Knoll 'Authorized Dealer' Tries To Charge 300% Restocking Fee

Ethan emailed us to ask if we’d ever heard of a company charging a 300% restocking fee, and guess what, we hadn’t. Who does that? The authorized dealer Ethan is working with ordered the wrong parts for his Knoll Life chair, and now he’s trying to sidle his way out of treating Ethan fairly. We called Knoll and found out their real return policy, and it’s nothing like what the dealer is telling Ethan.

The sales rep we spoke to at Knoll started laughing when we asked if the 300% restocking fee was real. He said Knoll charged nothing of the kind. Knoll’s policy, which is also available through their website (warning: pdf), is this:

  • If the item can be returned, there’s a 25% restocking fee;
  • If the item can’t be resold (due to unique fabric or other customizations), it can’t be returned at all.

The Knoll sales rep speculated that the dealer is just trying to discourage Ethan from returning the items, which is what we think, too. That’s unfortunate because according to Ethan’s account, it was the dealer’s mistake to begin with:

To make a long story short, I needed a set of replacement arms for a Knoll Life office chair. If you’re unfamiliar, this is a pretty high-end office / task chair. When I contacted Knoll, I found that I could not order parts directly from them — I must go through a certified dealer. After working with a dealer, I decided that I would purchase another high performance arm replacement set to the tune of $270.

Unfortunately there was a misinterpretation of my needs and an extra set of arm pads, that I didn’t need, was ordered with the arms. I thought when I stated I needed a set of arms with pads that I would get one set of pads to go with the arms, while the dealer thought that that meant I wanted an additional set of pads.

I didn’t know any better when I saw the order, and assumed that the pads that appeared as a separate invoice item at a cost of $30 per pad, were a separate purchase from the arms themselves. This seemed like a reasonable assumption given the hardware used to attach the arms to the chair body were also a separate line item on the invoice.

Instead, the arms came with pads attached. When I received the order, I immediately contacted the dealer I ordered through to figure out how to return these unnecessary arm pads. I was told that Knoll has a 300% restocking fee — that’s right, THREE-HUNDRED PERCENT — no typo. The dealer suggested I hold on to the pads in case the ones I have get scuffed over time. The problem with that, is that these other arm pads are not designed for my arms — they’re too small, and wouldn’t fit. So it appears I’m now stuck with a set of arm pads that cost $60 that I have no use for. It’s just wasteful, and I don’t think I’ll have any luck trying to sell them on eBay.

The dealer informed me that Knoll custom manufactures products and has this policy in place so that they never have to accept returns. I find this policy draconian and inherently ridiculous — and I can’t believe their dealer base lets them get away with this. I can understand a restocking fee on custom upholstered / designed orders from furniture manufacturers — but this set of arm pads is essentially interchangeable with any set of arms that it connects to (I assumed it connects to either the fixed arms or height adjustable arms). There have to be hundreds of thousands of these chairs out in the wild, so I’m sure Knoll is not taking any sort of loss on a return.

The dealer, who has remained helpful despite the problem we’re having here, is going to check and see if Knoll will make an exception on this policy. But I wanted to see if the Consumerist has ever heard of such an exorbitant restocking fee policy, or if there are legal limits to such a policy?

I haven’t yet contacted customer service, but I will if the dealers inquiry fails. I figure it’s my duty to give this horrible policy some due negative press in any event.

We agree in principle, but in this case it’s entirely the dealer’s fault. He should have been knowledgeable enough, as a Knoll dealer, to tell you the things you’d need to know to avoid this mistake, namely:

1. That the replacement arms come with cushions;
2. That the extra cushions would never fit your chair in the first place.

Bottom line: the dealer may seem like a nice guy, but we think he’s lying to you to cover up his mistake.

Call Knoll’s Customer Service at 1-800-343-5665 to determine what you need to do to return the items. You might also want to file a complaint with Knoll against this dealer, first for screwing up your order, and then for lying to you about the return policy.

Update: As we were publishing this post, a new email came in from Ethan.

Just a quick follow-up.

The dealer just got back to me and said that Knoll will take the arm pads back for a 25% restock fee. Apparently some parts fall under a different policy than the larger, custom projects.

It’s still not an ‘ideal’ situation, but I’m not willing to fight it out over $15, even if I don’t feel this was really my fault.

I still think the 300% restock fee on custom orders is ridiculous, so feel free to run with that part of the story if you want!

There is no 300% restock fee. Either the dealer is misleading you, or he’s confused.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.