UPDATE January 25, 2010: For nearly four years, this has been my most popular post, so I wanted to add a disclaimer right here. The intent of this post is not to rant against Ashley Furniture as a company or even the local expression of it here in Lafayette. The local Ashley Homestore owner is quite a good person according to all the people I have met who know him. However, I still think this story is worth sharing for two reasons:
- This is one of my first experiences with Lafayette area businesses, and it raises the questions of how a church planter should approach relationships with those businesses that operate with apparently unfair practices.
- This is also a post that addresses the basic question of how Christians should respond when they are wronged.
If you are unsatisfied with this post or offended by it, please write me and interact with me about it or post your own comment, but know that in the end, I simply went along with the demands of the company even though I thought and still think they were unfair.
Here’s the rest of this post as it originally was.
Where do you draw the line between being a loving, self-sacrificial Christian and a pushover who doesn’t mind getting ripped off?
My natural tendency is to make concessions a little more easily than needed probably because I want people to like me, but when I get pushed over the edge, I don’t hesitate to get firm with people. I’ve heard that is a standard characteristic of people who have ADD (which my wife suspects I have).
Here’s my story…
A couple weeks ago (April 15 to be exact), my wife went to Ashley Furniture in Lafayette and decided on a particular set of furniture that she wanted to get for our new house. Now, the pieces in question weren’t her favorite of all that she saw at the different furniture stores in the area, but they were the best of the cheapest, and she signed the paperwork to buy four pieces of furniture for a total cost of $1442.66
Their policy at that store is that all sales are final, there is a non-refundable deposit of 50% due at the time of purchase and the rest is due 48 hours before the stuff is delivered. So, she gave them our credit card, and they charged us $721.33. She signed the invoice and came home.
A couple days later, they left a voice mail message for us saying that they had “undercharged” us by accident and the real price of one of the pieces of furniture was really $70 more than what they wrote on the invoice, and therefore, before we would be able to have the furniture delivered, we would have to pay the new balance of not $721.33, but something like $790.
This is where it gets sticky. The price on the invoice is truly $70 less for the couch than what it should have been. I was feeling that if Jen really wanted the couch and they honestly mischarged us, then I was willing to give them the difference, but Jen felt otherwise. Her position was that she signed a document with the prices and the items listed clearly, and she felt that document was binding. Not to mention, she actually liked some other furniture better, so if they weren’t willing to abide by the signed invoice, it should be considered void and we should get our deposit back. Mostly she was mad because one of the sales agents made it sound like they had already charged us the extra $70 without our authorization.
Ok, so I chose to defend my wife, and I called the store that week. I spoke to the sales agent and later the sales manager and said very simply that if they wanted to uphold the original sales agreement, we would too, but if they weren’t willing to do that, we wanted our money back. They had made the mistake, and so it was their problem to deal with their salesman about not ours. The sales manager wasn’t interested in working with us at all, so I asked to speak with her supervisor.
She told me the supervisor would call me back, and a few days later, we got a voice mail indicating that the supervisor had called back.
Now, I’m not interested in ripping them off. A few weeks ago, I was in Circuit City, and I bought a video game. It said $9.99 on the label, but when I gave it to the lady at the counter, it rang up for $1.99. Surprised, I made sure to double-check the price with the clerk before I left the store. Yesterday, I left a store and noticed that a clerk had mistakenly not charged me for something in my cart, so I went back in and had him ring it up. I’ve heard the story of Abraham Lincoln walking miles to return a penny. I value honesty. But I also know that stores that deal in high ticket items regularly negotiate prices, and if a fellow at the Guitar Center rings me up for $70 less than the list price of a product, I say thank you and don’t sweat it at all.
So today, I called Ashley again, and this time, they were willing to make a deal with me. They offered to give us a different couch (different color, style, etc.) for the same price as what was on the invoice so we wouldn’t have to pay the extra $70 or they would cancel the contract and charge us a 20% restocking fee.
I told the sales manager (the supervisor was unavailable again) that such a deal was unacceptable to us and we either wanted them to abide by the invoice, or return our deposit. She was resistant to either of those options, wouldn’t even acknowledge them as a possibility, and so I clearly said that I was disappointed with them and didn’t want to do business with them ever again. I told her that I didn’t think her store needed to have the negative publicity of a disgruntled customer giving them a bad name, and that I was willing to make use of whatever legal means I had to get my deposit back. I have disputed fraudulent charges on my credit card before, and I know how the system works.
She told me that she would no longer talk with me about it and would only talk with my wife since she was the one who made the purchase. So I had Jen call her back and she told her basically that she needed to pay attention to me, and the last phone call ended with her telling me she would have one of her supervisors call me back.
I have not heard from her supervisor yet, so I have filed a complaint with the Ashley Furniture headquarters in Wisconsin, and I have left a voice mail with the owner of the Lafayette store.
I can fully understand them not wanting to give us a piece of furniture for $70 less than their list price, but if there was a mistake like this, why won’t they give us our deposit back? $1442.66 is a lot of money to give to a store you can’t trust.
What would you do?
I just called Suzanne at the store and she said I only have two options. Either we pay the $70 extra and schedule a time for delivery, or we cancel the order and get our deposit refunded minus about $180 in restocking fees. She says the 20% restocking fee clause is clearly described on the back of the receipt we signed, but she still maintains that their store is not bound to uphold the front of the receipt we signed.
I’m so irritated by the whole mess that I wrote a letter to the editor of the Lafayette Journal and Courier.
Have you ever felt ripped off from a company you thought you could trust? Of course, we all have. In most cases, though, it’s just a simple mistake that is easily settled by a brief conversation with the manager or the sales agent responsible for the transaction.
I’ve been on both sides of the issue before, and I know how important it is for businesses to maintain good faith with their customers.
Recently, though, I’ve lost my faith in Ashley Furniture. Sometimes, it’s the simplest things that cause you to lose your trust in a company.
My wife bought some furniture from the local Ashley Furniture store here in Lafayette, and according to their practices put down a 50% deposit. The remainder would be due when the furniture was ready to be delivered.
It’s now two weeks later, and the furniture is ready to be delivered, but the store is claiming we owe them the 50% plus another $70 because the sales associate who wrote up the original invoice made a mistake on the pricing of one of the items.
Now this is really not that big of a deal, but we don’t have $70 extra dollars to throw around, and we don’t want to buy some of the pieces without getting the whole set, but the store managers won’t void out our order unless we pay them a 20% restocking fee which would amount to about $180.
The manager told me that the 20% restocking fee is clearly described on the back of the pink sheet my wife signed. My problem is that they want us to abide by the back of the signed invoice, but they don’t want to abide by the front of the invoice.
I understand that businesses have policies and products have prices, but when something goes wrong in the process of a transaction, shouldn’t there be some manager somewhere who understands when circumstances require special consideration?
So now, my options are to pay the restocking fee and end up with nothing, pay the extra $70 and get the furniture, or pay a smaller amount and get just the part of the order that was correctly represented on the invoice. Either way, I feel I’m getting ripped off by a company that should care about its customers. Why should we be forced to abide by the back of the signed agreement when the store won’t abide by the front of the same paper?
Give me some feedback here.
Am I completely out of line asking for them to honor the prices on the front of the receipt or void the whole transaction? Should I just pay the $70 and be done with it? Should I pay the $180 restocking fee and move on to a better company? As it stands right now, they are holding on to $721.33 of our money, and I feel I need to do something about it.