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Urgent! Customer is unhappy and wants the shop to buy his furniture.

Started by vu, November 23, 2015, 03:15:22 am

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Here is the deal. The item has came in for upholstery in used condition with fair amount of wear on it. Some parts of in made out of PVC plastic, we did not make any notes about existing scratches. We have done the job and at the time of pick up the customer claims that furniture got a scratch when was getting off of our shelf during pick up. My guys swear it did not touch anything. Also another problem is my guys made an "upgrade" without confirming with the customer and put plywood decking instead of belts, as they explained to me because the item is not strong enough to hold belts, but never the less this customer got pissed about this too. He also claims that old stuff was piled on top of  his chair, when there was nothing on it, it has been seating next to the item awaiting upholstery, which was unfortunate, but nothing was on top of the item. In phone conversation with the customer I understood that my desk guy who was handling the release of the item was busy at a time and told him that he needs to hurry up and that I guess pissed the customer off. So now the customer wants us to keep the item refund the deposit for upholstery and material and pay for the item. We can replace the plywood to belts as he wanted, but claim with the scratch is a problem. The scratch is on the unpainted plain PVC surface that can not be fixed.
I see how all thisunfortunate chain of events can piss somebody off. We can not prove that scratch was made in our store, and what if it was? Do other shops buy furniture back?
This guy threatens with law suit, he is retired big shot who is pissed (I think it is all because he got pissed when he was brushed off at the time of pick up), and he has time and money on his hands to handle this stuff. I don't know what will be more expensive to buy his stuff or to deal with the suit, but I want to do the right thing...
Any input is appreciated..


Under normal circumstances, when people threaten to sue, they quickly learn that it isn't worth it to drag someone to court.

But since you say this guy is a retired big shot, this situation may be different. I would think that if the piece needed repair when it first entered your shop, no judge is going to make you buy the whole thing. And I would also think the burden of proof would be on the plaintiff to produce evidence that the piece came in undamaged.

I don't understand what you mean by "replacing belts with plywood". Are you talking about the webbing? I can't think of any instance where I would consider replacing any part of the furniture with plywood to be an "upgrade".

Do you have any idea what kind of money the guy is seeking?

"Perfection is the greatest enemy of profitability" - Mark Cuban


The total in question is under $1K. Yes, webbing. and I did not really mean "upgrade" as upgrade, there was an empty hole and guys made a call with plywood, when customer apparently wanted webbing.
I just don't think it is right to reimburse the customer who simply got pissed off for some reason, in this case for several reasons, some of which are may be made up by the customer, and the other ones can be easily fixed the same day.


I can't tell what you're needing to repair PVC parts ? - you may be able to spot repair that - there are ways to repair other materials besides wood. 
Regarding the ply wood - always better to give customers a heads up when you make changes - even when it's for their own good.



I have never had to buy back furniture. I've always been able to fix any complaints the customer may have. After all that is what I do for a living, furniture reupholster includes repairs.

If the frame will not support webbing and did not have plywood before. What did it originally have? Springs? A plywood base makes an incredibly hard seat if it had springs in it before. But that can be fixed.

The biggest problem I see is the scratch. Those fake finishes on PVC are used on low budget furniture and close to impossible to repair and make it look new. The wood gran is applied with a special process in the factory that most upholsterers don't have the ability to recreate. You can try touch-up markers and spray lacquer but my experience has been it will only make it worse. Now that the guy knows its there it will be the first thing he looks at when he comes back to inspect.

One thing to consider is this guy will not be a returning customer. No mater what you do he will not be happy. I've had a couple just like this over the years and once was threatened with a law suit because we didn't deliver on the date we promised. It was a childish and empty threat.

All I can think to do is tell the guy you'll fix it and stick it in a corner of the shop. When ever he calls tell him your working on it. One day he'll show up at your door and at this time be firm with him and tell him to just take it and be done with it. I know you'll have to eat the losses but at least it will all be behind you.

Another idea is to tell him you are proceeding with your own law suit for non payment of services rendered.

Once again, I'm thinking this was originally a very cheap piece of furniture. He probably realized he payed too much to have it upholstered and is just looking for a way to get out of the deal.
There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.


We had a guy in town who always threatened to sue everyone that he did business with. Roofer, painter, mechanic to name a few. He never got a chance to threaten me with a lawsuit. Because his reputation preceded him, I refused to do his work.

I wasn't the only one that refused his work........none of the local lawyers would work for him either.

Times have changed now. There is a sleazy attorney under every rock. But even still, a retired big shot with nothing but time on his hands and a low-life lawyer should realize that they have bigger fish to fry than to waste time suing over a cheap piece of furniture.

My gut feeling is that the guy will cool off and lose interest in litigation. But the real damage that he will do, is dragging your reputation through the mud to everyone he meets on the street.
"Perfection is the greatest enemy of profitability" - Mark Cuban


We all hate problems and it's really difficult sometimes to tell ourselves that problems can be learning experiences. As someone said, AFGO. (Another F@#$ing Growth Opportunity)

Here's my 2 cents:

Anyone can sue anyone anytime for anything. If someone threatens to sue me that tells me they are either very upset or just an a$$ hole, or both.

In my state a sole proprietor can represent himself in court. If you own a corporation you have to have a lawyer represent your corporation. If you are an LLC you can represent your LLC in court in most situations. In this situation, I would not have to worry about hiring a lawyer.

Workers were rude to customer: no money.

Workers put a crappy piece of plywood on base instead of taking the time to put webbing: replace the plywood with webbing.

Workers piled crap on top of the customers' furniture: no money.

Scratch on plastic frame: call around and get estimates on how much to have it fixed. If you can, this is what you will present to a judge if you are sued AND if the judge asks for it. I would not tell the customer about these estimates!

Refund the deposit: no way.

Reimburse the customer for the fabric: no way.

Buy back the furniture: What does this mean? It sounds like it's a well used piece of furniture. Why would I want to buy it? No way!

Customer is pissed: no money.

Customer is a retired big shot: no money.

If you have to hire an attorney, the cost of an attorney and the cost to repair the scratch would be my guess as to your maximum cost. The judge or mediator may rule that you do not have to pay for the scratch.

The customer is out nothing! Hello! Nothing! He claims he is out the scratch. You claim your guys did not make the scratch. If he sues you the only issue is the scratch. Nothing else! LOL I'm not a lawyer and folks lie in court as a matter of course, but from what you said in your post this is the only contested issue I can see.

I would fix the webbing, apologize sincerely, explain that the furniture is in "well used" condition and offer a small discount off the amount due for his inconvenience and your hope that he might use your company again for his upholstery needs. I would not mention the scratch.

And present it in such a way that you assume he will appreciate your efforts to keep a good customer. Prepare to be shocked if he does not fully accept your offer.

Best of luck,




QuoteTimes have changed now. There is a sleazy attorney under every rock.

SofaD: I don't think times have changed. I think today there are just more rocks.  :)

And good point about what is it worth to sue over an old piece of furniture. It seems that judges dockets are getting busier and busier and their patience for frivolous law sues is waning. This would be a good example of something that would be sent to a mediator.



So, today the customer has called me on my number and requested my address for attorney to send certified mail directly to me. Yes, he is pissed for being mishandled and threatening to make us pay his court expenses as well as the cost of the piece. What if this crap will go forward and we "got lucky" and only paying for the scratch, it will mean we lost and we will have to pay his lawyer expenses, what if his lawyer expenses will cost $5K?


Minichillo's Upholstery


Some more patience would be the best thing, see what the papers say. Its probably a time where you have to play therapist and business owner at once over phone and or in person. Or in my old job words like adult babysitter come to mind.
In any event what is small claims now 1,500. or is it up to 3,k also is this before fees and related legal.

good day


To me it sounds like the guy is full of it. I think he is just trying to get under your skin. He could have looked the address up himself but he wanted an excuse to call you and give you more grief. If he actually went to an attorney he would have told him he needs to give you a fair amount of time to make it right. And what is a fair amount of time?

If he is going to sue you for the replacement value what would that be worth. The replacement value on a used sofa is only about $350. I'm not a lawyer but don't think he can force you to pay his lawyer expenses. I always thought both sides pay their own way. May be time to consult your own lawyer. A cease and desist letter, also known as "infringement letter" or "demand letter," is a document sent to an individual or business to halt purportedly unlawful activity ("cease") and not take it up again later ("desist"). The "cease" is the harassment he is giving you and the "desist" says he must stop immediately.

I'd tell the guy any further contact need to be made through this so called lawyer. I would ask him the name of his lawyer and wait for the pause while he thinks about it.
There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.


Quote from: vu on November 23, 2015, 03:15:22 am
Here is the deal. The item has came in for upholstery in used condition with fair amount of wear on it. .......... I don't know what will be more expensive to buy his stuff or to deal with the suit, but I want to do the right thing...
Any input is appreciated..

I applaud you for wanting to do the right thing. That's a good beginning.

I would suggest that you take a pause, take a deep breath, and reassess the situation. It never helps to berate a client, that never turns out well. It is always best to keep a good attitude and to keep a clear mind.

Let me try to give you some perspective by telling you a story.

I went through a situation a few years ago that had some similarities (unhappy client, etc). I wrote out the whole process, asked advice from others, and worked it through. I call that experience The Challenging Foam Client. I would advise you to read that very long article all the way through. Through that experience I discovered that "I" was at fault. I had been operating under some wrong assumptions and poor business practices. By trying to honorably work through that experience it greatly changed the way that I did business and worked with clients. Reading through it may give you some ideas.

Best Wishes


I was at work today making 1000" of welt cord and as I was thinking I thought of this post. I was going to mention that Stephen Winters pops in once in awhile and he (his replies and his web site) has helped me in the past with tough issues, company policies, etc. And here he is. I need to start wearing tin foil on my head again so people won't be able to read my thoughts.  :o

I've mentioned before that I have some of his disclaimer info on my Estimates.

I did 6 dining room chairs recently. The outside back panel has a white on gray geometric pattern. The customer picked up the chairs and loved them. She emails a few days later and says the outside back panel should be the other side, gray on white. I did a very similar thing to what Stephen said and decided to change them around at no cost to her. It would have gotten down to a he said/she said and that's usually a lose/lose scenario. She gets the fabric the way she wants it, and I get a lot of good will and maybe a few referrals. I also get a happy customer.

RE the OP: I would not give a discount after he called and wanted my address to give to his lawyer. I agree with kodyD that that is a bully tactic.

Also, my wife had the oil changed in her car recently and they broke the tail light while backing out of the bay. We did not insist that they buy the entire car from us.




Here is my advice. Write the guy a check for $ 1,000, have him sign a release saying you are no longer obligated for anything and after he takes your money and signs the release and heads out the door tell him to never return.

By screwing around with this your going to eat up a bunch of your time, run the risk of his lawyer starting a suit and you end up being on the hook for thousands. Chances are, if he is a Daddy war bucks he has a lawyer on retainer and it wont cost him anything to star the suit. I had a lawyer represent me in court once back in the 1990's. It cost me $ 1,000 just to get him there and then the meter started running. He won for me but I paid out through the rear end for it. You will end up paying dearly too. If he is a money man and power broker, chances are he knows the judge and he will bury you.

I hate big shots who think they rule the world and go around bullying people but my time is very valuable and worth alot of money in itself. I see a potential for this deal to go bad for you so cut your losses now, pay him off and tell him to go screw himself. If you know any business owners in the area, let them know about your run in with him.

I had a guy come to me wanting all new awnings. He had a reputation for not being able to be pleased with anything he bought and threatened lawsuits after each job by a tradesman. He asked me for a quote and I told him I am not interested. In the end the guy had a helluva time finding anybody to do any work for him on anything. His reputation preceded him.