Cost of Door Samples

      A discussion about whether to give potential customers a sample of your cabinet doors or how to charge for that. November 3, 2011

I spend way too much time tracking down door samples that I lend out. These samples cost me between $28 and $50 each. How do you handle this situation? I really do not want to take a deposit. I was thinking of placing them permanently in my showroom and giving out color blocks and a photo of the door. Any suggestions?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor K:
We provide the customer with a sample door/drawer front (which they pay for in the pricing) after we go under contract, and they sign for it. It serves as a finish, wood and product sample. Being that we do custom, there are so many combinations and colors that we come up with... Our samples contain the most popular, but the customer can come up with whatever they like.

The door we provide will not be the standard 12x17 or 12x15 sample size, but will actually be one of the ones we end up hanging and we use that as a selling tool to increase their confidence in what they will end up with. We joke about making sure they take good care of it when showing it off to their friends and family (planting the seed for farming their warm market). It also serves as a mental marker, that they already have part of their product in hand and don't have to wonder what it will really look like compared to a photo or computer screen.

If you have someone who wants samples prior to purchase, have them pay for a door, and if they balk at paying, tell them you need the ones in the showroom for everyone to view, and that if you lent them out to everyone who wanted a sample, your walls would be pretty bare, not to mention the logistical nightmare in getting them back. Additionally, the way it looks in your light, as opposed to theirs, and not to mention that wood/finish ages, the samples on the wall are a starting point. Assure them that they will get a credit when they sign... Explain the fact that a block of wood, while it does represent finish/color/wood, does not compare to an actual door that they can hold up against the cabinets in their home in their own lighting/environment. While a block of wood in and of itself works fine, it does not show the details of what the customer actually ordered, the fronts, which represent 90% of the visual. It's one more quality control step.

If you haven't closed the deal yet when taking the order for the door, when it is ready, hand deliver it and bring a sales agreement with you.

One last thing... People are not stupid. Do not charge them cost when providing the sample. Charge them with the markup, otherwise you will be having a conversation about how much they perceive you are making.

From contributor O:
We do not have a formal showroom. We have 16 x 20" sample door styles and 8 1/2" x 11" color samples. We give them out all the time, just keep a list with names and numbers of who took them. I usually will not give out samples in a first meeting if I do not have a good feel for the customer. (See pre-qualifying a customer in other posts.)

There is a larger kitchen shop with a mega showroom in town. I have made numerous kitchens to match color samples that customers have had to buy from them. We keep the samples in our showroom with their name painted out in black on the back.

From contributor T:
Contributor O... Really? The reasoning for duplicating another local company's samples is what? That the customer had to pay for the sample? Are these very custom samples or run of the mill?

From contributor J:
Instead of charging for them, why not just get a refundable deposit? Tell them it will be $50, which you will give back once the door is returned?

From contributor K:
If you have a showroom, unless you have multiple samples to hand out, there will be holes on the sample wall while the sample is out and more labor to administer and track it. You would have to hope that a customer coming into a showroom didn't use you because they didn't see the sample they liked because it was out on loan.

From contributor J:
Well then, make a sample door to live permanently in the showroom, and a colour sample that can be loaned out with a deposit. The point of the deposit is people, for the most part, will return it to get their $50 back.

From contributor K:
Of what benefit would it be to a customer to give a $50 deposit for a wood/color sample?
It shows them the color and wood, but not the design, which is why they would want the sample to hold it up in their home. Hard for a homeowner to visualize a door from a wood/color sample as opposed to an actual door.

From contributor J:
In my experience, for the most part, people only want the colour to hold up to decide if they like it. The style they can usually remember. How many samples do you have... 15 door styles, 3 or 4 species, 10 or 15 colours on each? That's an awful lot of full door samples. I usually don't have the exact style/species/colour combination my customer wants, as I would just need way too many sample doors.

I keep about 20 door style samples, and have around 300 8" x 11" colour/species samples. I will loan either out to my customers. I almost never give a sample out, though, until I have a deposit, so I know I will see them again in the near future. I also don't have usually more than 3 customers at any given time, so it usually isn't an issue for me to keep track of.

If I was in the situation where I had multiples going out all the time, I would simply get a deposit for whatever they wanted. If one was missing from the showroom, I would make it clear to future prospects that are kicking tires that a couple samples are out and I can show them a picture from my door supplier's catalog.

From contributor O:
The samples are from the large shop's standard stain/paint colors with fancy names on the back. In my small shop, the fancy names on the back of our approximately 100 color samples (and growing daily) are the formulas for my finisher to make the color. They also have a letter and number code so we can reference them quickly.

The reason customers bring them to me is they have been to the mega showroom, found a color they like, and were then turned off by the mega company. They come to our small shop for the service and quality. We take the sample, make a new match on our 8 1/2 x 11, and everyone is happy.

From the original questioner:
We are trying to not have holes in the showroom where samples should be. We are giving out color samples and we also are trying to give a decent picture (copy) of the door style. We'll see if it works. This way I do not really have to track anything

From contributor K:
That may very well work. Give the customer the option... sample block and picture or the actual door in the color/finish/wood/detail they want. If you sell them on the door, you are one step closer to the sale, as they have money already towards their kitchen. If they buy a door, it cuts down on your actual out of pocket costs (i.e. samples, printing costs, etc.). When I tell a customer that the sample door I order for them will be for their actual cabinets, it removes a barrier to ordering one. Either way, it solves the hole on the wall.

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