Friday, 30 January 2009

Throwing petrol on the fire

We got a response from Sunfold's Head of Installation by post yesterday - a week after I'd written to them. I'm used to email correspondence and expect responses quickly. Anyway, the letter was full of defensive and badly argued points. Again, why don't companies use their PR or marketing department or escalate to someone who can look at formulating a non-inflammatory response? It ended with "In respect of above, we ask that you forward the final payment of £400". In respect of above?! I couldn't see one single reason from the six paragraphs supplied as to why we should pay up, I read it several times. Rob read it and we agreed that the letter writer had missed the point entirely. The six paras amounted to little more than an outline for a relaxed work ethic.

I wrote back addressing each of their six points and ended with a simple summation of the situation. I also said that I was happy for an independent mediator to assess the case, and we would abide by their decision. Of course I emailed it (posting letters with a week turnaround means this could drag on...).

The Head of Installation is away. However, someone else had forwarded my email to the General Manager and he promptly emailed me. His tone was immediately more conciliatory. I am optimistic once he's talked to everyone and read the history we can have a less frustrating debate and hopefully come to a resolution. Failing that, can anyone recommend a good conflict mediator?

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

No keys, no response...

Still nothing from Sunfold. It's now been six long weeks since the installation. While the installers were here I emailed to complain about their slackness, and the following day I rang and spoke to the staffer who was co-ordinating the process. Both times I made it clear that if they didn't get their act together we would deduct our builder's additional costs from the amount we owed them. They had the opportunity then to motivate their installation staff and avoid having to get our builder back. They could've also taken the opportunity to reassure us. The staffer I talked to admitted they'd had similar complaints from other customers.

After the installation I sent a letter from our architect outlining why we were with-holding £400, and sent two follow up emails asking for a response. Last week I sent a letter by post again asking for a response, and a version by email so they couldn't argue they didn't receive it. On Friday I finally got a message back saying that they had received my letter, and the head of installation would get back to me as soon as he could. It's now Wednesday and I've just emailed again as guess what? No-one's been in touch.

I find it unbelievable that despite contacting them 7+ times they can't get it together to do some damage control. In this day and age you'd think the public relations part of this company would wake up and see that at least acknowledging the issues (terrible service, slack staff etc) and apologising for this might make the customer marginally more happy. As it happens, I now think that withholding £400 was not enough and for the amount of stress this has caused we should've withheld a lot more!

I posted about what to do on the Livingetc Forums and got some good advice. One suggestion was to pay the £400 under duress then advise them we'd go to the Small Claims court to retrieve £1,000 for the true cost of the inconvenience/suffering/stress. Rob and Anthony-the-architect said that this was a slow and painful process and to try and get them to respond first.

I can happily recommend Sunfold System's product, but the customer service and conflict resolution side of the business is so poor that I would advise you to use another company.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Being held to ransom?

Five weeks ago we paid Sunfold the last instalment minus £400. This sum was to cover the cost of getting the builder back for one and a half days plus a half day's compensation for the over-run in installation. Not only were the installers inefficient and work-shy, but Sunfold had forgotten to drill the right holes, so the framework had to go back to Norfolk for the weekend. As previously posted about, our architect agreed that all of these holdups were Sunfold's problem, we had been greatly inconvenienced (not only the cost, but it was freezing in those weeks before Christmas) and that £400 was a very reasonable amount to withhold.

I've contacted Sunfold twice to ask for a reaction to our the architect's letter, and despite presenting our cheque they have yet to respond. Yesterday I wrote to ask when we were getting our keys, and this morning they replied: "Our accounts department will send your keys once full and final payment has been made and cleared, which as I understand there is still £400.00 outstanding".

I'm sure there's a better word than 'blackmail' for this situation but I can't think what it is.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Dining room getting sorted

Last week we took possession of six dining chairs, two side chairs, an office desk and a dining room table. The table was the only thing to come from Ikea and miraculously it fitted into the Volvo, but only just (maybe Ikea designs large objects with Volvo space in mind?). The table cost £136, which is crazy cheap. (I hope the student tenants at our flat are enjoying using our Habitat extendable table which cost over £500.) The chairs were another matter. We didn't want to spend silly money on the chairs we actually liked. I wanted Konstantin Grcic's Myto chair and Rob was keen on the Habitat Palacco chair - either of these would've cost us hundreds.

We both agreed we liked Eames' Eiffel chair (below) and as luck would have it there's a slightly cheaper plastic re-issue doing the rounds. The fibreglass versions cost £205 from SCP but I found the plastic version on Mydeco for £146. Even better, Swivel had them for £79. But none of these places could compete with Dwell, who had them for £39 and honestly, I cannot tell the difference between what arrived from Dwell and the versions available in other shops. Anyway, at that price, even if they do fall to bits in a year or so, by then hopefully we can afford the Myto or Palacco versions...

Friday, 16 January 2009

Two months of habitation

We moved into the house eight weeks ago exactly. Ignoring the snagging which is still to happen, plus the deck and storage/display cabinet, the bulk of the work for phase one has been done. And what do I love about our new house? Well, firstly it's a total luxury being able to drive right up to the front door and have a park. At our old place you could drive around the block and still have to park in someone else's reserved space and hope that you got to move the car before a warden arrived. On a similar note, I love being able to ride my bike to the garage which now has a bike rack inside. Sure beats carrying it up four flights of stairs, then leaving it on the balcony exposed to the elements.

The house is full of natural light, and I'm thrilled to bits with design details such as recessing the radiator. I wish we'd done it with the radiator on the opposite wall too. Oh well. It's a great space for entertaining - we had friends stay over and the kids played on the top two floors and we couldn't hear a thing. An added bonus was that we watched the full moon rise in the east over our garden wall, and as it rose throughout the evening we could see it through our glass roof like a bright torch shining down on us.

Anything we'd change? Well, I think I would've liked underfloor heating still (does anyone have this with a wooden floor?) and yes, a Corian counter top. The concrete has hairline cracks appearing, which I think it supposed to be part of its appeal but I prefer a solid finish.

We're still assembling flat pack furniture so I'll post some more photos once it's sorted...

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Fixing things up

I only got around to phoning the carpet installers on Friday, but the very next morning they were back to fix the rogue bit of carpet that had lifted off the stairs. Result. Also this week we'd been on the phone to the Tap Centre - my beloved tap was completely broken. It turns out the plumber or builder had a bit of a job getting the tap to sit flush on the concrete counter top and had performed some kind of alteration. This meant the tap wouldn't sit tight and wobbled from side-to-side.

When we asked for it to be adjusted so that it was more snug, the bottom bit sheared completely off, which meant the tap leaked and couldn't be anchored in place. The Tap Centre couriered a replacement part the next day, but it was for a different tap. They then sent the correct bit the next day, and Teia came round to re-fit it. In all we were without a kitchen tap for four days, and now it sits perfectly snugly. However the counter weight that pulls the nozzle into place isn't in the right place so it doesn't retract completely. I'm sure Rob will play around with it and sort it out...

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Sable carpet and big tiles

Our last house was all about olive green. We had dark sage coloured carpet, green and white bedroom furniture and a retro 50s telephone in dark olive from SCP. It was an a happy accident and a colour we loved living with for six years. This time round, we seem to have shifted to an even darker colour palette. The carpet, as previously mentioned, is a browny grey which carpet manufacturers like to call sable. Our friends in Holland had recently put in an en suite to one of the guest bedrooms and the tiles were enormous Italian slate, in dark brown. Rob was smitten with them and we decided that if we ever get around to doing our top floor bathroom that the large tiles will do the trick nicely. This is a complete 180 on our original plan to have tiny mosaic tiles. I'm not sure if I want brown bathroom tiles as I suspect the colour will date, but they come in anthracite (dark grey) so we'll have to track some down to compare.

Unfortunately we'll have to get the carpet installers back as one of the steps hasn't adhered properly.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Chilly in London

We just got back from a week in Holland where we celebrated the New Year with some crazy Dutch people. They live in a massive house (six toilets, possibly more) and have underfloor heating in the rooms that have tiles underfoot, and some of the bathrooms. It gets freezing cold in Holland yet their house was always toasty and comfortable. It was a bit of a shock getting back to our house and finding that even with the thermostat turned up to the high 20s it was still a bit chilly. On the plus side, the downstairs walls have been painted white and the room is almost finished. There's still some areas to 'make good' and some snagging eg some of the plaster is cracking already, but it's time to start shopping for some new dining room furniture...

Our neighbours were curious as to the wooden stumps in our garden and so were some visiting friends... they're for the wooden deck, which is going in soon, we hope.