Furniture Store Deducts 20% From Refund For Furniture They Never Delivered

If a store sells you something, and then fails to deliver the product, you should be entitled to a full refund, right? Not so at Furniture Bargains of Calumet City, IL. There, even when they don’t give you the furniture you ordered at all, they’ll take 20% off your refund, at “the manager’s discretion.” Which I guess is just a fancy way of saying, “we feel like robbing you today and the manager said it’s ok.” AJ’s story, inside…

I was recently in the market to purchase furniture for my new home. I looked at several places and saw some really nice things; however, on April 13, 2008 I settled on a lovely chocolate-brown sofa & loveseat set for $600 from Furniture Bargains, located at 1785 River Oaks Drive, Calumet City, IL 60409. The total package, including taxes and delivery, came to a total of $717.91 (with a 10% down-payment).

So since this was such a great deal, at the time, I decided to take advantage of their layaway plan of 30, 60, or 90 days. They also had at least 7 sets available for delivery. Great deal, right? WRONG!! I made my initial 10% down-payment of $72 and opted for a 60 day plan. On May 17, 2008, I made another payment of $300 and then I made another payment of $100 on June, 20, 2008 as well as extended my layaway plan for another 30 days. This brought my total paid thus far to $472.00.

So I called the furniture store on Monday, July 7, 2008, informing them that I was coming in later that evening to make a my last payment (well before my deadline) and inquired as to the date my furniture will be delivered. This is where the problem began. I was informed that my set was no longer available (meaning they were all gone) and when I inquired about how the situation could be resolved, the sales representative told me that I could wait another 4-6 weeks for another set. I feel that I and should not have to wait that long for a company. So, I visited the store later that same Monday and spoke with the same salesman whom I had spoken with earlier on the phone. He was the same individual who helped me set up the layaway plan for me almost three months ago. I asked him what could be done about the problem. Not only did he try to sell me something far cheaper than my original set, but when I mentioned that I did not like anything else within the store and I would prefer a refund because I only wanted that style, I was told that there are no refunds on layaways and was provided with no documentation showing that there were no refunds on layaways for items that are all sold out. He informed me that I could wait to speak with his manager who would not be in until two days later Wednesday, July 9, 2008.

Wednesday morning I called Furniture Bargains to speak with the manager. I was only able to briefly mention my situation to her (because she quickly ended our conversation) and explained that I was informed that there were no more furniture sets like the one I purchased. She mentioned that she was “suppose” to call me before she left for vacation to ask about the set but I never received the call. However, she did mention that she would look into the error and if she couldn’t find any more she would give me a full refund and call me back at 3pm that day. I didn’t speak with the manager again until 6:30pm that evening (after I had to call her numerous times throughout the day) and at this time she mentioned that the managers have a different inventory listing that their sales reps and that she “now” has one available for me. So, when I tried to ask about the quality and/or where the set was coming from, she rudely told me I could get a refund and hung up the phone. I called back to let her know that I would be in on Friday of the same week to get my refund and she informed me that “they” may charge me a cancellation fee.

On Friday afternoon, I visited the store a second time hoping to retrieve my refund. This time I was informed that I will be able to receive my refund; however, I will have to accept a 20% cut from my total amount paid. When I asked her about the “they” people and how was it determined that I was to receive a 20% cut, she then mentioned that that decision was made upon the “manager’s discretion”. Again she was not able to provide me with valid documentation showing either my signature for the non-refund or for the refund with a 20% fee. In addition, she abruptly stopped talking to me and began talking to another customer without resolving my problem. The store’s overall customer service is very poor and they disregard customers in a highly unethical manner.

Unbeknownst to her, I inquired about my set from another manager at another Furniture Bargains location and was also informed that there were no more sets available within any of the stores and/or warehouse (there was one within the system but it was someone else’s paid in full waiting to be delivered). Furniture Bargains has 10 store locations and they all operate out of 1 warehouse.

In the end I have no furniture, no money, and no where else to turn. No other location will assist me because I originally purchased at the River Oaks location and they have the authority to give me the refund or not.

If you could very much help with this problem, I would be very thankful. All I would like is my refund.

Thank you,

AJ

Assuming there is no clause in the layaway contract allowing for Furniture Bargains to steal 20% from AJ, I’m thinking small claims court is the best route. You gotta watch your ass when buying furniture, remember how that furniture industry insider described it as a “secret cabal?”

(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. nightshade74 says:

    //obligatory

  2. Erwos says:

    Small claims court.

  3. SkokieGuy says:

    If you are making a layaway purchase, one of the 7 sets in-stock at the time of your sale was yours. They hold the set in exchange for your deposit and additional payments.

    Why not the Illinois Attorney General? [www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov]

    Your local Pioneer Press newspaper, the Sun Times “Fixer” column, and perhaps City Hall might all want to hear about how this company does business.

  4. jedsa says:

    I’m not a licensed attorney, I’m certainly not your attorney, I am not giving you legal advice.

    Disclaimer out of the way, I’d get in touch with the state Attorney General’s office, and I’d also contact the local police. Sounds like fraud/theft by deception/some other such crime to me.

  5. jedsa says:

    Or rather, I should be a little more specific and say that it sounds like there is POTENTIAL for it to be considered a crime. Depends on all of the circumstances and lot more details than what you’ve given us.

  6. Derv says:

    I’m sure that as soon as you smack them with a small claims suit they will cough up. That being said, this is why you pay with a credit card for big purchases. Next time, you should skip the whole layaway thing too; there are too many things that can screw you over.

    Of course, you could always pull one of these: [consumerist.com]

  7. MissTicklebritches says:

    Try the local news. I believe the Sun Times and Tribune have “problem solver” columnists. Also, leave a review on Yelp detailing exactly what happened.

  8. bravo369 says:

    i immediately thought small claims court also. I wonder if he can accept the refund – 20% and then sue for the 20% or are you shooting yourself in the foot for accepting ‘something’. i would probably say don’t accept anything if you are going to take it to court because any judge will give you the total amount. the business either needs to provide the product or issue a full refund. it shouldn’t be that hard.

  9. vladthepaler says:

    I thought layaway meant the store held onto the item for you until you had paid for it, in which case they should have put one aside for him & there shouldn’t be this problem of it being out of stock? I donno, maybe I’m wrong.

    • Paperclippe says:

      @vladthepaler: I know that’s what they do at department stores – you can actually watch them take it into the back, put it in a box and slap a label with your name on it onto the box. I make sure they do this every time I lay something away.

  10. coan_net says:

    I’ve never used layaway for anything, but I know if a store like Wal-Mart (when our local store had layaway), they would take the item and store it until it was paid for and then release it.

    I would think the Furniture store would be the same way. If they “lost” or sold what was on layaway, then at the MINIMUM they should refund what was already paid for. This is common sense to me.

    I hope this guy fights for his money – that would make me mad. I would fight for my money, and once I got it – let everyone know in the local newspapers & TV about the shaddy practice they have at that furniture store.

  11. whartonmba says:

    Tell the manager IF he doesn’t give you the full refund, you will take your complain to the small claim court and also report this incident to BBB, see how he reacts.

  12. jaya9581 says:

    Make sure you save everything and do not under any circumstances accept a partial refund. Go down and file a small claims case, suing only for the money you are actually out (time taken off work and undocumented transportation costs are generally not counted), court costs, and pre-judgment statutory interest. Court clerks can probably help you with this.

    What you technically have is a breech of contract. You had a contract to give them X amount of money, and in return they were to give you X product. As you lived up to your end of the bargain (hope you have your receipts!) and they failed to provide you with the item in a reasonable time frame, they are now required to refund your money in full. It doesn’t matter that they now want to give you an alternate item – that wasn’t in your contract. Your contract was X for X, not X for X or maybe Y.

  13. iMike says:

    a) Don’t mess with skeevy stores
    b) Don’t use layaway
    c) Don’t buy anything you have even a remote chance of returning with cash
    d) Write a shorter description of your problem when submitting to Consumerist

    Good luck getting your full refund.

  14. iMike says:

    PS. If you sue for “breech” of contract you’ll immediately lose any credibility. It’s “breach.”

    And it’s likely there’s some layaway policy to which you agreed. Without seeing that, no one can give you accurate advice.

  15. SacraBos says:

    IANAL, but I think you could successfully argue a criminal complaint, like conversion, larceny and/or fraud. You bought a sofa/loveseat on layaway, meaning it’s yours as long as you continue to make payments of the layaway plan (that’s what the common definition of “lay away” is). When you completed the last payment, they are obligated to provide you with your property. They sold YOUR sofa, (i.e. they were paid twice, once by you, again by someone else) and are keeping all the money. The 20% is pure theft as far as I’m concerned.

    Look at it this way, you buy a sofa/loveseat with cash. But you need go get a truck to pick it up. You come back, and they don’t have it, it was sold to someone else. They don’t have anymore, but will only offer to give you 80% of your money back. Haven’t they just stolen your property and sold it to someone else?

    The only difference in your case is that you bought cash over 3 months.

    Small claims. You’ll win. I’ll give you a 99.9% change that you won’t even see the Judge.

  16. msbask says:

    @nightshade74: The single best Seinfeld episode ever. My family refers to this episode *all the time* when crap like this invariably happens.

    That aside… per the OP, he did not make the last payment because he called to tell them he was coming in to make the payment and that’s when they told him they didn’t have his furniture.

    I really feel for you, OP. I would also echo those who suggested NEVER paying with a credit card and NEVER using layaway.

  17. jpdanzig says:

    What a rip-off. Bravo to the Consumerist for running this story. It appears that the ONLY way to protect yourself when you’re shopping these days is to follow blogs like this that identify crappy companies. The sad thing is, it seems as if crappy companies are outnumbering good ones by at least two to one, and it’s probably more like three or four to one… After encountering this story about Furniture Bargains, I can’t imagine that any Consumerist reader would ever consider shopping there. Caveat emptor, indeed!

  18. AgentTuttle says:

    I would point out to them as a warning that I have a policy: If I get ripped off, I may, at my discretion destroy any items in the store up to 100% of the ripped off value.

    Joking of course, but I would probably have actually said it. We’ve got to stand up for ourselves. If they refuse to respect the customer, maybe they should FEAR us.

    AT&T store and I just bought a new phone.

    ME: What should I do with the old phone?

    THEM: It’s yours, do whatever you want with it.

    I put in on their floor and stomped it into a million little bits. I got the fear, respect and a free car charger. They thought it was awesome. I guess they hate AT&T too.

    Years later I came back to the same store and it was time for a new phone.

    THEM: How can I help you?

    ME: I need a new phone.

    THEM: What kind do you have right now?

    ME: I think it was a Nokia. (I then brought out a million tiny pieces of a phone from my pocket)

    THEM: You’re that guy!

    He shook my hand and gave me great service.

  19. Average_Joe says:

    Can they still order you the items so you will have them in 4-6 weeks? That seems like the easiest option when you have no easy way to get your money back. If they cannot order more, then take legal actions to get a full refund.

  20. howie_in_az says:

    When the manager turned and started talking to another customer, OP should’ve started talking to that customer as well, asking if they had paid for things that weren’t delivered, etc etc etc. My mother did this once after buying a defective dishwasher, going around to various customers in the store and asking if they, too, were aware of some random restocking fee for broken merchandise. No more than five minutes later she got a complete refund and numerous apologies from the store manager. It helped that a few customers agreed that she was being ripped off and simply walked out of the store.

    Of course, you run the risk of the manager calling the cops on you.

  21. ObtuseGoose says:

    I just posted a link to this article on Yelp. Furniture Bargains is stealing from AJ. They should not be allowed to get away with this.

  22. jaya9581 says:

    @iMike: That was an excellent spelling/typo correction that is much appreciated as I had only just woken up when I typed it; however, perhaps try to phrase it a bit less… I’ll say snarky, next time.

    Now that I’m more awake, it also occurs to me to remind OP to keep fighting if they truly do not mention anywhere a restocking fee, particularly if it’s not on his receipts – that too denotes a contract, and if they don’t have you agreeing to it, you can’t be held to it.

  23. Never, ever buy discount furniture.

    I know the alternatives are very expensive, but in the end it’ll be worth it.

    I made the mistake of buying from Levitz a few years back. I had no problems with the money, but the furniture is incredibly bad quality and the delivery people who came by didn’t have tools to assemble them correctly, which I only noticed weeks later when problems from the bad assembly started to surface.

    Never again.

  24. vdragonmpc says:

    Hey dont feel bad. I purchased a lovely sectional sofa from Bassett Furniture in Richmond Virginia.

    Those jokers took MONTHS to create and deliver a damaged sectional! I was not home when it was delivered and sat on the end recliner. It would not recline correctly I then noticed that the lumbar cushion had not been sewn on. The ‘uncrushable’ hideaway bed cushions are flat and are extremely uncomfortable. But thats ok! The other recliner had the handle pop off (plastic) and no longer reclines.

    This does not even go into the fun of the material being a different color on the replacement part that it took over 15 months to get delivered!!! I had to actually email the main office to get anything done. The store manager was clueless and worthless. He actually hoped I would forget about it. I even had an extended fabric warranty (they voided the extended warranty as they replaced the sectional that was delivered damaged!!) it did no good.

    We know how the end recliner was damaged as I was home to watch the yokels bring it in the door and stopped the second one from getting damaged. They were lifting it from the unsupported back (the part that rides the track and reclines) not the bottom.

    It gets even better! They had no plans to take the damaged and VERY heavy recliner part back! They left it in my freakin driveway!!!! It was there for several days until I informed the manager that if I moved it, I would be delivering it through the front of the store at a high rate of speed. You see the recliner handle broke off AGAIN!

    So the moral of the story is that 2500$ or so for a couch gets you just as much of nothing as 470$.

    I consider Bassett Basta**s direct.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Please be aware that almost all furniture stores offer “Layaway” but it is misunderstood by many consumers. The term layaway is not synonymous with ” In storage”. What the business is actually doing is putting the original purchase price in layaway. This means that should the price increase or a sale end, you are guaranteed to receive the original or sale price. The store cannot guarantee that the product ordered will be in stock whenever the customer decides to take delivery but the store does guarantee to supply the customer with the exact product within a reasonable time-frame determined by the manufacturer. It is clearly marked on the customer sales receipt and posted clearly on the wall of the sales desk that ” Layaways are Non-Refundable”. The reason for this is that a purchase order has already been issued to the manufacturer on the customers behalf. The manufacturer has placed the product into production and most times it cannot be cancelled by the store.
    This means that a product which has been discontinued by the store will be shipped and will have to placed in the showroom as a floor sample and sold at a discount of approximately 20% which is why a layaway carries a 20% cancellation fee.
    If the customer was treated improperly by the store manager then an apology is definitely in order but the store policy itself should not reflect negatively nor be considered unethical.