How Can I Convince Crate & Barrel To Finally Give Me My Furniture?

Reader Brittney is tired of waiting for Crate & Barrel to deliver her couch, but she thinks it may be her fault that she’s got nothing to sit on because she was too nice. Now she’s wondering what she should do:

Love your site, and need some advice (or courage) to get a couch and chair I ordered from Crate & Barrel. I placed the order May 18 and it was supposed to be delivered last Saturday (May 31). I got a call to confirm my date and delivery time. Then I got a call on Saturday that my couch somehow didn’t make it from the warehouse (then why did they confirm delivery?) and could not be delivered that day, but they could deliver my chair. I said not to bother, but to deliver the items together. I didn’t complain at all, said I understand it was not the fault of the person calling, and I think that was my downfall. I was told I would get a phone call on Monday to reschedule a delivery. To be honest, I forgot about it until yesterday (Wednesday). When I called “my rep” (the girl that sold me the sofa and chair,) she acted surprised that a new delivery date had not been set up. I told her I NEEDED the couch and chair this weekend as I have relatives coming to stay with me. She made it seem like that would be nearly impossible, but she would check into it and call me back on my cell phone. Then the power went out across the area, and the Crate & Barrel phone stopped working.

So now it’s Thursday, and I need the couch and chair in 3 days. I feel like if I had been rude and thrown a fit on Saturday that someone would have tried really hard to get my delivery rescheduled. But since I was nice and didn’t press it, that I will get the runaround. I really want and need these furniture pieces, so I wont try to cancel my order…but what should I do now? Should I give my rep another chance, or just call and start bitching right away? What if the phone at the local store still isn’t working; should I call corporate? Thanks for any help!

We find that “bitching” doesn’t get results, but you’re right… you shouldn’t just let people walk all over you either. Thankfully, there’s another way.

We suggest you read this post called “How To Mind Control Customer Service Reps.”

The most important step for you will be this one:

Before you call, outline the situation for yourself, and decide how you want it solved
Write down several options you would be willing to accept, and keep the page in front of you when you call.

Now take a deep breath, find some self-confidence, and give Crate & Barrel corporate a call. Escalate your complaint immediately, you’ve waited around for long enough! Be polite, but firm, and never rude. Don’t ever be afraid to cancel your order if you can’t come to a solution that’s agreeable to you. After all, it’s your money.

Do any commenters have suggestions for Brittney? How do you get good results without being “bitchy”?

(Photo: Jeff Sandquist )

Comments

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  1. SOhp101 says:

    Be nice, but firm.

  2. Darascon says:

    Patience. Maybe a subtle condenscending undertone. I know when I was dealing with CS problems (was the assistant manager at a gamestop) the more people yelled and bitched at me, the less I did and the less I was willing to work with them/bend the rules. Like the article states be firm. Know what you want and what you’ll accept. Don’t stop with level one reps if you’re not satisfied either. Find numbers for the higher levels of CS before starting your calls also. best to hit it in rapid succession while everything is still fresh.

  3. I had a situation with a local retailer of baby furniture that was going out of business (unbeknownst to us when we put a furniture set on layaway); it ended with me showing up with a socket set at their store, disassembling a floor model of the crib we’d pay for, and walking out with it. That was fun.

    I’d say the biggest key is persistence, though; the writer’s mistake wasn’t in being nice but in not contacting the store late Monday or Tuesday. When the rep didn’t get a call Monday the issue got ignored and nothing was done until the call Wednesday; constant contact (pleasant or otherwise) is the easiest way to resolve these situations.

  4. You could also try the old “Well, three days is my deadline, so if there’s no way I can get these pieces by then, I’ll have to buy elsewhere and ask for a return refund from you.” (and be ready to follow through)

    If that doesn’t light a fire, I don’t know what will.

  5. Farquar says:

    concur with Ash. Furniture sales people work on commission. Take that stance with the girl who sold you the couch. She does not want to lose her commission, and her interests and yours will magically align.

  6. Farquar says:

    As a caveat: I’m not certain that CB sales people work on commission.. They are not the typical furniture store. Any insight out there?

  7. MonkeyMonk says:

    I had a similar problem with Crate & Barrel when I ordered a glass top table through them. *Three* times they delivered two tops and no base (and one of those even after they told me it had been personally verified as a base in the warehouse). They claimed there had been a barcode mishap.

    I’m not sure how to recommend getting your items sooner, but you should at least demand a refund of your delivery charges. I was able to negotiate free shipping plus two $50 gift cards for time wasted during the three wrong deliveries.

  8. @Ash78: Good point. You don’t want to cancel the order NOW, because you need the furniture…in three days, though, they’ll have put you in a much different situation and you’ll have no choice. Stress the natural timeline (“I’m not trying to be difficult, but my relatives will have a couch in three days. I’d like it to be your couch, but if that can’t work…”).

  9. slim150 says:

    question for consumerists…

    i’ve only been on this site for about a month+ or so (everyday though). How can you browse past articles.. like how could i have known this ‘How To Mind Control Customer Service Reps.” article even existed?

  10. Sarge1985 says:

    @slim150: That is why they put a link to that particular article in the post.

  11. satoru says:

    Personally this seems like a case of:

    “A lack of planning on your part. does not constitute and emergency on my part”.

    The person forgot about calling the vendor on Monday and Tuesday. How important was it then? The point is they didn’t think it was important enough to bring up in the initial contact, when it might have made a difference.

    That being said, you can try to call back and see what arrangements can be made. Though being Thursday that might be difficult. Not sure if pickup at the warehouse is a possibility as well but might be worth asking.

  12. krispykrink says:

    Personally, I’d give them one more chance to make delivery on or before the day you need it on. And make clear to “her rep” that if it’s not done, you’ll cancel the order/get a charge back or whatever is necessary to get your money back and take your business elsewhere.

  13. Zyzzyva100 says:

    @satoru:
    Not at all. Stop being an ass and blaming the victim. It was supposed to be delivered MORE than a week before it was needed. Just because she didn’t hound them to fix THEIR mistake for 2 days doesn’t mean its her fault. If you have a promised delivery date and they can’t manage to get you the item within a week of their screwup, I would say its time to order from another company (and of course make sure corporate is aware of the bad press they are now getting).

  14. jtheletter says:

    @satoru: “A lack of planning on your part. does not constitute and emergency on my part”.
    Technically turnabout is fair play here. After all, it was C&B’s poor planning that now has this woman in an emergency situation of sorts. Perhaps if any rep had followed through on the Monday callback then you wouldn’t get to blame the customer.

    Why do people think it’s the customer’s job to presciently know all details of a company’s supply chain, customer service, and billing, along with heading off any possible bad scenario? Yet it’s totally OK for a store representative to lie/fail to provide promised service?

    If some rep tells you “I will do X to resolve your situation” then the fault lies squarely with that rep when they fail to provide that resolution. This includes calling back when they say they will.

  15. There are more choices than either being nice or being rude. Although it’s not easy, finding a reasonable balance between being polite, persistent and fair usually works out best.

  16. @jtheletter: I don’t think he’s being an ass in suggesting that the consumer has to continuously follow up on problems; maybe the way he said it is less than ideal, but follow-through is the main way to get something done in situations like this.

    That said, it’s sad that she’d have to do that much follow up work on something like that. It should’ve been handled the first time; sadly, though, it’s up to the consumer to follow up and verify something’s being done.

  17. lowercase says:

    A couple suggestions. First of all, I think calling/e-mailing corporate might be too much too soon. Instead, find the number for the district or regional office. When the District Manager (or whatever) wants something done, it gets done, and probably faster than calling corporate since he’ll know the local contacts (ie, the warehouse, truck dispatchers, etc) better. Going straight to corporate is a little overused around here sometimes, especially since corporate will probably call the district manager to get it done anyway.

    This stems from an almost identical problem I had, although it was Macy’s. Be prepared for the reality that you probably won’t have your chair yet, that’s what happened to me anyway. It could not be physically brought to me in time. However, C&B better be ready to make it right in a hurry- gift cards, free product, waiving of fees, maybe a portion refunded, etc. When Macy’s dropped the ball delivering a mattress, I got gift cards from the Delivery department, the store I bought it from, and a nice set of sheets thrown in to boot.

  18. WilloughbySpit says:

    I previously worked at C&B selling furniture. Here’s the deal:

    -Yes, furniture salespeople ARE on commission (assuming they work in the furniture department on the second floor, housewares employees do not receive commission).

    -If your salesperson is unproductive, ask to speak to the Customer Service Manager (there is one in every store, so you don’t even have to bother calling corporate). They should be able to work some magic for you, and always respond better to customers who are polite and even-tempered (trust me on this one).

    -If the CS manager doesn’t help you, ask for the furniture store manager.

    -If all else fails, call corporate customer service. Believe me, the stores will do everything they can to avoid having you call CCS.

    I’d be shocked if the CS manager doesn’t get this solved for you, but just in case, the other options above will certainly work. C&B works very hard to make sure their service is perfect, so on those rare occasions when something goes awry, they will make sure to correct it. You should also ask for your delivery fee to be refunded or recouped in a shop card. They will do this after delivery has taken place.

    Hope this helps, and good luck with everything Brittney!

  19. Munsoned says:

    Even if the salespersons don’t work on commission, I bet the store manager would still like to see that $$ on his/her sales reports (or, in the reverse, not want to lose that $$ from his/her sales reports). Same result: try to align your interests…

  20. brittypop says:

    Hi all, it’s Brittney. Thanks for your help. I’m just such a chicken when it comes to stuff like this…and have felt pretty vulnerable lately moving to a new city, buying my first place, and now doing a lot of other firsts like buying furniture, etc. My plan is to drive to the store after work (since their phones still aren’t working due to the storms yesterday) and do what I can there. If that doesn’t work, I have the corporate number and am prepared with my outline :) I’ll let you know what happens!

  21. TechnoDestructo says:

    Go into the store with a gun, tell them you’re killing one employee per hour until your couch is delivered.

  22. mthrndr says:

    “my couch somehow didn’t make it from the warehouse.”
    I hate to tell you this, but that basically translates to “we have no idea where your couch is, and are not going to bother to communicate this to the delivery people, who are subcontractors and so not really our responsibility.” I had this problem with Home depot – I had to cancel the order after being straight up lied to by every single person.

  23. jtheletter says:

    @Magnakai Haaskivi: 1) I didn’t refer to satoru as an ‘ass’, that was the poster above my comment: Zyzzyva100.

    2) At what point is it no longer the customer’s fault then? I understand that following up constantly is the only way to ensure a resolution, but people have got to stop blaming the customer once a reasonable amount of effort has been expended on their part. At some point, guess what, it IS the company’s fault for failing to resolve the situation in any of the first 3, 4, 5, etc. calls to customer service.

    Let’s look at this situation:
    C&B failings:
    1) Confirmed delivery on an item they didn’t actually have in hand to deliver.
    2) Failed to deliver items when promised.
    3) Failed to make note to reschedule delivery.
    4) Failed to return 1st call (Monday) about reschedule as promised.
    5) Failed to return second call (Wednesday) as promised.

    Customer failings:
    1) Waited two days after first missed callback to get in touch with C&B again.

    So yeah, I guess it was completely her fault here for not committing 100% of her time and resources to focusing on something that should be a set-and-forget delivery.

  24. Breach says:

    Nice and firm, dont let them off the hook for their incompetence. If anything, just cancel the order if they cant get their act together, or even rent a pickup and go get your furniture yourself if they are local.

  25. @jtheletter: I’m not saying it’s the customer’s FAULT at all. What I’m saying is that at the end of the day not being at fault doesn’t get her relatives a place to sleep; regardless of the blame, she’s the one who needs the couch. It’s totally C&B’s fault that they lost it, but unless she follows up they’ve got her money and probably don’t really care.

    I agree with you; she hasn’t done anything wrong that should cost her a couch.

  26. LogicalOne says:

    OP ordered the furniture a mere 3 weeks ago and expected delivery in two weeks? Wow. Isn’t the industry norm to take months, not weeks to deliver something (not necessarily the goods as purchased by the customer)? I thought everyone “knew” that in the furniture business, delivery promises are made, but not kept at least twice before anything shows up at the customer’s door. Jeeze, kids today. They’ve been spoiled rotten by the fast food industry: pizza in 3o minutes, Big Macs in three minutes…

    Gee kid, if you wanted your furniture by May 31st, you should have ordered it in February. Your only hope now is to pray some gypsy trucker with furniture in his trailer pulls into your neighborhood and sets up shop on the street. Maybe he’ll have a couch you can buy, cash-and-carry. (Bring some friends to haul it down the street at up to your apartment.)

  27. rekoil says:

    @LogicalOne: It takes months when the furniture in question is custom-ordered. C&B does enough volume that they generally are able to manufacture and warehouse their items, which shortens delivery time.

    At any rate, why is it acceptable to you that the industry (as everyone supposedly “knows”) misses delivery dates so consistently? And for the record, I’ve ordered four major pieces of furniture in the past year, from three different retailers, and only one was delivered late (by about a week).

  28. Its been a while, but I use to work as a “catalog call center associate” for Crate Und Barrel in their Naperville, IL headquarters/warehouse/distribution center. The only impression I ever got from the inside, is that they are a very customer service oriented company. For instance, every product in the catalog, from beverage carafes to king size beds, were on display in the catalog call center so that we could walk over and describe it to a customer. I would be very surprised to learn in the last five years since I left that their customer service went to the crapper.

    From what I understand, C&B doesn’t actually manufacture the products they sell, they get them from independent vendors all over the world. In terms of furniture, big stuff like a couch is sent FOB via independent contracted trucking companies. Technically, its still under C&B’s responsibility until it reaches your doorstep, so they should have some answers.

  29. zfisher323 says:

    Hi Brittney,
    I don’t know if this will help or not, but I am a C&B associate and could give you some pointers on how to go about resolving the issue. You shouldn’t feel bad for being anxious and disappointed about not receiving your delivery on time. When you make such an investment, you would expect to hold the store to its word! Unfortunately (and I don’t mean to make excuses, just trying to maybe shed some light on the issue) sometimes things happen that are out of the hands of sales associates. Trucks break down, weather and storms cause delays, once at my store, on the day that a driver left the warehouse, his wife went into labor and he had to make a 2 day detour to be present for the delivery!
    Of course I have no idea why this particular truck or your particular order didn’t make it to it’s destination on time. And I also can’t comment on any personal service you received from associates. I would always recommend that you contact the store and ask for the Customer Service Manager or the Store Manager. Nice, understanding, but persistent is the way to go. However, it sounds like your store is having some power issues due to weather? I actually think I know which store this is….sounds crazy but I was just with that store manager today at a meeting, and she said the electricians thought they might not get power back until Saturday! That being said, your best bet now would actually be to call Corporate Customer Service. If they can’t help you directly, they will certainly be able to put you in touch with the right person. Call first thing in the morning if you haven’t already, the longer you wait the longer it will take!

  30. @brittypop: Hi all, it’s Brittney. Thanks for your help. I’m just such a chicken when it comes to stuff like this…and have felt pretty vulnerable lately moving to a new city, buying my first place, and now doing a lot of other firsts like buying furniture, etc. My plan is to drive to the store after work (since their phones still aren’t working due to the storms yesterday) and do what I can there. If that doesn’t work, I have the corporate number and am prepared with my outline :) I’ll let you know what happens!

    If you go to the store and get no satisfaction, call Corporate while standing in the store.

  31. LogicalOne says:

    @rekoil: Today’s word of the day: sarcasm. Look it up!

  32. Me. says:

    I always like the magic sentence, “I know this isn’t /your/ mistake, but I need you to fix this for me.”

  33. FrankReality says:

    What I do is be polite and immediately after I firmly ask for their help, I tell them explicitly what I need done to make me a satisfied customer. After that, I am polite, but also insistent and persistent.

    Save any escalation or threats for later if you need them.

  34. pigeonpenelope says:

    you can still be nice and be firm and assertive. if that isn’t working, ask for the manager. finally if that doesn’t work, say since they can’t deliver it when you need it then you want to return it. i worked at Pier 1 for four years, and with that threat, we were willing to deliver it ourselves over returning that sale.

  35. pigeonpenelope says:

    @Me.: that’s also a good strategy.

    never be rude or a jerk. it makes people not want to help you. i was always more willing to bend over backwards for a nice person who could negotiate a little give then for a rude customer who had none.

  36. Sunshine69 says:

    the furniture from Pottery Barn is overpriced crap. They spend all their money on catalog marketing and very little on actually manufacturing the items.

  37. Michaelbstark says:

    SHOULD YOU BUY FURNITURE ONLINE?

    After my divorce, it seems that I got custody of the dozens of furniture catalogs that weekly stuffed my P.O. box and caused all those dreadful, impossible, champagne dreams. For some reason, My ex got charge of the Newsweeks and the Victoria Secrets ads. Totally unfair.

    Now, that I have recovered from the financial loss of splitsville and have bought a house, I was left with the daunting task of furnishing it. Ikea – the haven for the recently divorced and newly graduated, was not an option. Like Lulu singing in “To Sir With Love”, those schoolboy days of milk crates and socket-wrench-easily-assembled furniture were long gone. Those damned Horchow and Neiman Marcus catalogs got my tastes way too snobby.

    Coming from a wasteful, extravagant, somewhat wealthy background, the thought of buying luxury furniture at a discount seemed like an oxymoron. Wasn’t I supposed to pay way too much for it? But, even the likes of Donald Trump secretly seek out bargains. Who wouldn’t want two Ralph Lauren Animal Skin chairs for the price of one?

    But how could I afford Horchow on a Hardy’s budget? The answer was right in front of me – the internet! But, is it wise to buy furniture online?

    Would this be wisdom? Shouldn’t my but try out every occasional chair? Shouldn’t I try out laying out three works of assignments on a dining room table? Well, just like in buying clothes, do your research first – and then hit the net!

    Many sites have style guides and room planners. This will help you with the mathematics and creativity. As I am now womenless, I was hoping for some hormonal help with decorating ideas. Cad Tools, not as sexy, but just as helpful.

    If you’re not in a rush, hold out for specials. Make sure to get on every site’s mailing list. You may get some junk emails, but you may land a nice closeout! Also, Ebay actually has hundred of reputable vendors selling quality furniture. Luxuryfurniturediscounts is a good one to check on the Bay.

    Those catalog and Brick and Mortar stores like Conrads, Crate And Barrel, Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn all have excellent websites. But, remember, you’re paying for their real estate and printing costs even online.

    Do make sure that the piece you’re considering is the same in the photo without the window dressing. Make sure about fabrics as many come ready for the customer’s own upholstery.

    Having some friends in the industry also helps. If you don’t have a relative in North Carolina or a decorator friend, I found a company called
    Thomaston Furniture Designs (www.thomastonfurnituredesigns.com) that gets the same high end, dream furniture that the big catalogs gets. They even do custom work so if you’re looking for a Last Supper Gun Rack or a replica of the Resolute desk, you need to check them out. Of all the sites I have checked out, they have the best bargains.

    Finally, every Internet furniture site has a phone number. Don’t be afraid to call and ask questions. Do diligence when it comes to shipping and returns. White Glove Treatment – where the shipping company unpacks the items and places it for you – may just be the way to go so headaches don’t arise later.

  38. GwynethStructus says:

    FYI-As a Customer Service rep, I can assure you that throwing a fit
    does nothing but get you the worst service ever. It will be quick, to
    get rid of you, but it will be bad. Is it worth it? Be nice. Usually
    the problem is that we have limited resources to help you. Go to
    Corporate and help us out. We want to help you.