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  • Lorianna Kastrop

Building an ADU: Part 2 Ordering Finishes

By Lorianna Kastrop, VP/CFO, The Kastrop Group, Inc. Architects

I’m writing this in a state of aggravation, which I will explain below. This is to give you a few tips and warnings for ordering your own finishes to be installed in your ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit). For many people, customizing your space is a joy, not a chore. You can use your own taste, style, imagination, budget, and free time to get just the look you want. There are so many choices available, and most of them can be easily researched on the internet.

You will want to decide on a style, such as modern (which can include Danish Modern and many other choices), or maybe cottage (such as Cape Cod, or beachfront), or even something traditional (Victorian, Georgian). You could go rustic, with a casual farmhouse feel, or trendy with bold colors and angular edges. I tend to like things that have curves and look organic, with colors that feel soft, cozy, and natural such as mossy green, caramel brown, or beige. My husband really likes ocean tones of navy, aqua and greyish blue. Anyway, the choices are endless, so you need to settle on your preferences to narrow it down.

Keep in mind that some colors & finishes are difficult to change later (floors, tiles, countertops, installed fixtures, and appliances). Things that are easy to change are paint, rugs, furnishings, and décor. Make bolder choices on things that are easy to change and use the more neutral choices in your palette on the hard to change items. That way when you want a “new look” you can do it without difficulty.

Usually, if you want to buy your own products your General Contractor is happy to oblige. Your GC may have given an “allowance” in his/her bid for things like paint, flooring, carpeting, lighting fixtures, hardware, and appliances. Contractors have experience ordering these products for on-time delivery at the best price available. But if you don’t want his/her “standard” product you can ask what the “allowance” for that item is and then go out and pick your own version. You will, of course, have to pay any upcharge between the bid amount and the cost for the item you choose. You may be able to get a credit on the construction cost if you get the item for less than the allowance.

Here’s the aggravating story that I want to share. We received a printed advertisement from Costco for flooring. I had been looking at luxury vinyl tile (LVT) for our ADU. Since it is such a small space, it is not recommended to pick a different flooring for each room. I felt that a neutral flooring that will be easy to maintain, reliable and fit every room would be a good idea. LVT comes in a wide variety of nice colors and patterns. The reliability comes from the quality, and of course, you get what you pay for with LVT. Many of the low-cost brands are very thin, typically 3 mm or less. They might not hold up well in high traffic areas. On the other hand, for not too much more money you can get thicker flooring that will be long-lasting. The trick is to look online at lots of vendors. I searched at Wayfair, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Costco. Costco’s ad offered Mohawk 5mm flooring with 1 mm pad that is waterproof. We checked with our GC and he said it was a good price and we should go for it. The ad said, “no limit”, so we could buy enough for the whole ADU. The sale had not started yet, so I put an alert on my calendar.

I understand that when good promotions occur, many contractors buy out all the stock for re-sale if they have storage space available. I wanted to get a jump on the other buyers, so I went online to Costco at 9:00 pm Pacific time to see if the sale started at 12 am Eastern time. Nope, the regular price of $44.99 a case was still posted. I showed my husband the colors available and we made a choice. He offered to wait up until midnight to buy our 35 cases when the promotion of $10/case discount started. That would be a savings of $350 plus tax, and well worth the lost sleep.

When I awoke, I asked if he made the purchase, and indeed he had. But, he said, the price before discount had gone up to $49.99 a case! Basically, Costco had advertised the $10 off, but then jacked up the price by $5, so the actual discount was only $5 per case to $39.99. I was appalled and was sure that Costco would make good on the advertised price. I started an online chat with their customer service at 7:30 am. I explained the situation to the first representative, who couldn’t help me. OK, I asked her to connect me with her supervisor. They couldn’t transfer the “chat” conversation online, but she waited until her supervisor called me on another phone. The supervisor called me, but also was no help. She said that the printed brochure was for items purchased in Costco warehouses only and didn’t apply to online sales. I said, that would be fine except that the online sale price was the same as the warehouse price the day before the sale started, so the $10 off should still apply. They can’t increase the price at the same time the sale starts. It is false advertising. She kept saying that there was nothing she could do, and she said, “I apologize for the inconvenience” multiple times. I asked to speak to her supervisor.

This is when it got weird. I was put on hold for a very long time—over an hour. I left the phone on “speaker mode” and took a shower, got dressed, and went to work. Every few minutes the 1st supervisor would come on the line to see if I were still waiting, and I said, “Yes, I am waiting, thank you”. At around 9:30 am the 1st supervisor said she was “speaking to” her supervisor and explaining the situation. I never spoke to the 2nd supervisor. I explained over and over that I didn’t care about the warehouse price versus the online price. I only cared that they increased the online price the same minute the sale went into effect, which meant that the “$10 discount” was a scam. (By the way, there was no language barrier, everyone I spoke to had excellent English skills and nice manners.)

Finally, I was told that the 2nd supervisor offered a credit, but it was not close to covering the cost differential of the sudden price increase. Take it or leave it. The 2nd supervisor never spoke to me, nor did anyone I spoke to acknowledge my long-term membership or considerable history of purchasing with Costco. I am now very aggravated with Costco, a company I used to believe was reliable. Be forewarned.

A lesson that I have learned from this experience (besides being very suspicious of Costco advertised prices) is that when you do online searches TAKE SCREEN SHOT PHOTOS of the exact item and price. That way if they try to charge you differently, you have some evidence to back up your argument.

Happy ending, though, because the Costco warehouse near us had a very good supply of the item we wanted, and we bought it at the advertised price. We cancelled the online order. Please readers, be sure to check the actual retail store if you have one nearby. They may beat the online price, as counter-intuitive as that may seem. They hire local workers, they pay taxes to your local city or town, and they will usually provide you with better customer service. I know, it’s more difficult than buying online and having items shipped to you. I, too, love convenience. But when you are talking about purchases worth hundreds or thousands of dollars, consider buying locally!

Thanks for reading, and as always, we are Designing for Your Reality.

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