$17,000 In Damages After Restoration Hardware Candleholder Melts

Everyone knows not to leave the house with a candle burning. Most people also assume that a candleholder will not melt and release a noxious cloud and cause $17,000+ in damage, especially one sold by such a fancy pants place like Restoration Hardware.

Such is the tale of Amy, presented inside.

An insurance investigation found that a skull-shaped candleholder, that Amy thought was made completely of glass, “contained a form of plastic that created noxious, toxic soot,” that quickly spread throughout her house.

Again, never leave the house with an open flame. But Restoration Hardware should be reprimanded for selling 1) A candle-holding product that is itself a fire hazard 2) a plastic candle-holder designed to deceive the customer by appearing to be made of glass.

Amy says the product name is “Skull candle holder.” It should be recalled. We can’t find it on Restoration Hardware’s website, perhaps it killed off too many customers last year.


Amy writes:

    “Dear Restoration Hardware,

    Approximately 2 years ago we purchased a set of decorative Halloween skull candle holders. We were unaware that they were plastic, as they had the feel, heft and look of glass. We used them each Halloween as part of our seasonal d

    cor, and on Wednesday, October 18th, I took them out of a closet and lit votive candles in two of them.

    The candles burned for about 30 minutes before I ran out to pick my son up from school and make a quick trip to the grocery store to pick up a couple of items. I was gone approximately 30 minutes. When I returned home, my house was on fire. The smoke was so thick I was unable to gain entrance to the house, and immediately called 911. The dispatcher advised me not to return inside, but my boyfriend arrived before the firefighters and was able to put the fire out.”

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    “I have attached several pictures to illustrate the damage incurred. As you can see, the actual fire was minimal. The burn marks you see on the carpet is actually the candleholder melted into it. The other pictures are to show the issue of soot that has pervaded our home.

    The biggest problem is the soot damage. This plastic candleholder created an extremely fine, ashy, greasy soot that has penetrated just about every part of our home (and our pets). Our insurance company has condemned various items such as our microwave, living room sofa set, notebook computer, clothing hung in closets, food, light fixtures, wallpaper, cooking utensils, etc. because of the soot.”

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    “Because of the damage, we have been confined to living in 3 rooms while a team of professional cleaners work through our home. Sometime next week the contractors will arrive and begin to repair and replace the damage to our home. I think it will take about 4-6 weeks before our home is fully livable again. We still don’t know the extent of the damage to our home. Each day brings more news on whether our items are still viable or are condemned. As of today, we have approximately $17,000 worth of damage, and the number will continue to climb.

    I read on your website the following guarantee:

    “General and Furniture Guarantee: Restoration Hardware strives to achieve the highest level of service in our industry. Our goal is to provide our customers with the best possible customer experience. To this point, if we make a mistake, we’ll fix it. You can expect nothing but the best in quality and service.”

    I don’t know what Restoration Hardware can or would or should do in response to this. I feel deceived that there wasn’t any tag or label that stated this was a PLASTIC candleholder. I would never have purchased it if I had known it was NOT glass. Certainly, not making this information available to consumers was a mistake.”

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    “I was once a loyal and enthusiastic shopper at Restoration Hardware. I believed in the quality of your products. I was excited when you opened a store at Providence Place Mall, and even more excited when you opened your Outlet location in Wrentham, MA. However, my admiration and appreciation of Restoration Hardware is gone now. I don’t think I will ever purchase from Restoration Hardware again.

    Sincerely,

    Amy C.”

Comments

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  1. acambras says:

    While I feel for Amy, her “case” is really hurt by the fact that not only did she violate the “never leave a burning candle unattended” rule — she left the HOUSE.

  2. That or it was pulled for sheer tastelessness.

  3. DeeJayQueue says:

    OK, she bought this from at outlet store, which means it was probably a leftover from who knows how many years ago that got banished to the land of dust and shadows.

    If there are any of these left in the world in use, I don’t believe Resto has any obligation to pull it or try to recall it. EZ bake ovens will release toxic fumes as the plastic melts if you leave them on, Plastic toy guns can cause blunt force trauma when you bludgeon your little brother with one, all kinds of things can be dangerous if not lethal when subjected to forces outside their duty range.

    I’m tired of hearing about how companies should recall products or be held liable based on what the stupidest of people might do. How about letting the kids who like to eat marbles die so that they don’t live to have kids of their own?

  4. joehowe64 says:

    But DeejayQueue, the candle-holder was designed to hold a candle. If you bought a gas can that sprung a leak and flooded your garage causing a fire, would you play the “owner fault” card?

  5. AcilletaM says:

    Candleholders hold a candle, not the fire directly.

  6. BruinEric says:

    Wasn’t the Skull itself the international symbol for “warning?”

  7. billhelm says:

    while it’s terrible that this product caused this damange, this is exactly why you don’t leave a candle lit when you leave the house.

  8. Ben Popken says:

    DJ, she didn’t buy it from an outlet store. She was merely happy when Restoration Hardware had opened one.

    Companies have a responsibility to make products that aren’t life-threatening in their reasonably expected normal course of use.

  9. acambras says:

    So is leaving the house for a half an hour with a burning candle unattended “expected normal course of use”? Not in my house. One of her pets could just as easily have knocked over one or more burning candles in that timeframe.

    I’m not saying we should let the manufacturer off the hook for making a bad product, but if she’d been at home, she could have extinguished the candle as soon as she saw (or smelled) that something was awry, and there probably wouldn’t have been $17,000 worth of damage to her home and its contents.

  10. AcilletaM says:

    And this goes beyond the reasonably expected normal course of use.

  11. adamondi says:

    Well, it seems like she is playing the “I thought it was glass because there was nothing on the holder saying that it was plastic” card. However, was there anything on the holder proclaiming that it was glass?

    I feel bad for her, and for the cat in the picture especially since it will be ingesting all of the leftover sooty gunk, but she doesn’t have much of a case against the store. There was no false advertising involved, but there was customer negligence. Good luck getting the store to pay for any of this.

  12. Dremagus says:

    Though she left the candle unattended (which sholud NEVER be done) i’m still going to side with her because the manufacturer is mostly responsible.

    S

  13. Magister says:

    Yeah, I am another one on the don’t blame the store bandwagon. She caused the problem. She is lucky it didn’t get any worse.

    She might Darwin herself by following directions on an old map that doesn’t show the washed out bridge.

  14. Ben Popken says:

    Amy recognizes leaving the house was her fault.

    She’s not trying to get anything out the store, but is open to recompense if they offer it.

    Mainly, she’s just trying to let them know what happenned and voice her displeasure.

  15. Principia says:

    This would be roughly equivalent to suing the manufacturer of pot that caught on fire after one filled it with oil to make popcorn, cranked up the range and then left the house to go run some errand.

    There are two reasons we don’t use candles at all in my house: cat #1 and cat #2. If you want something candle-like to leave unattended, there are plenty of LED-based alternatives – including fake tealights for decorative holders just such as this one.

  16. missdona says:

    And there’s no guarantee that a glass candle holder wont break and cause a fire or wax-related mess.

  17. DeeJayQueue says:

    joehowe64: If I bought a gas can, filled it up full of gas, then took the lid half off and left it propped up on an angle next to an open flame, then left the house with pets inside for half an hour, I don’t think I would write a tersely-worded letter to the maker of the gas can, or the company I bought the gas from when my house burned down.

    Ben: My apologies, I read her mention of the outlet in her letter, and inferred that she had bought the candleholders there.
    However, Leaving a candle burning unattended in a house with pets is well beyond the normal course of use for any candle holder. I see plenty of votive and tea-light holders made from plastic, hell I used to sell them when I worked at BB&B. It’s reasonable to expect a company to take into account some modicum of common sense on the part of the customer, at least above the level at which the law defines “negligence”. If I put a 150 watt lightbulb in a 60watt socket and left I couldn’t blame GE for bringing good things to immolence, and I don’t think this lady can do the same for Resto.

  18. castlecraver says:

    This is just asinine. YOU LEFT A CANDLE BURNING IN YOUR HOUSE AND LEFT! What the HELL do you expect is going to happen? She should count herself lucky the whole damn house didn’t burn down, and put “I’m a moron” in the memo line of that $17K check.

  19. FLConsumer says:

    I’m curious as to how the fire actually started. I don’t use any plastic candleholders, but it’s entirely possible to make a plastic candleholder which won’t catch fire at reasonable temperatures. That said, I had a pair of tealight candleholders from Pier One which somehow managed to cause the entire pool of wax inside the tealight to catch fire. After this happened a few times, I pitched them into the rubbish bin. They were great-looking, but I couldn’t risk having them in my (or anyone else’s) home.

  20. Dremagus says:

    Sory about the double post.

    Though she left the candle unattended (which should NEVER be done) I’m still going to side with her because the candleholder should never have made it to the market; it obviously didn’t meet fire safety regulations.

    A candleholder shouldn’t create that much smoke and soot by itself and anything that operates with fire or any type of heat source should state what it is made of for safety reasons if it can easily be mistaken for another material.

    I would have to say that the manufacturer is 80% responsible and she is 20% responsible because she left the candel unattended.

  21. RulesLawyer says:

    Why are you still living in the house, breathing in melted plastic fumes? You’ve got insurance, right? They should be paying for a rental house while your current residence is unliveable.

    Remember: the insurance company’s obligation is to their shareholders — to pay as little as possible on every claim. If you even get an inkling that they’re jerking you around, hire a public adjuster to represent you.

    By the way: smoke permates wood. If you don’t want to smell the smoke for the rest of your time in the house, either replace the wood, or have it sealed with Kilz paint. Sheet rock’s gotta go, regardless.

  22. Consumer: Don’t leave candles (or any fire) unattended.
    Business: Don’t make candle holders out of materials that will melt.

    If I put a 150 watt lightbulb in a 60watt socket and left I couldn’t blame GE for bringing good things to immolence

    But she didn’t put a 150watt bulb in a 60watt socket. She put a 60watt bulb in a 60watt socket and the socket melted. She left it unattended but it’s not like she did something wrong by putting the candle in the candleholder in the first place.

  23. timmus says:

    One interesting point… I bet this candle came from China (as 99% of knicknacks are). Just speculation of course. But every time I see a product from China, I’m always left wondering about manufacturing standards and materials. Your coffee mug… is it made in China? How can you be sure there’s not lead in the glaze? Yuang Hai Cho whatever factory doesn’t care and won’t ever get sued.

  24. ElizabethD says:

    Wow — a lot of the commenters here are exceptionally harsh! From what I read, Amy is not blaming RH for her foolishness in leaving candles lit while she goes out on an errand. She is questioning the safety of the product itself.

    Presumably, even if Amy had been at home the fire could have started and plenty of noxious fumes and soot have been released before she realized what was happening and extinguished the candles.

    The product was inherently unsafe. Unsafe product plus careless consumer = potential catastrophe. I think Restoration H’ware should share equally in the blame for this.

    Hey, Amy, I live in RI — guess we are neighbors? Wrentham Outlets are da bomb.

  25. olegna says:

    A plastic skull candle holder? Am I the only one that looks at those pics trying to find the bong and the leftover eight-ball in the background?

  26. DeeJayQueue says:

    My point was that if I disobeyed the rules of common sense I couldn’t blame anyone else but me for my ignorance.

    She left a candle burning in her home and is now mad because it caught its holder on fire, which spread noxious soot all over.
    When plastic burns, it generally does this. Google “plastic candle holder” and see the bazillion hits that you get from companies all over the place. Restoration Hardware is hardly the only company selling things that can burn and melt under negligent conditions.

    Companies don’t make products based on what stupid people might do if they have no sense. Otherwise the whole world would be covered in flame-retardant NERF.

    She wants to know what Resto could do about this? They could refund her for the candle holder that melted, and maybe at a company level decide to put a sticker on the remaining plastic candle holders that says “Caution dumbass! If you leave this thing burning unattended it will spew noxious dust all over your house. So Don’t.”

    Nevermind all the wood candle holders out there that make for great kindling should someone be careless enough to leave them burning and go run errands.

  27. While she admits leaving the candle unattended, she doesn’t seem to imply that it is any fault of hers. I don’t think I could in good concious say that Restoration Hardware should be AT ALL responsible. The general attitude of her letter alone makes me feel no sorrow for her.

    Who knows how the fire got started ,whether it was pet related or what. The candle holder was burning into the floor- is that because it was knocked onto the floor?

  28. AcilletaM says:

    My car would do a lot damage if I left that running and unattended, should Toyota recall that too?

    Not for nothing, I would love a world covered in flame-retardant NERF.

  29. mechanismatic says:

    I don’t care about her $17k in damages or whether the store is to blame for carrying a poorly designed product. She left the house with a cat and an open candle. If there were pet protective services, I would vote for them to take her cat away from her. She obviously can’t handle the responsibility necessary to take care of one. I’m going to refrain from speculating about her judgment where her child is involved.

  30. Kornkob says:

    If this consumer is questioning the safety of the item perhaps she needs to add detail on what exactly happened. What we have here is a series of activities prior to the fire, a couple actions during the fire and some descriptions of the aftermath. How specifically this fire started and progressed might expose why she felt the product was at fault instead of poor handling by the consumer.

    I acknowledge that it is possible that there is a fundimental design flaw with the product. However, I’ve not read anything in her story that makes that clear cut. I mean– there’s plastic within an inch of the elements on most (if not all) electric stoves. The presence of plastics near heat doesn’t mean that there WILL be a fire.

    On the other hand, I’ve long wondered why it is consumers don’t demand that all products come with a list of ingredents. Personally, that would be something I’d appreciate.

  31. WindowSeat says:

    $17,000 is an expensive lesson in common sense.

    Also, not being able to distinguish glass from plastic strikes me as a bit dim.

  32. magic8ball says:

    Question: was there any kind of warning on the candle holder that said, for example, “Don’t leave a candle lit in here for more than thirty minutes”? If you buy something that is designed to hold a candle, it’s reasonable to expect it to hold the candle without catching on fire. If the candle holder is not designed to withstand lit-candle-type temperatures, it seems reasonable to expect the manufacturer to warn you about that. If they didn’t, then I’d say they should share the blame.

  33. Gasface says:

    That one picture sure looks a lot like a bong…are you sure she wasn’t high when she let her house catch on fire?

  34. gypsychk says:

    I’ve actually had candle holders (particularly ones designed for holidays) that do say that. I’d guess she’d have mentioned if it did.

    I’ll always feel sympathy for someone whose house burned, no matter who or what was at fault. Still, I began to wonder why this was posted here when I read:

    The candles burned for about 30 minutes before I ran out to pick my son up from school and make a quick trip to the grocery store to pick up a couple of items. I was gone approximately 30 minutes.

    I, for one, can’t manage to either pick my kid up from school or pick up a few things from the store in 30 minutes. And I live footsteps from both school and store.

    Since I’m not interested in a society where every purchased product comes with a comprehensive list of things that constitute unsafe use, I’m going to have to say RH isn’t responsible. But really — I’m sorry this happened, Amy, and am glad your family (including the cat) is safe.

  35. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    So let me get this straight: Restoration Hardware is trying to restore the ’60’s???

    While I agree that making a candle holder out of flammable or semi-flammable material was a contributory factor, the mere fact that it’s a novelty candle holder shaped like a human skull doesn’t exactly scream “UL Listed.”

    However, the real reason that Amy’s house caught on fire was caused by Amy leaving a burning candle unattended for 30 minutes, not by the candle holder.

    Candle fires are such a huge problem that the NFPA even has a 61 page report on them if anyone is really, really bored.

    http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/PDF/Candlereport.pdf

    Judge Wapner awards 75% of the blame to Amy for leaving an unattended candle burning, and 25% for RH for selling cheap plastic Chinese junk.

  36. legotech says:

    Sorry, I have to vote with the Amy’s fault crowd. You screwed up. You left the house with a lit candle burning. You are lucky that you have a house at all, you are lucky that your cat just has dirty feet and possible respiratory problems and not first degree burns all over from burning to death in the fire caused by YOU LEAVING THE HOUSE WITH A CANDLE BURNING.

    Oh did we mention YOU LEFT THE HOUSE while an OPEN flame was actively burning in your house?

    Blame RH all you want for whatever you can think of, but its your fault. If you were home you would have been able to put out the candle when a problem occurred, if you were home you would have been able to save the cat if he knocked over the candle because that could just as easily have happened.

    I was a volunteer firefighter for many years. Blame whomever you please, but then look in the mirror when you are done and see who is at fault.

  37. John Stracke says:

    Why are you still living in the house, breathing in melted plastic fumes? You’ve got insurance, right?

    Yah, but she’s not going to to get a penny, now that she’s admitted in public that the damage is because she left a fire burning unattended.

  38. kostia says:

    Cut out the bemoaning of her bad taste and the drug-related implications because of a skull-shaped candleholder. It’s a Halloween decoration. It’s not a permanent part of the decor. It’s not supposed to be in good taste. I think it’s kind of cool, for what it is. If it were glass.

  39. spamtasticus says:

    My first experience with Restoration Harware was a mixed bag. I ordered a rather expensive rug and dinner table from them to be delivered. I wont get into the details but it was a bit of a pain involving damaged table and pooched deliveries and delays. I was not very happy with them but when I finally got a hold of someone they basically “cleaned it up”. They credited me the full ammount of shipping both items. Mind you, this was over $300 if I recall. And then sent me a very nicely designed and packaged $250 gift certificate on top of that. People and organizations can make mistakes. Specially when they sub contract part of the deal to someone else. The cream rises to the top on how they handle these mistakes and in my book these guys shined.

  40. spamtasticus says:

    PS. of course they sent a new table.

  41. Anonymous says:

    I work for Restoration Hardware, and I remember these cancelholders. They came with a product sheet, which identified the product as being made from both Glass and resin…..the skull was made of resin, and included a removable glass candleholder. It also expressly stated that only tea light candles should be used, and it should never be left unattended.