Posted by: Alex MacPhee | May 18, 2012

You can ‘screw it’ if you B&Q it

We wanted our bathroom and WC refitted, including, specifically, easy-to-turn taps and fitments because of my wife’s progressive loss of muscle power due to serious illness, which had meant it was very hard for her to turn a tap or shower on or off. B&Q promised us a ‘properly project-managed experience’, dissuading us from having our own separate plumbers, electricians, and carpenters. One fixed price, one project. It was to be completed before Christmas.

The nightmare started with the first pre-installation survey. They couldn’t meet dates, and required a second survey from different fitters. B&Q cancelled that date too. By February, nothing had been done, and a third survey required for yet another fitter. This time, B&Q said the price would have to increase as the third survey showed extra work they hadn’t seen first time round. Or second time round.  Or the initial design survey. I told them that we’d agreed a fixed price as their selling point, and asked what the point or reliability of these surveys was if they produced inaccurate and contradictory results. Foolishly, I agreed to carry on.

Things were not delivered. A part load of tiles for walls and floor was delivered, and when I asked why the floor tiles were in the delivery van but not the wall tiles, I was told they thought I was going to the store and load up my own car with the rest, a load far too heavy for a domestic vehicle. Astonishingly, the B&Q delivery van was coming to us anyway and they wouldn’t load it with all the ordered materials even though they were all in-store. Delay after delay followed. Wrong bath parts were delivered that wouldn’t fit together. When they came to install the toilet pans, they found they wouldn’t fit the designs, and this hadn’t been picked up in any of the three pre-installation surveys. It meant buying a different style and returning the ones we’d chosen. B&Q tried to increase the price again because of their design errors. More delays followed, with more botched workmanship, and by the time it was ‘finished’, it was June the following year. We had some fitments left over, which we returned to the store, unopened. B&Q refused to accept them back, on the grounds we had no receipt to hand (yet they had a full order record on their computer system) and so couldn’t prove they were from B&Q. This was bizarre, as they were B&Q own brand fittings, with ‘B&Q’ all over the boxes. And this, too, despite the fact that the store assistant refusing to accept the return was the very same fellow who had sold them to us. My wife stood in the store (in Guildford) and just cried.

On the day the B&Q fitters left, they demanded extra money, in cash, for ‘fitments’, but when we asked for a receipt, we were refused. I asked why, and was told simply, “VAT”.  Clearly, a tax dodge was going on. (I hope HMRC reads this.)

The entire project was a botch from start to finish, and the ‘easy to use’ sink fittings were so stiff I had trouble using them myself, and my wife with her muscle illness couldn’t move them at all.

I have now had to have the entire WC ripped out and redone by a proper tradesman, and he has shown me the “mangled plumbing” (his words) behind the sink and the soil piping behind the cistern, the unlevel surfaces, the leaking joints. There wasn’t even sealant used anywhere, which is why we had slow leaks appearing on the walls downstairs from the back of the basin.

Once they had our money, B&Q didn’t give a toss. They farmed the job out to a series of hopelessly inept and cheap (in the worst sense) sub-contractors. My time-served tradesman has fixed everything, for a price less than B&Q took to mangle it in the first place, and in four days, not seven months. As far as I am concerned, B&Q stands for ‘Botch and Quit’.

Dealing with B&Q, both the store and the ‘service fulfilment centre’, has been the most horrible retail experience we have ever had, in over forty years.  It was worsened by the fact that they ensured it was a sustained bad experience, over the course of eight months and more, B&Q showing repeated resistance to fixing problems, handling complaints, or attempting to retain a customer. Since then, I have not bought so much as a drawing pin from B&Q.
I have since learned that my experience is not uncommon. Take very great care if you are thinking of engaging B&Q in any home improvement project : ‘“You can screw it if you B&Q it.”

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