I am working with a lovely couple on a pretty significant renovation; the centerpiece of which is a contemporary, open kitchen. The kitchen's going to be spectacular. It has a separate freezer and refrigerator, a 36" induction cooktop, a dramatic ventilation hood, a built-in oven and a built in microwave. Built-in appliances are a nice touch and a great way to make a kitchen appear to be more sleek and streamlined. The oven and microwave are going to be stacked in a tall cabinet like this set up from GE Monogram.
Almost, but not quite. My clients had already researched and selected their appliances prior to retaining me, so I didn't have a whole lot of influence when it came to selecting them. Now, my clients are perfectly lovely people, but they went to Sears and bought a full suite of Kenmore Pro appliances.
In Sears' defense, they have decided to throw themselves back into the appliance world and they have been spending gobs money bringing in new product lines and rebranding themselves. This is all well and good, but it's still Sears.
Appliances are a very specialized product and they need to be sold by highly trained salespeople. No one would ever think to buy a car at Wal-Mart (I hope), but for some ungodly reason, a lot of people have no problem going to a big box for an appliance. Such purchases have an unacceptably high rate of bad endings if you ask me, and so long as I have breath to speak, I will never send someone into a big box for an appliance.
So my clients gave me a list of their appliance model numbers pretty early into our working together. Those model numbers allow me to look up the specifications and sizes of each appliance. This is wildly important information, especially when it comes to handling built-in appliances. With regular brands, I go to the manufacturer's website and look up the specs. All appliance manufacturers have special pro sections on their sites where people like me can go to get the information we need to do our jobs. Combing through appliance specs at nine o'clock at night is the "glamour" part of kitchen design by the way.
Actually, I don't mind it. It's quiet, kind of nerdy work that requires a fair amount of concentration. Appliance manufacturers have dimension guides that cover every conceivable measurement anybody could want. You see, there is no real standardization in their industry, and none of them have ever met a whole number that was an acceptable dimension. For example, A KitchenAid KEBS277S measures 29-3/4" wide by 28-3/4" tall. But not so fast, they are the dimensions of of the front of the appliance, and while important, they are not what I'm looking for. Its maximum recessed width is 28-5/16" and its maximum recessed height is 27-1/2". Those recessed dimensions are closer to what I'm after, but what I really need is the guidelines for the opening dimensions in the cabinet where these appliances will actually be built in. In case you're wondering, those dimensions are 28-1/2" by 27-3/4". We always use width before height so if you want to sound like you know what you're talking about, rattle off dimensions as width first then height.
Anyhow, the point of that is I need those dimensions so I can have a cabinet built that will fit these appliances exactly. If I can't tell the cabinet maker these dimensions he can't build me the cabinet I need. They have to be exact because we're talking about a several thousand dollar cabinet here and there's no such thing as a return for custom work. So if I screw this up, I'm buying the replacement. Trust me, it's a mistake you only make once. No two wall ovens and no two microwave ovens have the same dimensions, hence my making such a big deal out of this.
Now, built-in microwaves are a bit of a scam if you ask me. Most of them, regardless of the brand, are actually counter top microwaves with what we call a trim kit wrapped around them to make them fit into a hole in a cabinet that's the same width as the oven below them. So when I get specs for a built in microwave, what I'm after really is the dimensions of the trim kit and the opening dimensions for the cabinet.
This is a Thermador countertop microwave oven.
This is a Thermador trim kit.
Presto change-o, it's a built in microwave oven!
Now, I have never pulled specs for Kenmore appliances before. So I went to their website and expected it to work the same way just about everybody else's does. But alas, it does not. Sears' website stinks. It spends more time touting the virtues of the Blue Crew than it does dispensing information. It's difficult to navigate and the information I needed was buried. There was no pro section and no dimension guide. Ridiculous.
So I found the information I needed for everything after taking too much time, and I thought I was wrapping up when I entered the model number for the trim kit. There was no trim kit that matched my model number on their website. In fact, there were no trim kits period. Nice job Blue Crew.
The site listed a toll-free number and they assured me that it was staffed by trained professionals. I called. I poked through their phone tree and got connected with a guy who put me on hold immediately. The line went dead after a couple of minutes. Grrr. I called again and got a woman who put me on hold immediately. Double grrrrr. When she came back to the line I introduced myself and told her I needed some dimensions for the trim kit for a microwave oven. I explained that there was no mention of the trim kit on the website and that I couldn't order a very expensive kitchen until I got some dimensions. She put me on hold.
She came back on the line and I gave her the model number for the microwave and the trim kit. She looked up the microwave first. "Sir," she said, "that's a counter top microwave." I explained that I knew that and that all built in microwaves were actually counter top microwaves in disguise. This was news to her. I asked her to look up the dimensions for the trim kit. "Oh sir, that's in a different book. I need to put you on hold again."
She came back to the line, "we don't have any dimensions for that."
I did not lose my cool. I explained to her that I had a list of model numbers from a Sears in Florida and that my clients had indeed purchased a trim kit from Sears. "Well, I don't know what to tell you sir." That's weird," I told her, because I couldn't find it on their website either. "Well, I wouldn't know. We can't get to the website from here."
I told her to forget I ever called, and I called the local Sears where the trim kit had been purchased originally. I combed through their phone tree too and finally reached someone in their appliance department. He couldn't help me because he had customers waiting and they were short handed. He knew what I was talking about at least and he took my number and promised to call me in an hour with the dimensions I needed. He called when he said he would but the only dimensions he had were for the trim kit itself, not the cut out the trim kit fits into.
In frustration I finally drove over to Sears and measured their floor model myself.
This is not the way to run the show when you want to become a player in the appliance business Sears. Why not take some of the serious cash you're spending on the Blue Crew TV and print spots and spend it instead on updated spec books and some training for your trained professionals? This doesn't bode well and you can rest assured that you have a kitchen designer in Florida who's actively pointing his clients as far from your doors as he can. I'll say it again, please buy your appliances locally, from people who know and understand what they sell and who make a living wage.