Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Update on the Furniture Debacle

Well, I can't give you a resolution, but I can let you know where we're at for now. I'd refer you to the BBB website, but my report has still not been published there. I would still encourage you to check out the site though...the sheer number of complaints, let alone the magnitude of each, is absolutely appalling.

Briefly, the recap of that complaint is this...

I submitted an abbreviated version of the complaint that I sent to the Attorney General's office. Only abbreviated because of the character limit in the online form! The first response I got back was only regarding the fact that I had quoted the owner as saying,"You pissed of Mr. nice guy." Her response was that she's 62 and that she doesn't use that kind of language. She then proceeded to say that her exact words were "No more Mrs. nice gal." OK...first of all, talk about seriously avoiding the actual issue! Secondly, I felt like she had argued my case for me...regardless of the semantics of the issue, the customer was treated in an unacceptable manner. Lastly, can I tell you today that I remember what she initial However, I CAN say that Elizabeth and I both sat down within 30 minutes of the instance and wrote down our accounts separately. We proceeded to record the exact same do the math, I think we know what she said (again...SO not the issue). The remainder of their initial response was that they had been "more than nice," and that I had insisted on harassing their warehouse manager. Aye aye aye.

So I responded stating that the actual issue had been completely avoided in their response and that I had not harassed their manager. I did say that I would not argue the fact that I had become defensive in my interactions with them, but only as a direct response to their attitudes toward me. I wrote that it would be clear to the Attorney General's office that the problem originated with their inability to file and maintain their paperwork.

Their final response skirted the issue AGAIN, stating simply that they had gone out of their way to accommodate me and that I would not receive a refund because I was not legally due one. They also claimed that my order had been placed as soon as I called to check on my order status, that it had been done so with a rush attached, and that I was aware of this. Two questions..1) if they had placed the order right then and told me about it, why would i have continued to call them all week to find out what the status of my order was? and 2) if they had placed the order earlier that week...why would the manager then have offered me a refund 3 days later? Seriously??? Bull shooey, I say.

Quick side bar...even if I weren't legally due a refund, which I definitely believe that I am, what kind of a business goes this far out of their way to throw their customers under the bus??? When this whole issue began, I was one complaint out of 38 in the past 36 months. Currently, there are 41 complaints posted on the BBB website within the past 36 months, and mine isn't even there yet. SERIOUSLY??? That's 3 more published complaints in a month's time.

So, the BBB wasn't able to reach a resolution, but that's not their job. At least I have added yet another nail to their coffin in cyber world. PLEASE...encourage your friends to check out the BBB website before shopping ANYWHERE.

Let's get to the Attorney General's office. I am not gonna lie...I don't feel incredibly confident in the level of support that I'm receiving here. However, I think that my case agent is just doing her job and being very careful to remain a neutral mediator between the company and the consumer. When she first called, she said that she was confident that I would receive a refund, but that it may be only 80% due to a restocking fee. I wasn't happy to hear that, and we had a pretty lengthy conversation regarding my expectations of her office and what I feel is their job as far as getting the facts and resolving the issue. That's when she explained to me that she is not there to represent me, but rather to represent the good of the state. And for that reason, she has to approach the situation as an unbiased investigator. She then proceeded to tell me that if I wasn't happy with whatever outcome we reach, I could pursue the issue further in court. Not wanting to burn my bridges at the AG's office I retracted and thanked her for her due diligence, and said that we would take each step in the process as it came.

So, she called again today and had some questions for me. Turns out, the company is now claiming that the order was a custom order, and according to the contract a custom order cannot be cancelled regardless of the circumstances. They should really be keeping track of these lies, because in my opinion, they've already dug themselves a hole.

So that's where we're at with the resolution. In regards to the legal possibility of pursuing this further, obviously for $150, that's not going to happen. I did, however, speak to a friend of mine who is a the record. First of all, before I even asked my question, he had some knowing statements to make about the company. Did I mention that he is a lawyer in family court??? Why would a lawyer in family court have knowledge of a company's legal woes. No reason unless they are so infamous that they are discussed in legal circles. Anyway, the reason I wanted to talk to him was to find out how far I could legally go in regards to telling people to stay away from the company. The last thing I need is for them to have grounds to charge me with defamation of character! He basically said that I could say whatever I wanted and print anything based on truth and I would be fine. He then proceeded to say that if anyone came after me, he'd defend me! Ha!

Well...stay tuned...I'll continue to post updates. Due to the holidays and the red tape of such a process, it could be a while before a resolution is reached. I feel fairly confident that I will receive the refund that I deserve though. And if I don't, I still get the's not like I'm losing either way. I have made it pretty clear to people that I will not be the one picking up the chairs if it comes to that, so if it does, my hardest decision will be choosing who to send to pick them up. I've had a lot of volunteers, but none of them are very happy with the situation, and I don't think I'd like to see any of them spend time in jail because of a confrontation during the pick up. So we'll just have to see...

Hopefully, it won't come down to that and I'll have my money back sooner than later!

Merry Christmas everyone!!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Shut 'em Down

OK...we've all had bad experiences with retailers, but this one has taken "bad experience" to a whole new level for me. I have just copied and pasted the report that I sent to the Attorney General's office in regards to this situation since I already did the work. So here you go...pass the word.


So, here it is. Oh...and for more shock and appalling incidents, check out the Better Business Bureau's website. After this experience, I've learned to check that site before shopping at ANY new store. I am currently one complaint out of 36 months. And those are only the people who thought to post on the website. Aye aye aye...

Monday, November 30, 2009

The following is a synopsis of my (Kristin Derr) dealings with Valley Furniture Warehouse.

Please contact me with any questions and with a resolution to this issue.

On October 26th, 2009, I walked into Valley Furniture Warehouse (VFW) and placed an order for two chairs from the Ashley Antigo collection. The chairs were $69 a piece. I explained that I was ordering the chairs to assist with Thanksgiving seating and the salesman, Richard, said that the chairs would definitely arrive in time for Thanksgiving. I paid for the chairs with check #128 in the amount of $147.48 (attached). This check was processed through my bank on October 29th.

Monday, November 23rd

Having not heard anything from VFW, I called them to inquire about my order. Since purchasing the chairs, I had read the paperwork which stated that it may take up to 14 weeks for orders to arrive. Although I was disappointed to read this, as I was verbally told differently, I was prepared to hear that my order had not yet arrived. When I first called, I was told that without the invoice number on my paperwork, there was no way to locate my order information. I found this odd, but stated that I would get them that information. Later that evening, I called back with the requested number. I spoke with Mike, the General Manger of the store. After giving him the number and remaining on hold while he researched the matter, he came back on the line and said that he found my personal information, but could find no information regarding whether my order had been placed. He stated that paperwork was unorganized due to an employee leaving. At this time, I asked Mike to do some further research and to call me first thing in the morning.

Tuesday, November 24th

As of 4pm, I had still not heard from Mike at VFW. I called him and he told me that “someone must have moved my paperwork,” because he could not locate it from the night before. He said that he had been unable to find any more information regarding my order. At this time, I began to inquire about my options in regards to obtaining some chairs. I asked if he could sell me the chairs from the floor, and what discount would be applied for purchasing the used display chairs. He said he would have to check. Not satisfied with the transaction to this point, and feeling as though no resolution was in sight, I asked to speak with one of his supervisors. He stated that, “We are very busy,” and I sympathized with that. However, I explained that I am a customer too and that I needed to speak with someone. I asked for one of them to call me within the hour.

At 6pm, still having heard nothing, I called VFW again. I asked Mike if I could speak with his supervisors and was told “they do not want to speak with you.” Mike said that they would sell me the display chairs but that they “looked brand new” and that there would be no discount. I explained that it is customary to issue a discount when selling display items and that there was no way to determine how much use they had gotten while sitting on the floor. Again, feeling as though I was backed into a corner, I asked if they would consider allowing me to use the display chairs and, assuming they were returned in the same shape in which they were now, allow me to exchange them with the new chairs when they arrived. He said he would have to ask.

At some point during this conversation I stated that I found it unbelievable that VFW would not admit to having made any mistake. Mike’s answer was that they had made no mistakes. I explained that either the order had not been placed or the paperwork was not filed correctly, and that either of these options would constitute a mistake. He then proceeded to blame his employees and their disorganization for these facts, but still refused to admit that VFW was at fault in anyway. He then told me that my 3 options were to 1) wait until the chairs arrived, 2) request a refund, or 3) take the display chairs at full price. He also told me that if I were to come into the store “with the attitude that you have now,” I would be escorted out of the store.

I told him that I would check with Ashley furniture and see if they would match the price that VFW had offered and if so, I would purchase the chairs from them and request a refund. Mike’s response was that Ashley would sell the chairs at a much higher cost, and that he knew the manager there (stated that he used to be the manager at VFW) and that he would not work with me at all. I stated that I would still check and asked if he would check regarding the display chairs. He said he would get back to me first thing in the morning.

Later that evening, I contacted Ashley furniture and found out that they sell the chairs for $64 a piece ($5 less than VFW). They did not have any in the warehouse, so I would have to order them. They also informed me that if I wanted to wait until Black Friday (11/27/2009) to purchase the chairs, I would receive a 20% discount.

Wednesday, November 25th

At 11:30 AM I had still not heard from Mike at VFW, so I called him. His statement to me was, “I’ve been waiting to see you in here this morning.” I reminded him that he had promised to call me first thing and he had no response to this. I explained to him that I had spoken with Ashley Furniture and that they were offering the chairs at a lower price. I then stated that I would proceed with the option of a refund that he had offered to me. At this time he stated that the Attorney General (AG) mandates that refunds cannot be issued until 14 weeks after the date of purchase. Appalled, I told him that I would call the Attorney General’s office myself.

I contacted the AG’s office immediately and was told that the 14 week statute was not a memorable aspect of VFW’s case, but that I would receive a call back to confirm this. (Aside: I never received a call back from the gentleman I spoke with at the AG’s office, but when I thought the situation was resolved, I felt it was not necessary to pursue the issue any further). I then called the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to inquire about filing a complaint. They told me the process and then told me that they do not normally care whether situations are reported to the AG’s office, but that in this case, I should ensure that it was. The fact that both organizations (AG and BBB) immediately referred to an existing VFW case was unnerving.

Shortly after I made these calls, I received a voicemail from Mike at VFW stating that he had spoken with the owners and that they had decided to issue me a refund before the 14 week time period had elapsed. (To me, the fact that this decision could be made meant that the statement regarding the mandate from the AG’s office was not accurate.) He stated that in order to issue the refund, he would need my paperwork. He also stated that he would understand if I did not want to come into the store and that I could mail the paperwork if I wanted to.

Thursday, November 26th

Thanksgiving; no further steps were made.

Friday, November 27th

Being that it was Black Friday, I felt that the store would be very busy and that my coming in would only add to their work load. I decided to wait until Saturday to submit the paperwork.

Saturday, November 28th

I made copies of the original paperwork and wrote a signature statement confirming that the refund would be processed on the original. I felt very strongly that the original paperwork was my only connection to the transaction and that for my protection it needed to remain in my possession. I asked a friend (Elizabeth Peters – EP) to deliver the paperwork as I felt that it was unnecessary for me to deliver it in person and I wanted to avoid any further confrontation. Soon after she entered the store, she called me and told me that they were refusing to take the copy of the paperwork or sign the statement and that they needed the original in order to process a refund. I stated that I would come into the store.

When I entered the store I was confronted by Mike, the GM. I explained to them that I felt that the original paperwork was my only proof that this transaction had taken place and that I would be happy to turn it over once the refund had been processed. Mike then stated that “there hasn’t been any transaction.” Obviously a falsehood as VFW has had my money in their possession since October 29th. At this point, a gentleman at a computer (bald with bold, silver glasses), the owner (an older petite woman), and another gentleman (maroon shirt with no tie) all began to talk to me at the same time regarding the situation. Once these individuals joined in, all statements made by them were in a confrontational manner and in raised voices.

The gentleman at the computer stated, “I am the one who processes the refunds, and in order to do so I need the original paperwork. No paperwork, no refund, your choice.”

When I asked what kind of protection I would have if I turned over the original paperwork, Mike stated, “we’ve never stolen money from anyone.”

I explained that my confidence in the company had been damaged and that I had spoken with both the AG’s office and the BBB and that I simply wanted out of this transaction.

At this time, the owner stated, “We were trying to be nice, but you pissed off Mr. nice guy.” She stated that they had offered to allow me to use the chairs for Thanksgiving and then exchange them with the new ones when they arrived. I tried to explain to her that that option was one I had asked about, but I had never been told that it was a viable one. Rather, I was led to believe that this would not be an option.

She interrupted me and said, “You will now wait until the chairs come in and then you will come pick them up. That’s your only choice. Goodbye.”

Mike attempted to continue to speak with me, at which point the owner stated, “Mike, we’re done with her and she’s leaving now.”

I too tried to continue the conversation and the owner continued to repeat, “We’re done. You’re done. Goodbye.”

I left the store and attempted to call the AG’s office again. The office was closed and I was unable to leave a message on the machine.

Note: Although I did not leave the original paperwork, the copies that I had made were taken by VFW and left at the store. If an attempt to locate the store’s paperwork is made, I would ask that it be confirmed that they are working off of their original paperwork and not the copies that I left. They do not have the originals that I was given, but they should have the original that they kept for themselves when the sale was made. My paperwork is 2 pages of a form printed in triplicate.

The following is a verbatim account of the situation that took place in the VFW store on November 28th. This is the account of Elizabeth Peters, the individual who accompanied me to the store this morning.

“I walked into the VFW and asked for Mike, the manager. I was directed to him. I let him know that I was in the store to assist my friend about a refund. I gave him her name and he became very rude. I explained that I was the messenger and he continued to be rude. He told me to come to the back. I went to the counter and asked him for a signature for Kristin (KD). He said no. I called KD and she came into the store. Upon her arrival the staff was VERY rude to her. Mike said they have never stolen money when KD simply asked for a refund of her goods. He wanted the original. A bald man said he could void out the transaction but the refund would have to wait. At that point a woman and two other employees came out and started to shout at KD. There were a total of four individuals involved. KD just wanted a refund that they said they would give her but they wanted the original paperwork because they did not have their paperwork. The “owner” yelled at KD and said she was trying to be nice but she pissed off Mr. nice guy and proceeded to say that she would have to eat the cost of the chairs. The bald guy jumped out of his chair saying, “That’s what you get, in your face,” and disappeared. We left the store before KD could be verbally attacked again.”

Personal statement:

I am requesting that VFW be mandated to issue me a refund of my full purchase amount. Please understand that my request is not based on the fact that the chairs did not arrive in the time that I expected, but that VFW cannot prove to me that the chairs were ever ordered. After finding this out I attempted to reach a resolution with them and felt that I finally had. I then attempted to deliver the requested paperwork in a manner which would protect me as the consumer and was spoken to in a way that still makes me cringe when I think about it. In my opinion, the fact that VFW was unable to show me proof or record of the chairs being ordered, is a breach of their contract.

I have been in the customer service industry for many years, and I am appalled at how I have been dealt with. The last interaction that I had with the employees of VFW was enough on its own to cause this complaint. The fact that there were days of interaction leading up to this is shocking. Many of the exchanges that took place were in a hostile manner, but it is difficult to portray that in writing. Also, I tried to keep the account above as emotionless as possible to offer the most accurate report.

Since this has happened, I have spoken to many friends and advised them against entering into transactions with VFW. Not surprisingly, more than a few of them have stated that they had or have heard of other unsatisfactory experiences with the company.

At many times I felt as though I was being backed into a corner because the company is privately owned. There is no one to speak to above the owner and they knew that and used it to their advantage. In addition, the owner refused to speak with me until she had an opportunity to accost me in the middle of her store. I was shocked at the manner in which I was spoken to and that the owner did not handle the situation better. In any other case, I would have expected the owner to pull me aside separately and attempt to resolve the situation civilly. Instead, she joined her employees in publicly and loudly berating me.

I have many personal opinions about this situation, but have attempted to keep this report as straight forward as possible. If you have any questions or would like to discuss the situation any further, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Addendum to initial report made on Monday, November 30th regarding my dealings with Valley Furniture Warehouse.

December 10, 2009

Since I submitted my original complaint, I have had a lot of time to think about the interactions that occurred. I wanted to make two additional points that I feel follow the legal tone that VFW has chosen to depend on.

1. According to the contract/order paperwork, a customer may cancel an order if the product has not been ordered at the time of cancellation.

a. At least 3 times that I can remember (now2 weeks after the incident(s)) I asked if the chairs had been ordered. Each time the answer I received was either, “I can’t tell you that,” or “I can’t locate that paperwork.” This led me to assume that the order had not been placed which, according to the contract, would put me within my rights to cancel the order.

2. The last incident in the report, and the one that caused me to finally file a complaint against the store, was when I was refused a refund because I would not leave the original paperwork with the store.

a. Throughout this process, it has become very clear to me that the contract, as written, is a result of previous litigation and is a complete and legal document developed by VFH and the Attorney General. It is for this reason that I feel the insistent request for the original paperwork was completely unfounded and inappropriate, and that their resulting refusal to process a refund is outside of their legal rights. Every other possible aspect of any transaction done with Valley Furniture Warehouse is spelled out very clearly in the contract. Nowhere in the contract does it mention that original paperwork must be surrendered in order to process a refund.

b. I strongly believe that VFW had lost all record of my order and needed my paperwork simply because they were lacking theirs. Unfortunately, in my haste to leave the situation that day, I left them with the copies I had made which I had intended to leave with them in order to process the refund. Had I been thinking more clearly at the time, I would have taken those as well so that they could not be used to replace paperwork that may have been missing.

c. I will ask again, if at any time during your investigation you ask for the paperwork as proof of any aspect of this transaction, please ensure that they are working off of original paperwork and NOT the copies that I foolishly left in their possession.

So...hopefully you will help me spread the word. My transaction is only $150, so I am definitely pursuing this for the principle of the matter. However, there are transactions for as much as $8,000 or more posted on the BBB website. These people are crooks and they need to be shut down. They should know better than to give me such a goal...I don't generally rest until I accomplish my goals. Mwah ha ha...