Wickes’s bodged jobs spark more kitchen sink chaos | Money

The case of an 83-year-old man who lived with kitchen units in his living room for months after Wickes botched an installation has prompted cries of anguish from fellow sufferers.

The company’s declared vision of “a Wickes project in every home” should strike terror in the heart of householders, judging from those who have experienced its take on home “improvements”.

NB of Wigan spent five months cooking in her living room after paying nearly £30,000 to replace her kitchen and bathroom. “The fitters destroyed the kitchen cabinets, used the new worktops as work benches to saw materials, wrongly connected our oven, caused an incorrectly fitted tap to leak over an electrical socket, and mis-wired a light switch so it gave me an electric shock,” she writes. “It took five months to get our kitchen fixed. We’re still waiting for the bathroom to be completed.

“The chaos has put my husband on antidepressants, harmed our autistic daughter and forced me to take unpaid leave.

“All Wickes has offered, after I complained to the ombudsman, is £25 for each month of delay, which I lose unless I accept within a week.”

In Peacehaven, East Sussex, CH was startled when a fitter arrived to install a £5,000 bathroom without the printed plans.

“He had to borrow our copy, which we later found discarded in a skip,” he writes. “He began work without checking all the parts had arrived, and we had to collect missing items ourselves.

“The toilet was fitted inches from the wall and was not secured to the floor, the sewer was left unsealed, tiles were crooked, grouting was missing, the hot water flow was reduced to a trickle and a new extractor fan was joined on to an old duct with plastic tape.”

CH asked Wickes for a new fitter but received no response. He continued to receive no response for the next two months despite repeated calls, and ended up hiring his own installer at a further cost of £4,950 to rip out the job and start again.

“He found three leaks and discovered that the sewer was blocked with debris from the installation,” says CH, who sent Wickes a “letter before action” demanding a full refund and £2,000 compensation. It denied liability but offered £1,000 with a two-week decision deadline.

AS of Bristol advises people to check if they have legal cover on their home insurance policy. He was forced to send a solicitor’s letter, funded by his insurer, to resolve his kitchen nightmare.

“Installation began before the worktops had been delivered,” he writes. “The fitter therefore left the job incomplete and Wickes didn’t send anyone else for seven months. In the face of legal action, they eventually offered £1,000 compensation which in no way covered the months of stress.”

GD of Horley has been waiting nearly four years for his new kitchen to be completed. Nor, he says, has he received the compensation payment ordered by the furniture and home improvement ombudsman. It took a month for the kitchen to be fitted and the rest of that time (and counting) for the botched handiwork to be remedied. “We have been made to feel that we were the ones causing issues,” he writes.

I lack the space to include all the horror stories. So notorious are Wickes’ installers that a dedicated Facebook forum has reached 4,500 members, many with a similar tale.

A uniting complaint is that Wickes hires freelance fitters who may not be up to the job, and absolves itself of all responsibility when things go wrong. Well-meaning store staff are stalled by impervious regional managers. Complaints are ignored.

I asked Wickes how installers were recruited and vetted. I asked about its complaints handling procedure and how compensation is calculated. I asked why so many families had been left in limbo for months and what assurances the company could give new customers that their job would be completed and their concerns addressed.

Wickes replied selectively. It tells me that it “always” aims for “high standards of customer service and satisfaction”. It claims it checks installers’ work history in a “rigorous” vetting procedure and treats complaints on a “case-by-case basis”. After my contact, it said it had assigned a designated customer services agent to each of the above cases, and GD has been given an appointment for remedial work.

The others, however, have received no new offers. CH says he hasn’t been contacted at all and is still out of pocket, having paid twice for his installation.

The furniture and home improvement ombudsman was unable to tell me how many complaints against Wickes it receives, although it revealed kitchen issues made up 18% of its postbag. It said: “Our experience has always been positive, in that they have always complied fully with our decisions including any awards we make.”

If you still can’t resist a Wickes showroom, hire your own fitter.

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