Kitchen Cabinet Bids: the Nickel and Dime Game

In my experience the following is a common scenario:

Katy Kitchen is ready for a remodel. She heads out for a day of planning and decision-making.

Stop #1 is a warehouse home-improvement store. Katy spends an hour with a kitchen designer and comes away with a price estimate for her cabinets and counters.

Stop #2 is a small, locally owned kitchen and bath showroom. Katy spends 1-2 hours with a kitchen designer and comes away with a price that's 10% higher than the warehouse store price.

Seems like Katy will get the best deal by going with the big store's offer, right?

Probably Not!

The best strategy for Katy is to continue to work with both stores while she hashes out the fine details of her kitchen. In my experience, the big-and-national players tend to play the nickel-and-dime game with their clients, so the real cost of the kitchen begins to spike upward rapidly once you have become emotionally committed to the low-bidder.

One such strategy is to design a kitchen with very few drawers. This keeps costs down initially, but usually at some point the homeowner will turn their attention to this detail and add 6-10 drawers throughout the kitchen. They will probably be surprised about the surcharges added for the drawers, but at this point they've made a heavy time-and-energy investment in the cabinet/counter provider they've pursued.

The more honest (usually local players with a reputation on the line) designers will bring up the drawer question early in the design. After all, they want the bid to be accurate.

This could be used as a sort of litmus test for the nickel-and-dime tendencies of a designer. Do they ask you about adding drawers when the initial design is developed, or do they avoid any discussion of it?