When Big Purchases Go Bad

Large Purchase Problems

Last month, I had my first ever brand new furniture delivered. Boy, was I excited! I had shopped for months selecting just the right fabric and frame. I purchased a well-known name brand with a good reputation at a store that also has a good reputation. Sadly, all four pieces of furniture arrived with major defects. I actually tried to send one piece back with the deliverymen, but they refused saying that I should have something to use while a new one was made. I'm now being told by the manufacturer's representative that my only option is to have the furniture repaired. The store isn't backing me up. I did not pay for repaired furniture. I paid for new, top quality furniture. What can I do? I put the deposit (1/4 of the price) on a credit card and have already paid it off. The remaining amount is financed on a 24-month, no interest plan. Is there anything I can do to force them to remake the furniture or refund my money?

Use All Resources

First, possession is 9/10 of the law. Never accept delivery of a product that you are not happy with. Hind-sight...

Use all the resources available to you. Contact your Better Business Bureau. It can take up to six weeks to handle a situation so do this first. Have a solution in mind, like having new furniture made to your specifications as you had expected initially. And, contact your credit card company. Many of them will protect you in fraudulent situations. And, contact the store manager and don't be afraid to be firm. Never throw a fit or yell. Simply be firm with what you want and with your proposed solution. You can always go over his head. Call the area or district manager. Everyone has a boss! Keep going up. Know what you want and don't stop until you get it.
L in Alaska

Contact the Media

Although you may have certain legal rights in your state, when encountering issues with retailers and such, contact your local media. There is a TV News segment on one of our local channels called "On Your Side." They investigate your problem and report the issue on TV. It's amazing how quickly a problem gets resolved when the retailer understands the implications of bad publicity.

Involve the Credit Card Company

I too had a similar problem with a major brand of recliner furniture. Except they had promised I would receive my special order fabric in two months and it turned out to be 6 months. Then when the items finally arrived, they had the wrong color! I did call the credit card company (since they required that I pay in full at time of order) and they credited me for the full amount until the company straightened everything out. Thank goodness I charged it on my Visa! So, I would recommend you call the credit card company and explain your problem to them and hopefully they will be able to help you.

Take Back the Driver's Seat

Contact your consumer advocacy representative in your state's office of the Attorney General. It's amazing how a phone call from that representative can change the situation. It will take about a week, and you'll once again be in the driver's seat.

Be Persistent

I had the same problem with a well-known company and had problems with all of the pieces of my furniture. So, I registered at planetfeedback.com. This site allows you to send letters (and it actually writes them for you) to the president of the company with which you are unhappy. I wrote one to the president of the company from which I purchased my furniture. At first, they would only replace one chair, but I am a very persistent woman. In the end, I ended up getting to pick out a whole new set of furniture after my other furniture was one year old.

This was actually beneficial because we decided we wanted recliners instead of oversized chairs. I also received a personal apology from the president. In addition, I received a $100 credit on the credit card with which I purchased the furniture. I don't know if this would help you, but I would definitely try it.

I have also written letters to a few other well-known companies when I received poor customer service. In return, I have always received a personal apology and I actually have received quite a few gift cards. I hope this helps.

Control the Situation

First, tell the store that you are getting in touch with the Better Business Bureau (there should be one around your area) and tell the manufacturer also. Secondly, mention that you are getting in touch with the Attorney General's Office in your state. The Attorney General will have you fill out a questionnaire and they will follow up on it. Trust me, neither the furniture store nor the manufacturer wants the Attorney General involved. If they are found guilty of unfair practices, they will have to pay hefty fines. Lastly, if you have a consumer affairs reporter in your area, call him/her. The furniture store does not want a reporter questioning their sales practices.

Draft a Letter

This is a standard consumer problem. Basically, either the store or the manufacturer should refund all monies paid, or give you a new item. Draft a long letter, describing how you specifically chose this store and this brand due to their credible business reputation. Include date of purchase, amount of purchase, item purchased, anything the store employee told you, the date of delivery, your discussion with the delivery guy, and all attempts to clear up the problem with the store and the manufacturer. If your attempts were in writing, include a copy of the letters. If your attempts were by phone, document the approximate date, time, conversation, and the names of who you talked to, if known. Attach copies of the receipt and any paperwork you have on the purchase agreement.

Even if you signed off on an agreement saying you were only entitled to a repair, most likely such an agreement was a "contract of adhesion," which means that the agreement was biased in favor of the store and you had no negotiating rights. Such contracts are generally unfair to the consumer, which means they are easy to get around, especially if the product is defective.

Give the store and the manufacturer 30 days to either refund the money paid and break the purchase agreement, or replace the furniture. After that, tell them you will seek legal action, including filing a complaint with your state's Department of Justice (which should have a department that looks into consumer affairs).

Send this letter to the local store, the national headquarters of the store, the national headquarters of the manufacturer, and a local newspaper. The amount in controversy is probably not enough to warrant getting an attorney, and the companies know that. You can still threaten getting an attorney, and see what happens.

File a Complaint

Colleen should write a letter to her credit card company that she used to pay for the furniture. The letter should explain her situation and that she wants a refund or a new set of furniture. Credit card companies will reimburse you (usually after a $50 deductible) if you are getting the shaft from someone.

Then she should call the Better Business Bureau in her area and file a complaint against the furniture company. She can also notify the Federal Trade Commission. It is sometimes helpful to just call the furniture company and talk to the manager, telling him/her that you are going to take this problem to the Federal Trade Commission and Better Business Bureau. Often, the threat will be enough to get some positive action.

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