Thursday, November 1, 2012

Free Kitchen Design Advice: You Can't Get Something For Nothing

I've been sitting on this post for about a year now.  Why?  It's about an article I found online, and when I first read the article I was angry ... think smoke shooting out of my ears, eyes spinning like pinwheels.  If there's one thing I've learned about the online world it's to never post anything anywhere when you're angry.  A year later I have calmed down a bit.

I first discovered the article via the Kitchen & Bath Industry News forum on LinkedIn.  I started noticing regular updates coming from one of the discussion threads, and by regular I mean 2 or 3 new posts an hour.  The thread, titled "Any one else find this article totally outrageous?", was discussing an article from that suggested ways a homeowner could get "free" kitchen design advice:
"Big-box home improvement stores like Lowe's and The Home Depot offer free kitchen design advice as a marketing "come on" to push product lines and attract customers, in general, to the stores. The savvy homeowner interested in a full-scale kitchen renovation can use these free kitchen design services to their advantage--without necessarily going with that company."
What ensued in the LinkedIn thread was post after post of outrage.  How dare this person suggest our clients get free advice when our livelihoods are at stake!   One poster even suggested that lawyers be brought in.  However, the general thrust of the posts came down to one simple fact:  You get what you pay for.

I was a Kitchen Department manager with Home Depot for two years, so I know how the company (used to) operate.  The author of the is spot on when he says that the "free" advice is a come-on ... a loss leader.  It was used to get people into the store for a consultation.  I would suggest the entire Kitchen Department was a loss-leader as well.  If we sold an actual kitchen, great.  If we didn't, at least we brought people in the store and they might buy a hammer or something on the way out.

The majority of the designers who worked for me had minimal experience in the kitchen and bath industry, if any.  More often than not they were from other departments and had expressed an interest in kitchen design.  "I'm really good with computers" was the most common skill touted since we did all our design with a CAD programme.  New "designers" were put through a 3 day course on kitchen design (run by the NKBA when I was there, sadly no longer) and then released to the floor.

So yes, the advice is free, but how accurate is it?

Maybe I've matured in the year since I first read the article, or maybe I'm just numb from thinking about it.  I've made the case for choosing a CKD or professional interior designer for your project time and again on this blog.  But in the end, is that any different than the post on suggesting you milk the system for free advice?  The reality of the situation is that people are always going to try and get something for nothing.  There's nothing wrong with offering it and nothing wrong with taking advantage of it.

I leave it up to you, my future customer, to decide for yourself what route is best for you.


  1. This is also a perennial subject here in the UK  - see the 'KBB Designers Forum' on LinkedIn.
    Personally I think there's a difference between 'free design', and free design for qualified prospects.
    In the second case it's the client's *free sample* of what it is like to work with you, to see how you handle things, what kind of character you are. If you are competent and confident why wouldn't you relish this opportunity?

  2. Thanks for your thoughts.  In fact it was the forum on LinkedIn that brought up this topic.  I agree with you 100% on the difference between"free design" and "free sample".  I offer the second based on the client's dimensions/blueprints.

    I think the issue at hand is educating the consumer on the difference.


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