Ryan is stuck in a bad situation. His father is friends with a the guy who owns a local furniture store, and the store has failed to deliver some custom-made furniture that was fully paid for up front as a goodwill gesture. Now Ryan wants the order canceled, but the owner and his wife are refusing to cooperate.
Here’s his story. What would you do in a case like this?
I have a story about a situation my parents and I find ourselves in with a local business. I bought my first house last year. So my parents wanted to give me a large birthday/house warming gift this year. They offered to buy me a set of handmade bedroom furniture from a local store/builder they knew. I thought this was great. I would get nice furniture that I could use the rest of my life and we would be helping out a locally owned business.
The local business is owned and operated by a husband and wife. My father is friends with the husband. The wife runs the store and the husband runs the mill where they make the furniture. Besides the store they also sell through catalogs (they are contracted through some national companies).
Early this year my father mentioned to his friend that we were planing on making this large purchase in a few months (my birthday). His friend told my father the bad economy had hurt their business so much that they might close the business before our planed date. So we decided to go in early to help them out.
We went to the store March 22nd, and picked out a king sized bed, a large chest of drawers with a cupboard on one side and a bedside table. I requested some modifications to the bed which resulted in a nominal but appropriate bump in price. In the end the total bill was a couple of thousand dollars (a significant sum in my opinion). Usually they have customers pay half up front and half on delivery. We knew they were having trouble so we paid in full. The furniture would be delivered in eight to ten weeks which should have worked out good with my birthday. I provided my name and address as the point of contact for the order.
As time went by we heard nothing from the furniture shop. After eight weeks I called to get an update on the status of our order. I was told the person who knew about that stuff that was out of town. They promised he would call me back. I never received a call back. So I called again the following week (May 21st, week nine) and spoke to a man who told me the furniture would be ready in two weeks. They would call me when it was ready. I was excited to finally be getting my furniture so I started waiting again.
More time went buy and there was no call. Finally three weeks later on June 10 (twelve weeks after we placed the order) the wife called me. She said they would start working on my furniture later in June and would be ready to deliver mid August. Needless to say I was flabbergasted. They had not even started work after twelve weeks! They would deliver in August (over twenty weeks after we placed the order)! This was unacceptable. She gave me a standard list of excuses: unexpected orders came in, low numbers of employees, unwillingness to compromise quality, traditional summer vacation for employees, etc. My response was clear, “We will take a refund.” She accepted this and we ended the conversation.
A couple of hours later (as I was driving) the phone rang and went to voice mail. Listening to the message I hear the woman laying out a different story: actually they had already starting working on my furniture, they had ordered special parts, and they could make delivery in July. So they didn’t want to give us a refund. At this point I was quite upset with the whole situation and called my parents to see what they wanted to do, after all they had paid for the furniture. My father said he would call his friend to get the real story about what is going on. That was on the June 10 and so far the friend has not returned my father’s phone messages.
Now I understand that unexpected things happen. But this is ridiculous. If our order was going to be delayed by so much we should have been contacted months ago. Why was I told “two weeks” on May 21st when they had absolutely no intention of following through on that promise. Clearly since we paid in full there was no incentive for them to complete the order. What we thought would be a nice gesture actually sent our order to the bottom of the pile. My parents payed with a credit card so a charge back might be an option (we are past sixty days, but the product was never delivered as promised). We thought these people were our friends so we don’t want to take the nuclear option if we don’t have to.
Furthermore I don’t see any reason to compromise on our side. If we allow these people to take advantage of us then they will continue to run their business in the same manner. I think we have a civic duty to not roll over. At any point during the originally promised eight to ten weeks they could have called me and explained that they were having issues. But the reality is they made no effort to communicate with until week twelve. That is two seeks after they originally promised to make delivery.
Do you see any good solution to the situation we are in?
They’re probably in a terrible financial situation right now and stuck between increasingly dismal choices, but that doesn’t give them the right to hold your money hostage. What we’re worried about is they may be so focused on their own sinking ship that they’ll inadvertently take your furniture order down with them, and you’ll never see your money or your furniture.
Maybe you and your father should show up in person to meet with the couple and settle on a realistic delivery date, and to make it clear to them that friendship or no, your father will have to initiate a chargeback if that date is missed. It’s purely a money issue at this point—you need the furniture or the cash to buy something else—and hopefully they have enough maturity to understand that your father wasn’t providing them a cash gift.
What do you think? Are we being too nice to the furniture store owners?