of goods and installations? So that’s effectively 100% down payment before you even receive your goods OR have them installed!

I suggested paying them 95% down payment in cash, and keep a 5% retainer paid once full delivery and installation is completed satisfactorily!

They refused arguing that it’s the industry’s (the kitchen companies in Jordan that is) policy to get full payment before delivery and installation!!! I retirated that this is totally unfair, a contract by default is signed to protect both parties' best interest and stipulate due-diligences equally.

In this arrangement however, Tahboub Kitchens secure their payments, leaving me with nothing but “good-faith” to get my goods delivered and have them installed ON-TIME and with the quality expected.

So I patiently negotiated back, that I would pay 100% down payment when signing the contract if they agree to add a penalty clause for every day of delay or every item not meeting the quality standard of installation!

Unsurprisingly, they declined to modify the contract, because “all Kitchen companies do this”… and because they are Tahboub Kitchens; “nothing will go wrong” they assured me… I read this as "You're no special, nod your head with approval and lets get done with it"

Is it only my grumpy nature or is it a valid argument that if Tahboub Kitchens are so damn sure of their delivery times and installation quality; why not treat me fairly and make me a happy customer by commiting to this contractually in a win-win setup!

The whole discourse was exhausting throughout the two months of negotiations for a simple 6,000 JDs kitchen(ete). Negligible in their books perhaps, but I was left with an impression of yet another company full-of-itself, dazzeled by its legacy or perception of good reputation that is not matched with fairness nor sincerity.

It is unfortunate really, people just nod their heads and accept when BS & irrelevent remarks are made, such as “all kitchen companies do this” or “Corrian facades are very expensive; once cut they can’t be used again”… the “industry” have every right to protect its interest, and enforce best practices to maintain a level of quality among themselves, but by the underlying factor is to be fair and not treat their customers as old mules.

At the end, I did not accept the contract because I refuse to be taken for granted, or be forced to an unfair deal that protects the best interest of one party on the expense of the other.

But I will not stand still either, in the meantime; I’m working with this freelance carpenter from Bayadir, who’s willing to make the kitchen for a fraction of the cost, and (inevitably) fraction of the quality, but at least the deal is FAIR and I don’t have to pay a premium for what possibly might turn out to be a nightmare like our fellow blogger had!

As a closing note, and in the spirit of constructive criticism, two piasters worth of advice to Tahboub Kitchens owners and management from my humble self:

  • Yes Tahboub Kitchens are reputable, but reputation can’t be rubbed upon a customer’s face every time the customer highlights a concern or faces an issue!
  • If a prospective customer highlights an actual story about how Tahboub Kitchens failed another customer (click here), try not to deny the facts or blame the glass sub-contractor, as mistakes do happen, and it’s okay… itreally is; as long as they’re (a) admitted, (b) have the guts to apologize and (c) attempt to rectify it!
  • If Tahboub Kitchens are so sure of its ability to deliver top quality and on time, then why not be fair and bind that contractually, be it by accepting a small withheld retainer or a penalty clause?
  • Tahboub Kitchens should live up to its reputation as an industry leader, and not blame “the whole industry” for unfair treatment or ridiculous conditions.
  • Have the decency to reply back to the customer even if it wasn’t favorable! Why did I had to call & SMS the sales rep three times, and then call his manager a couple of times more (and she never call back); and a couple of weeks later I finally to get an answer that Tahboub Kitchens are not willing to add the penalty clause! That was double annoyingg, besides; loose ends are time and energy consuming!
  • And finally, management shouldn’t hide behind the sales representatives/engineers, no matter how empowered and competent the latter may be, management should always be accessible, especially when the customer repeatedly asks for it!