Pottery Barn Delivers 2/3 Of Your Couch, Then Gives You 2/3 Of Your Refund

Here’s a situation that sucks. Reader Joshua ordered a slip-covered sectional couch from Pottery Barn. It arrived with only one slipcover. When he called Pottery Barn to ask for the rest of his order, they told him that they’d run out of that fabric and asked if he would he like another color. He agreed and picked a color. They sent another slip-cover section. Not three sections. One section. Joshua called them back. They said they were sorry, but they’d run out of that color…

Here’s a quick summary of why neither I, nor anyone else I can convince, will ever shop at Pottery Barn (or any sister company – looking at you, Williams-Sonoma) ever again. On May 22, we ordered a nice three piece slip-covered sectional, for over $3300.

After the usual six to eight weeks, we received the three frame pieces, and one of the three slipcovers. After another two weeks passed without receiving any more slipcovers, we called Pottery Barn, and were cheerily informed that the remaining portion of our order had been canceled, as Pottery Barn had run out of the fabric that we requested for our slipcover.

So, trying to see things philosophically, we chose another, similar color from our local Pottery Barn, and sat back (on our blanket-covered sofa) to wait. After another 3 to 4 weeks, we received another one (1) slipcover of the three (3) we ordered; this one fit a different piece of the sofa (the corner).

We called Pottery Barn, who helpfully informed us that the remainder of our order had been canceled, as Pottery Barn had run out of the second fabric that we requested, and would we like to pick a third color?

We requested a refund, and scheduled a pickup of our mix-and-match sectional sofa set (one green loveseat, one slightly-different green corner, one even-more-different green blanket-covered loveseat). The pieces were duly picked up, and we were presented with a receipt for the delivery (! – not the pickup – !) of all of the pieces that had previously been delivered (not all of the pieces we had ordered – an important distinction).

Two weeks later (four months to the day from placing the order for the sofa), we receive a refund check for $2300, the value of the pieces that were picked up – not the value of the pieces we paid for, some four months back.

So, Pottery Barn has had our money for four months, we had the use of around 2/3 of a pretty eclectic-looking sectional (one section of which we had to cover with a blanket) for a month or so, much to the amusement of several houseguests, and we eventually got 2/3 of our money back. We haven’t cashed the check yet, as we don’t know whether that hurts our chances of getting the rest of our money. We’ve left messages for the customer service rep at Pottery Barn asking if we could please have the rest of our money back, since after four months, American Express tells me that a charge-back is out of the question (their ‘system’ won’t let them start the procedure after two months). When I point out that we didn’t even receive the sofa for two months after paying for it, the AmEx rep was very sympathetic, and assured me he would be frustrated, too.

In fairness to Pottery Barn, the sofa was at least comfortable, and they have promised us a gift card “for the inconvenience.” Of course, they made that promise in early August, and we’ve so far seen no more sign of a gift card than we have of any competence at Pottery Barn. Odds are, they’ll eventually deliver 2/3 of a gift card (literally, with a chunk missing), and cheerfully inform us that they’ve run out of the plastic from which the gift cards are made, and would we like a rattan one?

This seems like just the sort of thing that could be solved with an EECB (Executive Email Carpet Bomb.) Your situation is obviously not getting the TLC that it needs.

For more information about launching an EECB, click here. Pottery Barn is owned by Williams Sonoma, and you can find a list of their executives here.

If attracting the attention of someone competent doesn’t work, you can always file a small claims lawsuit in order to recover the difference. Here’s some information about small claims court.

(Photo: afagan )

UPDATE: Pottery Barn’s rep says that they were able to speak with Joshua and resolve the issue. Here’s their statement:

We at Williams Sonoma, Inc. recognize that Customer Service is our number one priority. We appreciate the facts being brought to our attention and it is only through feedback, such as this, that we are able to meet our goal of providing world class customer service.

Please accept our sincere appreciation for your advocacy on the part of our consumers.


Edit Your Comment

  1. homerjay says:

    Wait, AMEX doesn’t let you file a chargeback beyond two months?? Isn’t this the kind of service AMEX is supposed to be known for? The “do anything to fix the situation” service that you pay so handsomely for?

    I find that hard to believe. You may want to call them again.

    Or maybe I’m wrong.

  2. bsalamon says:

    had a problem with PB and misleading pictures on their website – the first two CSRs laughed me off. Filed a chargeback, and called again – the third guy laughed with me, and said that PB has got major issues with this sort of stuff. I say, if you want a couch – buy a floor model for half the price, and spend the $100 to get it reupholstered to a fabric you like

  3. nicemarmot617 says:

    I agree, since when is 2 months the chargeback limit for Amex? Wouldn’t the problem be more that they already refunded part of the money rather than the Amex policy?

  4. Whitey Fisk says:

    What a pain–but a very funny story, well told.

  5. B says:

    According to my math, they got 1/3 of a couch for free. What’s the big deal?

    • Anonymous says:

      The big deal is they didn’t keep the couch.

    • macinjosh says:

      Josh sez:

      we receive a refund check for $2300, the value of the pieces that were picked up – not the value of the pieces we paid for

      I think he means the value of the pieces were delivered. That is, the refuns was based on the receipt showing the shipped items not the full order.

    • PølάrβǽЯ says:

      @B: Your math is wrong. They now have NOTHING from the Pottery Barn (Pottery Barn came and picked up all purchased items), but they are still out about $1,000 that Pottery Barn has yet to refund.

    • the Goat says:

      @B: Joshua (the guy in the story) paid for 100% of a couch. Pottery Barn delivered 67% of a couch. Joshua returned 67% of one couch (100% of what was delivered). Pottery Barn refunded 67% of the original payment.

      There should have been a partial refund when pottery barn canceled part of the original order(s).

  6. margotenenbaum says:

    Didn’t they return all of the sofa? What do they have for free?

  7. Joshua N. says:

    I’m Joshua – the guy from the story. We returned everything we received, and kept nothing. Regarding the AmEx rep, he indicated that he would try to begin the chargeback process, but told me the system wouldn’t allow him to do so. He further indicated that within 90 days, we could have been eligible for “purchase assurance,” or something like that (the one they advertise as replacing things that are lost or stolen) – but of course, we were outside the 90 day limit, too.

    • chrisjames says:

      @VincentioEurodork: Hey Joshua. If you haven’t already, then don’t cash that check! Your first instinct to hold on to it was right. If they don’t make good on their gift card promise, then you can still claim you’ve returned the couch and received nothing (reasonable) for it. Before giving or accepting any money, make sure all parties agree first.

      If they’ve already agreed to a gift card, then just keep calling and writing to nag about it until it arrives. A nag can be as useful as an EECB if they’re willing to work with you, but too lazy to keep things moving. Still, EECB’s have been very effective.

    • Mr. Guy says:

      @VincentioEurodork: sorry about your ordeal. HOwever, that was a great line about the Rattan gift card. bravo.

  8. Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

    I think the only thing that could make this story better is a picture of the missmatched couch..

    You would think that with such a large order they would have atleast tried a little harder to make it right.

  9. FritzApe says:

    Ha. I had a similar experience ordering a cabinet from PB. I received 3/4 of my order, and they had run out of the other part and didn’t think they needed to tell us. So after the first call when they said, “It’s still coming” we called back a few days later to see where it was and they said “It was delivered” — but it wasn’t. They were talking about the 3/4 that we had. So then they were going to refund us for that part… only problem was we still paid $50 for shipping for that one part which the CSR wasn’t going to do anything about. It was a little ridiculous but after calling back and back we finally got a CSR that would refund us the shipping for the part we didn’t get and for the item we didn’t get. Which, was all we could get from them. We still had to deal with the 3/4 of cabinet, but it works. So yah, PB doesn’t have their act together at all!

  10. mugsywwiii says:

    Wait I don’t understand –
    The difference between what they ordered and what they received was one slipcover, right? That slipcover costs $1000?

  11. Ass_Cobra says:

    Honestly, no right thinking person should buy major furniture pieces from Pottery Barn unless it’s on a heavy clearance. Pottery Barn has contractors which manufacture the furniture for them. Figure out who these people are and cut out the middle man. While it is true that the manufacturers generally are exclusive for a particular model you can usually get something apropriately close direct. Unless they cut them off (in direct contravention of federal law! ;)), all the furniture on display at a store will have the manufacturers tag somewhere on it so it’s not a mystery to see who is making what.

    • mannyv says:


      Not everyone has the time to go to HighPoint (or China) and buy our furniture direct. It would be a great service that you could provide everyone.

    • chiggers says:

      @Ass_Cobra: You are exactly right. Child Craft Industries supplied (and may still supply) Pottery Barn with much of their nursery items. We went to Child Craft’s annual sale in Salem, Indiana and bought an nice solid wood crib, changing table, and dresser for like 15% of what Pottery Barn retailed them at. They were identical to what was in the Pottery Barn catalog.

  12. dlynch says:

    OP just needs to go make camp in their butt. if you (politely yet firmly) make it clear to them that you’re not going away, they’ll take care of your problems… i promise.

    • homerjay says:

      @VincentioEurodork: While you’re escalating this through PB, you may want to do the same through AMEX. I still think this guy was wrong. Just because their ‘system’ doesn’t let him enter it doesn’t necessarily mean its impossible.

  13. theora55 says:

    Escalate w/ American Express. You used their card; you didn’t receive merchandise as described. You should be reimbursed for shipping. If you don’t get satisfaction, go to small claims court.

    I bought a chair from PB that collapsed under me, (hey, I’m not that fat) and shipped it back to them. Never was able to get money back because they keep crappy records.

  14. chrisexv6 says:

    I wish PB would just go away.

    Wife bought a bed skirt from them, $60.00 for the bed skirt (which was too high to begin with but it matched the overpriced bedding set she already bought from them) then $20.00 to ship it!!

    $20.00 to ship a bed skirt……5″ thick x 8.5″ x 11″. But hey its Pottery Barn so its worth it……right? RIGHT?

  15. Boulderite says:

    I hope Joshua is able to get this fixed. How aggravating this must be for him.

    I will definatly not be making any purchases at Pottery Barn any time soon.

  16. Nick1693 says:

    Not necessarily, my couch came in 3 pieces to (great for bringing it up the stairs).

  17. b612markt says:

    What a hassle! I can sympathize, I have had similar PB experiences. I recently purchased a sofa from Room and Board here in Chicago. When they tried to deliver it, the sofa was TOO BIG to fit through the stairway into my apartment! If it was any other company, I would have been screwed. Fortunately, R&B ROCKS. They took the sofa back to their warehouse, disassembled it and returned in a week and delivered it in 5 pieces and re-assembled it in my living room. AT NO EXTRA COST. I was floored and I’ll definitely be doing business with Room and Board again and again.

    ps – maybe experiences like the OP’s is why Pottery Barn closed their Michigan Avenue store!

    • RoscoePikoTrain says:

      @b612markt: I’ve heard some really great things about Room and Board from a buddy of mine who worked for them delivering furniture. Said they paid really well and treated them great, even the warehouse guys. Nice to hear about a company.

      Unfortunately their furniture is completely out of my price range, but at least some of the revenue is being invested back in the employees.

  18. mariospants says:

    My experience with Pottery Barn has been: if you’re not happy, have them replace it. They will deliver you a new couch (hopefully with covers) and likely NOT pick up the old one (unless you are like me and stupidly prod the delivery guys to take it).

    Frankly, in a day and age where companies are doing all they can just to stay in business, it makes no sense for PB to allow a $3300 sale slip thru their fingers.

  19. mariospants says:

    @bairdwallace: Actually, most sectionals come in… well, “sections”. Often two pieces, sometimes more. In this case, he had 2 end pieces and a central “corner” piece. No chainsaw required.

  20. Whitey Fisk says:

    My only complaint about Pottery Barn is that they send out 47 catalogs every year.

  21. SadSam says:

    Oh dear! I had a similar problem with PB when ordering book cases, TV stand, etc. all the same PB brand but because the book cases were manufactured apart from the TV stand they were different colors although all designed to go together on one wall. I returned the first set, reeceived a second set and had the same problem. I did an Ex e-mail bomb, actually only wrote one e-mail, and received a full credit for all charges including delivery charges and a $500 gift card.

    Good luck!

  22. Ass_Cobra says:

    @VincentioEurodork: @mannyv:

    Manny, you don’t actually have to go to High Point to buy from manufacturers. Furniture.com covers a quite a few manufacturers. Their prices are not as good as you would get from going direct to the show room but are still about 50% of what you pay at Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel et al.

  23. MsAnthropy says:

    Ah, and there we were considering spending a large chunk of cash* on a new couch at Pottery Barn. I don’t think we’ll bother. Thanks for the insight into the quality of their customer service.

    * actually, when I say ‘a large chunk of cash’ I mean ‘a large chunk of AmEx money’ – thanks for that insight into how willing they may be to help in the event you take them up on any of their supposedly wonderful consumer protection promises. Surely that’s what AmEx is for, though, getting your money back for you when the retailer has fucked up and has no interest in un-fucking up? What that CSR told you can’t be right – you need to keep pushing for a chargeback.

  24. sam-i-am says:

    If my math is correct, you just got 1/3 of a couch for free!

  25. DeborahHedgehog says:

    For those complaining about AmEx not doing anything after 60 days, check out the Fair Credit Billing Act, they’re not legally allowed to.

    Small claims is the route for this one.

    • silyolpooh says:


      PB doesn’t actually charge the card until the furniture ships (about 1 week from delivery). They put a pre-authorization prior. So is AmEx’s 60 days from the time the purchase is authorized or actually charged?

  26. silyolpooh says:

    I worked for PB for years, they can and will resolve this with a little prodding. If you ordered it in the store, have them do the work. If you did the order yourself, you will have to deal with it.

    For the eecb, the email format is: first letter last name @ wsgc.com (i.e. President Laura Alber is lalber@wsgc.com). That said, under the lackluster leadership of Ms. Alber, W-S Corporate has become an inhospitable place for customers, so I would exhaust other options first.

    But, like I said, if you ordered it through a store (sounds like you did), they can take care of all of it. Their District Manager can move heaven and earth (and get you a free sofa) if needed, and you will probably find that route faster and more accomodating that the eecb.

    PS – Mitchell-Gold and Bernhardt make much of the upholstry for Pottery Barn (and Crate & Barrel).