Updated Sun 20th July (see red update at end)
We needed some new bedroom furniture. We had an oak bed custom made by a carpenter, and we are pleased with that, but needed some other pieces to match. So we looked on Oak Furniture Land’s website, and found a range called “Windsor” which looked perfect.
Bad experience #1
We travelled a thirty six mile round trip to visit the Tunbridge Wells branch of OakFurnitureLand. On arrival we asked if we could see the Windsor range. “Oh that’s a new range, it’s not in our showroom yet”, “it might be by next weekend”. Fantastic. Thanks. Undeterred we looked around anyway, and didn’t see anything that really appealed. So we went home. What a waste of time and fuel.
On the following Friday we rang them to ensure they had the range in the showroom! They did! So we made another trip on the following Sunday. Another 36 mile round trip, again, at our expense.
Bad experience #2
We visited the store, we looked at the Windsor range. It was a totally different colour to that shown on the website. The website shows it as a mid to dark brown. The actuality is dark grey to almost green. The guy in the shop said “well you can never really tell by the website”.
We looked at the website on multiple devices; an iPad, a MacBook Pro, and an iMac. Apple Macs generally have fairly good colour rendition (a lot of professional photographers use them). Although none of my equipment is pantone calibrated, it’s not bad; I do photography myself. I do realise it is a bit subjective, but I am going to say the colour was not the same. The guy in the shop commented that “we were all surprised by the colour when it came in”, so that suggests that they also had different expectations.
A more general point about the OFL website: It is shit. It’s really really busy. Evidently the photography is also suspect. It’s difficult to navigate. It looks like something from a bygone age.
Anyway… So – The Windsor Range was out.
Bad experience #3
We eventually settled for something called the Quercus range. Although we’d seen this before, we’d ruled it out, perhaps slightly hastily. We selected two bedside cabinets, a chest of drawers and a bookcase. I asked the guy to price it, and he said he could throw in a free oak framed mirror. We don’t really need this, but as it’s “free” how can you argue?
His total price was something like £1168. I attempted to negotiate; I would generally aim to pay something closer to £1000 in this situation. No. Flat no. No discount – oh, unless I was in the army (!) But no room to haggle at all.
As any half decent negotiator should do in this situation, I walked away.
We went home, somewhat pissed off that we still had no furniture, but resolved that perhaps we’d see if OFL are on QuidCo, and maybe a second measure and check sizes wouldn’t be a bad idea anyway.
It turned out that OFL are on QuidCo, at 6% cashback. So – hooray, there is a 6% discount right there. Straight away. But that is not all …
Bad experience #4
We checked measurements, decided that, yes, what we had seen was what we wanted, and although the salesman and the store wouldn’t see our purchase in their figures, the company would still get our order. So we placed the order via the website.
Shock horror, it comes out cheaper if you order online anyway! So far from the store refusing to negotiate, the website was cheaper anyway.
Arse, meet elbow.
This is basically dishonest on OFL’s part. How receptive would they have been had I *not* walked away, placed my order in person, then got home and discovered I could have had it substantially cheaper from their own website online? My bet is, not very.
So the same items we’d been quoted around £1168 for in person, came out at £1009 and a few pence online. And that does not take into account the QuidCo cashback, which will amount to a little more than £50 off the effective price.
Absolutely disgraceful experience #5
A small number of hours after I placed my order online, and surrendered more than a grand of my money to OFL, I received a telephone call from a freephone number. It being a Sunday, I answered it, unsure who it might be.
I was impressed and amazed that it was OakFurnitureLand – how amazing that they’re so on-the-ball as to even deal with new orders after 5 pm on a Sunday! Particularly as their website gives their customer service hours as not even open on Sunday!
But my amazement at a brilliantly run business soon melted like the snow in Siberia where their oak trees are grown (you didn’t think it was English Oak did you?!). Here is the best précis of the opening of the call that I can offer from memory :
Him: Hello Mr Bloor, this is Oak Furniture Land here, we’re just handling the order you placed with us online.
Me: Wow! Ok!
Him: Is this your first order with us?
Me: Yes, it is.
Him: OK well what I’m going to be able to do for you is give you a free tin of the wax polish – which you should do as soon as your furniture arrives, and free express delivery which is normally £39 and you can have your furniture as soon as this coming Wednesday!
(at this point my girlfriend and I were incredulous – what an amazing company!)
Me: Wow! Ok great!
Him: And we will cover the furniture for five years for accidental damage if you crash the hoover into it, or scratch it, or spill anything on it and stain it, we can send someone out within two days to do a repair on it, and if it can’t be repaired drop in an identical brand new replacement. No excess, no charge.
(penny starts to drop that this call might be about to change direction)
Him: For just £101 you can have all of that, and really, as I’ve thrown in the wax and the express delivery, it’s only about £46 that you’re having to pay for five years cover!
Me: No thanks. (you’ll have to take my word for it, I was totally polite, at this stage)
Him: But why not? It’s for five years! That’s only one pound a month!
Me: No, I don’t think I need that.
Him: (starts to protest and do a pushy sales speech again)
Now I will admit, that at that point, I started to swear and raise my voice. I had politely declined twice. The guy would not go away. I do not like to do this, but I felt I’d given ample opportunities for this unwarranted, and unwanted, *SALES CALL* on a Sunday to be stopped, and he had not listened.
He tried to tell me there was no need to swear, and I pointed out that since he had ignored my two polite rejections, there really wasn’t a clearer way of indicating my lack of interest in his “furniture insurance”. He then said he had to run through the order details, including, strangely, how I might cancel the order (which I confirmed I didn’t want to do). Once done, we ended the call. He sounded upset. I sounded angry.
Message to Oak Furniture Land
There was a perfect opportunity for you to upsell to me when I was in store. But you squandered it for all the reasons above. Just because I have formed a contract with you to supply me furniture in exchange for me supplying you money does not mean that I am now fair game for agressive telesales on a Sunday evening. That is not OK. My view of you as a company is worsened for this bullshit “rinsing” tactic. Concentrate on selling oak furniture.
Update: I tweeted my annoyance to them about this unpleasant business technique and got told in no uncertain terms that rinsing their customers for insurance is “an integral part of their business”. Goodo! I shall not expect it to stop anytime soon then!
It will be interesting to see what the furniture is like, once it turns up. I have to say, my expectations are lower now than before I’d dealt with this company, but I am openminded, and we do actually need the items… So here’s hoping they are OK.
Update 13:45 Mon 14th July
So, I’d say on balance, OFL do care. I had a callback from David, indicating that he saw my point of view – particularly around the nature of the unsolicited sales call. We talked briefly about it, and I got the sense that he could see why it might be a bit “cheeky” to ring up customers who’d just spent money to try and get them to spend more. That being said, I don’t doubt they’ll carry on making the calls; but the approach might be done in a different way, and perhaps a “no” will be more readily accepted. He referred to it being used as an example in a weekly meeting.
I explained that I’d had similar calls from AO.com (Appliances Online) before basically selling the same thing for a dishwasher, but when I’d politely declined, that was an end to it. I said I thought it was still a bit cheeky, but I didn’t really object since AO immediately accepted my “no thanks”.
More usefully and relevantly, he was able to book in my delivery for this Friday, which was actually quite impressive; I do not generally expect managers to be directly empowered to arrange things like deliveries. But sure enough, mere seconds after the call completed an SMS arrived on my phone confirming the delivery. So far so good. If the furniture is decent, I think they’ll have redeemed themselves.
Update 21:08 Sun 20th July 2014
The furniture arrived as promised on Friday 18th. Extra messages were received improving the accuracy of the timeslot from 2pm – 5pm. Earlier on in the day I received a call from the delivery driver, and then again a little before 1pm, asking if it would be convenient if the delivery actually arrived at about a quarter of an hour before 2pm. I said this was fine, and sure enough it arrived bang on time.
The two delivery chaps were friendly and helpful. They explained that the reason the stuff was *so* well packed was that it had been held in quarantine for quality control in Swindon! And holy cow it was well packed. On five items of furniture; a chest of drawers, a bookcase, two bedside tables and the packaging material, once removed, was too voluminous to all fit in my 3 series BMW saloon! Two trips to the dump! But, the packaging did its job; not a mark on any of the furniture.
David from OFL called just moments after the delivery had arrived to check all was well. It is clear he “took ownership” of my case.
Friday evening and Saturday morning we unpackaged and arranged the furniture. This took a while because most items were replacing other items – so there was a pile of stuff to migrate. We are very pleased with the quality of the furniture. It is solid and heavy, and, fortunately, matches our custom made bed extremely well indeed. You would think it had all been made as one set.
So this is a story with a happy ending. Well done Oak Furniture Land. Just try to make the “rinsing” a bit less pushy and intrusive yeah?