I never thought Crate and Barrel could have quality control this low and customer service that's less than exemplary, but that's exactly what I got. So having been pleased with Crate and Barrel housewares (mostly glasses, dishes, kitchen items) for many years, and having shopped at their Upper East Side store (Madison between 59th and 60th ) for what seemed like forever, each time fantasizing about owning more substantial C+B items, my wife, daughter and I moved to an apartment that has no built-in bookcases. Suddenly, my fantasy came true -- we needed bookcases, and wanted to get nice ones. Crate and Barrel was the first place that came to mind.
We really liked their Payton line of bookcases, and we have a lot of books, so we ordered two of their tallest models. Here's what they look like in the online catalog: http://bit.ly/hg0qrt. After paying over $1000 including tax and shipping, we had to wait a week-and-a-half for them to arrive. When they finally did, and when my wife and I got time to put them together, she noticed something surprising and upsetting shortly after opening the box. The frontpiece of the top shelf, which is a decorative, carved wooden plank that's attached perpendicular to the top shelf of the unit, was not fully attached. In fact, it was barely attached, (as the attached photo and video show).
Not to worry too much, we thought. After all, we'd ordered two of the bookcases. We could just put together the second bookcase and at least get a good portion of our books out of moving boxes and onto the shelves. No such luck. The second bookcase had the same problem in the same place! We were also surprised to see that most of the bookcase was made out of particle board -- at that price!
I called C+B, and the very polite and accomodating furniture department specialist told me that it was a problem with their vendor (the bookcases are made in China, like everything else). She told me she'd send me two replacements, and that the delivery guys would pick up the defective bookcases when they'd arrive.
Still very disappointed and surprised that this could happen with Crate and Barrel, I wrote a lengthy description of the problem and sent it to C+B. After they received it, one of their customer service reps called me to say that on the next business day (it was a Saturday), a customer service supervisor would contact me to discuss the problem. The next business day, Monday, came and went, and no call. On Wednesday I called them to let them know that I still had not been called. The C+B operator took the message, and on Thursday, somebody finally called me back.
That person was friendly and accomodating, and she told me that when my replacement bookcases showed up that the deliverymen would not leave until I had inspected the replacement shelves to ensure that they were in good condition.
The bookcases came about a week later -- so now it had been almost a month since I'd placed the original order. The deliverymen were reasonably polite, but none too happy about my insisting on inspecting the shelves they were dropping off. As it turned out, the delivery guys were from a subcontracting delivery company, and C+B had not made sure the guys knew that I needed to inspect the replacement bookcases.
As I told the delivery supervisor while he called HIS supervisor to complain, the whole inspection process would only take a couple of minutes. It ended up taking about one minute, because the first thing I looked for when I opened the cratewas the defective part. Sure enough, BOTH REPLACEMENT BOOKCASES HAD THE SAME DEFECT photo-1.JPG (image/jpeg) 24K as the first two I'd ordered.
I sent them all back, and called C+B immediately. I subsequently spent a half hour on the phone with a corporate supervisor, advising her company that it needed to get a new bookcase vendor. My hope, for C+B's sake, is that they did.
That really is my sincere hope, and here's why: I have been pleased with C+B in the past, in part, because they are a U.S.-based company, and also because their products look and feel great on display in their stores. I expected, for the price, an attractive, well-made product manufactured in the U.S.A. It was none of those things. The fact that the bookcases were made from particle board was particularly disturbing.
So I went to a non-U.S. manufacturer -- Ikea -- instead. Much to my surprise, Ikea had a bookcase that's similar in size and color for one-third(!!!) of the price, and it's made from solid pine. It took a little longer to arrive, 2 1/2 weeks, but it's turned out to be well worth the wait. Both bookcases that I bought from the Swedish company are built like tanks, and the instructions for assembly are the clearest I have yet seen for a household product.
Sorry to have to say it, but thanks Ikea. Very much. Seems to me that by offering a quality product for less -- far less -- Ikea makes its $3billion profit, which is up some 6% from last year. Wise, effective business practices -- what a concept! Crate and Barrel, you could learn a lesson from them.
Location: New York, New York