Just A Small Kabinart Review

A screwy spec book, bad packaging, poor quality, and some sketchy shipping practices have led me to believe that Kabinart is not a manufacturer I want to do business with ever again.

The Last Kabinart Kitchen Order

Our last order started off bad.  We were going with Maple doors in a Sable finish.  The customer had seen one locally and liked the color, but the chip we sent out wasn't quite the same shade.  Chalking it up to our sample being expired, we ordered a fresh one and sent that out.  According to the customer, the color looked like pooh, and I don't mean the Disney character.  The kitchen was already ordered, but not very far along in the process; we were able to change everything to a cherry door in a different color that looked more consistent sample-wise.  It's hard to buy or sell a kitchen when the final color is a mystery…

Once the kitchen was ordered and every sample was back in Maine.  I compared them all.  There were three color chips and one sample door.  Not one looked like another.  They were all a slightly different shade of brown.  While some of this might be attributed to the wood itself (different parts of a maple tree take a stain differently) I don't think it's the case.  I can see that there are similar pieces of wood (from the same general area of a tree with the same type of grain pattern) and it's actually the stain color itself that's different.  

When I called Kabinart to ask about this, I was told that different people might use different spraying techniques to apply the finish.  This in no way says to me "quality control," and sounds more like "willy-nilly."  What good is having sample color chips if that's not the color your cabinets will be?  Bertch and Diamond samples I've gone through don't appear to have this variation, so why do Kabinart's?

The cabinets showed up in Maine on June 2, and the fellow taking them out to the customer for us had arrived just before them.  I saw one potential problem.  One of our items was a refrigerator panel, and I could see it was bent under the weight of a cabinet that had fallen on it in the truck.  I cut the panel's box open, and everything looked fine.  I did ask the driver who the hell packed the truck, and he shrugged.  

We transferred the load from Kabinart's truck (Averitt Express) into our driver's trailer, paid the man, and said goodbye.  I felt good.  He came recommended and the last kitchen he transported for us went so well that the customer took him out to dinner afterward.  

On the June 4, I got my first "There's Trouble" email from the customer… The base lazy-susan cabinet I ordered was not actually 36".  In the kitchen design program, it is.  In real life, it takes up the same amount of space when looking at things from the front, but it's not nearly so deep.  Something like 27" and some change.  This being the start of a peninsula, and in a kitchen with limited storage space, it was very important to fully utilize the space.  They needed the correct cabinet.

I called the fellow who MAKES Kabinart's 2020 catalog and asked him why this item was created so.  The problem would have never happened had I been using the spec book, but then what's the point in having a kitchen design program if the cabinets in it are wrong to begin with?  At least the digital catalog creator (the fellow I talked to) realized the folly in this reasoning; according to my sales rep, the issue was fixed the same day I brought it up.  A little too late for me though.

Problem Number Two flew to my Inbox that same day.  Another corner cabinet (a blind base) had an off kilter drawer.  Apparently, it was improperly aligned at the factory (I wrote about a similar problem and how to fix it in my Fixing out of alignment Kabinart drawers piece) and then it was FIXED improperly at the factory.  So the customer has a cabinet with screws sticking out the back that's still crooked.  Awesome. 

Problem Number Three came in the same email.  All of the customer's furniture base molding was totally scratched and dented up.  I felt like a deer in headlights… I sent this letter to Kabinart along with an order for the new items.  There were several drafts of this letter.  Each one got progressively nicer as my blood pressure dropped, and I let the customer look over it before I sent it off so they'd be up to date on what was going on. I heard nothing, for over a week.  OVER A WEEK!  When I called to see where the order was (figuring they must have just put it into production) I was redirected immediately to the vice president.  He told me no, no, no, and no.  Everything was no, on all counts.  

Let me back up a bit… (insert harps and wavy camera tricks here)

It seems that once upon a time, there was a Kabinart dealer who lost a sale and was very unhappy about it.  As I understand it, they were Kabinart's biggest dealer.  They quoted a kitchen, but lost the order to another dealer who was selling online and beat their price.  Apparently this big dealer then went crying to Kabinart, and an "anti-online" policy was put in place.  I understand; I see the same kind of placating happening all the time with spoiled children and their parents.

What's been happening at The Cabinet Folks, as far as Kabinart goes, is people coming to our site because their local Kabinart dealers are either expensive, unpleasant, or sometimes even a little shady.  One I heard about would not open the showroom without an appointment and was very rude to the people who ended up becoming my customers.  Another dealer was having some sort of financial trouble that the customer somehow got wind of just before they put money down on a kitchen; as I understand it, the money trouble was bad enough that the customer might never have gotten cabinets.  Some sort of robbing Peter to pay Paul situation…

Regardless, while I can almost see where Kabinart is coming from with the online sales policy, I feel more sympathetic toward customers complaining of local Kabinart dealers and who want the product.  Even though it's a more of a headache with Kabinart and I'd rather customers went with another brand, in the end I try to get them what they really want.  They are, after all, the ones who will be living with the kitchen.

So, with this latest kitchen…  (play the harps again if it helps you to come back)

I was told that the the molding was scratched because it got shipped twice.  This means that no scratches whatsoever happened from Nashville to Maine.  Kabinart's shippers take the "molding doesn't get scratched here" route, and I guess the driver I hired couldn't find such a route.   The only scratches on molding apparently happened somewhere between Maine and Indianapolis.   As far as the lazy susan… too bad.  My mistake. With the blind corner, well, the customer said they could live with it, so nothing needed to be done.  I'm guessing it would have been a lost cause anyway, given how well everything else was going.

Drop shipping?  No way.  Kabinart doesn't do that, and we shouldn't have sold this kitchen in the first place, according to him. So, we could order all new stuff, on our dime.  But nothing would be happening for a while; he had a plane to catch and wouldn't get to this until maybe the following week.  And when it WAS all done, it wouldn't be shipped to Maine right off because the order wasn't big enough.  It would sit in Nashville until we ordered enough cabinetry to justify a trip.  You can guess how keen I was at this point to put that NEXT order together.

I asked if it could be picked up.  No.  GAH!  I asked if someone could pick up.  Can dealers do that?  No.  

He said something like "I understand that there's a customer hurting out there, but…" and I don't remember the sentence ever getting finished.  But what?  Too bad?  We've got our money and you can just go pound sand? I asked if I could PERSONALLY pick it up.  Hem haw, hem haw…  He finally agreed to let me pick up the cabinets, and we hung up.  Of course, this meant a bleeping trip to Nashville…  

I related to the customer what had transpired, that I'd be grabbing the cabinets, somehow, and delivering them.  I waited for the order to get completed and tried to plan a quick road trip to the middle of the United States. A few days later, another bomb arrived from the customer.  I never asked, but I'm guessing he was installing these cabinets on nights and weekend.  It would explain why the plethora of issues didn't all come to light at once.  This particular problem might actually be my favorite.  There were fingerprints UNDER the finish on a fridge panel.  Yes, I said under.  Someone smudged the stain with their fingers, and then somebody (maybe the same person) left it that way and clear coated over it.  

Here's a couple of pictures the customer sent.  I've circled the prints…   After having such a pleasant conversation LAST TIME when something wasn't my fault, I didn't bother arguing about this and merely added to the original order, somewhere near the 15th.  I assume, but have no idea really, that these are items that can be sort of thrown onto an order quickly. I received a fax after another week or so saying, essentially, "We're not building these cabinets until you pay for them."  What?  

I looked at the last order confirmation.  It said "do not schd" at the bottom, but I thought this meant don't schedule shipment, which is something I'd discussed on the "No no no" phone call.  No shipment schedule had also been discussed during subsequent phone calls (with the girls in customer service who are actually quite nice as far as I can tell)  But "Do not schd" did not mean abstain from scheduling shipment.  It meant don't build the order at all. I'm not involved in the book keeping, so I generally don't get involved in how manufacturers get paid.  I thought all the ones we dealt with were ENAP members, ENAP being a buying group that we're part of.  We paid in a hurry (perhaps immediately, I can't remember now) and waited some more.


Well, the cabinets were ready, finally, 7/14.  I found out they'd be ready that morning and made some hasty plans.  I think my wife only freaked out twice.  I was on a semi-freak level for most of those two days, mostly worrying about whether or not there would be any trouble with the cabinets once I arrived at the factory.  I left my house (in Maine) at 3AM and arrived back in my driveway at about 1:30 AM the following morning.  I'll document the journey in the blog section of this site at some point, but here were some highlights from the Kabinart part of the trip…  

Wishy Washy Kabinart Policies:

While standing in the shipping office, I couldn't help but overhear a conversation about the order of operations involved with a home delivery.  Specifically, I heard how different trucks with lift gates have to be used for home deliveries instead of the regular trucks and trailers.  WHAT?  Kabinart does home deliveries?  Surely there must be some mistake.  I'm sure Kabinart's Vice President told me several times that KABINART DOES NOT DELIVER. And while I was loading up, guess what?  Someone else was at the factory picking stuff up.  Again, this is contrary to what I was told.  Either one of these options would have saved me several hundred dollars.   I didn't dare say anything about the delivery or pickup because I wanted to just get out of there.  I had a plane to catch.  I'd told the customer earlier to hold off on any Better Business Bureau complaints until I'd left the factory.  Then I said it might be better to wait until I'd actually crossed the state line, or got home; I'm not sure who is friends with who, and didn't want to find out the hard way.  

Damaged Kabinart Items:

Remember the molding that only got damaged between Maine and Indianapolis?  Well guess what?  This batch was damaged before I even got it in my rental vehicle.  I actually planned ahead for this molding.  I brought a knife (requiring a checked bag at the airport– why can you bring 4" scissors on planes but not 3" knives?) some sill seal and the nylon strapping we use at the lumber yard for tying stuff down.  I cut the molding box open to check on it and to re-pack it.  Lo and behold, there were nicks and scratches already.  Oh, wait a minute.  I'll bet it all happened over the five or ten foot distance that I carried it before setting it on the ground… Regardless, I put pieces of sill seal between the sticks of molding (to keep the faces from rubbing — that was the problem in the first place) and tied it tight with the nylon.  The customer had gotten a touch up kit with the initial order, and what I saw for damage looked like it could be fixed with that kit.    

The Kabinart Facility Itself

To me it only looked like a hot and dirty warehouse.  Maybe it wasn't so hot; I'm from Maine where forty degrees is still t-shirt weather, so my frame of reference is a little skewed.  One of the things I noticed in the factory was a lack of "cabinet making" noise.  I didn't see or hear anything that would tell me there was manufacturing of any kind going on.  I didn't hear air compressors running (for finishing or stapling), no saws going (table saws OR chop saws), and I didn't smell anything that would tell me there was wood being cut or wood finish being applied.  All I saw was a gigantic warehouse full of boxes.  It was confirmed by my rep once that they don't actually make their own doors.  So I wondered, standing there at Kabinart, if they make anything at all.  There might have been more to the building than I saw, the "cabinet makers" might have still been on lunch break, or perhaps there is another building down the road.  I've no idea, but just thought the whole scene was odd for a manufacturing facility.  

A Kabinart Corner Cabinet and an SUV

This one was close.  I had a Mercury something or other (I think their version of the Ford Escape) and the rear opening isn't tall enough for the 35 or so inches I need to stick the cabinet in vertically.  I thought it did, and had a great sinking feeling when I realized that it wasn't happening.  I wasn't sure if I'd brought enough strapping to get it up on the roof securely.  Of course, the cabinet not fitting normally also meant that I didn't have 36" if I wanted to flip the cabinet sideways.  Taking it out of the box for another vertical try didn't help.  However, these cabinets are funny… The back isn't squared off, it's diagonal.  Laying it on that diagonal part and sliding it in (tilting a bit in the right spots for the widest sections of cabinet to get through the rear opening of the vehicle) worked well.  

The rug moved, and I hoped that didn't mean I had to replace anything on the vehicle, but the cabinet went in.  The fridge panel wouldn't go in while it was in the box (and I wanted it out of the box anyway to make sure nobody clear coated over fingerprints again) but fit nicely along the side between the seats and the passenger side doors.  The molding I slid along the filler strip face of the panel.  I couldn't see out the passenger side mirror, but everything was safely in the vehicle and I could move. I did not check the other two parts I ordered, threw the box parts back up into the shipping bay (maybe they use the cardboard for a cheaper line of cabinetry) and rolled out, ready for the five hour jaunt north.  

The End of My Kabinart Review:

At some point I'll cool down.  The trip in general was a gigantic ruckus from the beginning.  I've never been to that part of the country, it was a mad dash (and would have been worse if I realized Indianapolis was running on Eastern Time) pretty much the whole trip, and I didn't have much sleep.  Finding out that Kabinart appears to drop ship and allow pickups for anyone but me really frosted my cake.

I've felt, since the day I spoke with the VP, that the customer and I had been hung out to dry.  I understand mistakes happen.  I had a Bertch piece arrive on the jobsite with a large stain.  I sent a picture, and they sent out a new piece, no questions asked.  Same deal with scratches.  They knew they'd screwed up and fixed it.  I get no such feeling from Kabinart.  They seem to have half assed fixes for any of their problems (hinges and drawers are just two that I know about) and now I'm curious about how many problems just don't get fixed at all.

I certainly won't be doing business with them again, and wouldn't recommend them to anyone else except maybe if I were being tortured.  Kitchen cabinet customers want a dealer that will preferably get them a kitchen with no problems.  But if there are problems, the dealer of course is expected to fix things.  I expect the same from a manufacturer.  If a manufacturer frigs something up, they should fix it, or at least make fixing it as painless as possible.  Making up stories about how molding got scratched, ignoring shoddy construction, and letting a flawed design catalog slide along are not behaviors I want to see in anyone, let alone a cabinet manufacturer. \

Sending a small load five hours, on a truck that's already headed that way, is a lot easier than making a dealer come out from a thousand miles away and do it. If you're a homeowner thinking of buying a Kabinart kitchen, or someone looking to become a dealer, best of luck to you.


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