April 20, 2016

#Renovation 4: #Bruynzeel kitchen cabinets, anyone?

J* (Read footnote below!)
- the Maintenance Man
J entered my house, his eyes round and wide, and offered me his limp hand to shake.  I shook it, best I could, and ushered him in, ready to finally have my kitchen cabinet doors fixed.

Like a missing tooth
It doesn’t bother me now, but when I first walked into the house, the gap in the kitchen where the cabinet door should have been drew me towards it like a black hole. On closer inspection, the
cupboard next to it had unsightly bumps all across the front, places where screws had been amateurishly added and then covered up with silicon as if no one could see them if they were also crème colored.

For the regular reasons, after we bought the house, we decided that we would put off replacing the entire kitchen and first take care of more urgent matters, such as new bathrooms and wall paint, curtains and cushions. And yet, that gaping hole in the mouth of the kitchen begged to be fixed. We decided to order two new doors from the original company, Bruynzeel.  I thought, good ol’ Dutch company has existed since time itself, so what can go wrong?

Good ol' Dutch customer service
I took myself to the local Bruynzeel store; it was dark and silent, and hard to see inside. I pushed on the door and it opened. The large showroom had many sample kitchens, and two employees, both of whom were talking to customers. As is the custom in this country, I waited (but impatiently - as is the custom for me) within eyesight, but without attempting to catch their attention. I put on my best “I’m here when you’re ready for me, but actually I have very little time as there are 5 people working in my house, I still have to finish packing and also I need to teach in about 2 hours,” face and waited.  And waited.
“We’re a bit busy, as you can see,” the younger man eventually said, when he could get away, “Can you come back later?” I had driven 25 minutes out of my way to be there, so no, that wasn’t an option. “Well, then maybe call the head office, anyway they can help you faster than we can if you don’t want a whole kitchen, but just for parts. Send them those papers you have, and they will order the doors. No problem.”

So I left, and called the main office, and per their instructions, scanned the original order forms, and sent them to an address of info@bruynzeel – or something like that, hoping they’d reach a real person and that real person would reply to me.

About two weeks later, which in Dutch terms means I got help right away, I got a letter back saying that sadly these parts no longer existed, but perhaps I could choose something else similar, and from now on M** will be my ‘person’ and she could help me every step of the way. Overjoyed at having a contact person, I called M up.
“You have to go to the store and check out the color of your cupboard.”
I explained about the unfriendly attitude in the store, but she smiled sweetly (I think, since it was a phone conversation) and assured me that this was the most efficient way to solve my door problem.

Round 2 at the store - I can do this!
At the store, a more friendly employee - a young woman, told me that I may have to order new drawers as well, as the newer doors might not fit on the older kitchens. I, not being a carpenter, nor an interior designer myself, wondered indeed how I would figure this out. After a long ‘overleg’ (discussion) with her colleague, she said that it was possible it would fit after all, so I could just order the doors. “Do you know what that will cost?” I asked, but again, I was referred to the head office, where they know things.

“Hi M,” I said, later that day. “So, what will this cost?”
“I’ll send you an invoice, you’ll see.”
I love blind faith, so after choosing the color and texture most similar to the cabinets I had, I asked M to order these for me.
“No problem, and I will give in the order to the factory and they will process it, and then they will call me when it’s ready and we will set a date for installation. Unless, do you want to install them yourself?”
“No, that’s ok, please let’s set a date.”
That was 6 weeks ago.

Dutch Anyone?
Today, at precisely 8:00 a.m., J from Bruynzeel arrived, and offered me his limp paw. “Welkom, kom binnen,” I said, in my best Dutch.  He looked at me as if I had said something in Islandic and entered, bringing his rather small toolbox, my two cabinet doors and an ipad.
“Hmmm… there’s a problem.” He began. I could feel the hairs on my back stand up.  Yoav, my son, came downstairs, and J immediately addressed him in Dutch, “Shall I explain to you, and you tell your mother what the problem is?”
“No,” I said to him, “You can speak directly to me, I understand Dutch fine.”
“Well, you don’t have the attachment piece, and this kitchen is old. Very old. You should buy a whole new kitchen, it’s better, I think,” he said.

Today's challenge
This week I’m practicing the art of patience. That’s why a lot of nasty things are happening to me. It’s a test. The spirit gods are really on my side, sure, they really are. That’s why they send me challenges daily, to help me practice this new skill. So, I counted to 3 or 4 before I answered him between gritted teeth, as my jaw had just become rather stiff.
“So, what do you suggest?” I asked.
“Well, you have to order a whole new design, but better a new kitchen. Or just a bare cabinet. But in any case, this won’t work as it is.”
I took in another deep breath and counted some more. I didn’t want Yoav to be a witness to my outburst, nor to murder, so I didn’t think about where my biggest, sharpest knives were, and instead, I kept breathing and waited.

The game of "We can't fix it"
I am almost 53. I know this game of ‘We can’t fix it.’ Almost all maintenance guys play it. I get it at the garage, and at work; the IT department has a degree in “This is a bigger problem than it seems.” If I were to venture a guess, I would say it’s a power thing. Man over woman, lower educated over higher educated, skilled person over layman, I daren’t say one culture over another, although this time, this too came into play. J was sure that it was my Dutch at fault, and that’s why we had gotten to the point where he had come all this way ‘for nothing’ and I hadn’t ordered the correct parts.
I was still breathing, letting him take control of where the conversation would go, when I noticed he was making a phone call.
“Hoi, is N*** there? No, she’s not? Oho, at 9:30, what a cushy job she’s got! Wish I had her job! Anyway, well, I’ll call back. You know what, maybe you can help…”
I waited patiently, (now becoming my second nature, although my body was screaming to run and punch and kick very hard in sensitive places), until he finally said, “They have the attachment pieces in the warehouse.”

The coffee ritual
“And so, how long will that take?” I ask cautiously, and since he did come all this way so early in the morning, I add, “Can I get you a cup of coffee?”
“If you have some cooking?” He asks, looking around, missing the scent of percolating coffee from the old style filter coffee pots many houses here still have.
I nod over to our Nespresso machine. “I can make you a cup right away.” 
When I hand him his coffee, black and strong, he sips it and chit chats, asking me what I do for a living. "I teach," I tell him.
"What do you teach?"
And indeed it feels ridiculous and absurd to tell him that I teach self development while at that moment I am so out of control, unable to figure out the right intercultural way to get the job done while not offending anyone along the way.
"So, you teach it in English?" he asks and when I nod, he answers, "I thought so."

The (not) end?
Then he tells me he has no idea how long it will take, but not long because it’s in the warehouse, but the problem is to plan a work time, when he or his colleague can come again. I don’t roll my eyes, but my eyebrows do lift, of their own accord.
“And of course, you need to be home too.”
“Oh, I’m flexible,” I tell him, “I’ll be home whenever you tell me to be.“ 
“They will call you from the head office.” That is all he can say, for sure. Not costs, time, any information whatsoever.
After he leaves, I pick up the phone and call a friend. “Can I fume for a few minutes?” I ask her, and she says, “Sure!”

before - missing door

after - new doors - almost the right color too!
Pretty Important Footnote:
*, **, *** - On the 14th of June, 2016, after I finally did get the cupboards installed, yes that too was a bit of a mess - (will write about that one later), I received an email from Bruynzeel - actually the sender was "zbox-webcare" so I nearly deleted it as spam... and in this email, I was asked "We ask you friendly to remove the names of our employees from the blog, for the preservation of their privacy." And so, the names have now been changed to J, M and N... My apologies if any people at Bruynzeel were upset by my blog.


  1. Hahahaha, sooooo annoying! Don't be patient; its useless! Customer service is dying in the Netherlands, while I would expect this Dutch company - that has been here forever - would not resemble the Ikea so much...
    And its a shame that also kitchens are now completely disposable items when only partially broken... Did you read my 'stuff' blog? xD

  2. Thanks for your comment Rieneke! I just got a response, (they have great social media coverage too), by email - asking me to please remove the names of the employees - for privacy reasons!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.