Broken chairs your body conforms to...
April 15, 2010 12:30 PM   Subscribe

Help me return an expensive but defective chair that I ordered online.

I ordered a desk chair from a reputable online store. A component in
the chair failed, making it unusable. I was sent a replacement part,
which I installed. The process was not difficult, but it required a
tool I did not already own ($25) and it was time-consuming.

Alas, the replacement part is defective as well. It fails in a
different way, but the chair is just as unusable. I'm as sure as one
can be that I followed the instructions I was given and that the
failure in the replacement part is unrelated to the installation
process (i.e. it was faulty when it left the factory).

I have communicated my intention to return the chair to the customer
service rep I have been dealing with, but he is waiting on "approval"
for the return.
  1. Should I expect a full refund and refuse to eat the restocking fee the seller claims will be assessed on all returns in its T&C?
  2. Should I expect the seller to cover the cost of shipping?
  3. Should I dispute the charge with my credit card company if the seller is uncooperative?
  4. If so, what steps should I be taking now to ensure that I prevail in the dispute?
If it matters, I have had the chair for fewer than 30 days (which is
the "return window" stated in the seller's T&C), and more than $1000
is in play here. The restocking charge is 15% of the purchase price.

Please feel free to relate your experiences when returning an
expensive but defective item, especially if you purchased the item

Sorry if this is a little stilted and vague; I have tried to minimize identifying details.
posted by scatter gather to Shopping (8 answers total)
#1--no. they can't restock a chair that is defective.
#2--usually the shipper--in this case, you--covers the shipping.
#3--yes. do so sooner vs. later. if you've been waiting longer then 48 hours (2 business days) for an RMA, do it.
#4--document. take pictures. take notes. save correspondence.
posted by lester at 12:42 PM on April 15, 2010

Your state has laws which cover scenarios like this. Go to the state web site, search for consumer protection. In Maine, defective merchandise may be returned for a full refund. I would expect the vendor to pay shipping, since they have failed to supply you with a working chair.
posted by theora55 at 12:53 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've dealt with a fair number of defective product returns and, unless there's something very unique about chair sales, I disagree with Lester on these two points:

1. Yes. You're not returning it because you changed your mind about wanting the item; you're returning it because it is defective and the company has failed to correct the defect. You are not responsible for the defect and cannot use the product despite your good faith efforts, thus you should not be responsible for any restocking fee or other made-up charge the company might use to cover the cost of their wasted time in cases where a customer simply changes their mind.

2. Anytime I've dealt with returns on defective items, the company who sold the defective item covers the shipping cost of the return (typically sending a prepaid mailing label). Again, if you had simply decided you didn't want the chair for some capricious reason, you'd be on the hook for the return shipping. However, you have made a good faith effort to work with this item and this company; you should not cover the cost of return shipping simply because they couldn't get their act together to provide you with a properly-made product.
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:56 PM on April 15, 2010

Is there any verbiage in the T&C that specifically addresses returns based on defective or damaged goods?

#1. Yes. Absolutely.
#2. Yes. Shipping furniture is expensive and if the merchant is merely a middle man, they should be passing the shipping charges back to the vendor. That whole pending approval stuff may be the merchant waiting on an RA from their vendor before they can issue you one.
#3. Yes.
#4. Call & email daily, if not twice a day. Squeaky wheel get the oil.
posted by SoulOnIce at 2:12 PM on April 15, 2010

I would stress that you write everything in a snail mail letter and send it to the company via certified mail return receipt requested. It is insane what kind of attention people pay to written letters in this day of email everything.
posted by micawber at 3:25 PM on April 15, 2010

You could try contacting the credit card company you used to purchase the chair with (if you used a cc). They usually offer some sort of consumer protection and can facilitate a return or some other resolution.
posted by defreckled at 5:51 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Is there any verbiage in the T&C that specifically addresses returns based on defective or damaged goods?

All the language about returns seems to assume damage from shipping or that the buyer is returning it capriciously. There's nothing that seems to pertain to returns due to defects encountered during normal use.

Thanks for all the answers so far.
posted by scatter gather at 6:04 PM on April 15, 2010

Response by poster: So, the resolution: the chair is on its way back to the seller and I will be getting a full refund.

It took longer than I had hoped, but I was not as aggressive as some answers suggested. I opted to allow the support person two or three business days without communication before "checking up" (almost always via email in order to simplify record-keeping). There were various delays... The person who had to approve the return was stuck in Europe without email access. They offered a completely new chair but I declined. The RMA was finally issued a little over two weeks after my initial request and they provided a shipping label.

In asking this question, I think was hoping to get a little more confidence and a better idea of what is usual in this situation. All answers were helpful. Thanks!
posted by scatter gather at 9:50 AM on May 6, 2010

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